Young, Scrappy, and Hungry

Young5th grade graduates at Project SPIRIT’s year-end celebration.

By Randi Ilyse Roth

The hit musical, Hamilton, received 16 Tony nominations, more than any other show in Broadway history. The hip-hop telling of this story is striking people where they live. There are many reasons for the musical’s success—the music, the clever lyrics, the staging, the actors—but surely one reason is the resonance of the story.

Hamilton was born out of wedlock, raised in the West Indies, and orphaned as a child. How did he grow up to be a hero and a scholar? And a lawyer, and America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, and the person who established our country’s national bank and many other foundational economic policies, and the author of 51 of the 85 installments of the Federalist Papers, and much more.

What was Hamilton’s drive? The music tells us, in a beat that stays in the listener’s head:

I am not throwing away my shot.
I am not throwing away my shot.
Hey yo, I’m just like my country,
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
and I’m not throwing away my shot.

Where did he get that attitude? Did Hamilton do it on his own? No. The story (and history) tells us that key individuals believed in Hamilton and invested in him. Among other things, he received a scholarship to King’s College (now Columbia University), and learned how to build a life that would make a difference.

We have a community of full of children in Saint Paul who are young, scrappy, and hungry. What are we doing to implant that drive in them, to infuse them with self-confidence, and to build rich opportunities for them? Which of them will be the architects of our political and economic systems here? Of our medical care, our legal system?

One key thing we’re doing as a community is providing education and rootedness. Interfaith Action plays a significant role in our community’s work. Our two culturally specific youth education programs—DIW Youth Enrichment and Project SPIRIT —both infuse our kids with confidence, drive, deep connection to their own culture and history, and grit. The affirmation that every Project SPIRIT child says out loud every day was not written by Lin-Manuel Miranda—but to these children, it might be just as powerful:

I am somebody
I am capable and lovable
I am teachable, therefore I can learn
I can do anything when I try
I will respect myself and others
I will be the best that I can be each day
I will not waste time because it is too valuable and
I am too awesome and bright
I am somebody

Please join with us to help build a community where none of our kids has to throw away their shot.

Warm Regards,

Randi Ilyse Roth
Executive Director