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July 10, 2009

Katrina Gossett Working to Open Doors for People With Disabilities

Thecla and Darrell Gossett were once told that their daughter, Katrina, likely wouldn't live past her third birthday, The Criterion reported in its story "Saying Yes to the Possibilities: Faith Is at Heart of the Law School Graduate's Mission to Open Doors for People With Disabilities." In June, they watched their daughter graduate from the University of Chicago Law School.

As they saw her in her graduation hood - and a matching graduation hood for her aid dog, Duke - Thecla and Darrell remember when Katrina, a Baker & Daniels summer associate in 2007 and 2008, was diagnosed as a child with spinal muscular atrophy. They were told then that the neuromuscular disease progressively weakens the arms and legs, according to The Criterion.

But Katrina graduated with honors from one of the country's top law schools - a fitting end to a three-year period when she was in the top 5 percent of her class, named to a national honor society and worked in a legal clinic helping people with disabilities.

"She's pretty amazing," Thecla Gossett told The Criterion. "She has more ambition than I dreamed of having. She makes me so proud. Her faith is strong. She's always been a very faithful person and a very Christian person. Her religion has always been a part of her life."

Said Katrina, who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame, "Going to Notre Dame and my time at Chicago has really strengthened my faith. I know to thank God for all the successes I've had. To go off to Chicago and do the things (that) I have been able to do, it would have been impossible without the help of God and my family. The longer I live, the more I realize what an important part of my life that is."

As Katrina talks, Duke rests by her wheelchair, according to The Criterion story. They have been together for nearly four years - a relationship that began from necessity. The older Katrina gets, the more her disease progressively weakens her muscles, the story reported. Duke has been trained to help her when she needs it by picking up things, turning on lights, opening doors and moving her arms.

Katrina is a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis where she works on the inclusiveness committee. "We do disability awareness events," she told The Criterion. "We also worked to do some physical changes to the church to make it accessible. Sometimes it's just being aware of simple things, like making sure that a door that's open doesn't block the ramp to the church."

Katrina is studying for the bar exam to become a lawyer but is determined to use her law degree to make a difference as soon as possible.

"I plan to do pro bono work for disability rights," Katrina said in the story. "I've had a lot of opportunities that a lot of people with disabilities haven't had. There are still a lot of barriers, and I'd like to help remove those barriers to show what people with disabilities are capable of."

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