Every year the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant honors the achievements of disabled women and provides the winner a platform from which she can advocate for others with disabilities. The winner isn’t chosen based on mere physical beauty, but on being “the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities.”

This year’s winner is Samantha Schroth from Wisconsin. She had just completed her Bachelors of Science in Animal Science and was about to begin veterinary school, when on a calm day at her friend’s cabin, a dead tree fell on her. Schroth suffered a spinal cord injury and lost the use of her legs. She went through three months of rehabilitation, and after being discharged found that the public had many misconceptions about people with disabilities.

So Schroth educated herself on disability issues, and then began educating others. She became a public speaker, addressing schools, church groups, and even 4-H clubs. She’s also training to compete in her first marathon. And she began writing a blog called Never Sitting Still to chronicle her transition from being able-bodied to living with a disability. Although it’s been difficult, she says she’s grateful for everything she’s learned and all the ways in which the experience has made her grow.

Ultimately, Schroth let go of her dream of becoming a vet. She now has a new one. Schroth is applying for medical school so she can become a doctor specializing in spinal cord injury and help others in her shoes.