Anyone who has seen Colin Hughes perform onstage might think he is headed for Broadway, but this graduating senior, who has become known for his rhetorical and dramatic flair, has a different calling.
“I’m going to VMI [Virginia Military Institute],” said Hughes, adding that he “wanted something more” than a conventional college experience. “The military has a purpose. It gives you a duty and an opportunity to give—a chance to be a servant leader.”
Hughes relishes a challenge and the opportunity to lead through service. Last year, he accomplished a longtime goal and became an Eagle Scout. For his service project he built and organized a school library for AFA.
Hughes plans to study mechanical engineering and join the Army or the Air Force after completing his training. He said he inherited his military mindset from his father—a retired Air Force Colonel—and is not phased by what he knows will be a strict and grueling schedule. “I’m actually looking forward to physical training,” he said. “I thrive in that environment. It really strips you down to your core, raw being. I think this experience will help me grow and mature in my understanding of God’s word, and mature my faith. I pray that God will give me a greater dependence on Him.”
In addition to acting, he enjoys singing and playing the piano—gifts passed down from his mother, a concert vocalist who teaches music at Ad Fontes. “I’ve been singing ever since I can remember,” said Hughes. “I guess some might say that I came out of the womb singing and tap dancing!” After participating in his church’s youth choir, Hughes went on to sing with the Virginia Choral Director’s Association District XI All-District Chorus.
His onstage school acting performances are still talked about, including his uproarious portrayal of Charles I, and more recently, as Algernon in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” when Hughes became known for his brilliant ad-libbing and impromptu script changes. He used these talents for three years on AFA’s Mock Trial team where he won the Most Outstanding Witness Award at the state level each year he competed.
Selecting just a few of his fondest AFA memories was difficult, said Hughes. “It’s the whole experience. Just every day, really,” he said. “Every lunch period there is something new to discuss and laugh about.” But it was reading Beowulf aloud with other students around a big fire pit at the Decker’s when Hughes said he knew he was forming lasting relationships.
Hughes said he found the community created by school’s small size to be particularly inviting. “You can’t have anonymity here, and I love that,” he said. “Because of the community here you can’t be alone. Even on my first day, I didn’t fade into the background. It was quite a shock. People wanted to know me. They asked me questions about things like what I liked to read. I didn’t even have to introduce myself.”
Hughes said he’s been blessed by his AFA teachers, particularly Mr. Popp and Mr. Blunt. Hughes had Upper School Principal Mr. Popp for Logic, Physics and Pre-Calculus, and soon discovered they shared a mutual love of Star Wars and Star Trek. “I’ll never forget how one day in class he launched off into the physics behind Star Trek,” said Hughes. “I just love that. He showed me through his own example that you can be a nerd or a geek and still be funny and cool.”
Hughes also says he has also been encouraged by Mr. Blunt, his teacher for Worldview and Apologetics. “He’s really mentored me on a mental and spiritual level,” said Hughes. “He’s helped me to realize that God is faithful and just as He forgives us, we also need to forgive ourselves when we mess up, rather than dwell on what we did wrong.”
One of the Bible passages Hughes turns to for strength is James 1:2-4, and it is one Hughes knows by heart. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
“Even though life can be painful and can sometimes feel like rocks falling on your head from above, you learn through this verse that the purpose is to persevere,” said Hughes. “So when more suffering comes, you won’t run away from it.”