Name: Patrick McCullagh
From: Ashland, Oregon
My upbring was challenging in a lot of ways. Growing up as a 2nd generation, Irish Catholic family in the suburbs of Philadelphia, it was interesting to say the least. My mother is a nurse, and my father was roofer. I have two older brothers, one whom passed from a drug overdose in his early twenties, and one older sister. My entire family began to unfortunately suffer from a pattern of inescapable death and defeat. Sadly, from the young age of six, I can remember the beginning of this morbid period in our lives. I lost cousins, uncles, aunts, my favorite grandparents, along with my older brother stuck in between- it was beyond depressing for all of us. I lost my brother to drug addiction; he was twenty-one, and I was thirteen. A year before, I lost my mom-mom, and a year after my brother’s death, I lost my pop-pop. When I turned fifteen, I lost two neighborhood friends to suicide. These few years were some of the most formative in so many ways, and the emotions and experiences will remain vivid memories etched in my mind forever.
My family spent years grieving, and not one of us walked away from the experience unscathed. We all are carrying the burden on our backs to some extent, like many families do, regardless of the logic behind it. Through this time, I blamed myself, I made many mistakes as a teenager, and I reflect with gratitude that I am still here today. I took a great deal of risks during sports, extracurricular activities, and while hanging in the neighborhood with my friend’s. Through my brother’s death, a part of me died too, but as I grew, learned, and focused on my future, and the light within me could no longer be contained. I like to think of myself, and others who are moving through dark and isolating times, as a seed that has been planted in a hole, and no matter how dark, deep, and alone, we must remember that we have been planted, not buried, and it is important to continue to grow through our adversities and support others through their experiences. I hope to inspire others through my challenges, especially those who have trouble expressing emotions or who have exceptionalities and help create a dynamic and supportive learning environment for every student and community member.
By working with the special education population, I am ensuring that I will remain dedicated to representing those most in need. I foresee my future career supporting those with exceptionalities, behavioral needs, and conduct-based histories. In addition, I would like to expand my professional career to supporting children who are in juvenile diversion programs and utilizing my academic expertise to empower these youth to achieve their greatest outcomes in life. My inspiration to commit my life to this type of work stems from my upbringing in Philadelphia. I unfortunately witnessed countless cases of child neglect, which led to very tough situations for many of my friends, at incredibly young ages. From witnessing my peers succumb to drug addictions, to their various acts of criminality and blatant irresponsible decision making, it left many impressions on me that continue to fuel my commitment to supporting others. I think of those friends, the ones with us and the one’s we have lost, and I wonder if special education classes and inclusion programs would have helped guide them. Most of these kids had trouble affording the costs associated with sports or were unmotivated to do any extracurriculars because they had little guidance. With a more dynamic support system, I think they would have had a better chance at leading more successful lives. I hope to be a part of that support system for other troubled and exceptionally challenged individuals.
In the future, I aspire to create a special education sports program that aide’s youth, who are not in the general education school system, in providing the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports and team-building related programs. In addition to providing this service during the school year, I would like to host workshops on the weekends and camps in the summer that focuses on creating a deeper connection to nature. The camps would include a larger variety of more niche sports, giving everyone an opportunity to find an athletic passion. I would like to start this program on a farm in Southern Oregon because of the inspiration this land and community has provided. The program could also be a useful resource to psychology and teaching undergraduates in the area to earn experience working with children with special education needs while moving through their academic programs.
My overall plan is to graduate with my masters, gain more teaching experience, and save my monetary resources so I can afford to begin my sports camp and program soon. With my ambition and tenacity, I know that I can achieve anything I put my mind too.