girl in library

An Opportunity to Excel


Rosie Crooker ’22 rises to a new challenge

Rosie Crooker ’22 had no plans to leave her public high school. A star lacrosse player and ski racer, she was thriving at Contoocook Valley (ConVal) Regional High School in New Hampshire, where she stood out both academically and as a leader in the student community. Her parents were similarly devoted to their small town of Francestown: her mother, Celeste, is a rescue captain at the fire department and part-time director of the recreation center; her father, Don, a special education teacher, is a longtime member of the conservation commission. Both are ski patrollers at nearby Crotched Mountain. At one point, Rosie considered transferring to a private ski academy, but decided against it. The expense was a factor, notes Celeste, but not the only one. “We were dedicated to our public-school community.”

So when Williston lacrosse coach Charlie Lonergan contacted Rosie after seeing her play at a regional tournament, she didn’t think much about it. But on their way to a summer lacrosse tournament, she and her family stopped by campus to take a look. “I was just in awe of how exciting it would be to live in such a beautiful place,” Rosie recalls. Still undecided, she toured campus again during the school year, and something shifted. “I saw how kind everyone was, how much everyone loved to be at Williston, and how excited everyone was to be learning there and living there.”

Her parents also began to think differently about Williston. They knew Rosie, then a junior, had already completed many of ConVal’s most challenging classes. But at the same time, “it was just not in the picture for us financially,” Celeste explains. “Boarding school was not our reality.”

Rosie, however, was an extraordinary candidate, and Williston was able to offer her family a financial aid package that changed the equation. “We couldn’t believe the award,” Celeste recalls. Rosie accepted in March 2020, just as COVID-19 forced ConVal to switch to remote learning. She arrived at Williston the following fall, and decided to repeat her junior year. “Not that anything about the pandemic was happy, but in terms of having a good place to be, Williston was definitely the right place,” Rosie says. “Being at Williston in person felt really lucky.”

Luck may have played a role, but it was Rosie’s own hard work that had opened the door at Williston, a point Celeste and Don made when Rosie had misgivings about leaving her old school behind. “I let her know that she’s a big part of that success,” says Celeste. “She always worked hard. It’s not an opportunity by accident.”

And she has certainly been tested along the way. During her sophomore year at ConVal, Rosie contracted what appeared to be meningitis. To confirm the diagnosis, her doctors performed a lumbar puncture. The procedure caused bleeding in her spine, due to a previously undiagnosed blood platelet condition, and left her paralyzed for two days. She missed two weeks of school, and was sidelined from sports. “One of the reasons repeating a year of high school was so appealing was that, in a sense, I got that time back,” she says.

Rosie has made the most of that time at Williston. She serves as a class representative and a proctor, and added varsity field hockey to her sports resume. Having already taken her Advanced Placement classes, she developed her writing skills through the Writers’ Workshop program and reporting for The Willistonian, and has explored new academic areas including psychology and planetary astronomy. Next fall she’ll be attending Union College, where she’ll continue to play lacrosse, and plans to pursue a career in pediatrics. Her interest is inspired in part by her own experience as a patient, but also by her work with children at summer camps and as a lifeguard.

Leaving ConVal for Williston was not easy, Rosie acknowledges, but she now appreciates what she gained. “I knew who I was before I went to Williston, but I was so well established in my community that I didn’t really have to put myself out there too much,” she explains. “Transitioning to Williston, I had the opportunity to come into a new community, and do the things that I loved. And I was able to find out even more about who I was, what I’m good at, and what I’m interested in. Being able to work through that challenge gave me a lot of confidence. It makes me excited for college and beyond.”