An exhilarating highlight in the blockbuster musical “Hamilton” is when the young revolutionary asserts that he has something important to contribute and wants to leave his mark.

Just as “I’m not throwing away my shot” was the refrain of the musical number “My Shot,” Youth Leadership Council spokesperson Haley Dorsey also made it a central theme in her speech on Tuesday at NRECA PowerXchange in San Antonio, Texas.

Dorsey, the YLC delegate from North Carolina, spoke on behalf of the NRECA youth organization on March 5. She represented Lenoir-based Blue Ridge Energy during last year’s Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and was selected by her peers as North Carolina’s representative on the Youth Leadership Council. Earlier this year, a panel of judges selected Dorsey as NRECA’s national youth spokesperson.

The 16-year-old junior at Hibriten High School in Lenoir has honed her leadership skills in school activities such as the student council and in the community via Blue Ridge Energy’s Leadership Track, a program for high schoolers that encourages leadership development, résumé building and college preparedness. She’s also the creator and host of a physics and space-themed podcast, “Let There Be Light,” and has high academic hopes. She wants to major in aerospace engineering in college and eventually complete a Ph.D. in rocket science—while earning an MBA along the way.

Dorsey first saw “Hamilton” in Chicago, where she was raised in a high-poverty neighborhood before moving to Lenoir about four years ago.

“I really loved the ideologies of Hamilton, and I love how he never gave up. I can relate to that,” she said.

Read Haley’s full speech:

I am not throwing away my shot. I'm just like my country, young, scrappy, and hungry, so I am not throwing away my shot.

Wise words taken from the Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”

I feel as though that phrase defines me.

I am NOT throwin’ away MY shot.

I think about that line and how it relates to my life. The countless opportunities that have been offered to me in the years leading up to this moment. Right now.

As a youth tourist, a representative for the great state of North Carolina, and leader for my community, I’ve been given opportunities that would have never been possible, had I not taken my shot.

It’s said Alexander Hamilton always wrote as if he was running out of time. He had a need—a compulsion—to write and express himself. To make sure his ideas and dreams were realized.

All my life I’ve been told that I need to take it easy, to stay put, and to stay inside the box. But I’ve always had this urge to go above and beyond, and to write like I’m running out of time.

In the words of Hamilton, my problem is I gotta a lot of brains, but no polish. I gotta holler just to be heard and my power of speech unimpeachable.

But when I was 8 years old, my world stopped. My uncle Victor Emanuel Coleman was murdered.

To lose him in such a sudden, violent way sent a shock through my family and our community.

At the time, we were living in the Chicago area.

My uncle was an incredible, funny man. My mom says he was the “life of the party.”

And he lost his life to gun violence, a social injustice we all know far too well and justice for me and my family was far away.

There were many reasons for this but the one that stuck out to me the most as an 8-year-old was the lack of hope and guidance.

When I was about 12 years old, my family moved to North Carolina with the hopes of living in a more rural setting. My parents felt the economic advantages, open space and overall environment would be better for all of us.

The move was bittersweet because the majority of my family is still in Chicago. I yearned to be with my giant support system. We still make it a point to go back and visit as much as we can, but it’s just not quite the same.

No matter where we are, our family is strong. But just two weeks ago, our world crumbled again.

My cousin, Issac Belton, passed away. He passed from a heart attack.

The print my cousin Isaac left on the world is indelible. He’d served in the Navy for over 40 years and protected this country until his last breath. He’d adopted his grandchildren and raised them as his own creating a future where they, too, can become leaders in this world.

In addition to serving in the Navy, he ran his own financial literacy business helping those who are in debt and struggling financially to see solutions and make a better life for themselves.

His entire discography was recreation and public service. And he will always be an inspiration to me.

The Youth Tour and the unfortunate passing of my cousin and uncle opened my eyes to the importance of taking leadership positions, advocating for those who seem to have no voice and opening my mind to the history of those who came before me.

The Youth Tour highlighted many historical figures, my favorite, being the figure to which I resonated with the most, Alexander Hamilton. A man with so much to say. So much to teach and a great leader whose life, like my uncle and cousin’s, was cut short.

I’m saying all of this to further the conversation of seeking knowledge and applying public service to your everyday lives.

During the Youth Tour I was surrounded by many like-minded individuals and in this intricate tapestry of time, the need for younger leaders emerged as a beacon of hope amidst the shadows of injustices.

While living in the bustling city of Chicago, Illinois, and later in rural North Carolina, the idea of a young leader revolting against societal norms to write and inquire about the world around them seemed…atypical and unusual.

Until I had an epiphany.

The reason why it was so atypical and unusual for young and aspiring leaders such as myself to grow and develop right out of their environment was due to the lack of representation.

From my old perspective, I didn’t know that it was even possible to seek leadership roles and take initiatives to help those around you, because I’d never seen anyone from my community take a stand to do it. It wasn’t until I really started paying attention to a wise woman in my life who had been trying to teach me this all along—my mom.

She weaves stories about my cousin and uncle into her conversations with me and as she was also a public speaker, she always encouraged me to take my shots as she once did as an orator.

And so I did!

I took my shot this year, from explaining to my cooperative members the simplified steps it takes to become a leader through my love for classical literature to explaining the important principles of a cooperative and the tasks they are faced with as an establishment with great influence. And now I'm here standing in front of you all today, to remind you of the ever-growing young leaders in this community. In my community.

I want to emphasize the everlasting effects of representation and the notion that just because it isn't common to hear or see someone speaking publicly about a particular topic that you feel so strongly about—you don't need to stay silent.

The Youth Tour was my guide to this conclusion. I went behind a podium to express myself in ways I've never done before.

And I did it with the mindset that I was not throwing away MY shot, my shot at allowing the world to hear what I had to say, my shot at being the beacon of hope for the individuals who had been hurt by societal barriers. To me every day is an opportunity for me to do something great, something I can be proud of, something the world can thank me for. The Youth Tour was my golden ticket that allowed me to imprint my passion for public service onto the world, and for that I will forever be grateful.

I'd like to thank Blue Ridge Energy, NRECA and the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives for this unique opportunity.

Now, to close my segment and give you all time to process everything I've just said, I will leave you with this: Understand that we the people have the potential to create our ideal world and all it takes is for someone to rise up and stand behind the podium to encourage that change.

I am Haley Rebecca Dorsey, and I am not throwing away my shot, thank you.