Maria Pierce ’23 didn’t have long to make an impact at Brooks — she entered the school last year as a new fifth-former — but it’s safe to say that she’s made the most of her time on Great Pond Road. The North Reading, Mass., native captains the girls 1st soccer, girls 1st ice hockey and softball teams, and she’s planning to play ice hockey at Colby College next year.
“I felt as soon as I got here that the community as a whole wanted me to succeed, which was really nice.”
Pierce says she enrolled at Brooks as a day student after living away from home as a boarder at another independent school during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted, she says, to be closer to home and to her family as a result of the pandemic. Following an enthusiastic conversation with the former coach of the Brooks ice hockey team, Pierce applied to Brooks — and only Brooks — was accepted, and enrolled in time to suit up in green for her fifth-form year.
Pierce says she was drawn to Brooks because of its strong athletics programs, but also because of the ways in which the campus layout supports the idea of community. “The campus is beautiful,” Pierce says.
“The way it overlooks the lake; the way it’s set up. I’m a huge fan of Main Street and seeing everyone every day. The way everyone says ‘hi’ to each other: I think that’s a really great part of our community.”
Pierce says that transitioning to Brooks as a new fifth-former immediately following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was, understandably, challenging. She credits, though, the supports she found at the school with helping her find her place. “I felt as soon as I got here that the community as a whole wanted me to succeed, which was really nice,” Pierce says. She points, for example, to her advisor, who helped her navigate her new school, and to administrators in the academic office who helped her switch between classes nimbly to find the correct fit.
A year later, Pierce reflects on leading the soccer, hockey and softball teams as a Brooksian. Pierce says that the soccer team, which reached the semifinal game of the New England championship tournament, capitalized on a lot of potential — it had lost only one sixth-former to graduation and gained a slew of talented third-formers. “A lot of people stepped up,” she says. “And in terms of leadership, [my co-captains] and I worked really well together, and the whole team made it super easy.”
The ice hockey team, which ended just shy of a postseason berth this year, also has an exciting dynamic according to Pierce. It’s a team with a lot of different personalities, she says, and she’s learned to manage them well. “We have fun,” she says, while speaking of the team’s potential and young talent. “We’re a really close team.”
Pierce also captains the softball team. She chose softball last spring, she says, on the advice of a hockey teammate who also plays softball, and she never looked back. “We started with the trip to Orlando, Florida, over Spring Break,” she says. “That brought us all together, and the team as a whole was really fun. And also, going into the season and throughout the season, it was fun because we were winning. We rarely lost.”
After she plays her last game for Brooks, Pierce, who was also inducted into the Cum Laude Society this spring, looks forward to furthering her athletic career on the ice at Colby College, where she plans to matriculate in the fall. Once she decided to pursue opportunities at the NCAA Division III level, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) attracted her for its strong focus on both academic and athletic excellence.
“I visited a bunch of schools, and they just weren’t my vibe,” Pierce says. “And then I went to Colby, and it just gave me this gut feeling that this is where I want to be. It gave me that Brooks vibe. When I was walking around the Colby campus, it felt like my first day walking down Main Street at Brooks. And then, it worked out from there.”
Pierce says she feels well-prepared to go to college after attending Brooks, both as a student and as an athlete. She credits her coaches with preparing her to play college hockey. Pierce also says that while she initially focused on math and science classes at Brooks, a recent history elective she took called “Race, Gender and Class” caused her to perform in-depth research on the makeup of the United States Supreme Court and the effect that’s had on its jurisprudence over time.
“I found that so interesting,” Pierce says. “That was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me, where I realized that I like doing that kind of research; I like learning about people rather than numbers.”
Pierce says that she’ll look back at Brooks as the place that “helped me become the person I thought I wanted to be since I was little.” She continues: “I think about myself last fall and my personality, who I was, and then I think about myself now,” she says. “I think I’ve grown. I’ve matured a lot more than I think I would have at another school. Brooks has really helped me to find myself.”