Spirit of Arkansas: Patrick and Ashton share special bond

An Arkansas man isn't letting a minor deficiency hold him back; in fact, he's using his wit and knowledge to help a future generation.

School isn't a place every kid looks forward to attending on a daily basis, but then again not every school has a mentor like 30-year-old Patrick Aldridge from Sherwood.

"I was like this might be a goal to become a better person, be less self-centered and reach out to somebody else," Aldridge told us about a mentoring program he is a part of.

"Which I feel has changed my attitude, and changed how I see the world and see people."

Aldridge took advantage of an opportunity to help a few kids at Pulaski County's Cato Elementary School. His role is to act as somewhat of a big brother to a few kids, and one of them has taken a special fondness to Aldridge: a second-grader named Ashton.

"I'm glad that there is a mentor program out there for him, for somebody to be able to look up to other than a parent because sometimes we're not all there," said Ashton Monroe's father, Bruce Monroe.

"Sometimes we're at work or sometimes they need somebody else to tell them that it's okay."

Monroe said Ashton recently moved back to Sherwood from Fayetteville, and the whole way back the kid's mind was on one thing.

"That was the one thing he talked about for three hours from Fayetteville to here, was Patrick, Patrick," Monroe said with a big smile.

There's more to Aldridge that you can't see by looking at his close-knit relationship with Ashton. He suffers from high-functioning autism or better known as asperger's.

"As a mother and to the family, Patrick inspires us," said Patrick's mother, Laurie Aldridge.

"As an educator, I know for sure after 30 years of teaching, I'm a better teacher because of Patrick," Aldridge added, who is a teacher at Cato Elementary.

"I never wanted to set myself short. Of course my mom taught me to never settle for less than your best, and you can obtain more goals, and reach for higher limits," Patrick Aldridge said.

Through the hallways of the school Patrick and Ashton have turned one of their favorite games into improving the game of life.

"Our favorite thing is playing chess, and I beat him," Ashton Monroe said, grinning from ear-to-ear.

From playing chess to reading, or even helping kids jump into the excitement of being at school, Patrick is making his positive presence felt for these children.

"My mindset and my attitude changed to a different dynamic of how kids are. Kids, you see them for who they are, they're just people," Patrick added. "It doesn't matter if they're rich or poor, upper class or middle class, we all come from different walks of life."

"They don't have to be from here, they don't have to be born here. They just have to be here and accept that spirit of what we are here," added Bruce Monroe on how Patrick shows the Spirit of Arkansas, although Aldridge is originally from Texas.

His mother only needed one word to describe what her son means in-and-around their house and this community.

"Powerful, because it affects the kids that he works with and what it does for Patrick too."

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