USF grad student is Ms. Wheelchair Indiana 2014
April 16, 2014 FORT WAYNE, Ind. — University of Saint Francis (USF) graduate student Ruth Smith will communicate a powerful, positive vision for disabled people in Indiana as Ms. Wheelchair Indiana 2014. Smith, a 34-year-old Fort Wayne resident, was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Indiana at the Basile Opera Center, Indianapolis in March as part of Disability Awareness Month.
She will represent Indiana in the Ms. Wheelchair America Program. The Ms. Wheelchair Indiana Program is a competition to select the most articulate, accomplished delegate to serve as a role model and spokesperson for people with disabilities in the state.
Smith is a graduate student in the USF clinical mental health program, a doctor’s office receptionist and a counselor for students at Turnstone, a provider of programs for people with disabilities. A lover of crafting, cooking, reading, traveling and animals, she grew up in a family of 11 adopted siblings with varying disabilities.
“My advocacy mission is to change attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face,” Smith said. “Many times, people pity those with disabilities, think of them as illiterate, see them as heroes or even disregard them. People with disabilities are the same as anyone else. We’re trying to navigate life, accomplish goals and dreams, get an education and career and have a family. We do this by adapting, so call us creative if anything else! My goal this year is to be able to share that message through as many avenues as possible and to advocate, educate and encourage all that I meet.”
Her story should inspire others. She suffered spinal bacterial meningitis as an infant, resulting in leg amputation above the knee, amputations of the nose and some fingers and loss of skin. She uses a wheelchair for mobility.
She plans to open a counseling service one day, and credits her university with the support to get there. “USF empowers people to do their best by challenging its students academically and encouraging them to think outside the box,” she said. “The professors support and encourage the students academically and personally, and remind us it’s important to take care of ourselves as we juggle our many responsibilities.”
Smith will spend a year-long reign speaking to various groups throughout the state and travel to Long Beach, Calif. Aug. 4-10 to compete in the 43nd Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant.
The University of Saint Francis, founded in 1890 as a comprehensive university in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, offers more than 60 undergraduate and 14 graduate programs in five schools: The School of Health Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership, School of Professional Studies and School of Creative Arts. More than 2,300 students from a broad geographic region attend USF for its academic excellence. The university has a regional campus in Crown Point, Ind.
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