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Chesapeake Student Faces Challenges to Become State Winner

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2005


WYE MILLS – Liza Patchel, a psychology major at Chesapeake College, was recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Maryland and will represent the state at the national competition this summer. It was just one of many goals the young woman has achieved in recent years.

For the next year, the 23-year-old Stevensville woman will travel the state as Ms. Wheelchair Maryland. Her first official event was working in a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day with Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

Patchel said she entered the pageant prepared to do her best, but did not expect to win. Chesapeake´s students and faculty members encouraged her to enter, she said, and have been celebrating her victory.

"I´ve found more acceptance here at Chesapeake than anywhere else. I felt comfortable here on the first day," Patchel said. "That acceptance has helped me build my confidence and self esteem. I´ve also been able to focus on my goals here and I´ve gotten so much encouragement from the faculty and other students."

The student´s mother, Sue Patchel, said such encouragement has been hard to find in different periods of her daughter´s life.

"We´ve had to hear many people tell us about the things that Liza couldn´t do. She´s spent her whole life proving most of these people wrong," the elder Patchel said. "We´ve watched her self-esteem grow in recent years, and so has her determination to succeed."

Born with cerebral palsy, Patchel was never expected to attend college. Yet as a student at Chesapeake, Patchel was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, finished the Leadership Academy and was named an Academic All-American student last year.

"I´ve been successful because I feel like I´m living my dream,´ Patchel said. "Enrolling at Chesapeake has opened many opportunities for me. I try to make the most of every opportunity."

Patchel said she eventually plans to transfer to the University of Baltimore and major in psychology.

"We´re very proud of Liza. She sets an example for all of us. She´s so diligent and optimistic that she´s an inspiration to anyone who knows her. She goes up against the toughest challenges and beats them," said Andree Fee, an assistant professor of English at Chesapeake College.

Patchel said that her emotional strength has been boosted by developing her physical strength. Patchel chose physical fitness for the physically disabled as her platform.

"There needs to be more physical therapy and better access to physical fitness facilities for people who face physical challenges," Patchel said. "I know what it is like to not be completely mobile and I know how much exercise can help. Working out has made me stronger and more confident. I feel better about myself and feel more independent because of the time I spend in the gym."

Patchel feels so strong, in fact, that she participates in long-distance walk/run events and even the annual Polar Plunge in the Chesapeake Bay.

Patchel will travel to Arkansas in August to represent Maryland in the national pageant. In the meantime, she plans to make the most of this latest opportunity in her life.

"I´m going to enjoy the next year traveling around the state and reaching out to new people," Patchel said.


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