Heidi McKenzie (11) lost something many people take for granted. When a thick fog caused McKenzie to crash her car into a tree in 2007, she became a paraplegic. One thing she didn’t lose in the accident was her sense of humor.Her positive attitude has not only helped McKenzie persevere through trying circumstances – it helped her earn the title of Miss Wheelchair Kentucky 2012.The path to McKenzie’s victory started when she decided to move with her father from Ohio to Salt Lick, Ky. This led to her first experience with Morehead State University. She attended MSU’s regional campus in Mt. Sterling to pursue a degree in small business management. After taking a year off from her studies, McKenzie eventually enrolled at the Morehead campus to complete her college education, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in small business management with a minor in Spanish. She admits getting a college degree was a big accomplishment for her, but she added one more accomplishment when she decided to participate in the Miss Wheelchair Kentucky 2012 contest – a pageant that has different criteria than most.“It is not considered a beauty contest,” McKenzie said. “There’s no swimsuit or talent competition. I do sing karaoke like a songbird, but . . . it’s just how you come across to people and your attitude toward life.”Dr. Philip Krummrich, chair of the Department of International & Interdisciplinary Studies, met with McKenzie to advise her on completing her Spanish minor. He soon realized this young student didn’t let her disability define her.“What impressed me about her throughout the time we worked together was her attitude,” Dr. Krummrich said. “She did not feel sorry for herself or expect anyone else to pity her. She was not angry, bitter or depressed. She talked openly about her accident and her life in the wheelchair without trying to make people feel uncomfortable or to get special privileges.”McKenzie’s positive attitude, personality and her communication skills led to her being crowned Miss Wheelchair Kentucky 2012, earning her the right to compete in the Miss Wheelchair America 2013 contest in August.McKenzie’s long-term plans include opening her own clothing store for juniors, girls and boys. In the meantime, her duties as Miss Wheelchair Kentucky allow her to travel the state, reach out to children and give them the encouragement to rise above any challenges life can throw at them.
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