Born with a rare genetic disorder, Sarah Male has faced the challenge of progressive hearing loss from the beginning. But four words spoken by her mother--a single mom of three children with special physical needs--did not escape Sarah's hearing...or her heart. "Don't ever limit yourself."
It was a high calling for the eldest sibling in a family battling incessant medical needs with limited resources. But Sarah was not your ordinary little girl. And, by middle school, she was already weighing the cost of dreams that were bigger than herself.
"I knew I wanted to go to college," Sarah said. "And I knew Mom would do all she could to help me, but, if it was something I really wanted, I would have to cover the rest."
So, at age 13, a determined little Sarah began babysitting to earn money for her college books. Study, work, save...and serve: this became her lifestyle. And it was a pattern that followed Sarah into college.
At the start of her freshman year at Stephen F. Austin University, Sarah traveled to New Orleans to serve in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While there, she contracted a serious infection in her right ear, aggravating her existing hearing problem. The result was an eardrum that ruptured more than six times in one semester...and two years of consistent illness.
Despite her pain, Sarah pressed on to pay her way through school--doggedly working two jobs while keeping her grades up. Halfway through her undergraduate studies, however, she hit another curve in the road. Sarah felt like the Lord was directing her toward Baylor University to complete her undergraduate degree in social work and, hopefully, attend graduate school. But, financially maxed and exhausted, she wondered how she could afford to take this leap.
This time the whisper came from more than one source. Don't ever limit yourself. Though not audible, the exhortation came from the lives of every individual whose foresight has provided scholarship support for students just like Sarah. One of their stories, in particular--about another not-so-ordinary girl--reached and encouraged Sarah in a time when she needed it most.
The Legacy of Madalene "Toughy" Cain
Born in 1915, the youngest of 13 siblings, Madalene Cain faced both the difficulties of the Great Depression and a strained home life. At age 16, with only the clothes on her back and a dollar in her pocket, she left home, determined to make a life for herself. And she did...in a big way. Due to her courage and enthusiastic work ethic, along with assistance from the Villa Maria Residence for Girls and her faithful mentors, Madalene became the first female stockbroker in San Antonio, Texas.
Madalene Cain passed away in 2007, but her character and compassion--much like Sarah's--and the memory of those who once came to her aid inspired her to make provisions for the Madalene Cain Charitable Foundation. Today Sarah Male--now a Baylor graduate student--is the first recipient of the Madalene Cain Endowed Scholarship Fund in Social Work. An intern and volunteer at Waco's Advocacy Center, Sarah's passion continues to be "for those who are underrepresented."
"I want to carry on the legacy of those whose gifts have made my time at Baylor possible," Sarah said. "And, as I go out from here, these gifts won't stop with me."