Seattle-based Chhavi profiles Shane Brookman, a 38-year-old student at South Seattle College, talking about his experiences from being a high-school dropout to now continuing and completing his Associate’s of Arts degree in Materials Science Engineering. A musician, he was the former Student Body President. Read more about his search for identity, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Shane Brookman is fairly tall blonde haired, 38-year old extrovert, passionate about music and highly ambitious towards his goals. When Shane Brookman greets you, his blue eyes radiate warmth, and laughter lines are clearly etched around his eyes. His low husky baritone voice lulls you into believing and listening to him attentively. It has been a long journey for Shane from being a high school dropout to a student at 38, and also a former Student Body President.
Since high school, Shane was interested in playing guitar so for about six years he performed in some well-known restaurants and clubs in Seattle such as Dark Manor and The Central Tower in Pioneer Square. “The name of my band was Malachi meaning something in the Bible,” says Brookman. Malachi actually referred to a prophet who was sent to assure his people that God still loved the human, but he demanded honor, respect, and faithfulness from them. When asked about how he felt as a band performer, he recalled, “Initially, going on stage was quite nerve-wracking but when I heard the crowd hooting and applauding, all my nervousness disappeared.” The music to him was as important as breathing. For him melody was the king, lyrics were secondary as words revealed a person’s inner thoughts so are a little personal. “I liked rap songs,” he confides. Rap songs were a perfect blend of a man and his music, the colours of the rainbow inter-twining with each other in mind, body and soul symmetry. When asked about his favorite band his answer was ‘Rage against the Machine,’ because the lyrics were quite political and always conveyed messages related to social justice. He explains, “I also liked the way the guitar players used to make their own notes which were similar to rap music and the way they tuned them into the DJ’s mix.”
Shane has been in construction for about 20 years, doing plumbing and building houses because being a band performer didn’t make him a lot of money. Even though Shane was a full-time construction worker, he had to quit his full-time job. Moreover, he also had to undergo many surgeries to fix his knee making crackling sounds, because his knee kept on banging against the pipelines while plumbing. As a result, Shane couldn’t go back into construction. When asked about why he chose the engineering, after being in construction for so long, he reflected, “I always liked seeing the way things work.”
On one hand, Shane is very polite and calm, but this is juxtaposed against the fact that he admits he has even been thrown into jail for smoking weed before it was actually legal. When asked about the craziest thing he ever did, he remembers, “Once, I went with my friends to Gasworks Park in Seattle which is a heavily guarded and restricted area. But we jumped the fence and went on the rooftop.” When the cops found something unusual, Shane and his friends hid on the rooftop and Shane’s heart was in his mouth when the torch flickered over them huddled in a group. He confides he had to clamp his hand over his mouth to prevent himself from screaming when he saw the dead bird lying by his side. But Shane and his friends had eventually managed to escape.
When speaking about his family Shane mentioned that he had struggled through many tough times. It was difficult to keep afloat, but he did not give up. “My family didn’t have enough money so I saved some of it from construction and when that ran out, I had to eventually drop out of high school and work really hard to apply for Foundation scholarships. Now, I am continuing my studies as a student at South Seattle College.” The 38-year old Shane is pursuing an Associate’s of Arts degree in Materials Science Engineering. When asked about what he loves the most when studying he says: “Calculus appealed to me because I liked to play with it and it is used in almost all academic fields, from Business to Sciences. I always liked to dig into it and unpack every problem,” explains Brookman. In addition to this, he greatly admires Nelson Mandela who not only stood for his country but also for his people.
Influenced by Nelson Mandela, Shane also wanted to be the bringer of hope to the world. He wanted to be the model of the power of hope backed up by action. Shane was the vice-president before he ran for the president position. Shane believed in the principle of “Honesty is the best policy.” He didn’t like the way politicians did their jobs. He was against the practices like buying of elections and institutionalized racism so motivated by this, he wanted to run for the president position and learn more about political affairs.
When Shane was running for the position of Student Body President, the feeling of suspense had filled the room as the prospective candidates waited for the results of 2014-2015 presidential elections. The room was completely silent as the student government announced the results of the elections. Victory had marked the end of a long campaign when Shane was finally elected.
Former South Seattle College Student Body President, Shane Brookman was an active student government leader in his freshman year. He is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for the two-year college. According to him, from the time he was in high school, he knew it was just as important to gain learning outside the classroom. He is the kind of person who is able to talk to anybody about football in one sentence to politics in the next and is known for his ability to talk on every topic under the sun. The Seattle resident was elected for the year 2014-2015. His election has been a culmination of a journey that started back in 2014. Brookman stood out as the Student Body President for his efforts to direct the resources of the United Student Association enriching the academic quality of South Seattle College. “In my opinion, Shane is very calm in terms of work,” says Fatemeh Safarpour. Monica Lundberg, the United Student Association advisor recalled, “He has inspired his fellow students to become better scholars and more engaged students not only by developing new programs but by leading by example.”
As a former Student Body President, Shane worked really hard to change the narrative at South Seattle College and made sure things that were never talked about before are talked about now. That’s really powerful, and a great step in the right direction. When asked about his future he says, “I want to change the world.” Shane aspires to have a successful career, have his own company wherein he will build new homes which will provide the water and electricity itself and most importantly are affordable by virtually everyone.
Photos sourced from the author and the internet.
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Chhavi Mehra is an international student from India completing her Associate’s of Arts degree in Communications and Media at South Seattle College. She will be transferring to a university in California for her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Chhavi hopes to write quality pieces reflecting the integrity of publications like The New York Times.