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Crowning Achievement

Student uses Miss New Bedford platform to advocate for disabled

When Emma Gendreau, ’26, speaks about her desire to advocate for those with disabilities, you can hear the passion in her voice. 

That’s because the goal is an especially personal one.   

Gendreau, who is double majoring in special education (with a focus on severe disabilities) and political science at Bridgewater State University, wants to be a special education attorney. 

“My twin sister (Nicole) was born with a cognitive disability,” she said. “I’ve witnessed how much she struggled, and how my parents have helped her get to where she is today.”  

When looking for a school to help advance her mission, Gendreau discovered BSU had what she wanted in terms of programming but also provided a level of support.   

“BSU feels like a community, from the professors to the campus, I’ve loved the experience,” Gendreau said.   

She is one of 120 students who serve as clinicians and group leaders in the BSU-sponsored Children’s Development Clinic, a nationally recognized program that fosters professional development, service learning and leadership development.

Every Saturday, Gendreau works with children and young adults with disabilities by helping them strengthen their motor skill through physical developmental games that includes swimming.  

At the end of the semester, students provide a case study on the children they worked with.   

“We talk about the skills we worked on and the things they accomplished,” she said. “The program helps a lot of children flourish.”  

She took things a step further in her goal of advocacy when she was crowned Miss New Bedford. The win afforded her a $5,000 scholarship that she is putting toward her BSU education and during her reign, will dedicate her year to special needs advocacy and family/caregiver support.   

Gendreau will work with local parents and caregivers to help them navigate, what can sometimes be a confusing Individualized Education Plan. IEPs are plans for specialized instruction, support and services written to meet  the individual needs of students with disabilities.   

“The process can be very daunting,” she said. “I feel it’s important to enlighten parents, to be able to provide them with resources to help their children thrive.” 

After graduating from Bridgewater, the goal is to enroll in law school. Gendreau was thrilled to receive support from BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr. who helped her better define a pathway.  

When Clark visited one of Gendreau’s classes last year, she asked him a question about how to become a special education attorney. Clark then provided contacts that allowed her to network and gain valuable information regarding the next steps.   

“Being able to make those connections to alumni who have gone through a similar process has been really great,” she said.   

Between now and then, Gendreau will also represent her hometown as Miss New Bedford in June when she competes for the title of Miss Massachusetts.   

“Being able to continue to share my family story, and our journey within the special education system, to be able to help other’s something I’m proud of,” she said. “I look forward to being able to bridge the gap between families and the education system.”  

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