March 29, 2007 at 7:51 a.m.
Hugh, 13 and an eighth-grader at CLMS, has only a physical difference than the rest of his classmates - he doesn't have arms.
He was born without the appendages, but he has learned to be so skilled in using his feet for everything that teachers and peers simply forget he is missing hands and arms.
When CLMS Dean of Students Jim Gillach first heard of Huth coming to the school three years ago as a sixth grader, he admits he was a little anxious.
"I thought, 'what are we going to do with this kid' - what kind of things will have to be changed to help him through the day?" Gillach said.
Those concerns were nullified, however, when Gillach quickly realized that Huth is extremely independent and confident in his abilities to use his feet where most people use their hands.
"About the only thing he needs help with is someone to carry his lunch tray," Gillach said.
Huth spends his days at CLMS like any other student - he moves from class to class, carries his books, takes notes and studies. He jokes around with friends, exchanges friendly banter with several teachers and begrudgingly sits through classes he finds boring - like every teenager.
He didn't give a second thought to choosing shop class last trimester, where he quickly learned to navigate slabs of wood in the band saw. Huth completed a wood plaque that is an exact replica of the Minnesota Wild logo - while maneuvering the wood in and out of the saw blade with his foot.
Obviously, he is extremely flexible.
"I accidentally found out one day when my foot was up by my head that I could put it behind my neck," Huth joked.
He grasps a pencil in his right foot to take notes and complete tests in the classroom. Most of his classes have a modified desk for him to sit at, consisting of a chair in front of a short wooden desk at about knee-level off the ground. The desk is part of the rows of regular desks in each classroom.
Huth keeps his books at his classroom desks until he needs to take them home. He uses his shoulder and chin to carry many things, but when he needs help carrying books and loading them in his backpack, someone is always there to lend a hand.
He said coming to middle school wasn't a big deal, except getting to learn the routine the first few days of sixth grade.
Huth said he thinks school is just OK, but he really enjoys science class. He was most influenced by Life Science teacher Pat Collins, who taught Huth last year.
Because of Collins' class, Huth has aspirations of pursuing geology in college. But more than academics, Collins has been Huth's friend and one of his biggest supporters at the school.
Travis is really smart," Collins said. "He has great insight and a phenomenal sense of humor."
Collins said Huth is an inspiration to a lot of people around him, even though he probably wouldn't acknowledge it.
"The thing I like about him is he doesn't see this as a handicap, just a small inconvenience," Collins said.
"I don't see him feeling sorry for himself. He is a special human being."
Other teachers agree that Huth has an amazing attitude, including Physical Education teacher Andrea McKinnon.
She said Huth is fun to have in class and he never sits out of activities.
"He has a great attitude in everything he does," she said. "He picks on people, but in a fun way."
She may have been worried at first about Huth being judged and criticized by his peers, but that anxiety faded quickly.
"The kids respond well to him," she said. "The other kids don't ever say they don't want him on their team" even though it may be a sport where hands are primarily used.
For instance, Huth's classmates modified their football games by adding a rule that if the football is thrown and hits Huth, they consider it a caught pass. In volleyball, someone bounces the ball and Huth kicks it over the net as his serve and in floor hockey, he simply uses his leg as the hockey stick.
McKinnon said while Huth can't do the pull-ups portion of fitness testing, he has his own fitness goal for the number of sit ups he can do in one minute. Along the way, he gets a lot of help from his friend, Tyler.
"Tyler is a great friend who is always there to help Travis," McKinnon said.
While he seems to enjoy phy ed activities, McKinnon said, Huth's talent is soccer.
"He is a great soccer player," she said. Huth has been a member of middle school soccer teams throughout his career there and this year, he said he will probably play on the traveling team.
"I like phy ed, it's something to keep me in shape," Huth said.
Huth said he has been teased on occasion, but it doesn't bother him.
"Who hasn't been teased in their life?" he asked.
When he's not in school or watching sports, Huth enjoys fishing with his dad. His dad helped him rig up a special sandal to wear that enables Huth to hold his fishing rod and cast. The father and son are working on a customized gun so Huth can start hunting after he's completed gun safety class.
"We're thinking something with a tripod on a swivel," Huth said.
At home, he's not treated any different than other kids are treated by their parents.
"They help me as much as they can, but they want me to do things on my own," Huth said. He has the normal sibling rivalry with his stepsister as well, who is eight months older.
Huth is a huge sports fan, which explains the Wild logo as his woodworking project. He follows a number of professional sports, but said he probably most enjoys college sports.
He has told Collins that he'd like to be a baseball pitcher someday. Collins said if anyone could make that dream work out, it would be Huth.
In the meantime, he is simply an average kid with an extraordinary attitude and confidence in life. Last year, he and Collins wore Minnesota Twins jerseys for "twins day" at the school.
As Gillach narrowed the field looking for winners in the lunchroom contest that day, he eliminated Huth and Collins from the running. The story of what happens next differs, but Collins said it went like this.
"Travis told me, 'maybe if you lost a few pounds, we would have won.'"
Huth disagreed with the synopsis. "No, I told him, maybe if you had more hair, we would've won."
Collins hopes that Huth will find a teacher at high school next year who will develop the same type of relationship with Huth, but it shouldn't be hard for the kid with no arms to fit right in.