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Kimberly Brown, a proud Native American student entered the Applied Behavioral Sciences program “full of apprehension.” She left four years later with a bachelor’s degree, a sense of purpose and a full-time job.
After Kimberly Brown finished her last final in the Applied Behavioral Sciences program last fall, she walked to her car, sat in the driver’s seat and shed tears of joy. She had finally finished her bachelor’s degree, an achievement that once seemed out of reach. The next day she started a new job as a Chemical Dependency Counselor in an agency that helps people suffering from addiction.
“I was humbled by the opportunity to be a first generation college student,” said Kimberly, who is a proud enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe. “I was able to get the skills and education to go out in the world and help others who may lack the confidence and ability to recognize their full potential in life.”
From dropout to graduate
Kimberly learned early on to dislike school. Alcoholism’s grip on her family made it challenging for her to concentrate on anything but her difficult home life. Her family’s economic circumstances made it impossible for her to purchase necessary books and clothes, which made her self-conscious in the classroom. She dropped out before she had completed junior high school.
Full of Hope
In the decades that followed, Kimberly supported herself through low-paying, physically-demanding work in factories. She eventually earned her GED and got a job as general manager of a Native American cultural center, but when the Great Recession hit several years ago, she was laid off. She then found herself at a crossroads; she could go back to school or search for a job in the stagnant hospitality industry. A workforce advisor encouraged her to seek education. She enrolled in the Applied Behavioral Sciences program at Seattle Central “full of apprehension,” given her past experience in school, hen she stepped on Seattle Central’s campus, she found an encouraging environment.
“From the beginning, I felt there was a lot of support. I was anxious because all I had was my GED and I was in class with kids who were fresh out of high school,” Kimberly said. “But my instructors were prepared to meet me where I was.”
Part of the healing
Though she faced a steep learning curve after being out of school for so long, she caught up thanks to individualized support from instructors, a network of support services and scholarships from the Seattle Central Foundation. In class, her instructors helped her identify her strengths and assured her that sharing her life experiences added value to the learning environment.
After earning her associate degree, instructors encouraged her to continue with the bachelor’s program. Through her coursework, she learned the skills to help others struggling with the same issues that had impacted her family during her childhood. During an internship, she was able to practice her counseling skills and take part in professional training, which recently led to a full-time job.
“Early on in my studies, I learned about the value of healing a family impacted by addiction versus just taking a child out of a home, and I realized I wanted to be a part of that healing,” Kimberly said.
Though she just finished her degree, Kimberly is already making plans to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work to help change policy related to families and chemical dependency. For her perseverance and commitment to serving those in need, Seattle Central nominated Kimberly for the 2016 Transforming Lives Award. Administered by the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges, this award recognizes current or former students whose lives have been transformed by attending a Washington state community or technical college.