The first annual Sarah James Memorial Scholarship has been awarded, and Doug and Rebecca James said they are honored that so many people have given to make their daughter’s memorial scholarship possible.
“We are humbled and grateful that Sarah’s life will continue to influence and enable others to pursue their dreams,” Rebecca said. “She really wanted to make a difference, and this scholarship will ensure that her legacy lives on through others.”
Doug and Rebecca’s daughter Sarah, a 2018 graduate of Destrehan High School, was out with friends near the LSU campus in July of 2019 when she was struck by an SUV crossing the road. The Montz native, only 19 years old, died from her injuries.
The first recipient of the Sarah James Memorial Scholarship is DHS 2020 graduate Rachel Duffy, who will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall to study chemical engineering.
Rachel said she feels very honored to be the first recipient of this scholarship.
“I did not know Sarah personally, but she was a role model for many people,” Rachel said. “She was smart, outgoing, and involved with many different clubs and sports at Destrehan.”
Doug said it was difficult to pick just one applicant.
“We were looking for someone who embodied some of the attributes that we loved about Sarah – she was hard-working and academically capable, athletic and artistic and had a plan for her life, but she also was someone who took time to enjoy the journey and the many little moments each day that make life worthwhile,” he said.
All Destrehan High School seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.5 and plans to enroll in an engineering or pre-medical school curriculum were invited to apply. Doug and Rebecca read through the applications independently and then discussed their thoughts on who should be selected.
“Our son, Clay, will be included in the selection process in future years, but since he was also graduating from Destrehan this year, we did not allow him to participate this year,” Doug said. “When Becky and I compared our notes, Rachel was the top candidate on both of our lists.”
Rebecca said while all the candidates who applied were worthy of receiving the scholarship, there was one thing that made Rachel stand out.
“We included one question on the application that was special for us and we weren’t really sure what kind of answers we would get,” Rebecca said. “Let me explain … Sarah’s 2018 salutatorian speech centered on the saying ‘Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments,” which is written on our kitchen wall. Sarah said the saying reminded her that while setting goals and working hard to achieve them are important, it is also important to enjoy the many simple moments each day along the way.”
Rebecca said Duffy’s response to the last question on the application, which asked about a moment or two “along the way” that each candidate enjoyed, was the difference-maker for the scholarship selection.
“The idea that the accomplishment she discussed in her response was not as important as the memories surrounding the event told us that she understood Sarah’s life perspective,” Rebecca said. “Rachel also is academically accomplished and a talented student athlete and we feel very good about her receiving the first scholarship.”
Doug said just over $50,000 has been donated to the fund so far.
“This year we were able to offer a $2,000 scholarship at Destrehan High School, but as we continue to earn interest and grow the fund, we hope to gradually increase the scholarship amount and possibly one day also offer a scholarship at LSU’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering,” he said. “At the end of her first year at LSU, Sarah was thrilled to be recipient of the Wiley D. Poole Memorial Scholarship, and we would like to be able to provide a similar opportunity for people pursuing the same degree at the same university that Sarah attended.”
Doug said donations are accepted through the scholarship’s GoFundMe page or by a check written out to Sarah James Memorial Scholarship Fund sent to Destrehan High School.
“I hope people remember that although Sarah accomplished a lot, she strived to find balance,” Rebecca said. “We hope that those who knew her remember the many memorable moments and interactions they had with Sarah … but overall, I hope they remember her as a good, caring, helpful person and a loyal friend.