he first diamonds were found in India before Christ walked the earth. They adorned the country’s wealthy elite, then traveled to Venice’s market, where they were perused and acquired for Europe’s most eligible.
A diamond is hard thing to make. Two miles deep in the bowels of the earth, coal is formed from carbon dioxide. A hundred miles deep, Earth’s mantle—a feverish bulk of compressed rock—is where diamonds are made. That carbon dioxide gets battered and bruised, pummeled and punched. It’s heated hotter than Dante’s seventh ring, boiling above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s heated, then subjected to 725,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. It’s this massive amount of impending, unrelenting pressure that restructures coal into karats, and carbon into diamonds.
“Our own discomfort isn’t what matters,” Piercey said.
Reed Piercey, MCAS ’19, and Ignacio Fletcher, MCAS ’20, candidates for president and executive vice president, respectively, of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College, actively seek out this same kind of pressure—cognizant of its alchemical effects.
“I want to be a leader in the future,” Fletcher said.
Piercey’s feet hit the steamy asphalt in a quick one-two beat pattern—acting as the percussion for the victorious song he was trying to write by running the Boston Marathon last April. His body moved in harmony, with each step radiating deeper and deeper into his knees. Every stride brought him closer to the finish line, and closer to raising money for the Samaritans suicide hotline. All of his ligaments being played, his muscles repeatedly contracting and relaxing, pushing and pulling to keep his body in motion. His breath was the constant against the fickle screams of spectators. It was 80 degrees, and he wasn’t hydrated. His body gave out despite the powerful push of his will, and he passed out at Mile 21. When he woke up, the finish line no longer in his vision, he wiped his eyes and focused on the IVs pumping saline into him.
“I’m going to finish this year and beat my pace from last,” Piercey said in an interview last week.
“He will never leave a job undone,” said close friend Michaela Chipman, MCAS ’19.
Fletcher sat in the library. The youngest of four kids—he’s on a mission. His parents’ dream is for all of their children to be educated in the United States, and here he was in cold, cold Boston, far from Puerto Rico and the sunny sand he used to walk on and the waves that used to play tag with his toes. His parents want him to stay in Boston and persevere, make a life of his own.
“Everything is a part of movement … Always look to the future,” Fletcher said.
Piercey is from California, but doesn’t think that encompasses all he is. He’s got blonde hair, but it’s not cut in the typical surfer style. He smiles as he tells you he spent his childhood in France. He claims to be conversational in Chinese, but I didn’t feel like testing him as he talked about his experience in the communist country where expression is limited and politics (his favorite) are never discussed.
“I love learning other languages. I think it’s crucial to building a more inclusive community and world in general,” Piercey said.
Rejected from 4Boston his freshman year, Piercey still rode the T alone to Government Center, and got off for a short walk to the Samaritans suicide hotline—the placement he was rejected from. No stranger to Piercey are days spent on phone lines with lives on the line. He didn’t have anyone to talk through it with—no small group reflection, only quiet moments in dark spaces until sophomore year when he was admitted to 4Boston.
“Our own discomfort isn’t what matters,” Piercey said.
Piercey denies himself comfort in his service, and he denies himself the impulse to give advice when a friend is in need. He recognizes that problem-solving is not always what is necessary—it usually just takes some listening.
“It’s hard to be heard,” Piercey said.
Through his loneliness in service, he has learned to move past discomfort, allowing himself to be susceptible to it in order to alleviate that of others, and recognizing that the suffering of others is greater than his. He puts himself in hard and heated situations and does not back away from pressure. Hounded by questions without answers coming from voices in desperation, then haunted by the lack of help and services available for mental health, Piercey decided to make a change of his own. He was instrumental in the creation of BC’s chapter of Lean on Me, an anonymous, 24-hour text-based mental health support line students can call to speak to other students about whatever they need. A member of the opposition team, Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20, also co-founded the service. Piercey pushed through the strains of his service to create something especially helpful for BC’s high-pressure environment, where help-seeking is often difficult.
