David Brambila, left, is the first in his family to graduate from high school and he credits his success to his mentor, Brett Hulse, right. Hulse has been Brambila’s mentor since Brambila was in fifth-grade. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror

David Brambila, left, is the first in his family to graduate from high school and he credits his success to his mentor, Brett Hulse, right. Hulse has been Brambila’s mentor since Brambila was in fifth-grade. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror

Overcoming the odds: Federal Way High School senior credits mentor with helping him graduate

David Brambila is the first in his family to receive a high school diploma.

When David Brambila walks across the stage Saturday at the Tacoma Dome, he will be the first in his family to receive a high school diploma.

“I am the first person in my family to even make it past 10th grade,” the Federal Way High School senior said.

Brambila credits reaching the milestone to his mentor Brett Hulse.

“There are a lot of hard struggles I did go through,” Brambila said. “Pretty much all that I have accomplished and I have done is all because of Brett. … I really appreciate having him in my life.”

The two were paired together when Brambila was in fifth grade after a teacher at Mirror Lake Elementary School identified him as a student who could benefit from the Communities in Schools mentoring program.

Communities in Schools is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping students in school and helping them succeed. In Federal Way, the organization provides on-site coordinators at middle and high schools to support students in need. Through its mentoring program, Communities in Schools serves about 100 students in Federal Way.

Hulse, a financial planner with Laurus Financial Group and a Federal Way native, wanted to give back to the community – and mentoring seemed like a natural fit.

“I was on the (Communities in Schools) board for a year,” he said. “Not knowing much about Communities in Schools, I thought I might as well just dive in and try this mentoring thing. At that time, that was a major component of what we were doing.”

The pair hit it off and started forging a bond while having lunch together once a week.

“For me, I was always talking to him about what’s next – whether it be junior high, high school, bigger picture,” Hulse said. “I caught on really quickly, knowing his background, that there really wasn’t anybody in his life that had been to college.”

While his older siblings were raised in Mexico, Brambila, the youngest of eight children, is the only one born in the U.S.

Brambila said there were times when he didn’t think he would graduate.

When he was in third grade, Brambila’s father suffered a debilitating stroke that left him paralyzed on one side of his body. As Brambila got older, there was pressure for him to drop out of school to help support his family financially.

“My dad, he was actually pretty successful before he had his stroke and his brain damage,” Brambila said. “He had a couple businesses. He had his own restaurants and was really good until that happened, so (Brambila’s parents) never really saw school as something that you needed.”

Instead of dropping out, Brambila was able to work almost full time while still going to school. First, he got a job as a cook at Puerto Vallarta restaurant and now works at Dick’s Sporting Goods, where he is able to put his knowledge and passion for soccer to use.

Hulse said he is proud of all Brambila has accomplished.

“He’s my hero,” Hulse said of his mentee. “He works almost 40 hours a week, does school on top of that and is going to graduate on time.”

Hulse plans to attend Brambila’s graduation ceremony and will host a barbecue for him afterward.

Brambila’s high school graduation isn’t the end of the duo’s relationship. Hulse plans to continue to mentor Brambila as he attends Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

“This is the end of one phase of the journey, but now the next four years for me are just as important,” Hulse said.

When Brambila graduates from college, Hulse said he will take him on a trip anywhere in the U.S. While Brambila hasn’t decided where he wants to go yet, he is considering the possibilities.

“The real reward is he gets to have a career, a job and has an opportunity to help his family in ways he never dreamed possible,” Hulse said.

Brambila said he is grateful for his relationship with Hulse.

“Not having a support system in my life ever, he was my support system,” Brambila said. “He supported me through whatever decision I made. Even if he didn’t like it, he would suggest other ways or give me ideas of things to do.”

The experience has been rewarding for Hulse, too.

“I have gotten a great friend, a friend for life,” he said.

Mentoring is about building a personal relationship, Hulse said.

“Going into it, I was kind of assuming I was going to be more of a tutor, not necessarily a mentor,” he said. “It’s not about tutoring at all. … It is all about trust. It is about creating a trust relationship that somebody had to go to. When you’ve got school, you’ve got family, you’ve got all this stuff that is intermixed, there is a person over here that isn’t really related to that life that they can turn, that they can ask questions about and that they can relate to.”

Communities in Schools is recruiting mentors for next school year. To learn more, visit cisfederalway.org or contact Executive Director Tracy Oster at 253-529-7440 or tracyo@cisfederalway.org.

Graduation schedule

Graduation ceremonies for Federal Way Public Schools will be Saturday, June 16, at the Tacoma Dome.

8:30 a.m.: Decatur High School

10 a.m.: TAF@Saghalie (in the Exhibition Hall)

Noon: Federal Way High School

3 p.m.: Todd Beamer High School

4:30 p.m.: Truman Campus/Open Doors/Internet Academy (in the Exhibition Hall)

6 p.m.: Thomas Jefferson High School

David Brambila, right, speaks about the of impact his mentor, Brett Hulse, right. The duo, who were paired through Communities in Schools mentoring program when Brambila was in fifth grade, shared their story at the Communities in Schools annual fundraising breakfast in April. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror

David Brambila, right, speaks about the of impact his mentor, Brett Hulse, right. The duo, who were paired through Communities in Schools mentoring program when Brambila was in fifth grade, shared their story at the Communities in Schools annual fundraising breakfast in April. HEIDI JACOBS, the Mirror

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