Monica Wiley, 32 

Founder, A Beacon of Hope Motivational Mentor Ministries

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

Monica Wiley works as staff administrator for the Democratic Party of Virginia. Before that she was president of the party's Disability Issues Caucus. But that she is anywhere, doing anything, is something of a miracle.

When she was 9, Wiley was riding in a tractor-trailer with her family when a drunken driver cut them off, sending them plunging over a bridge, falling 150 feet into a power plant. Her family — stepfather, mother and baby sister — died instantly. Wiley suffered severe injuries to her spine and was told she was paralyzed from the waist down. But within a year she went from a wheelchair to walking with one crutch. "I'm a very determined individual," Wiley says, "which can be a gift and a curse."

Wiley uses her experiences to motivate and inspire others. The founder of a Beacon of Hope Motivational Mentor Ministries, she speaks at schools and for civic programs. She volunteers her mentoring services to people who can't pay. "I take all of the negatives that I receive and I use it as my backbone and as a vehicle for the success that I want to create," she says. "I do accept some things, but I also never give up."

Wiley's ultimate dream is to represent the disabled at the federal level, and she hopes for a gubernatorial appointment so she can start by working on state policy. "I love community work," she says. "It's not about politics. It's about creating effective policies."

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