It was about 4:45 on a Friday afternoon at the end of a long week, and I decided it was time to call it a day. As I walked home, I stopped by Fuller Hall; the lights were dimmed, and the stage lights were still on, so I went to the front of the hall and sat on the edge of the stage. About eight and a half hours earlier, 100 seniors had stood together in their spots in the front section of Fuller, representing the full range of interests, abilities, and backgrounds present in our student body. They had grasped the hands of those standing near them, raised them high and on the count of three, shouted, “Capstone!” as the rest of the auditorium erupted in applause. Bonnie Raitt was right when she called Fuller part living room, part church, but on this day, it was part team room, part dressing room, part arena, as these young people launched into one of the biggest days of their high school careers.
Sitting on the edge of the stage and looking out at the now empty seats, I could see some of the remnants of the day: a spot where a water bottle had spilled, a piece of paper with evaluator notes on it, a wrapper from a throat lozenge, a tie left behind in celebration as the day ended. I thought back to what had happened on that stage, beginning with Konrad Tillman stepping out from behind the podium—as many of the 10 presenters in Fuller did—speaking with a lapel mic and using the whole stage. Sporting bright red sunglasses that matched his red pants that had a white stripe that matched his white shirt and jacket, he was a walking/talking embodiment of his topic: fashion as a statement of identity. The ensemble was completed by a pair of shoes that he had helped design.
Konrad did more than talk about the psychology of fashion and its role in creating and expressing one’s identity; he educated us about the environmental and social justice aspects of the clothes we buy and wear, and he will continue this educational mission as he distributes posters around New York City later this year. He was not the only one who educated us on Friday:
Emma Sestito taught us about Vermont’s impact on the Atlantic Ocean through the microplastics that travel through the Connecticut River watershed into Long Island Sound due to Vermonters improperly disposing of tires near and in our streams and rivers. She has designed an elementary-school learning plan to be used in local schools so that younger students are aware of the problem earlier in their education.