Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Living an Extraordinary Life

By Melanie Cain

Kimberly Pate has lived quite an extraordinary life, and her accomplishments can serve as an inspiration to us all. A traffic accident when she was 18 injured Kim’s spinal cord and left her a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. But Kim was determined to keep living her life to the fullest, and a year after her injury she went to Miami to take part in a documented research program, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

She stayed in Florida for nine years, and during that time was involved with Shake-A-Leg, a program that designs sailboats for individuals with disabilities, worked on her water skiing skills, and was sponsored by the Miami Ski Club to go snow skiing with the Physically Challenged Ski Program in Crested Butte, Colorado.

After attending a community college in Florida, Kim transferred to UIS in 1998 to work toward a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. At UIS, Kim was very impressed with the disability services available and was extremely pleased with the accessibility that the campus provided. In fact, she’s quick to point out that, of the three schools she has attended, her experience at UIS was by far the best.

“Karla (Carwile) and the others at the Disability Services Office were great. I felt comfortable on campus immediately and was impressed with their system,” Kim recalled.

During her time at UIS, Kim took advantage of many of the services offered by Disability Services, including a student note-taker during classes and an adaptive writing device. “With the assistance I received from Disability Services, I was able to focus on my educational goals rather than battle potential obstacles,” she said.

Karla Carwile, Disability Services director, had nothing but great memories of Kim as well. “Probably the thing that sticks out most in my mind is her wonderful personality,” said Karla. “She is always smiling and always glad to see you. She was a pleasure to work with, and her dedication to her studies was very apparent.”

A few years after Kim’s graduation from UIS, she embarked on another incredible journey, competing in and winning the 2004 Ms. Wheelchair Illinois pageant. Contestants are judged on their self-perception, their accomplishments since the onset of their disability, and their ability to speak about disability-related issues.

“Being Ms. Wheelchair Illinois was an amazing experience,” said Kim. During her reign, she took part in a number of events, including Chicago’s first Disability Pride Parade, the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Center for Independent Living in Havana, and a celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living, to name just a few.

Kim currently lives in Virginia, Illinois, and works as a licensed professional counselor at the Cass County Mental Health Agency in Beardstown. She earned a master’s degree in Education in Counseling and is a nationally certified counselor. Kim is very involved in Think First, a head and spinal cord injury prevention program. She also works with the American Counseling Association and serves as a board member for the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living.

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