Making the most of a miracle
Sarah Hawkins's journey toward a Master of Social Work degree came with no shortage of challenges, and even that’s quite the understatement.
After earning her undergraduate degree in social work, she decided to devote her time to raising her newborn. Once her child was a little older, she got a case management job she enjoyed.
But that wasn’t to last—her job was cut, and she struggled to find something else that paid a living wage. “I debated going back to school, and it was a very difficult decision,” Hawkins said. “I honestly wasn’t sure if I would get accepted. It had been 13 years since earning my bachelor’s degree.”
Sometimes, life has a way of kicking you into gear. Hawkins received a devastating diagnosis—brain cancer. “It seemed like I was running out of time, and I wanted to do something meaningful with my life,” she said.
Before long, Hawkins was a master's-level social work student at IU Northwest. She learned to juggle academics, family responsibilities and a part-time job. But in the midst of her second year, Hawkins’s cancer came back; this time it was colon cancer.
“I had one-third of my colon removed. I was planning on returning to IU Northwest in the fall,” she said. “However, after I completed treatment for the colon cancer, I had a routine brain MRI. Devastatingly, it showed a new growth, which turned out to be stage 4 brain cancer.”
Having been diagnosed with the most lethal type of brain cancer, Hawkins took medical leave to spend time with her family. But, miraculously, treatment worked.
“I believe God has a purpose for me, and I have a dream,” she said. Hawkins picked up her social work classes again in 2021 and will graduate this May.
She said she’s grateful that the School of Social Work was so willing to accommodate her medical needs. Hawkins also appreciates the camaraderie among MSW students and close-knit cohorts.
After so many hardships, Hawkins still managed to keep up a 3.5 GPA. As her time at IU Northwest comes to an end, she’s looking forward to a much-deserved celebration. “I plan to have a graduation party with my oldest teen who also will be graduating from high school this year,” she said. And, after that, “I would love to travel to see family and possibly go overseas for a mission trip,” Hawkins added.
Thanks to her commitment to education and perseverance through so many worst-case scenarios, Hawkins is definitely ready to take on the world. And, we at IU Northwest, can’t wait to watch her do so.