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Dawn Teresa Parkot's Biography




    Dawn Teresa Parkot has been living with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy since birth. As a result, her physical movements and speech are severely impaired, but – thanks to her faith, determination, and two dedicated parents – her ability to overcome the limitations of her disabilities has been astounding.

   When Dawn was a baby, her parents were told that she would never be more than a mindless vegetable and would be lucky to survive until five. Doctors said the best thing for them would be to put her in an institution and go on with their lives. Her amazing Mom and Dad, Kathryn and Sean, ignored the advice and made sure that Dawn received both the right therapies and a good education.

   Dawn is now in her thirties and a truly accomplished woman, but that didn’t happen without overcoming other major challenges. In 1979, she came down with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis which left her with serious hip and back damage. Nine years later, at 16, her wheelchair hydroplaned off a cliff, causing spinal cord trauma, more brain injury and leaving her legally blind.

   None of this has stopped Dawn from doing what she loves. She was a girl scout for ten years and received the Silver Award. She was an equestrienne on the Para New Jersey State team and served as an alternate for the 1991 Para-Olympic team that competed in Spain. She has traveled the U.S and visited Holland and London.

   At Morristown High School in New Jersey, she graduated third in her class of 376 able-bodied students. As a National Honor Society member, she won the Blonstein Award. Yale, the University of Notre Dame, and Seton Hall University wanted her to attend their schools, but Dawn chose Notre Dame. There she was the first student with multiple-disabilities in the history of the university. At Notre Dame, she was on her own just like any other college student. She did it all: majored in mathematics, founded her dormitory’s literary magazine, went to all of the home football games, held summer jobs, participated in the planning of social events and dated. Her fellow students founded an award in her name to be given to future students who succeed in life despite unthinkable odds.

   When she started at Notre Dame, there were only ten disabled students, including people with diabetes and asthma. In 1995, Notre Dame renovated an older building to house their expanding Office of the Students with Disabilities in order to better serve the university’s many students with various disabilities.

   Dawn graduated cum laude in four years. In the summer of 1995, she joined the Computer Science and Engineering graduate program at Notre Dame and again became the first disabled student in the program. In May of 2000, she graduated magna cum laude with a Masters Degree in Computer Science and Engineering. Then she went to worked for Network Design Tools Inc. in Eatontown, New Jersey as a Telecommunications Network software tester. She lost that job in December, 2001, as a result of 9/11. (See her resume for more details about her position and other full-time work that she had.)

   While studying at Notre Dame, she became the first Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey winner with a speech disability.  The Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey Program is part of the Ms. Wheelchair America organization.

   During her Ms. Wheelchair New Jersey reign (1999-2000), she discovered her love of public speaking. She has spoken in front of countless children, (disabled and non-disabled), many local area leaders, CEOs of major companies, college students, and in front of stars. (See the Speaking Experiene link and the work history link for more details about her public speaking career and her work Experiene.)

  Dawn has led a successful personal life, too. She has been proposed to by three men. But, she turned both of them down for reasons unrelated to her disabilities. Indeed, she seems determined to redefine the word disability.