Transforming Lives: Simon Walker, Switching Gears From Auto Mechanic to Master’s Candidate Via Shoreline
Never say never.
When Simon Walker dropped out of high school during his junior year because “school just wasn’t for me,” he never expected that almost 10 years later he’d wind up as the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Jackson School Journal at the University of Washington.
He also never dreamed he’d travel to Valencia, Spain where he’d serve as a foreign correspondent for Shoreline Community College’s The Ebbtide student newspaper, that he’d debate the pros and cons of academic programs at Oxford and the London School of Economics or that he’d be applying to graduate schools with the intent to work for some of the world’s leading refugee relief organizations.
But, as Walker put it, “My greatest quality is the ability to get back up after falling down as many times as I have in life.” That perseverance is something he says he learned at Shoreline.
“The quality that I mention — perseverance — as having been my key to success, was one that I barely possessed before entering SCC,” he said. “SCC peers and faculty who were more often mentors helped me believe in myself and develop my ability to work hard and persevere. They are the reason I am where I am today.”
After earning his GED, Walker went to trade school to become an auto mechanic. He landed at an Audi dealership here in the Northwest, where he worked successfully for three years before becoming “discouraged with the profession.” Though he was earning a decent salary, his heart was no longer in the work.
“I felt like I needed to make a decision: ‘Do I stay in this profession for the rest of my life, or do I return to school and see if my general interest in politics can lead me to a career that I truly love?’” he said. Walker chose the latter, returning to school via Shoreline in the Fall of 2009, and says it was “the best decision I ever made.”
He’d played soccer in high school, so Shoreline’s strong soccer program was a definite draw for Walker. However, the academics are what propelled him forward on his current course of International Studies and his hope of one day working for an organization like USAID or Mercy Corps.
“I hadn’t even been aware of International Studies as a discipline upon starting my degree pursuit,” Walker said, “but because of the SCC Social Science Departments’ efforts to offer international studies courses to the student body in a unique, team-taught setting, I fell in love with the material and decided that the Jackson School would be a great fit for me upon transferring.”
Other key experiences at Shoreline helped Walker find his path as well. At the urging of Shoreline Prof. Larry Fuell, Walker completed the SCC Honors Program. “(The Honors Program was) integral to my successful transition to the Jackson School and the Journal,” he said. “I never thought about myself as someone capable of taking on a year-long research project, as school had never been easy for me, but seeing that someone as successful as Larry had seen some potential in me really helped me believe in myself.”
Walker says his time as an editor at The Ebbtide also helped shape his future success by teaching him “a lot about my knack for creativity and project management.”
Patti Jones, The Ebbtide advisor, says she’s not surprised Walker has moved on from Shoreline to do great things, especially after he won a comprehensive reporting award from the Washington Community College Journalism Association for a feature he produced on the high cost of textbooks.
“The Ebbtide gave Simon publishing know-how, but Simon was already far down the path to his current editorship when he landed at The Ebbtide,” Jones said. “He was already a guy who could both lead and collaborate. He was already a deep thinker, drawn to examining the how and why of things. He was already someone who wanted to make a difference in this world. So, instead of being surprised by Simon’s accomplishment, I’m just very, very pleased.”
Walker’s time at Shoreline wasn’t spent solely on his studies. He also played soccer under Coach George Dremousis on a team that won Shoreline its first NWAC Northern Division title in almost two decades. The camaraderie he encountered on the team helped bolster his confidence both on and off the field.
“Coming into the team I’ll admit that I was very out of shape, I had struggled with my weight for years after being sidelined from soccer by two serious knee injuries at the age of 19,” Walker said. “Coach Dremousis, assistant coaches Alex Jessup and Daniel Hyseni and my teammates helped me build incredibly strong discipline and helped me believe that I could both succeed in staying fit and finding success on and off the field.”
And he has. He was just offered a research internship position at the local NGO consultancy firm, williamsworks, that he’ll start spring quarter. And once he finishes his studies at the Jackson School, the guy who thought school just “wasn’t for me” plans on getting a year of real-world experience before applying to master’s degree programs and pursuing a career with an organization “whose mission is alleviating suffering and fostering progress and opportunity for those most in need of it.”
So what advice does this Shoreline achiever have for incoming students?
“Get involved now,” he said. “Don’t think of Shoreline as a place you come to, go to class and leave, think of it as a community the same as any four-year university student would experience. SCC provides a unique opportunity to engage outside of the classroom, and you should take it. When it comes time to apply to the university of your choosing, an internship or a job, you’ll be glad you did.”
And, oh yeah, “Go, Dolphins!”