Sarah Elizabeth Hancock was a cheerleader all four of her years at C. Milton Wright High School in Harford County, and her aunt said Tuesday the 20-year-old carried that energy and positive attitude with her to the University of Maryland, College Park.
Hancock was a young woman whose charm and humor put a smile on other people's faces, said Jeanne Novotny, her aunt.
Hancock, of Bel Air, was found dead Monday in a dormitory building on the College Park campus, according to university police.
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She was pronounced dead in Kent Hall, a four-story coed building of student suites and apartments, about 1:15 p.m., after university officers responded there for a report of an unresponsive student. Police said their preliminary investigation indicates that no foul play was involved, nor is it believed that her death was a suicide.
"The unfortunate death appears to be the result of an accident," police said in a statement.
Police did not provide details on what sort of accident might have occurred.
Her body was transported to the chief medical examiner's office in Baltimore, where a cause and manner of death will be determined.
Hancock graduated in 2010 from C. Milton Wright, where, in addition to cheerleading, she was a member of the Student Government Association and participated in the school's Dancing with a Teacher fundraising event, said Marlene Molter, the school's principal.
"She was a sweet and wonderful girl," said Debbie Baker, who had been Hancock's junior varsity cheerleading coach in high school. She said Hancock had the "best heart."
"She was one of the hardest workers I had," Baker said. "She was just a joy to be around."
Hancock graduated in 2012 from Harford Community College, and was in her junior year at College Park.
Novotny, of Gloucester, Va., said her niece was close to her parents, Rick and Barbara Hancock, and sisters Jessica and Christina. Still, she had looked forward to going away to school and living on campus, and worked at the ShopRite in Bel Air on weekends to help make that happen.
"She wanted to be a social worker," Novotny said. "She wanted to help women and children.
"Someone told her 'Well, you'll never make any money,' and that made her mad," her aunt said. She said Hancock believed that "life isn't about making money."
Novotny said Hancock was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity on campus. She said her niece loved making crafts, and a few years ago produced bead bracelets spelling "hope," "love" and similar sentiments as a breast cancer charity fundraiser.
Visitations are scheduled at Schimunek Funeral Home of Bel Air on Thursday, and a Mass is scheduled at St. Mary Magdalen Mission Catholic Church, Bel Air, for 10 a.m. Friday.