MSM graduate puts the ‘extra’ into extracurricular

Madeline Whitacre, Mount St. Mary Academy class of 2014, pauses outside the Little Rock school.
Madeline Whitacre, Mount St. Mary Academy class of 2014, pauses outside the Little Rock school.

Arkansas’ Catholic high schools are known for holding students to high academic, citizenship and leadership standards. But even measured by these accelerated expectations, Madeline Whitacre stands out.

The parishioner of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock graduated this year with a 3.77 grade point average and a laundry list of service, academic and church accomplishments on her resume, capped by being voted Outstanding Graduate by the faculty. This on the heels of receiving the Mary Drake Award denoting leadership, encouragement and optimism on and off the court and the Anna Margaret Zornik Memorial Scholarship for the senior invested in assisting children with intellectual disabilities.

Whitacre, daughter of Mike and Susie Whitacre, adds these honors to the Spirit of ’95 Scholarship she received as a junior and the McAuley Achievement Award she earned as a sophomore in recognition of hard work, academic achievement and commitment to Mercy values. She’s also a member of National Honor Society, Beta Club, Language Honor Society and a three-time scholar athlete.

“From an educational aspect, Mount St. Mary has definitely prepared me for the next level,” she said. “There are so many good programs here and the teachers push you to your limit.”

For as impressive as all of that is, it’s what she’s done outside of the classroom that really tells the story of this committed young woman, now bound for Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The centerpiece of this involvement is Kleats for Kids, a program founded by her older brother that collects gently used soccer cleats and equipment for distribution to needy kids at home and abroad. Under her guidance, 3,000 items have reached children in Haiti, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Iraq and Honduras as well as Dayton, Ohio, Little Rock and Dallas. 

“We really tried to expand the program to more countries in the world as well as kids close to home,” she said. “We still have a basement full of equipment, so I’m hoping to be able to use my Spring Break to go on a mission trip and distribute it.”

Another of her after-school activities has also inspired her career path. Since 2010, Whitacre has volunteered as a coach for TOPS, a soccer outreach program for children with physical or mental challenges. She’s also been a Capernaum Buddy through Young Life Christian organization, which coordinates activities for teens and young adults with developmental challenges, including a summer camp.

“Once I saw the smiles on those kids’ faces, I knew I had a calling to do this work,” she said. “You have to have a certain heart for this, and I know God is calling me to spread as much love as I can in this way.”

Whitacre’s leadership roles have been many. She’s been president of spirit council and book club, captained the Mount’s Race for the Cure team as a senior and was elected captain of the tennis team, and both the varsity and junior varsity soccer teams. She said while both of her older siblings (SMU alums Michael and Abby) have shared advice on transitioning to college, she’s taking it all in stride.

“They’ve told me to relax and be patient; to be myself,” she said. “I’m not really worried about that, I tend to walk my own path.”

Dwain Hebda

You can see Dwain Hebda’s byline in Arkansas Catholic and dozens of other online and print publications. He attends Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock.

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