Recently, I reviewed I Am Potential written by Patrick Henry Hughes and Patrick John Hughes. These two courageous men are, of course, a father and son team. On March 10, 1988, Patrick Henry Hughes came into this world as the first child of Patrick (Dad), and his wife, Patricia. Immediately after delivery, like all new parents, Patrick and Patricia couldn’t wait to embrace their new arrival.
After an extremely worrisome delay, doctors brought news of baby Patrick’s startling condition. The infant boy was afflicted with several disabling conditions: blindness, incomplete hip joints, and shoulder joints that would not allow his arms to swing outward more than a few inches. In addition, Patrick’s vertebral column could not support his upward body. A wheelchair would eventually be his legs.
Patrick's parents made instant decisions: 1) Their son would be accepted as God given; 2) They would make certain he reached for his stars. Like any normal child, Patrick graduated grade school and high school and is currently enrolled in The University of Louisville. He plays several instruments. Both he and his father are a one-man member of the University’s marching band.
Because of my career working with exceptional students in Pittsburgh, this young man and his family fascinated me. Spellbound, I sent Patrick and his father several questions because of what the two men had accomplished. This heroic story can be found in I Am Potential. The questions and answers follow.
Can you list the name of a student and/or teacher that you liked the very most from your grade school years and tell why you liked that person so much?
My vision itinerant (Nettie Wolfe) was instrumental in making school not only fun but challenging. She was there every day and encouraged my Braille reading and independence. Ms. Nettie never took no for an answer but made sure I was on task and focused on learning — not making excuses. At the time, I wasn't very fond of her. Looking back, I see she was very good for me. To be honest, it's hard to pick one teacher. All of my teachers were wonderful in making school enjoyable, fun, and challenging.
Can you list the name of a student and/or teacher that you liked the very most in high school and tell why you liked that person so much?
Mr. David May (special assistant) and Mr. Howard (vision itinerant). These two gentlemen assisted me through middle and high school. They were my friends and teachers. They made my education possible and pushed me all the way through. Again, all of my teachers were tremendous. I had a very good educational experience.
What suggestions do you have that could improve public education for students who are exceptional?
I believe the key is parental involvement. My parents were at every meeting they needed to be at and many others they did not need to be at. Dad joined the Exceptional Child Education Board as a parent advocate to learn what goes on in the background of the department and to get to know those in charge. He and mom were always ready to go to the wall for me to get me the services and tools I needed to be successful. This same attitude would work for all children to make education better — not just exceptional child education. Seems to me the key to success in school is a lot like life. You get out of it what you put in to it.
Besides Beethoven, what other classical music do you like to play?
All of it.
Can you name other kinds of music you like and enjoy playing?
I enjoy playing and listening to all kinds of music — especially classical and country; everything except rap.
What are your feelings toward rap music?
See above. Rap is not music.
Would you rather read books in Braille or have books read to you?
Would rather read books in Braille. I enjoy learning the spelling of words and I absorb the information better.
Have you and your father ever teamed up to co-play a large pipe organ? I would think that an exciting experience for both of you.
No, we haven't.
What are your plans for the future?
Finish college. Become a popular television game show host.
Outside of your family, can you tell who the person is you admire the most and why you feel that way?
There are many. Hard to say one I admire the most — though I love to think about the obstacles Ray Charles had to overcome to be successful (poverty, racism, blindness, addictions). I admire his persistence and willingness to achieve his goals. I also admire all those who have fought and died for our country — to give us the freedoms we enjoy here in the USA.
The personal drive of this young man, instilled by his mom and dad at an early age and later reinforced by his other brothers, is blatantly obvious. What parents and a solid, loving family life can instill in any child is aptly spoken by Patrick when he said, "He and mom were always ready to go to the wall for me."
Patrick remembers the educational support Ms. Nettie Wolf gave him, she, "who had no room for excuses." He also mentions Mr. David and Mr. Howard who "pushed" him to excel. But let's give credit to the real hero of this book. Hats off to Patrick who took the baton and is still running with it. Reading his story has certainly enriched my life. Thanks, Patrick!
For more information about this remarkable young man and his family, read I Am Potential.