Yesterday I was invited to photograph graduation day for the Putney School. Last year the event was rained in and took place in the auditorium. This year, the sun was shining through a soft layer of clouds (a photographer's dream) and the festivities took place of one of the school's rolling, green lawns.
The Putney school is not your average high school. It really isn't even your average New England prep school. The school focuses heavily on experiential learning, allowing students a multifaceted education, not only through academics, but through art, sports, theater, farming, and even building. The students learn how to work together, support each other, accomplish some pretty impressive large scale projects and in the process find their own voice, discover what they are passionate about and graduate with a much broader world view than most teenagers.
Graduation at the Putney School is a unique event. There are no caps and gowns, no sombre precession to Pomp and Circumstance. Graduation begins with a celebratory parade in which the seniors make an entrance in cars, trucks, atv's, tractors and even on horseback. The ceremony closes with the presentation of diplomas, each of which is a work of art, unique to its recipient.
Graduations always make me feel a little bit nostalgic. Although I graduated a very, very, very long time ago, I still remember what it felt like at that point when my life was equal parts excitement and anxiety. I remember applying to colleges and visualizing the endless possibilities in front of me with the romantic notion that I could literally do anything and be anything I wanted. I also realize how very privileged I was to be able to feel that way.
Watching the students yesterday also made me feel hope. No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, I think we can all admit that we are currently living in a politically charged world. It's not the first time or the worst time but sometimes it makes me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration. Every day we are totally overwhelmed by shocking and sad news reports and people tellings us what to think, what to be afraid of and where to assign blame. At the end of the day it is easy to feel overwhelmed and angry. Yesterday I listened as the senior class speakers talked about hope and change. They talked about using their voices and their educations to take action and make the world a better place. Right now we are sorely in need of new voices and better ideas.
Cheers to the class of 2017 and to the endless possibilities in front of you!