They Grow Up So Fast

2020 classmates talk about their Exeter experience.

December 9, 2019
Leah Delacruz as a prep and a senior

Leah Delacruz as a prep and a senior.

In the early days of fall term three years ago, we interviewed members of the class of 2020. They were new to Exeter, excited and anxious. They were eager to explore their new school, make new friends and embrace the opportunities ahead. We caught up with those students to see how their Exeter experience has unfolded — and find out what their hopes are for their final year at the Academy.


Pictures of the students featured in Then and Now

Pepper Pieroni

Pepper Pieroni

Hoyt Hall and Dallas, Texas

You said three years ago, “I want to squeeze every ounce of creativity and creation out of Exeter.” Have you?

I think that I’ve definitely taken on a lot and worked with so many great organizations and people to create some amazing things. And, it’s been creativity in a way I wasn’t expecting. I underestimated so much, so many parts of Exeter that I wasn’t looking forward to or was afraid of. 

What are some things that you have discovered about yourself during this time?

I am not afraid to fail. And I love failing. Not in the normal sense but, I think, you know, taking leaps and falling down has been part of my Exeter experience, because it’s taught me that with all the support systems we have here, it’s worth it to take that risk and find something that you never even thought you would love. And falling in love with it.

Leah Delacruz

Leah Delacruz

Hoyt Hall and Lawrence, Massachusetts

If you could tell yourself something you didn’t know when you came here, what would it be? 

I’d say get out of my dorm room and actually just go explore. I remember being just so nervous and so shy and overthinking everything I was saying. Especially at the Harkness table, I would stay silent; I was so scared of saying the wrong thing. So, I’d say branch out and make more friends. 

When do you think that clicked for you? 

When I went abroad in the School Year Abroad Program to Spain. Everybody was new, so I had to branch out and had to talk to people. In classes, I actually felt like I could just talk because we were all starting from the beginning with our Spanish language. I’m thinking, “Everyone is making mistakes anyways. I might as well join in and learn from them.”

Jack Liu

Jack Liu

Webster Hall and Dublin, Ohio

What’s the best advice you’d give your prep self?

I probably would have been more outgoing and tried to get more involved with student music. There were a lot of seniors I looked up to, a lot of good musicians. It was a dream to get to play and practice with these talented people I knew. I’ve kind of joined that echelon. I just wish I would have started earlier, started honing my skills then. Just be outgoing and put yourself in these situations to do really cool stuff. 

What’s something you discovered about yourself in your time here?

I really do enjoy taking math and physics here. I feel like I’m a much more complete math student after running through the excellent math curriculum. That’s something I do really appreciate that I’ve found at Exeter.

Billy MenkenBilly Menken

Abbot Hall and Woodbury, Minnesota

What is the best advice you’d give your prep self?

I'd say take advantage. I immediately think of Club Night when I hear that question, and I think about how you sign up for 15 different clubs and you try them all. I think I did a good job with that. I tried different sports, I tried different clubs, I tried different classes and those classes are really opening up this year, especially since it's senior year. And I tried meeting new people, as well. 

What is something you discovered about yourself in your time here?

I think at Exeter I learned how to take initiative. I learned how to start new things and pursue ideas even if they seemed a little crazy at first. So, I started a club here on campus. It's called the Extra Off-Planet Society, and that was kind of a kind of a risk. I learned how to take risks. And I learned that when you step up and take initiative, especially at Exeter, there will be people there to support you, and I'm really happy to have that support. It's helped me get out of my comfort zone.

Leah Cohen

Leah Cohen

Amen Hall and Allentown, Pennsylvania

What’s the best advice you’d give your prep self?

Ask. For. Help. Definitely, ask for help. I think I came into Exeter thinking that everybody knows exactly what they’re doing, and knows how to study, knows how to do this all by themselves. It took me until the middle of lower year to really reach out to my teachers, and ask for help.

What are you most looking forward to in your last year?

I’m really excited for my classes. I [now] have the freedom to choose all these different classes. I’m taking American Politics & Public Policy. I’m taking Intro to Psych right now. I’m taking Statistics. And, also, I just want to get to know as many people on campus as I can before I leave. I want to know everyone’s name in my grade and [have] some kind of connection with them before I leave.

Caroline Fleming

Caroline Fleming

Bancroft Hall and Palo Alto, California

If you had to summarize these past three years in a sentence or two ...

I feel like it was really hard, but I grew up a lot and then ended up having more fun than I anticipated.

What are some of the ways you’ve changed at Exeter?

Plot twist: Now I play lacrosse. I didn’t when I came here, but now I’m more excited to be in lacrosse than I am to play soccer. I’m also the sports editor of The Exonian, surprisingly. It’s one of my favorite things. I thought it was going to be like a total grind, but it’s actually really fun.

Thomas Matheos

Thomas Matheos

Webster Hall and Hingham, Massachusetts

If you had any advice for your prep self, what would it be?

The important thing prep year is not to focus on learning to keep things in balance. Yes, do well in your class[es]. But I think it’s really a good time for you to figure out what you want to do and what is important to do with your life in the broader sense. Figure out what those [passions] are, then really pursue them all.

Do you feel you’ve discovered those things about yourself here?

I think as I’ve been here, I’ve discovered more of the things I want to be pursuing and more how to be bold enough to go pursue them. I feel like I’m getting better and better at that.


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.