Jimmy Braese is 76 years old. In summer 2018, he became the oldest student at SPSCC to receive his high school diploma through the High School 21+ (HS21+) program.
Braese has a long history as a Shelton community member with close ties to the Squaxin Island Tribe. He was married to a Squaxin tribal member and their children are tribal members, as well. He worked in maintenance for Little Creek Casino for 22 years until he retired. Soon after, though, he found that the quiet life was not for him. He returned to Little Creek to learn that the casino could not hire him back—new policies required all new employees to have a GED® or high school diploma.
Braese visited Shanon Millman, Director of Tribal Programming at SPSCC, to discuss his situation. Millman coordinates and teaches the HS21+ programs on the Nisqually, Squaxin Island, and Skokomish reservations, helping community members earn their high school diploma and prepare for college. Braese and Millman were quick to identify HS21+ as the right choice to get Braese prepared to go back to work. And he counts among the most inspirational students Millman has worked with.
Despite the occasional health problem, Braese worked hard for his education. He didn’t know if he wanted to return to a part-time job for the casino or if he wanted to experience working someplace else. More than anything, he knew he wanted to show everyone what he was capable of achieving.
Now in good health and good spirits, Braese is taking stock of his options. He’s living proof for any would-be college student that worries how their age or life experience might prevent them from achieving their educational goals. With a bit of support – and a lot of work ethic and good attitude – Braese achieved his goal of earning a high school diploma.