Sage Maguire has found inspiration in the loving example set by her mother, Amanda.

“My mom has told me my whole life ‘You will change the world…You will make a difference,’” said the 17-year-old senior at Mechanicsburg Area High School.

“She’s my number one cheerleader and I love her for it.”

The story of Maguire is one of determination to rise above adversity. It goes beyond just taking to heart the mantra repeated by her mother. It means keeping busy and making every moment count.

For Maguire, throwing herself into her schoolwork and her practice on the cello was a defense mechanism — a survival strategy to counteract what she said was years of abuse by her biological father and a prolonged divorce battle in the courts.

“My education was the only thing I had in my worst of times,” Maguire said. “When I’m reading a book or doing my math homework, it takes my mind off of what’s going on with my family. Everyone has their own little outlet and mine was school.”

The White Dove Sings

But there’s so much more to this story than just good grades. Sage Maguire is in the process of setting up a nonprofit organization to empower battered women and children to not only confront their abuser but to set in motion a lobbying effort in Harrisburg to reform the law.

Called the White Dove Foundation, it will raise money to offset legal fees so that abused women could hire private attorneys to represent them in proceedings. All too often, court-appointed advocates have heavy workloads and can’t devote a lot of time and attention to a particular case.

The name of the organization relates back to a moment of defiance and the drive to soldier on despite a difficult past.

“There is a song by Martina McBride called Independence Day,” Maguire recalled. “The first line [of the refrain] is ‘Let Freedom ring, let the white dove sing.’ When my parents first split in September 2012, it was our theme song. My mom, my brother, my sister and I — we were free finally. We were still going through all this court stuff but we were not living with my father full-time.

“To us, the white dove was a symbol of a new sense of freedom that we never had,” she added. “It represents a purity and innocence and that was something taken from me as a kid, so when I think of the white dove I think of the children going through what I went through.”

Where once Maguire thought her life was ruined, experience and maturity has taught her she doesn’t have to feel that way anymore. She said her father no longer has contact with her mother and siblings.

With help from Amanda, the groundwork is underway to establish the foundation. There is a plan to work with Mechanicsburg borough officials in the hope of setting up a festival in one of the community parks for September 2018. It is all still preliminary, but supporters can check on the progress at the White Dove Foundation Facebook page.

Push back on abuse

Eventually Maguire wants expand the mission beyond raising money to offset legal fees to taking the plight of the abused to the Capitol building in Harrisburg and pushing for legislation.

“The biggest thing for me is I want to change the laws,” Maguire said. “I want to petition the government to realize there are a lot of people out there who are being abused.”

Yet another goal of White Dove is to get information out to the public on the warning signs of abuse – what to look for and where to get help.

“There are always people you can talk to,” Maguire said. “If you are unsure about what you can do, there are people who can help you.” She and her family found help through Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland and Perry counties.

“The one thing I want people to remember is that I rose above what happened to me,” Maguire said. “I did my best to not put it behind me and forget, but to do something about it.”

Maguire has made an impression on those around her including Robin Clarke, the high school guidance counselor who nominated her for Teen of the Week. Below are excerpts from her letter:

“Sage’s personal qualities match her intellectual accomplishments. She is a mature, perceptive and genuine person who cares about the wellbeing of others…More impressively, I observed her willingness to embrace a difficult situation, despite her fear and discomfort, in order to stand up for what was right – and what she hoped would ultimately help protect other people.

“Sage is fond of saying that adventure begins at the end of your comfort zone. I’ve seen her exemplify this, both personally and academically.”

A life changed

The fourth grade is when Mechanicsburg area students first have the opportunity to choose an instrument and train for the orchestra. Maguire took up the cello while enrolled at Broad Street Elementary School eight years ago.

“It’s my mom’s favorite instrument so when I picked it, I had a bias for it,” she said. To Maguire, the cello has a dark melodic undertone that falls between the high pitch of a violin and the synthetic sound of a brass instrument.

“It’s a beautiful medium when you play it just right,” Maguire said. “It gives me chills when I play it.”

Since sixth grade, she has been a member of a string chamber ensemble consisting of students advanced enough to play more difficult pieces. Maguire is currently on the leadership team which organizes fundraisers for the high school orchestra which performs four concerts each year.

Aside from running a nonprofit and playing the cello, Maguire holds down two part-time jobs along with a full class load that includes advanced placement courses in statistics, calculus II, physics and government/politics.

“A lot of people told me I was crazy,” Maguire said about her busy schedule. “I hope when I leave here people remember me as being really hard working and compassionate. I want to spend the rest of my life helping people.”

Upon graduating, Maguire hopes to major in biomedical engineering at the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University main campus. This college is for students ranked in the top 2 to 3 percent of each class. It carries higher standards for maintaining a certain grade point average along with the expectation of community service. Already a member of the National Honor Society, Maguire is used to that kind of culture.

Like the foundation, her career choice was inspired by her mother Amanda who suffered an injury as a teenager and developed a joint disorder that caused the jaw to shift out of position and push on the eye sockets of the skull.

At one point, her mother was legally blind until a specialist about a year ago had a biomedical engineer develop a mouth guard that Amanda could wear over her teeth while she was sleeping. Prolonged use of the mouth guard shifted the jaw back into place and eased the pressure on her eyes to where Amanda could regain all her vision. It also relieved the symptoms of sleep apnea.

“That little thing changed my mom’s entire life,” Maguire said. “That is what I want to do. The prosthetic side of it…I just find it interesting.”

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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