University of Pennsylvania

Veterans Upward Bound

Alumni Profiles

Joe Brake


"We have loved our country and thus we have served country."

Regina Jones-Brake. (2015)

In October 1954, a destructed Hurricane Hazel touched down in Nash County, North Carolina, I was born on a sharecropper farm the day before. We survived that hurricane and all of the injustices that a sharecropper's family in the 1950's had to endure during that time period. My parents relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a better livelihood for them and their three children.  I was raised and educated in that large metropolitan diverse city of brotherly love.  Where I learned how to pray, fight, play basketball, run track, sing and dance to soul music during the early formative years in my life. That city will always be my home regardless of where I reside.

In 1972, upon graduating from Dobbins Vocational Technical High School, I enlisted in the United States Navy. After completing basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois, I was transferred to Naples, Italy for three years. Upon my arrival in Naples, "I was told by a senior enlisted person during the command's orientation session, "You are a Black American living abroad and that means you already have two strikes against you in this country and this command, one more strike, and you will be send home." My global and social education began that day.

My father-n-law, John Wesley Jones Sr. and Moses Dickens, grandfather enlisted into the United States Navy during World War 2.  John Wesley Jones Jr., my brother-n-law, Philip and Larry Price, uncles, enlisted in the United States Air Force, United States Army, and United States Marines during the Vietnam War Conflict in the 1960's. Uncles and cousins enlisted or were drafted into the Korean War Conflict. My Great-Great grandfather-n-law, Robert Thomas Sr. enlisted in Delaware for the 32nd U.S. Colored Volunteer Infantry at Fort William Penn during the United States Civil War. My son Nigel Brake enlisted in the United States Army and participated during the Iraq War Conflict. My family has always supported the United States of America during wartime and peacetime. My military family provided me with valuable lessons on survival while in military service. The other bonding factor from my military family was to attain as much education as possible. That is why I attended the University of Pennsylvania's Veteran's Upward Bound Program.  I wanted to make a difference in my life and support my family's legacy of supporting America ideology.

During my military careers, I have completed several US Department of Defense military schools and trainings; received various certifications for facilitator, instructor and nuclear submarines repair. When I retired from the Navy, I was hired as a United States National Park Service's park ranger and completed various trainings and certifications on telling America's story within our National Parks system. Since the completion of the Penn's Veterans' Upward Bound Program, I have graduated with honors from New York University, with an A.A. in Science; Delaware State University, with a B.A. in History and University of Delaware, with a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration.

I am married with five children, five grandchildren.