‘GOOD THINGS DO HAPPEN IN BEDFORD’
Bedford Now - 5/12/2018
The high fives fly in from every direction as Nick Hugo walks through the halls of Bedford High School.
“Everyone knows him,” said Nick’s mother, Amanda Hugo. “He isn’t the weird or quirky kid. They know the reason why he might text you 50 times a day, or why he might persistently bother somebody about stuff.
“The majority of the kids, they just accepted him. It’s awesome.”
This isn’t how Mrs. Hugo expected her son’s high school experience to unfold.
Around the time he began his freshman year at Bedford, Hugo was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Classified as a milder autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s is characterized by an individual’s struggles with social interaction and nonverbal communication.
Mrs. Hugo and her husband, John, had known there was something different about their oldest son since he was in elementary school. But for years his doctors had struggled to diagnose the issue. As Hugo prepared to enter high school, his parents began to worry about how his peers would treat him. So they turned to the school’s counselors, who suggested getting Hugo involved with a sport.
It was almost football season, and Mrs. Hugo recalls seeing Bedford’s players practicing at the school. So on a whim, she reached out to Bedford football coach Jeff Wood.
“I just emailed him,” Mrs. Hugo said. “I didn’t even know who he was.”
Immediately, Wood and his team embraced Hugo. He worked as manager of the freshman team for two seasons, then followed his younger brother, Jacob, up to the junior varsity and varsity squads. Hugo did a little bit of everything, from helping with the game clock to preparing the field and hauling equipment around.
“Our staff always wants to help kids who love the game of football, love athletics and love being around other people,” Wood said. “It was an easy decision to find him a position on the team.”
The highlight of Hugo’s time with Bedford’s football program came when he was a sophomore and he was brought in to score a touchdown in the freshman team’s final game of the season against archrival Saline.
The play had been scripted in a combined effort between both teams and Hugo. Jacob served as Nick’s lead blocker.
“There weren’t too many dry eyes watching that play as he was scampering down the sideline looking like Bo Jackson,” Wood said.
“I always wanted to have a chance to be on the field, to run down the field with the ball,” Hugo added. “It actually came true ... I even got to keep the game ball.”
In addition to helping out with the football teams, Hugo served as athletic director Mark German’s right-hand man. The pair could often be seen riding a golf cart around the high school’s athletic facilities.
“Nick is a very sincere kid,” German said. “He just wants to please and follow instructions to the ‘T’. We just had a lot of fun together.”
But while sports was a positive experience from the jump, Hugo struggled to keep up academically.
After a rough freshman year, it was decided that he needed more individualized attention. So Hugo transferred into Bedford’s self-contained classroom, where he was introduced to Monroe County Intermediate School District’s Margaret Waltz, Angie Sailer and Leslie McKeever.
The increased one-on-one aid allowed Hugo to flourish as a student over his last three years at Bedford. But Waltz stressed that everything her team accomplished with Hugo was made possible thanks to a network of collaborators.
“The classroom piece is not done in isolation,” Waltz said. “Every bit of programming we did for Nick was with full support of Bedford High School. Bedford has been completely supportive of all the ISD special education programming at the high school level.”
German says the way the Bedford community has supported Hugo should come as no surprise.
“This community has demonstrated on more than one occasion that it really will rally to support one of its members,” he said. “But Nick pays us back two-fold.
“Nick really helps us as much as we were helping him.”
This spring, Hugo will graduate high school. As she imagined her oldest son crossing the stage in a cap and gown, Mrs. Hugo felt compelled to pen a letter to the Bedford community thanking everyone for all the love and support that her and her family have received over the last four years.
The letter wasn’t intended for just one group of people. It’s not meant for just the football team, or just Hugo’s teachers.
The letter was a “thank you” to every single person in Bedford who has ever impacted Hugo in a positive way.
The list of those individuals is very long.
“There’s so much negativity, especially on social media,” Mrs. Hugo said. “You always hear the bad things that go on at Bedford, at any school. Nobody ever says when something good happens, nobody ever talks about it. There’s good stuff happening that people just don’t know is happening.
“Good things do happen in Bedford.”