There is nothing that can stop Crissa Knott from achieving her dreams. Earning her degree, furthering her education, winning pageants and being a role model for others are just a few of the dreams Knott can now cross off her list.
Knott, who hails from just outside of Kenyon, Minn., will graduate this summer from Winona State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The 23-year-old has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, and she hopes her story can inspire others with disabilities.
“I’m proud to graduate from WSU with my B.A. in psychology because most people in wheelchairs do not go to college at all,” Knott said, “I want to be a role model for them because a disability should not stop you from getting an education.”
In March, Knott was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2013. She has been chasing the title since the pageant’s inception in 2011, and is excited about heading to St. Paul to push for change. In addition to appearing and speaking at numerous engagements throughout the next year, she will represent the state of Minnesota in the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant in Texas. Her platform is encouraging disabled people to go to college.
At WSU, Knott has been a member of the psychology club for two years, and loves research and meeting new people. She recently presented research data at the annual WSU Student-Faculty Research Celebration. John Holden, assistant professor of psychology at WSU, worked with Knott on the project, and thinks she is one of the brightest students he has ever worked with.
“I am particularly proud of Crissa,” Holden said. “We were able to figure out a way for her to score videotaped behavior in a large and complex data set by simply pressing a button, and we completed the scoring in a time considerably less than comparable projects run by other students.”
Knott is no less enthusiastic about Holden and other psychology professors she worked with at WSU. She credits Holden, Carrie Fried and Jessica Siebenbruner with helping her get into graduate school, and she thoroughly enjoyed Rebecca Foster’s classroom examples and case studies to explain psychological disorders.
“The professors in the psychology department have been very helpful in helping me achieve my goals,” Knott said. “I have wanted to become a counselor so I could help people find happiness and fulfillment in their lives, and because of them I can.”
After graduation, Knott will continue her education at WSU in the graduate program in counselor education. She hopes to counsel children or people with disabilities in the future.
Knott says the most important thing WSU has taught her is to be more outgoing.
“When I first came here I was very shy,” she said. “Now I’m more comfortable talking in class and speaking with people.”
She offers this bit of advice to her peers:
“Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. If you believe in yourself anything is possible.”