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Nicole Tarzia is a born fighter.
She entered this world prematurely, so much so that doctors at first feared she would not live to see the outside of the hospital. She did, but her prognosis remained bleak. The predictions were that she would never sit up, walk or talk, and might suffer developmental issues. At six months, the diagnosis of Nicole Tarzia’s condition officially became quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy.
None of this has stood in her way.
Now 30, Ms. Tarzia, '05 has been selected Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2013. She will spend the next few months traveling across the commonwealth educating people about the challenges faced by the disabled, as well as furnishing living proof of the amazing things one can accomplish.
“There aren’t a lot of role models out there for people with disabilities,” Ms. Tarzia said.
A 2005 graduate of Bridgewater, the Pembroke resident has encapsulated her message in the phrase, “Advocating, Educating and Empowering.” She’s already taken her message to the Massachusetts Statehouse, and will speak at schools and other places where she feels her words and example will serve.
“This is like a full-time job,” she said. And this from a young woman who knows a thing or two about hard work.
Ms. Tarzia graduated from Bridgewater summa cum laude, with degrees in social work and psychology. She then went on to Simmons College, where she earned her master’s degree in clinical therapy. Next up is a Ph.D., she said, with the ultimate goal of becoming a school adjustment counselor.
Her parents, Diane and Dominic, encouraged Ms. Tarzia to live life to the fullest. She participated in everything from therapeutic horseback riding, Campfire Kids, music, bowling, mono-skiing, drama and swimming. Speaking in public and participating in public life were also emphasized. She’s been an advocate for the disabled since she was 6, and participating in beauty pageants since the age of 9.
All this paved the way for Ms. Tarzia’s future as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts. In the competition, the judges look at each contestant’s accomplishments, self-perception, and communication and projection skills.
In July, she will do it all again when she travels to Houston for the national competition. In the meantime, Ms. Tarzia is raising money for the Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Foundation. Through June 15 donations are being accepted (call 508-291-0126, or long on to www.mswheelchairmass.org to donate).
Back on campus recently, Ms. Tarzia expressed her fondness for her alma mater.
“This is like home to me,” she said. “This is where I got the confidence to be who I am.” (Photos by Karen Callan; story by John Winters, G ’11, University Advancement)