from The Magazine of Gill St. Bernard's School
Like Father, Like Daughter
Trevena Bennett' 14 by Alice Roche Cody
Even though Trevena Bennett’s father passed away three years ago—shortly before her graduation from Gill St. Bernards—she still starts every day by saying “Good morning, Dad.” It’s a reminder of how she greeted him every morning at dawn, when the two early-risers would be the only family members up. Today, it’s how she honors Lorne Bennett, her “main man”, the one who coached football and basketball and mentored teens at the Boys & Girls Club of Union County.
“My dad was my best friend—he’s the most caring person I’ve known to this day,” says Bennett. “I grew up at the Boys & Girls Club and I was always around him and helping out. He helped the youth in our area get on the right path. There wasn’t a night the boys didn’t call him. He made sure the community was running well and he showed us how successful our town could be.”
His example still shapes Bennett’s life, whether through her own volunteer work or as a junior at Bentley University or a guard on the Falcons basketball team.
While basketball was a big part of the Bennetts’ family life (her brother Treyvon plays for Seton Hall Prep), academics were always the priority. “My dad loved that we were into sports, but he preached education,” she says. “He was always on my brother and me: basketball came second, academics first.”
It was, in fact, basketball that first brought Bennett to Gill St.Bernard’s when she came to play for Mergin Sina, head coach for the girls’ basketball program at the time. Her father encouraged her to attend, citing the school’s academics. At first, the transition to Gill proved tough. On top of a three-hour daily commute from Union, New Jersey, Bennett was experiencing culture shock. “I cried every day the first two weeks because I was scared, uncomfortable and overwhelmed with the workload,” she says. “But my dad taught me to never give up and to push through any obstacles in my way.” Bennett stuck with it, and soon, new friends and teachers became like family.
Despite suffering multiple knee injuries on the court, the two-year knights co-captain helped Gill capture three country championships. As a senior, she was named first-team All-Somerset County and was an All-Skyland Conference selection.
Throughout it all, her biggest fans were her mom, Sharanda Bennett, and her dad. She recalls that whenever she got jammed up in a game, she would glance at him sitting quietly in the first row. “He knew how to calm me down,” she says. “He never said anything just gave me a look.”
When Bennett started at Bentley, she no longer had her father’s steady gaze to guide her, and her transition to college athletics proved difficult. “It was a huge adjustment,” she says. “ I had to find time to fit in my studies and eat. I was, and still am, in the gym at all hours of the day.”
One area the college athlete didn’t need to worry about was her studies. “ Gill prepared me well ,” academically and did a great job of providing a support system,” she says. “That’s why I chose Bentley---it reminded me of Gill.”
A marketing major and sports management minor, Bennett aspires to own a multi-sports training facility one day. The facility would serve the community in several ways, from providing a venue for tournaments to offering a place for children to do homework and receive tutoring. “My vision is not typical—I want all kinds of sports taking place and kids running around,” she says. “I don’t just want to target athletes. People can come to learn about nutrition and healthy living and get in shape.”
Not surprising, her goal echoes her dad’s lifelong ambition of opening his own sports complex. “It’s what motivates me to do this,” she says. “I’ll work hard for it, and I’ll make it happen.”
As Bennett pursues coursework to support her dream, she is also continuing to honor her father through the L-Train memorial Foundation, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that she started in 2014. Just four months after his death, the first three-on-three basketball tournament fundraiser was held in honor of her dad. To date, the nonprofit has raise $7,000 and recently awarded three college scholarships to student-athletes from northern New Jersey. Those students are currently attending Allegheny College, American University and Seton Hall University.
The foundation is just one more way for Bennett to continue her father’s legacy. In all her endeavors, thoughts of him are never far from her mind. “Before games,” she says, “I pray to God, thanking Him for allowing me to play the sport I love, and I talk to my dad, telling him that I love him. I miss him, and that I’ll play smart and hard and leave everything I have on the court. Then I kiss my finger and point to the sky.”