Kaylee Bennett

Year of Graduation: 
Kaylee Bennett

"I think we have some of the best dorm faculty on campus.”

“Come on, kid!” “Kid,” that’s the endearing nickname senior soccer captain Juliana Merullo gave prep Kaylee Bennett on the pitch this fall. “Jules calls me ‘kid’ all the time,” Kaylee says. “She’s like an older sister. She has been so supportive and welcoming to me this year. I’m starting to tear up just talking about it. Even next year, I’ll still have Jules’ words in my head saying, ‘Come on, kid!’ I’ll probably have that in my head throughout all the years that I play here.”

It is just that type of extended family and community spirit that prompted the Maryland native to choose Exeter. “I was looking for a home away from home,” Kaylee says. “And that’s definitely what I’ve been experiencing here so far. It’s even better than I expected.” 

We all lived together in one dorm and formed a really tight bond, like, really, really tight.”

Kaylee arrived at the Academy as an accomplished athlete — she’s a midfielder in the Olympic Development Program for soccer and a speedster on the track. When she checked in to Webster Hall this fall for preseason, she felt ready for the pace and challenge of high school athletics. But she quickly found preseason was about more than drills and training. “There were all of these bonding activities,” she says. “We all lived together in one dorm and formed a really tight bond, like, really, really tight.”

Kaylee says that one of the best parts of being a prep on varsity is the relationships she has forged with upperclassman. “I’ve learned so much from my older teammates and not just because they’re great soccer players,” Kaylee says. “It’s their personalities on and off the field and the example they set.”

Kaylee Bennett playing soccer at Exeter


The student-athlete balance

Kaylee watched how more-seasoned players managed their schedules, classes, fitness, diet and rest. “Balancing sports and academics was one of the biggest things I was worried about before coming here,” Kaylee says. “Time management can be tough for me, sometimes I procrastinate.” When she had questions, she looked to her teammates for help. “I did a lot of homework on the bus home from games,” she says. “I’d be like, ‘Oh guys, how do you do this math problem? I don't really understand it,’ and a senior would talk it through with me and we’d solve the problem together.”

Community in the dorm

Kaylee lives in Amen Hall and has found community there too. “There are different grades on each floor,” she says, which makes bumping into people from all classes common. “I’ve made a lot of really good friends already, and we just met!” she says. “When you make new friends, you learn a lot about their perspective, and there’s so many different people from around the world here.” 

There are also lots of adults to lend a hand. “I think we have some of the best dorm faculty on campus,” she says. “They just check in and say, ‘Hey, how was your day?’ And it doesn't really have to be about a problem or something, it’s just how you’re doing, like well-being, which is really nice. Exeter does a really good job of making me feel safe, making me feel comfortable where I am.” 

I think I’m really growing, especially in independence and just learning to do things on my own.”

Living away from home has also helped Kaylee develop autonomy and self-determination. “It’s my turn to figure out what I want to do and what I like and what I don't like,” she says. “I think I’m really growing, especially in independence and just learning to do things on my own.”

Learning to listen

A vivacious and lively spirit, Kaylee readily says, “I love to talk!” In class, she’s learning to listen. “In the English courses, some of the themes are just so deep,” she says. “I love the discussions and how some things that my peers say, I would never have thought of before. It's just eye opening. I’m working on my in-depth thinking and listening to understand and not to just respond to everything.”

Kaylee is also stretching her range of academic inquiry. She’s always been interested in biology and would like to study sports science in the future, but a history course, Peoples and Cultures of the Modern World, sparked new ideas. “I think science is still my favorite subject, but some of the discussions I’ve had in this class, I didn’t realize that I could actually take them outside of class. Sometimes at my old school, I wouldn’t be able to do that … now I think of things a little differently. I’m more culturally relative and not ethnocentric.”

Expanding spheres of interest

When not on the fields, gym or track, Kaylee hangs out in The Bowld, where she takes piano lessons two hours a week with music instructor Jon Sakata. She also practices on her own at least a half hour every other day – jamming in the basement of her dorm or on a neighbor’s keyboard. “I like to dabble a little bit in everything,” she says, noting her active club membership in the Afro-Latino Exonian Society, Transitions, Christian Fellowship and the Fermatas a cappella ensemble. Currently she’s perfecting the notes to Adele’s “Someone Like You.” But if there’s a song that describes her best, she says with a giggle, it would be “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” 

— Jennifer Wagner