Belmont High Students Make A Statement With A Shirt

Photo: Maya Vernick designing her statement.

Back in 2004 when she was a sophomore at Belmont High School, Jesse Mattleman came up with an event she hoped her fellow students could use to promote their hopes and wishes.

On Thursday, Mattleman returned to BHS to see the success that gathering had become.

“Make a Statement Day,” held on March 16 this year, is when students and teachers decorate basic white T-shirts with art, designs, opinions, beliefs, or a favorite quote which they wear the next day during the school day.

Some of the designs and statements are fun and inspiring, and others serious with a definite declaration of critical issues to the participants.

“It’s a chance to show everyone in the school who you really are,” said Devan O’Toole, senior class president, and this year’s event co-leader.

Sophomore Maya Vernick selected a quote from the Dr. Suess book “The Lorax.” 

“It’s about protecting the environment which I want to be associated with,” said Vernick.

On the other end of the cafeteria, junior Barbara Joseph was writing a slogan on her shirt, “Hella Black, Hella Proud.” 

“The connotation of being black is usually a negative one. My shirt is telling all my friends that are black that they shouldn’t be ashamed of the skin tone they are. That it’s a badge of honor,” she said. 

Others were of a whimsical bent such as Aidan Carey’s which appeared to be a math equation.

“I don’t think I can explain the meaning of the shirt,” said Carey, since when deciphered, it revealed a   profane command to leave. 

“I like the stupidity of what it really means, but how it looks so complicated,” he said, noting his shirt last year was also a pun-filled math equation. 

It is just those examples of self-expression that Mattleman was seeking to encourage when she first proposed the concept a decade and a half ago.

“It was started not just to express yourself, but to promote social issues and what students were passionate about and bring it into a conversation,” said Mattleman who today is Foundation & Corporate Relations Manager for YW Boston.

“It is a time for sparking those meaningful conversations and thinking about social justice that school sometimes doesn’t allow for,” she said.

Mattleman remembered a classmate student used the event to revealed his sexuality on his T-shirt.  

“It brought the whole purpose into such focus for me,” she said.

“It was such a straightforward message, but it must have been hard to do it to their peers or in person. So it was very powerful to see it written and have that [student’s] identity out in the world. It has been liberating and scary, but it was also courageous,” said Mattleman.

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Wearing Your Passion on a T: ‘Make A Statement Day’ At Belmont High

Photo: Belmont High senior Lexi Herosian with her “Make a Statement Day” T-shirt.

The saying goes that some people wear their heart on their sleeve.

On Friday, April 11, Belmont High School students wore their hope and inspiration on T-shirts as nearly 500 teens – nearly half the students in the school – and teachers participated in “Make A Statement Day” when students and staff decorate “Tees” with slogans, images, quotes or symbols to showcase their individuality, passion, and creativity for a day.


The event – now in its 12th year – before they would be wearing their statement, students headed to the school’s cafeteria Thursday afternoon, April 10, filling each of the tables and many of the benches as they spent their time coming up with their personal messages amidst music and snacks.

“Take some food, take a T-shirt, listen to our free music and have a great time,” said Carrie Jones, who is the senior leader of the “Make A Statement Day” Committee which sponsors and pays for the event.

“Show us what you’re passionate about, write it down and wear it on Friday,” said Jones.

Some of the creations are elaborate and festooned with color while others are straightforward; freshman Ellie Somers wrote “Smile!” in bright block letters while junior Emma Perrow asked a thought-provoking question: “Why is it that our culture is more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands?”.

For senior Lexi Herosian, her multi-color message is a quote from Roald Dahl: “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of you like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely.”

“It’s my senior quote, so I wanted to stay with it because I really believe it,” she said.

For Jones, Thursday afternoon was non-stop action; handing out T-shirts (purchased at Champions in Belmont Center) placing newspapers on the tables, and making sure there were enough Sharpies for every group or individual.


Carrie Jones, senior leader of the “Make A Statement Day” Committee.


“For this one day it’s a way to show that we just don’t learn from a textbook, we learn from the world around us, what we are passionate about and we want to talk about it,” said Jones, who has been on the committee since she was a sophomore.

With funding from Belmont Against Racism, D.A.R.E., and the Belmont PTO, the committee – with Jones includes David Sullivan, Ani Somers and Molly Thayer – has made the day a highly-anticipated event on the school calendar.

“It’s pretty amazing proof of the level of talent, passion, and creativity in the students here at [the high school],” said Jones.

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Devan O'Toole, Anika Somers, Sarah Jane Henman and Carrie Jones.

Devan O’Toole, Anika Somers, Sarah Jane Henman and Carrie Jones.

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