PROCTOR — Always break the rules, in a positive way.
Nancy Leary shared that bit of advice with Proctor High School sophomores Melissa Parker and Jennica Martin. This month, the two will visit Puerto Rico for a Spanish class trip, thanks in part to financial assistance from the Sarah Leary Travel Fund.
On Mother’s Day in 2009, Sarah Leary — a 16-year-old Brandon resident and Proctor High School sophomore — left her family home to run to the store for a pack of gum. While driving on Union Street, she became distracted and crashed.
Leary was not wearing a seat belt and died.
“So, after she died, people wanted to know where to send money,” said Sarah’s mother, Nancy Leary, to Parker and Martin. “Most people give college scholarships, but she never graduated. But before she died, she loved to travel.”
During her freshman year, Sarah went on a class trip to Spain. To pay for the trip, she sold food and drinks during school events and waited tables. The scholarship that bears her name does a similar service by paying half the cost of a student’s travel expenses.
“I’ve never even flown before,” said Parker, who, along with Martin and her fellow Spanish students, will tour Puerto Rico on April 15-19.
“I was speechless at first for quite a while,” said Martin, who hadn’t planned to go on the trip due to the expense. “After one of my classes, (guidance counselor Peg Bartlett) pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to go on the trip.”
While Parker had applied for the scholarship, Martin had not. So Leary said she wanted to take a page from her daughter.
“She was always happy, Tigger-like, bouncing off the walls,” Leary said. “Sarah was always breaking the rules, in a good way, and I thought we’d break the rules this year and give a scholarship to someone who didn’t even ask for it. We decided we wanted to just blow someone’s mind.”
Martin and Parker will also receive $200 spending money.
After her Spain trip, Sarah returned to Europe, visiting France, Italy and Switzerland. After her death, she was cremated and her ashes have been spread in England, Israel, New Zealand, Spain and the Republic of Mozambique.
“That was her wish,” Leary said of Sarah, “to travel around the world, and her love of travel can be shared, thanks to the generosity of the community.”
Community members can donate to the Sarah Leary Travel Fund by visiting sarahwearvt.com or sending checks to 1321 Pearl St., Brandon, Vt., 05733.
Leary gave Martin and Parker some travel advice.
“Keep a journal. It will be your gift to yourself 30 years from now,” she said. “Take chances when you’re ordering food and always break the rules, in a positive way.”
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