Over 150 students from all seven Shelby County high schools and Project Search had the opportunity to come together for a back to school Young Adults in Transition (YAiT) meeting at American Village on Thursday, August 31.
The YAiT group is comprised of students with disAbilities from all Shelby County High Schools. YAiT brings students together with others who have something in common. They learn about themselves, their rights, and how to speak out and be advocates for themselves. Young Adults in Transition also helps:
- Prepare students for life after high school so they can be successful in the real world
- Students learn about their abilities and strengths
- Students apply what they learn through YAiT back at their own schools and in planning for their IEP meetings
- Students discover their leadership abilities
According to his website, Derryberry was born three months premature due to an automobile accident that took his mother’s life. The tiny two-pound baby boy would spend the next 96 days fighting for survival in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. Although doctors offered little hope for survival, this miracle baby proved them all wrong. Because of the accident and his premature birth, he was born blind, with cerebral palsy and countless other medical problems. He also is paralyzed in his right arm from a stroke suffered soon after his birth.
Raised by his grandmother, Derryberry’s life was changed forever in 1999 when he unexpectedly met local businessman Jim Bradford. Derryberry and Bradford soon became inseparable and eventually, Bradford’s family welcomed the young man into their lives like an adopted son. Bradford’s personal mentoring and constant involvement quickly exposed Derryberry to a world he had never experienced.
Besides Derryberry’s life being a true miracle, researchers at Vanderbilt University have discovered that he is one of only a handful of people in the world with a medical diagnosis of hyperthymesia, otherwise known as Superior Autobiographical Memory. He has the ability to remember every event including time and place that’s occurred to him since he was 3½ years old. Researchers are optimistic that studies on Derryberry’s brain may one day lead to a breakthrough for people suffering memory loss.
Students were astounded when they were asked to give their birthdates and Derryberry gave the day they were born and information about events that happened on that day in history. Derryberry’s life is a constant reminder to us all that everyone can accomplish anything in life if they always keep a positive attitude, define their personal goals, have fun, work hard, and never give up.
“The only disability any of us have in life is a negative attitude,” Derryberry shared with students.
“I was so impressed with everyone’s positive ‘can do’ attitude and their enthusiasm for successfully transitioning into the workforce or college upon completion of their high school careers,” Derryberry said of the students he met at the YAiT meeting. “We appreciate Laura Partain and Carrie Radice, work instructors for Shelby County Schools, for inviting us and the fine folks at American Village in the lovely, lovely, lovely town of Montevallo for hosting the event. These outstanding young folks truly believe and prove daily that anything in life is possible.”
Derryberry and Bradford have made more than 175 appearances and shared their incredible story with more than 40,000 people since 2012. They have been featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, This Morning Show in London, and a part of Tragedy into Triumph, a 4-day live event with NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Their amazing true story and HK’s triumph over insurmountable odds is an emotional rollercoaster for all audiences.
Their story, “The Awakening of HK Derryberry”, has now been published and is available at bookstores and online. The book recently was the 2017 Audie Winner and 2017 Earphones Award from Audiofile Magazine.