Ms. Leary Changes The Educational Trajectories of SRHS Students


Zully Lopez, Contributor

The CCC is silent with college posters plastered around the walls. Slowly, students start coming in one by one. As students seek guidance with their college applications, they head to the corner to receive help from the college consultant. Ms. Leary, typing away on her computer, has occupied this role for the past nine years.

A typical interaction with Ms. Leary starts with students sharing their documents with her before each meeting. In the meetings, they discuss the college process. The meetings are generally scheduled to last half an hour, but Ms. Leary provides additional guidance on the next steps that the students can do on their own. 

Sophia Stewart, a senior at SRHS who is applying to colleges, shared, “It would be difficult to complete the applications without her because she has so much knowledge.”

Like many students, Ms. Leary herself struggled with the college process. “Because I was a foster child in my teenage years, I was pretty much on my own to navigate the college application process.” She also added, “I don’t remember getting any help from a high school counselor or other adults, so I basically just followed what my friends were doing.”

Now able to help others, her goal is to guide students who do not have college support and work with students that have families who are not privileged. She wants to help them attain the same opportunities that wealthier families have. “There is so much to know about the complicated college preparation and application process, and I feel like wealthier families are at a huge advantage compared to middle- or lower-income families whose parents may or may not have college educations.” 

Leary’s path to the SRHS community has been a long and eye-opening journey.

Ms. Leary has always held a love for English and first declared as a Journalism major at the University of Oregon. Then, after college graduation, she found jobs at international boarding schools located in Austria and Spain. This is what sparked her interest in working with teenagers, specifically teaching English.

A graduate from Cornell University, she started off as a product manager for a lotion company for a few years and then moved to Vermont to work part-time at Dartmouth College in their Admissions Office. After completing her certificate in College and Career Advising at UC Berkeley, Ms. Leary was hired at SRHS. 

As part of the SRHS community, Ms. Leary specifically helps seniors with their college essays and works with younger students to help them obtain internships. Although she dedicates the majority of her time to her students, Ms. Leary likes to talk about Netflix shows to anyone that comes into the CCC. “When she hears about a show she doesn’t know, she pulls out her phone to add it to her list,” stated Ms. Cifuentes.

The CCC is a place where any student can come in and work on anything they want. Ms. Leary provides comfort to the setting through her kindness and her dedication to being a strong resource for the SRHS community. 

Ms. Cifuentes stated, “She should be here for 3 hours, but she generally stays here longer.” Although Ms. Leary stays longer than the hours she is required to stay, she loves everything about her job. “I love working with young people to help guide them towards college or career, and I enjoy helping seniors with their college application essays because I learn a lot about them and I get to use my writing and editing skills.” 

Outside of SRHS, she spends time with her family and dogs. All of her children have successfully gotten into college. She also attends conferences, visits colleges and organizes the Career Tech Fair.   

The Career Tech Fair consists of 45 industry professionals who talk to students about careers that don’t require a college education. Ms. Leary organizes this because she believes, ” a 4-year college degree is not for everyone, and there are many alternate career paths that are rewarding and pay well.”

Ms. Leary’s goal of helping students from different backgrounds with the college process is continuously fulfilled. She not only helps students with applications, but she also offers different paths for those who see a career path outside of higher education. Ms. Leary’s corner has changed numerous lives and continues to transform the SRHS community every day.