Global Ambassador: Alum Jonathan Peebles Brings the World to SCC

Around a corner, down a hallway and through a door in the FOSS Building, you will find cubicles. They could belong to anyone, be home to any number of simple tasks, until you head into the back of the room and turn around to find a timeline of the school year.

It is a year not measured in grades received, friends made or hours of study. It is a chronicle of achievement: Posters that pop up across the school throughout the year, advertising the speaking events put on by SCC’s Global Affairs Center (GAC).

On the cubicle’s opposite wall, at a small desk under a bank of windows, sits the center’s program coordinator, Jonathan Peebles. Peebles keeps the posters for quick reference, in case his boss needs a reminder of a date or name.

His boss is Larry Fuell, GAC director and SCC adjunct professor of political science. Peebles and Fuell met during Peebles’ senior year at Everett High School, when his older brother Matt, then an SCC student himself, brought Peebles to a GAC event and introduced them.

Peebles had no idea at the time just how important that meeting would prove to be.

The event itself was a discussion with retired paralegal Gary Hallemeier on the situation in Myanmar. Peebles was impressed to find people far older than himself in the audience still learning and striving for knowledge. Even more so, he was taken in by the open discussion format, something he rarely saw outside of group projects in high school.

Peebles followed his brother to SCC and took a class with Fuell in his first quarter. As the two became better acquainted, Fuell tapped Peebles for a GAC Work Study job. Though he initially thought of the job as short-term, when the opportunity for reemployment came up, Peebles had his sights set higher.

“(Fuell’s assistant) before me, she graduated from UW,” Peebles said, “I said (to Fuell) ‘Is Elouiessa’s job open?’ Because you want someone in this job that knows … Larry and knows the campus.

“Larry will say something to the Work Study students, and I (will) know what he means by it. So it’s the rapport with Larry, but it’s also … knowing how Larry wants something done.”

“This job” was being Fuell’s direct assistant. Peebles still operates as IT for the events, but he’s also in charge of the Work Study students and making sure the speaking events go off without a hitch.

Additionally, he operates as Fuell’s sounding board. If Fuell has an idea, it’s Peebles’ job to find out what the benefits, consequences and costs would be, like when they transitioned from folded event fliers to single sheets.

Fuell is a friendly man, gently placing a hand on the shoulder of a new arrival to bring them into his conversation with Peebles. The two men joke easily with one another, Peebles good-naturedly taking his lumps as Fuell, soft-spoken without being quiet, throws a couple facetious barbs his way.

Fuell’s voice drops a fraction of an octave but loses none of its welcoming roundness as he sums Peebles up, “He’s great. (GAC) wouldn’t be half as successful — probably 25 percent as successful — as it’s been this year and last year if it were not for him.”

Sitting at his desk, Peebles is laid-back and thoughtful, inclined to fill any silent pauses, his speech prone to tangents and thick with “like,” “uh” and “you know?” But at a GAC event, he’s straight-backed and formal in all black, save for the striking deep blue of his dress shirt, top button undone in a manner that does nothing to diminish the professionalism of his slacks and sport coat.

As he listens to speaker Roberto Dondisch, Seattle’s consul general for Mexico, he stands off to the side of the nearly full Quiet Dining Room, staying ramrod straight even as he leans one shoulder on the wall to ease the burden of three hours on his feet for setup and microphone duty. You can see his head crane slightly forward, as if to just get a few centimeters closer to this new information that he will retain and soon be able to recite almost at will.

He’s disappointed this time, though — there’s only one working microphone to manage, cutting his job in half as he helps a Work Study student pass the mic between audience members for the question and answer portion of the event.

When he does move, he’s nearly silent. He almost lopes across the room, crouching slightly, as if to distract as little as possible from the man at the podium. Peebles and Fuell are seemingly of one mind, with Peebles crossing the room to discuss something at the merest imperceptible signal from Fuell. But they’re still silent — even from mere feet away, one can barely make out their intimate whispers as the 70 plus attendees sit enraptured by the presenter.

Working with Fuell and operating the GAC events suits Peebles. Having graduated from SCC, he’s currently a junior at the UW, studying political science with a focus on international studies. It’s actually weird, he says, because so many of the GAC speakers come from the UW and he occasionally runs into them on campus or in class.

In addition to his work with GAC and his studies at UW, Peebles sits on the executive board for his legislative district which encompasses his hometown of Everett where he has lived since his family moved from Lake Stevens when he was 8 years old.

It is through this work that he was asked to run for Everett City Council. He recently announced his candidacy and has filed to run. City Council is part time, which is good, because no longer being able to work with Fuell would be a definite deal-breaker for Peebles.

Beyond preparing him for a myriad of possible futures, the political connections he makes come in handy at school as well. In a recent American Politics class, the professor was informing the students of who their state senators were and asking if they knew how to contact state representatives when Peebles piped up with the gleeful announcement that he is on a first-name basis with many of his local politicians. He recently even had drinks with those same representatives.

Peebles’ meetings with the representatives generally cover ways to improve the 38th district and Everett in particular. Recently, discussions have been about adding more transit and the formation of a climate change committee, as well as who might be on such a committee.

While his brother, and through him, Fuell and GAC, may have introduced Peebles to politics, a subject he abhorred as a child and early teen, he’s always had a desire to help others, a quality he attributes to his mother’s earliest teachings.

“When I grew up, my mom always said, ‘Help those, whenever you can.’ So even from kindergarten, I was helping people on the playground. When they would be getting into fights, I would help back them up.

“There were a few times … where a second grader would be picking on a kindergartener … and I just had this nag to get in the way and help out. Not because I’d get praise for it or be seen as tough for it, but just because it felt like the right thing to do.”

This instinct to not start fights, but to finish them, wasn’t always the best choice for Peebles himself. He not only opened himself up to the physical repercussions of fighting but also to the administrative consequences.

“I did have some problems in school, because I would always step into the fights, and I’d get caught as (the last one) standing, so (the school) would punish me for it.”

As a result of his fighting, Peebles had to attend three different elementary schools and two middle schools, finally making it through all four years at a single high school. Despite this, Peebles stands by his decisions.

“It was never my concern of ‘Oh, this is bad for my health.’ It was ‘This person needs help. I can help. So why don’t I help?’”
As warrior or statesman, Peebles wants to keep paying it forward, helping others so they’ll do the same. It’s the least he can do after all that SCC has done for him.

“I’m just really thankful for all the teachers that I’ve had here … I honestly don’t think I’d have had as much fun at Shoreline without them.”

-Connor Tee
Photo by Martin Musialczyk

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