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By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. — With a platform addressing disability issues on college campuses, Bucknell University senior Kate Matelan captured the title of Ms. Wheelchair USA 2009-2010.
Matelan, who won the title Saturday in the finale of a three-day competition in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, will travel the country on behalf of the Ms. Wheelchair USA program.
"What an honor," said Matelan. "I met some incredible women with different stories and backgrounds. It was great to become connected to more women in wheelchairs. It was an experience I will never forget. I am extremely excited to be the new Ms. Wheelchair USA and to be a part of this incredible family. I am in love with all the glitz and glamour, but I know there is a lot of work ahead of me and I plan to put my title to work."
Matelan, who is from Emmaus, Pa., said Bucknell helped to prepare her for implementing her platform of undergraduate education.
"Through my experience here and my opportunities to promote disability awareness, I feel that I can take my platform above and beyond all across the U.S.," she said. "The support and encouragement of the administration, faculty and staff, and students has been overwhelming, and I cannot thank them enough for believing in my dream."
Her sponsors included Bucknell's Office of the President.
Lowery Lockard, chief executive officer of Ms. Wheelchair USA, said, "Each year we wish we could give each (contestant) the national title. However, that's just not how it works in the competition. Only one winner can be selected. The judges were so impressed with Kate's youthful and modern approach. We are sure that her professionalism and style will assist us as we grow the program and continue to make headway in this area for women with all types of disabilities."
A quadriplegic since an auto accident when she was 5, Matelan is a management major at Bucknell. When she graduates in 2010, she plans to attend graduate school and work in New York City's fashion industry.
This summer, she is interning in a showroom of the Weisfeld Group in New York City. "I am helping out with sales work and other tasks they need assistance with during the summer," she said.
In addition to volunteering with her sorority, Delta Gamma, Matelan is a writer, editor, secretary and alumni relations manager for the student-run fashion magazine, BE.
"Having a disability does not hinder me from achieving my goals nor does it mean that I have boundaries put on my future possibilities," she said.
Matelan will work with college campuses across the United States to open conversation about disabilities and improving the educational landscape for those with disabilities.
"Disability awareness is key in creating an improved future for everyone with disabilities. By working together, I know we can accomplish a great deal," she said.
In May, Matelan won the Pennsylvania title in which she presented a platform on advocacy for communication between students and faculty to identify barriers faced by college students with disabilities. || See story and photo
As a resident advisor at Bucknell, she met with college deans to point out obstacles like lab tables that are too high for students in wheelchairs and how required science experiments can be difficult for people with limited hand use. She speaks frequently to other resident advisors to improve their awareness of environmental obstacles.
The Ms. Wheelchair USA program is dedicated to celebrating the abilities and successful accomplishments of women with disabilities.
Contact: Division of Communications