Ms. Wheelchair Southwest USA

North Lamar ISD’s Kenda Felker, a teacher at Stone Middle School, poses for a photo with students and a fellow staff member Wednesday at the school. She was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Southwest USA and will head to the Ms. Wheelchair USA competition in July.

Kenda Felker maneuvers a scooter around her classroom at Stone Middle School as she teaches North Lamar ISD students not only career skills but also how to be successful no matter what challenges life might have in store.

Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy 30 years ago when she was a teenager, the Lamar County native considers herself “handicapable,” not handicapped, and not “disabled” but with modified abilities.

“Where there’s a ‘wheel,’ there is a way,” Felker said.

Recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Southwest USA, Felker will take a message of determination and community activism as her platform to the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where she will participate July 11-17 in a week of pageant activities for the national crown. Competition includes interviews, evening wear, a platform speech presentation, on-stage questions and platform marketing statement competition.

“I just want to encourage people, just because you have a modified ability, to not give up and to not be ashamed to ask for help when needed,” Felker said of her platform, explaining when she is grocery shopping she often asks people to help her with items too high to reach. “I promise you, nine and a half times out of 10, people will help you,” Felker said. “I believe people are innately good and are willing to help.”

Felker applauded North Lamar ISD for the district’s willingness to accommodate her needs. She explained when she first began teaching in the district more than a decade ago, she still had the use of her legs, albeit with a walker.

“When my legs were taken from me, the district installed a lift chair in the restroom so I could continue to work,” Felker said. “I am so appreciative because I love my job.”

With community activism as a platform emphasis, Felker said she will stress the importance of advocacy work.

“You know, one of the things I am really bothered about is the parking situation downtown,” Felker said as an example of a local situation she plans to address. “I am a firm believer in shopping local, and my husband and I enjoy eating downtown with all the new restaurants. We drove two blocks out in every direction and counted parking spaces. Out of 261 spaces we found, there is one handicap spot.”

Felker said she was inspired to enter the Ms. Wheelchair USA competition by a woman she met at a wheelchair accessible campground in Colorado a couple of years ago.

“I sent in entry forms and here I am, a country girl with a crown,” Felker said.

Raised in Howland on a farm, Felker graduated from Chisum High School in 1993, attended Paris Junior College and graduated from Texas A&M College-Commerce with an agricultural degree. She worked for a time at Peoples Bank, went back to school for teacher certification and began at North Lamar in 2006.

To assist in pageant expenses, the Eagles Lodge will host a fundraiser in the near future.

“It will really be nice to have the support of my hometown,” Felker said.

A fundraiser for Ms. Wheelchair is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. May 1. There will be a barbecue dinner and silent auction.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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