Kendra Gottsleben’s life has been defined by a positive outlook and success in overcoming obstacles. This also means Kendra refuses to be defined by a rare disorder called Mucopolysaccharidosis, Type VI (MPS VI). She is a South Dakota native and is a 2010 Augustana University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology. Kendra is the Marketing Communications Specialist at the Center for Disabilities within the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota. Her career blends the two worlds in which she grew up: medicine and education. Her ambition is to be a helpful resource to provide support for families and children who have severe or life-threatening illnesses or disabilities. One life accomplishment she’s most proud of is being a participant in phase II of a MPS VI clinical research enzyme trial in Oakland, California in 2002.
Kendra has served the disability services sector in multiple ways. For instance, she has mentored young adults with disabilities at the annual Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) in South Dakota. In addition, she currently serves on the South Dakota Governors Board of Vocational Rehabilitation and Dow Rummel Village Board of Trustees. She has also served on the Sioux Falls Disability Awareness Commission, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 25th Anniversary Celebration committee, chair of ArtAbility Exhibit in Sioux Falls and co-chaired Ms. Wheelchair South Dakota.
Kendra has been nominated for the YWCA (now known as EmBe) Tribute to Women Award—Tomorrow’s Leader, and was featured as an inspirational speaker at TEDxSiouxFalls. In 2013, she was featured as one of The Young Leaders of the Year by 605 Magazine. She self-published her first book, Live Laugh Lemonade: A Journey of Choosing to Beat the Odds, in 2012, in which she shares events in her life contending with (MPS VI). Kendra discusses living, laughing and taking the lemons that life has served up and making them into lemonade. She also self-published her second book in 2014, a children’s story titled Kendra’s Lemonade. The character shows how people can persevere to make the best of tough situations, even in the face of real and lifelong challenges. One of the primary themes is to try not to compare yourself with others; just do your best and have fun!