For several years, I have had a special connection with my home congregation at the First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis. I have been inspired and encouraged and affirmed by the community that I have found there. Throughout the year, this congregation works to inspire youth in Annapolis through the STAIR (Start The Adventure In Reading) Program. In the summer, that inspiration shows itself in a different light. They host two different weeks of STAIR Summer Theater Camp where each day the campers learn a new play, make costumes, and perform their play for the rest of the camp.
I knew that this week was going to be one of my favorites right away. On the first day of camp, my group performed a version of “Where the Wild Things Are”, and during “Props” (the time the campers are given to make their costumes for their performances), one of the campers in my group, Ava, told me that I needed horns and set out on a mission to first make me horns and then make herself horns. We were #twins and it was such a special moment for me, so I wore those horns for the entire rest of the day, smiling each time I looked in the mirror. Each day was special – full of silly songs, books, acting, costume-making, and performing!
But Wednesday was a special day – Wednesday was Hamilton Day! Instead of doing a play with each group, we collectively performed a mash-up of “I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot” interspersed with lines from Barack Obama’s speeches and Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. One of the first things that we talked about when introducing this mash-up was the use of the word “shot” because to these campers that words means something very different than it does to those of us who have previously listened to or seen Hamilton and know the context of this song. We talked with them about how it meant that we weren’t throwing away our chance, that we weren’t giving up! The campers in my group put their energy into this performance, making up beats and stomping their feet, proving to me that they weren’t throwing away my shot. They were eager to learn something hip and modern.
Growing up, I started reading at an early age – it was always something that was just a part of my life. For some of these campers, it hasn’t been. They don’t have the same opportunities or encouragement as other youth do. But experiences like a week at STAIR Summer Theater Camp and participating in STAIR during the year shows them that there is a world of opportunities for them out there. They have stories to read, and to tell, and to share with others, and they are absolutely not throwing away their shot.