While both Michael and Rosa Sailes were award-winning high school teachers each with post-graduate degrees in education, their areas of teaching and involvement differed. Michael Sailes specialized in counseling, vocational education, and job placement for high students. Rosa Sailes was a high school English teacher who worked in several language arts programs. After retirement, she continued her education by earning a degree from McCormick Theological Seminary. In addition to their work in public education, the Sailes also worked in various auxiliaries in their churches: Michael Sailes was chairman of the trustee board at Saint John Church Baptist for over 30 years. Rosa Sailes served as the Sunday School superintendent at Apostolic Church of God for 25 years and held several nationally elected positions in her denomination. From their passion for youth, education and ministry, the Sailes Legacy Awards were created, not as a scholarship program, but as a way to recognize youth and adults who are actively pursuing leadership roles in their congregations and seeking educational avenues to hone their leadership skills.
The Michael Sailes Legacy Awards are given to recent high school graduates who are entering college or accredited trade schools. The Rosa Sailes Legacy Awards are presented to adults who are enrolled in accredited seminaries and Bible colleges. These awards acknowledge each individual’s contribution to their local church through service and ministry involvement, while encouraging them in their preparation for and dedication to giving back to the African American community.
Unlike the Torchbearer Awards which come directly from EZRA funds, the first year of the Sailes Legacy Awards was funded by proceeds from the sale of Dr. Sailes’ book, Let Her Life Speak, and donations from the Sailes family. While the Sailes family contributions have continued, The EZRA Project has provided opportunities for individuals, organizations, and businesses to give funds earmarked for the Sailes Legacy Awards.
In its first year, one award was given in each category. Each year, The EZRA Project has sought to increase funds so that more students could receive these one-time awards. In 2019, three awards in each category will be presented bringing the total awarded to the Sailes Legacy Scholars to $18,000.