ILWACO — Bruce Bailey, the outreach specialist for Grays Harbor College in south Pacific County, has a simple philosophy.
“The community college is a good thing,” said Bailey, former owner of a restaurant in Long Beach. “We want to give some hope to people who have struggled. You can do better with an education — and a better education means a better job and a better life.
“This is a safe place to come in — we really care about trying to help people out.”
Grays Harbor opened the educational center at the Port of Ilwaco in 2006.
It offers three key educational tracks:
• Transitions programs allowing people to catch up, completing their high school education credentials or completing a GED;
• College credit classes, including Associates Degrees, prerequisites for advancing to a four-year degree;
• Community education, including personal enrichment and field trips.
Grays Harbor credits may transfer elsewhere. On its Aberdeen campus, the college offers three bachelor’s degrees: business, teaching and forestry management.
Bailey is marking two years as the college’s liaison at the educational center, which he also manages.
He grew up in the greater Philadelphia area, always preferring smaller communities over the big city. His education did not follow traditional paths. “I was a horrible student in public school because I was bored to tears. At second grade, I tested at a fifth-grade level.”
He managed a gas station and did landscaping work, moving west to Tacoma. “I’m always looking for something new to do,” Bailey said. He wasn’t keen on that community, although he enjoyed his Elks membership, serving as Exulted Ruler in Lakewood.
He moved his family to the coast, owned Bluto’s Pizza in Long Beach for eight years and ran the business for one year inside the Fishtrap restaurant in Chinook.
In 2012, his link with Grays Harbor began when he earned his associate’s degree in business with a dual credential in accounting. One of his daughters, Chelcie, attended and works as the college’s community education coordinator.
At 59, the Ocean Park resident said he likes giving back. “You feel great helping other people,” he said. “Life has given me so much. I have been married for 30 years and have two wonderful children.
“This job suits me — because I have been in customer service since I was 14.”
Grays Harbor College
Columbia Education Center
208 Advent Ave. S.E, Ilwaco
For details, contact Bruce Bailey, outreach specialist