What’s Working: USA graduate overcomes blindness to earn second degree

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In tonight’s What’s Working, a University of South Alabama graduate had to work extra hard to earn his second diploma. Wei Min Patrick was born blind. He just received a degree in mechanical engineering, but this isn’t the first time he has walked across the stage at graduation. We first met Patrick when he was graduating with a degree in Music five years ago.

Patrick says he loved earning his piano performance degree but decided to further challenge himself by seeking a degree in engineering. He says both degrees were challenging, but the engineering one was especially difficult. First off, his books did not come in Braille. In order to learn concepts, he had to rely on his professors and listen to YouTube videos. He had never seen an airplane or a rocket, so when he had to design components for these machines, it was difficult.

“I had to come up with other ways to learn the material, so it might take me 2-3 times longer compared to my peers,” Patrick said.

Patrick describes himself as someone who refuses to easily give up. He was put up for adoption at the age of seven and a half and spent nearly three years in a Chinese orphanage before his American parents adopted him. He learned how to endure during his childhood, so he has the persistence to take on any challenge.

“I am very thankful for my mom and dad who gave me the chance to go to school and study what I want to study,” Patrick said.

One of Patrick’s professors, Dr. David Nelson, the Chairman of the USA Mechanical Engineering Department, says Patrick never used his blindness as an excuse. He said it was extraordinary to watch Patrick as an active participant on the Rocketry Team when Patrick had never even seen a rocket. He said Patrick was an integral part of that team.

“He would carry his weight, do things all the students did. He didn’t ask for special dispensations. We would tell him what to do, and he would figure out a way to do it.” Nelson said.

Nelson added that Patrick will make a great engineer because engineers have to figure out how to do things that no one else can do!

Patrick says his dream job is to work at NASA one day.

“My ultimate goal is to work for NASA. You have to work your way up, and I am willing to wait,” Patrick said.

Patrick may not be able to see, but his vision of what he wants for his future is clear, and he’s willing to put in the hard work.

Above you can watch the story we did on Patrick in 2017 when he was graduating with a degree in Piano Performance. We were fascinated with how he read the music in Braille. He had to memorize the notes in order to play them since he couldn’t follow along with the music.

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