The same independence and drive that Jessica Wilkinson Patterson ’09 used to trudge her wheelchair through Oswego’s snow-covered campus helped her achieve a long-sought goal.
Patterson was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New York in August, winning the title after giving a speech on surmounting the challenges of physical disability.
“I came across the Ms. Wheelchair pageant online when I was in college,” Patterson says. “I thought it would be empowering and fun.” Because she did not meet the program’s minimum age of 21, Patterson put her dreams on hold.
Years later, the coordinator of the New York pageant contacted Patterson and asked if she was still interested in competing. “I entered, and to my surprise I won,” she says.
Patterson has used a wheelchair since she sustained injuries in an automobile accident in 2003 when she was 15. She graduated from Weedsport High School, earned an associate’s degree at Morrisville State College and a B.A. in sociology at Oswego. She works as a client representative for Key Bank and aspires to have a career as a child life specialist, helping children cope with the trials of hospitalization.
It was her time at Oswego that prepared Patterson for the challenges and expectations that come along with being Ms. Wheelchair New York, including a round of appearances and motivational talks.
“The professors at SUNY Oswego taught me to push myself to be the best person I can be,” she says. “They always encouraged me to put forth my best effort in anything I do in life.”
Patterson explained that one of her biggest supporters is her husband, Jason.
“He attends all of my appearances, interviews and public speeches,” Patterson says. “He is my biggest supporter and continues to be my partner and rock in life.”
The couple has been married for four years. They live in Weedsport with their three dogs in the house they built. Patterson is excited for their future and is looking forward to competing in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant set for August 2014 in Long Beach, Calif.
—Jillian Phipps ’14