Millie Gonzalez Encourages People with Disabilities to “Live Fiercely”
PHOTO: Millie Gonzalez of Union Beach was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey 2019 on Sunday, November 4.
Egg Harbor Township, N.J. – Millie Gonzalez of Union Beach was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey 2019 on Sunday, November 4, at the Samuel and Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place, home of Make A Wish® New Jersey.
Judges crowned Gonzalez Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey after an afternoon of interviews and a platform speech. She will now serve as the New Jersey State titleholder for one year and will represent the State of New Jersey in the Ms. Wheelchair America 2020 competition in Little Rock, Arkansas, from July 1–7, 2019.
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The Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey and Ms. Wheelchair America competitions focus on advocacy and recognize the free spirit and accomplishments of female wheelchair users. Gonzalez was born with Spina Bifida, a developmental disability affecting more than 166,000 people in the United States, and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
As Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey, Gonzalez will serve as a spokeswoman throughout the state, meeting with advocacy groups and making public appearances to talk about awareness, acceptance and overall understanding of the disabled experience. She is also available to make presentations to a variety of audiences and conduct interviews.
Gonzalez will also use her year as Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey 2019 to share her platform: “Survival of the Fiercest: Taking Control of Your Life Through Self Care.” She believes in living life fearlessly and unapologetically.
“Disabled people need to take care of our health, face our addictions and plan for our safety in emergencies. Everyone deserves to be fierce,” she said.
Gonzalez is a dancer with ZCO Dance Project and a performer with Heidi Latsky Dance Company. She graduated with a Master’s in Communication Studies with a concentration in disability studies from Kean University, where she has worked for more than 15 years. She coordinates the ReelAbilities Film Festival: New Jersey at Kean which features films that authentically depict the stories of disabled people. She also serves as Board Chair for the Spina Bifida Resource Network, and coordinates their annual Empowerment Retreat for adults with disabilities. She is also Vice Chair for the Board of Trustees for the Alliance Center for Independence, which hosts the annual New Jersey Disability Pride Parade. Through advocacy and education, Gonzalez sets an example for others, including people with disabilities and her fellow wheelchair users.
Already an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities, Gonzalez plans to use her title to improve emergency preparedness and response for people with disabilities; increase self care in the disability community; and amplify the voices of the disabled population through increased awareness about disability culture and etiquette to the general public.