“[Piercey] is the perfect example of someone I want to learn from … He’s growing and molding into something greater—I’m excited to learn alot from him,” Fletcher said.
Piercey’s running mate, Fletcher, grew up in Puerto Rico as part of a Colombian family. His father’s failed business is what ignited his dreams of sending his children to study in the United States, something that has made Fletcher realize from failure can stem something beautiful.
“They started from zero, and we moved from house to house,” Fletcher said.
He speaks Spanish with a distinct Colombian accent, which forced him to see Puerto Rico as half a home and himself as having a dual identity. He was forced to navigate between his two cultures and called out for being different, which was hard as even at home he sometimes didn’t feel completely at home.
Fletcher hasn’t been home in a year because his parents have pushed him to live in discomfort away from home, in Boston, because they know that often growth happens where tension lies. Fletcher hasn’t seen his family in a while, but when asked what story he would tell his family as the cornerstone of his BC experience, he didn’t reply with an anecdote about a fun night out or one about the things he’s done for UGBC.
“I would tell the stories of the many different people I’ve met at BC … Everybody has a different story to tell,” Fletcher said.
Piercey similarly works to put the focus back on others in all aspects of his life, especially given that compassion is the most important value to him and that he takes pride in being a student ally.
“I learned that being an effective agent for change is not about monopolizing the conversation,” he said.
Fletcher and Piercey met about running together in January, after Piercey came back from a semester abroad in China, and they both knew it was the right fit. The two stars crashed, and the rest was fireworks.
“[Fletcher] is full of passion and voice, even when we first met about the idea of running together, he had already started to lay out his vision and initiatives … I was struck by how confidently and passionately he expresses himself,” Piercey said.
“[Piercey] is the perfect example of someone I want to learn from … He’s growing and molding into something greater—I’m excited to learn a lot from him,” Fletcher said.
When you meet them, it seems they’ve known each other for much longer. Fletcher even refers to Piercey as his older brother, and the two’s different lives seem intrinsically connected—Piercey’s favorite book, A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, is of Colombian origin, a fact that makes Fletcher smile from ear to ear.
“It's hard to be heard,” Piercey said.
They both see leadership as a team effort, with Fletcher’s theory being colored by Puerto Rican leaders’ poor response to the recent disasters in Puerto Rico. Fletcher presents leadership as being someone on the soccer field who passes the ball, who makes other people shine. He’s focused on forming relationships with the people around him. He makes friends quickly and keeps them for a long time. Most retreat-built friendships last for the extent of the retreat (we’ve all been on 48Hours), but Fletcher met one of his best friends, Pablo Cardenal, LSOE ’20, on an Ignite retreat.
“He wants change and realizes the privilege of him being here,” Cardenal said.
Having grown up with the example of his parents’ hard work, Fletcher juggles messiness with ease.
Likewise, Piercey is known by friends, not just for his finesse at developing relationships—he was that guy freshman year that got everyone together to play Cards Against Humanity—but for his drive and constant desire for advancement. He started Writers’ Circle, an organization where aspiring writers can get their work critiqued, because he thought BC was lacking this sort of space.
“One of the most inspiring things about Reed is he’s a high achieving guy … and instead of just settling where he was he’s always pushed himself for more,” said Chipman. “He’s not a settler—he will never settle at anything.”
A hundred miles deep in the earth, above the churning of magma, carbon is being pressed and pressed, one day to be pushed out of the earth, cut, and turned into the most valuable rock in the world—given on one knee from loved one to loved one, or put on the finger of a champion in a glorious rain of confetti. Right on BC’s green grass, Piercey and Fletcher put pressure on themselves, whether it be finishing 26.2 miles, or creating a life thousands of miles from home. They push themselves to go beyond their studies, making the consistent decision to live beyond their comfort zones, because they believe it will make them better people and leaders.
“Within my path I’m completely exploring and challenging myself, taking advantage of the opportunity,” Fletcher said, as Piercey nodded in agreement.
Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Heights Editor