Emily Benatar was born on February 11, 1993. The first thing Darrell noticed was her big eyes—how she opened them wide and looked around.
Emily was bright and busy from the start. At seven months she was pulling herself up, reaching for two adult fingers so that she could zoom around on two feet. The day she turned 10 months was the day she took her first steps, and from then on there was no stopping her.
Emily had two younger sisters, Isabel and Maya. Emily was 2 when Isabel was born, and she was 5 when Maya was born.
Emily went to three preschools: Parents’ Nursery School (PNS), Rainbow School (on Stanford campus), and the JCC. She started Parents’ Nursery School when she was (in her words) two and three-quarters. She loved staying after everyone else had gone, going to the carpet with a book, sitting in the front and “reading” to her make-believe class. She started reading for real when she was 4.
Emily attended Addison Elementary School for kindergarten, and then switched to Escondido Elementary School on Stanford campus the following year when her name was drawn in the lottery for the Spanish Immersion Program of Palo Alto.
Emily attended Jordan Middle School, where she was chosen by teachers and fellow students to be a Peer Helper. The Peer Helper program was designed as a resource for students who needed someone to talk to. Peer Helpers were available for students who found it easier to confide in their peers rather than teachers or administrators. As an 8th grader, Emily was awarded the Becky Schaffer award for the compassion she showed towards others.
As a freshman at Palo Alto High School, Emily participated in “TEAM”—Together Everyone Achieves More—a program comprising about 100 students. TEAM teachers collaborate and students share core classes and participate in off-campus team-building activities. At the end of the year Emily was elected TEAM Girl by her peers.
The summer after her sophomore year Emily went to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) art program for six weeks. This was the longest time she had spent away from home. She had a fantastic time doing art, living in the dorms, and building friendships.
The summer after her Junior year in high school Emily volunteered with the Amigos de las Americas program, living in a very rural community—Lidico, Nicaragua—for seven weeks. According to Emily, this was the most challenging and the most rewarding thing she had ever done.
Emily graduated from Paly High in June 2011, and she started as a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis in the fall. She was truly hitting her stride spring semester at Wash U, taking courese in math, writing, and art. She really loved her writing seminar, graphical communications, and drawing classes, and said that she had found her passion: "Infographics!" Emily loved creating and communicating visually. She was also very happy to be a member of Alpha Phi Sorority, which she joined because she could, as she said, "be my goofy self" around these wonderful new friends.
Up until the time Emily was 11 years old, she lived in our house on Lytton Avenue. On December 20, 2004, we moved to a house on Webster Street. It was hard to leave the Lytton house, but the Webster house had a big back yard and no traffic—it was on a cul de sac. We lived in the Webster house for a little over two and a half years, then in September 2007 we moved into a rental house for one year and built a completely new house at the site of the old Webster house. The process of building the house took one full year, and we moved into the new Webster house in September of 2008. Emily’s artistic and organizational talents were a huge help during the house-building process. She drew several interior elevations that helped us visualize how things would look in the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and kids’ bathroom. She also worked with a man from a closet-design company to plan the closets for the girls’ rooms. The man said he would hire her in a second. She was 15.
Emily traveled extensively both within and outside the U.S. Her first trip was at three months to southern California to see her great-grandmother, Willie Bruce Marks. It was Willie Bruce who was the source for Emily's name: when Lisa was pregnant with Emily, she asked her grandmother what names she liked. Willie Bruce got a faraway look, smiled, and said "Emily...I always wanted to be called Emily."
After the trip to southern California, there were many other trips to places including the following: Sanibel Island, FL; Snowbird, Utah; Lake Tahoe, CA; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Hawaii; Kauai; Chile; Oregon; Kentucky; Williamsburg, VA; Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C., New York; Niagra Falls; Erongaricuaro, Mexico; Sedona, Arizona; Grand Canyon, AZ; Bryce Canyon, UT; Zion National Park, UT; England; Scotland; Israel; Turkey; Island of Rhodes; Rhode Island; Spain; Alaska; Seattle; Paris, France; Verona, Italy; Salzburg, Austria; Barcelona, Spain.
Emily loved to put herself out there. At 18 months she would drag a piece of cardboard up the stairs to the top of the concrete slide at Johnson Park in downtown Palo Alto. At the top, she joined other kids who were all so much bigger than she was to take turns sliding down the giant slope to its sandy finish—a fast ride on a piece of cardboard.
Emily started playing soccer when she was 5 or 6. She played for a club team, the Rapids, from fourth grade through her freshman year in high school. While the Rapids went from barely winning any games to being solidly competitive, the best and most memorable thing about the team was that many of the girls had known each other since first grade and had gone through the Spanish Immersion Program and Girl Scouts together.
During the winter of her freshman year at Paly Emily—along with a handful of her soccer-playing friends—picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time. Paly’s Girl’s Lacrosse program was launched that spring of 2008. Emily was on the JV team and was recognized as MVP that season. The next fall she started on Varsity, which she would continue to play throughout high school. At Wash U, Emily played club lacrosse, traveling to neighboring states for games. In high school and college, Emily loved lacrosse and the friends she made on the teams.
Emily took piano lessons from age 5 to 10, when she started playing the cello. She was awarded the Palo Alto district music award in the 6th grade, and was accepted to play with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. At the end of 7th grade Emily stopped playing cello because of the time commitment and conflicts with sports and preparing for her bat mitzvah. She then resumed piano lessons and enjoyed playing piano for fun even while in college.
Emily loved to draw from an early age, and could write her name at 2 years and 9 months. Her fine motor skills took off quickly, a clue that art would be her passion.
She won an art award at the University Art store in Palo Alto when she was about 6. Art was a big component of many of her school projects—if a teacher ever gave students the choice to express themselves in some medium other than writing, Emily chose drawings. She was also amazing at knitting, crocheting, jewelry-making, cookie-decorating, and pretty much any art or craft she tried.
Emily took art her freshman, junior, and senior years at Paly. She was planning to minor or double major in art at Wash U and loved the two art classes she took spring semester. Emily described feeling like time stopped while she was immersed in creating art.