Non-traditional student overcomes the odds, sets example for family

seth brown habitat
Monday, April 22, 2024

Failure is not an option.

That’s the mantra Seth Brown has repeated over and over to himself the past few years, and it’s one the father of five hopes his children remember.

A former high school dropout, he knows a thing or two about conquering obstacles. He plans to share his story as this year’s student commencement speaker for North Platte Community College.

Brown was 16 when he dropped out of Shelton High School in 1996.  

“At the time, I was a stupid teenager,”’ Brown said. “I thought money was more important than an education. I had been working for a meat locker, and I decided I wanted to work full time.”

He left home a couple years later and moved back to McCook where he was originally from. Eventually, he ended up in North Platte, where he met his wife, Ashley Brown.

Seth took a job working for Ashley’s dad, who owned the Sears store in town. He also partnered with his father-in-law as co-owner of a security company, which got him thinking about a career in law enforcement.

“I really wanted to be a police officer,” Seth said. “As a security guard, you are only responsible for watching over a premises. I wanted to do more to help people and protect my community, but I couldn’t be a police officer without at least a GED.”

He enrolled in the Adult Education classes through NPCC in November of 2021 – partly for the opportunity to be in law enforcement and partly to set an example for his children.

“I’m not going to say it wasn’t a challenge,” Seth said. “There I was, in my 40s, looking at stuff I hadn’t looked at in over 20 years. My kids probably get sick of me saying it, but I tell them every day, ‘You will finish high school.’ It’s 10 times harder to try to do it later on.”

Going back to school gave him confidence – enough to consider pursuing an associate degree.

seth brown

“It was during the time that riots were happening, and police departments were being defunded,” Seth said. “So, I was starting to rethink whether or not that was the field I wanted to go into.”

He was just getting ready to take his last test for the GED when he toured the college’s Electrical Technology department.

“When I walked in there, I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here? I’m afraid of electricity.’ But, as soon as I met Jake [Elmshaeuser], the instructor, I knew that’s where I needed to be,” Seth said. “We clicked right away.”

He immediately appreciated how relatable and professional Jake was.

“Jake is a lot like me. He’s up front and hands-on, and that’s how I learn,” Seth said. “He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and so do I, which is probably what I love the most about his program. If you fail, it’s because you aren’t putting the work in. Jake knows his stuff, and he expects you to know it, too. I go to class every day excited about what I’m going to do next.”

Seth earned his GED in the spring of 2023 then jumped right into three online summer classes. That left him with only two classes when he started in the electrical program last fall.

“Probably one of the biggest accomplishments for me came when we did the mock-ups and had to learn how to wire a room and put in the devices and lights,” Seth said. “When I got done, there was this proud feeling of ‘I did this, and it looks good.’ I want to be able to do that in the field, so when someone walks into a new building and sees all the conduit, they can say, ‘Wow. That’s some good work.’ That brings joy and pride to me.”

Commencement isn’t the end for Seth. He will have eight weeks of extra motor control classes this summer, and after that, will go to work for Snell Services.


He’s grateful for the opportunities NPCC offered him and is hopeful that his kids can take something away from watching his journey.

“The biggest thing that I hope, and know, they should get out of this is that if you want to do something, the only person stopping you is you,” Seth said. “If you put your mind to it and do the work, you can complete and achieve anything.”

The public can hear Seth speak at 3 p.m. May 10. The commencement ceremony will be in the McDonald-Belton Gym on the NPCC South Campus, 601 W. State Farm Rd., in North Platte.