Maria Heeter

Year of Graduation: 
2018
Maria Heeter

"I got my dad, and together we opened my financial aid package, and then he started crying!”

Little, and fierce

After chatting for a short while with Maria Heeter ’18, Shakespeare’s oft-repeated line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream —“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” — comes to mind. At 5’2”, Heeter is indeed tiny, but her passions for humanities and for social justice, both honed at Exeter, are outsized.

A native of nearby Dover, New Hampshire, Heeter learned about Exeter thanks to a cousin who applied, and was accepted to, ACCESS EXETER, the Academy’s long-running educational summer program for rising 8th and 9th graders. “Once I heard she would be going, I applied on a whim,” she recalls. “When my family then got our financial aid package, it was perfect.” Heeter attended ACCESS EXETER as a day student for the summer of 2013, meeting fellow students from all over the world and, critically, gaining exposure to the Harkness pedagogy. “I loved it,” she muses.

A door opens

When, later that same year, it came time for Heeter to consider options for high school, Exeter was top of mind. Her mother and father, however, felt otherwise. “My parents thought the Academy cost too much money,” she explains. “And I think they didn’t want me to get my hopes up too high. They made it clear to me that I could go ahead and apply to Exeter, but that I’d ultimately have to be OK with going to Dover High School.”

Fast forward to March of 2014. “I remember opening my admissions decision email at 6:00 a.m.,” Heeter recalls. “I was so happy when I learned I’d been accepted that I started crying. I went and got my dad, and together we opened my financial aid package, and then he started crying!” Maria began her journey at Exeter as a day student that fall.

Learning here

On campus, and advised by Chair of Theater and Dance Rob Richards, Heeter has unearthed a deep love of literature and history, while also immersing herself in a handful of activities from which she draws great inspiration and fulfillment. “As a Church Proctor, I supervise Phillips Church on Thursday evenings from 7 to 10, and cook with the Exeter Jewish community,” she explains.

“I am also a co-head of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance [GSA], which is open to anyone. Yesterday, we discussed the sexual misconduct allegations against Kevin Spacey, and it was an emotionally tough meeting. It’s not always a controversial topic, though. Sometimes we just bake cookies.”

To feed her artsy side, Heeter DJs her own radio program on WPEA: “Sweeter with Heeter.” “I usually do a weekly theme, by genre. One week it might be songs under two minutes, another week it might be punk.” Meanwhile, playing varsity basketball keeps Heeter, a guard, on her game.

Growing there

Yet, the unfurling of her intellect and character haven’t only happened on Exeter’s campus. Through a cherished internship in New York City with the Academy of American Poets, and then during a fall term abroad in Stratford, England, with her mentor, Richards, Heeter has developed an abiding love for the written word.

“During my internship, I lived with a couple in Manhattan’s financial district. I worked Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and then had Friday, Saturday and Sunday to explore the city. I worked on the Academy of American Poet’s website, Poets.org. They have a lot of well-known poems on their website, and my job was to read them and sort them into themes. After spending those six weeks reading poetry so intensely, I can now feel if something is good or not. It helped me to realize that my own writing is not there yet, and that I need to write more in order to get better. I also now know that writing will always be a constant for me.”

Stratford, says Heeter, was equally enlightening. From regular lectures with renowned Shakespeare expert and author Dr. Vivian Thomas, to close readings of Jane Eyre and Howards End with Richards, to travel days that showcased England’s diverse geography, Heeter’s love of literature was bolstered just as a newfound fondness for bustling cities was revealed.

The way … with words

With plans to attend college next year, likely in an urban setting, Heeter is equal parts anticipatory and reminiscent. “As someone who needs to always be moving around and seeing new places, I am grateful that Exeter has given me the opportunity to travel,” she says. “It’s also helped me whittle down what I want to do.” And that is? “I would like to graduate from college and become a rogue copy editor. There’s always a need for a good copy editor.”