Never underestimate the power of one heartfelt gesture.
That’s the takeaway from the small auditorium Thursday morning at Huguenot High School where senior Flory Delabarrera and all of her classmates in their Advanced Placement government class were surprised with free tickets to the Dec. 7 showing of the popular musical “Hamilton,” playing now in Richmond through Dec. 8.
The surprise is tied to a letter Delabarrera wrote to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, schools Superintendent Jason Kamras and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni last month about her AP government teacher, Kaitlyn Siedlarczyk. In the letter, she asked for tickets for herself and some of her classmates, as well as Siedlarczyk, whom she described as a “personal mentor” and someone who goes above and beyond in “getting her 23 AP students ready for college and making an impact in the world.”
To Delabarrera’s ultimate surprise Thursday, her request was granted and then some.
Through a series of channels that started with the mayor’s office and the education secretary and ended with Dominion Energy hearing about the letter, Delabarrera not only earned those tickets for herself, her classmates and her teacher, but also dozens of other Richmond students and teachers — 118 tickets in all.
Richmond Public Schools will decide how the rest of the tickets are allocated.
Puzzled students — and an equally mystified Siedlarczyk — were taken out of class and led into the multipurpose room by Huguenot Principal Rob Gilstrap. WTVR meteorologist Nikki-Dee Ray and Dominion Energy Philanthropy Manager Cindy Balderson led the presentation and talked about Delabarrera’s letter, and initially awarded tickets just to Delabarrera and Siedlarczyk.
But after a few moments, students were told to reach under the desks at which they were sitting, and anyone who found tickets taped under their desktops would also be seeing the show. Quickly the rest of the students realized they’d all be going. The room exploded as students cheered and hugged each other and chanted “’We love you, Flory!’”
A few students cried, while others took selfies or called their parents. Delabarrera was stunned.
“At first it was a crazy idea to me — tickets are crazy expensive,” she said about writing a letter asking for tickets, and now, “we come to find out it was possible.”
She added: “I didn’t know that I could make a difference.”
In her letter, Delabarrera explained that “Hamilton” has played a big part in their class, particularly during class debates last year and this year on federalist vs. anti-federalist ideals.
“Me listening to [“Hamilton”] music made me slay that debate,” her letter reads. Further, “Hamilton, a founding father of our great nation, once again shows the significant role Virginia consistently plays in shaping America’s history and culture. “
Then: “This global phenomena effortlessly merges art and culture, as told through the use of hip hop in a fun and informative way.”
Gilstrap, Huguenot’s principal, admitted that when Delabarrera, who is the senior class president, approached him about the letter, he was skeptical it would go anywhere but allowed her to send it. Nothing happened for about a month, he said, then he got a call that free tickets were coming, not just for her and her classmates, but dozens of others throughout Richmond schools.
“The best thing about this,” he said, isn’t just that she gets to go, but “because she did this, people that don’t even know her ... their lives will be enriched by this.”