Meet Commonwealth Students: Tessa ’27, Climbing Higher

In a world rife with pressure to have it all figured out, Tessa ’27 is content to let the distant future stay just that: distant. “I haven’t really thought about it much,” she says. “At this point, I’m just trying out different things that I’m interested in, and I’ll figure out what my true passions are.”

A decorated rock climber and dedicated student, Tessa applies this sage outlook to her work in and out of school, reveling in challenges in the classroom and on the climbing wall, with an understanding of how much can be gained from the journey, rather than reaching the destination. Keep reading to get to know this first-year student from Newton and discover her most re-read book series, why Commonwealth has strengthened her independence, and the risks of laughing too hard at climbing practice… 

Getting to Know You

What is bringing you joy right now? 

Spending time with my friends, both at Commonwealth and at climbing. (More on Tessa’s climbing experiences below…)

What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)? 

I’ve re-read the Percy Jackson series so many times—whenever I don’t know what to read and just need a quick, light page-turner to pick up, Percy Jackson is always my go-to, especially the fifth book.

What are your favorite comfort foods? 

Either my mom’s chocolate chip cookies or bagels from this really great place right next to my T stop. They’re perfect after a really tiring school day.

What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)? 

Geometry Advanced. The homework problems are really hard, but I really enjoy spending time puzzling over them, and it feels great when I eventually figure out how to do them.

When do you feel the most enjoyably challenged?

Probably whenever I’m working on a really hard climb or move at climbing practice. It’s definitely mentally taxing but also super rewarding when I slowly start to understand the movement and make even the tiniest bit of progress.

What never fails to make you laugh?

One of my climbing friends always seems to be able to make me laugh hard enough that I fall off the wall, no matter if she’s trying to get me to fall or not. I think I’m just really bad at not laughing.

Pen or pencil? 

Pen for history notes, pencil for everything else.

Coffee or tea?

I drink a lot of boba, so I guess tea.

Fall, winter, spring, or summer?


Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)

What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience? 

When I first did my day visit here, I was kind of intimidated and didn’t really understand how a school like this could even function—it seemed kind of unreal. But I was also really excited about the community and the classes, and now I’m glad that I focused on that when I chose to come here. It definitely feels like home now; after just the first couple of days I started to get to know everyone and realized that it’s really not intimidating at all, and now I have so many close friends here.

Using metrics besides grades, how do you define “success” in your classes?

When I understand what we’re learning enough to be able to explain it to someone else. 

How do you spend your time outside of Commonwealth?

Apart from climbing, I do a ton of reading (mostly re-reading), and I also sometimes bake on the weekends when I have time. 

Can you tell us a bit about your rock climbing experience? How are you feeling about competing at nationals this summer?

I started competing around six years ago, when I was in third grade. I first went to a climbing gym in first grade and really loved it, so I kept doing it. When I got the opportunity to join a team, I tried it out and have loved it ever since. I think I have kept going with it partly because of the variation—you’re not just doing the same thing over and over. There’s lots of different movement types and strategies you have to master to be a good competition climber, because in a competition, you’re climbing something you’ve never tried before. Also, the climbing community is incredibly supportive and friendly, and I’ve met so many amazing people. Looking forward to nationals this summer, I’m excited to see what I’m capable of against the best climbers in the country, because I’ve improved so much since the last time I was there.

When do you feel most connected to other students (or teachers/staff members) in our community?

Probably when I’m hanging out and doing work in the freshman cubby area every morning.

How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world? How you plan for your future? 

I've started to think more about the little things I notice in everyday life and sometimes end up pondering them for quite some time. As for the future, I haven’t really thought about it much, apart from my future in climbing. At this point, I’m just trying out different things that I’m interested in, and I’ll figure out what my true passions are (apart from climbing) from there.

What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth? 

Take advantage of being in Back Bay. Test out different ways of getting around and explore the area. I’ve become so much more independent since coming here, and it’s really expanded the amount of places I can go to at any time and the things I do in my free time. 

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