By Sally Absher

Hardin Valley Academy APUSH Class Seeks Tickets to see ‘Hamilton’

Students in Ms. Guy’s AP U.S. History (APUSH) class at Hardin Valley Academy (HVA) are undertaking an ambitious project that illustrates how students in Knox County Schools are encouraged to “think and learn outside the box.”

The Focus was contacted by Gabby Swenson, a student in one of Ms. Guy’s two APUSH classes. She and several of her classmates explained that discussions during class frequently reference the musical “Hamilton,” currently playing in New York. “Hamilton” is a musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

In addition to the historical perspective, the students have become enthralled with the musical, and its creation. The musical is performed by an inclusive cast including primarily people of color. The music is rap and hip-hop, providing a unique twist on the story of our nation’s creation and providing a “once in a lifetime learning experience.”

They learned that the Rockefeller Center was given a grant to provide tickets for Title 1 schools in New York, and originally hoped they might be given a waiver to qualify for tickets under the grant. That didn’t work out, as HVA is neither a Title 1 school, nor located in New York.

The ticket cost is the biggest obstacle – ticket prices range from $500 to more than $1300.Undeterred, Swenson and classmates Maggie Olson, Dominique Rios, and Kendall Shanks are exploring fundraising opportunities so they can travel to New York in May to see the show.

They located a block of 20 tickets through Ticket Master for $8000. There are over 40 students in the two APUSH classes, so tickets would be available on a first come basis. Swenson said they hope fundraising will cover the cost of the tickets and lodging for two nights, which will total about $12,000 for 20 students. The students would provide the cost of travel (approximately $300 each) and meals. They also plan to visit the Alexander Hamilton home in Manhattan.

The four students have begun talking with local business owners to solicit sponsorships and donations. Shanks said they are planning to partner with a local fast food restaurant willing to donate a portion of the revenue from one evening. Each student who attends the musical will complete a project about the American Revolution and Hamilton’s involvement, and how these events helped our country become what it is today.

Ms. Guy told us, “I am blessed with an extraordinary group of students this semester. They are focused, motivated, and willing to go above and beyond to enhance their learning. It is an honor to have the opportunity to teach them in class.

She adds that she has had very little to do with the actual planning of this endeavor. She said she has “given advice when asked, but the entire movement is student-led, which makes it so extraordinary.”

Interested businesses and individuals may contact the students at If they are successful in their fundraising, Ms. Guy and several other HVA staff will chaperone the trip.

The student have also set up a gofundme account ( ) for members of the community who would like to make a donation. The students said any funds raised above the $12,000 will be donated to charity.


Knox County Political Action Committee for Education Endorses Four BOE Candidates

Four Knox County Board of Education candidates have received the endorsement of the KC-PACE, based on candidate interviews and questionnaires. The Committee endorsed Jennifer Owen in District 2 and Susan Horn in District 5. The Committee also endorsed Tony Norman (District 3) and Mike McMillan (District 8), who are both running unopposed in the upcoming March 1 Primary election.

KC-PACE will host a Meet and Greet next week for their endorsed candidates. The event will take place at Buddy’s Banquet Hall in Bearden on Tuesday February 9, from 6-8 p.m. All teachers are invited to attend.


Magnet School Awareness Month

February is National Magnet School Awareness Month. In an effort to achieve Excellence for Every Child and to provide families with more choices in finding the right school for their child, the Knox County Schools has nine magnet schools spanning elementary, middle and high school programs. These magnet schools offer the same curriculum as other KCS schools, but also integrate specialized themes to meet the learning interests and strengths of every child.

If you are interested in KCS Magnet school offerings, visit The magnet and general transfer window opened on October 1 2015. All applications are due by 4 p.m. on February 16, 2016.