All eyes were on guest speaker and Connors Alum, Dr. Cassie Mitchell as she addressed the crowd of 80 at the recent OSU A&M Board of Regents Dinner on the campus in Warner. Mitchell who could have easily spoken about her struggles to overcome Devics Neuromyelitis Optica, which left her as a quadriplegic with visual impairments, instead talked about how Warner, Connors and OSU all had a crucial role in her success as an athlete and a professional. Dr. Mitchell is a research engineer at Georgia Tech, an elite Paralympic athlete and a mentor to her students as well as other spinal cord injury patients at Shepherd Center Brain and Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Hospital in Atlanta Georgia. Mitchell was a small town girl from Warner, OK and was always successfully active in athletics and other activities such as speed events on horseback, 4-H and community service. As a teenager, Mitchell garnered four World Championship event titles, two All-Around World Championship titles and numerous other state and national championships with her horse, Misty Jet in western speed events. Mitchell’s own ability in track ultimately landed her a track scholarship in sprint events to OSU, in addition to graduating as valedictorian from Warner High School in 1999. It wasn’t long after graduation that an allergic reaction triggered the neurological condition which would eventually cause her to be a quadriplegic. At 18 years old, the thought of going to college was overwhelming enough, but now she would also have to learn a new way of life in a wheelchair. With some concurrent credits from Connors State, Mitchell decided to still attend Oklahoma State University on a full academic scholarship. “When I went to Oklahoma State, I was trying to adjust to a new life in a wheelchair and they had opportunities that helped me thrive. OSU was where I was first introduced to wheelchair sports.” As a college student she not only excelled academically, winning numerous prestigious awards, including the National Goldwater Scholarship, the National American Institute of Chemical Engineers Scholarship, USA Today First Team Academic All-American, but she found a passion and elite ability as a wheelchair athlete. Mitchell earned a spot as an alternate on the USA womens’ wheelchair basketball team before a recurrence of her Devics in 2006 forced her to leave the sport of basketball. Mitchell found herself back at one of her earliest passions-track. Her most recent accomplishments in track and field include her qualifying for the 2012 Paralymics in London this past September. She placed fourth in the womens’ T51-52 100m and 200m sprints and discus. She also qualified in paracycling for the H1-2 time trial (approximately 10 miles) and the combined H1-3 road race (approximately 30 miles) at the Paralympic games. In addition to her full-time job, Mitchell trained six days a week and it was normal for her to sprint for 10 miles around the track in preparation for the games.
Following OSU, Mitchell went on to graduate from Georgia Tech and Emory with her doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis in Neuroengineering. Today she is a research faculty in the Wallace H. Coulter department of biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. She is a National Institute of Health Primary Investigator currently pursuing research in neurological injuries and diseases, namely Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. After reviewing what she has already accomplished in her short life thus far she said, “I am proud of where I came from, and I thank Warner, Connors and OSU for providing me with the strong foundation I needed to be successful.”
After her moving words, the crowd rose to their feet to give Dr. Mitchell the much-deserved praise for her determination, strength and success that she inspired in everyone that evening.
For more information about Cassie Mitchell visit: http://www.cassie-mitchell.com/aboutme_bio.html