Austin Nettleton … former North Kitsap Herald carrier will major in business management at Western Washington University. His sister, Nicole, will major in music therapy at Seattle Pacific University. (Contributed photo)

From carrier to college student

Austin Nettleton said his paper route gave him important life skills

POULSBO — It was Friday at 4 or 5 a.m. and Austin Nettleton was up, no matter the weather, placing his newspapers in plastic wrappers, tying them off and then setting off on his route.

At dawn, more than 100 residents would be reading the week’s top stories, thanks to Austin, who would at that time be getting ready for a full day.

Here’s the kicker: Austin was only 12 years old.

This routine continued through his middle school and high school years. “I would start my day off early to deliver the papers and after that I would go to school,” he recently recalled. “Then I would have football or track practice, then go home and do homework.”

His younger sister, Nicole, followed him into the newspaper delivery business. And they say the self-discipline and responsibility gave them valuable life skills for the next stage in their lives: Austin, 19, will attend Western Washington University beginning in September, majoring in business management and minoring in international business. Nicole, 17, will attend Seattle Pacific University to major in musical therapy with a possible minor in French.

Austin’s newspaper career started when his father, Paul, told him he needed to get a job. “I was 12,” Austin said. “I was thinking, where am I going to get a job?” But after some searching, Austin and Nicole ended up being paper carriers for the Herald.

Early on, Austin proved to be adept in business and money management. He saved money to buy a car and travel to Washington, D.C., and Paris, France. When he was off the job, he hired and paid someone to deliver his route for him.

What kept the teenager going through long days? The quote, “If I can take it, I can make it,” from Laura Hildebrand’s book, “Unbroken.”

“It’s what I tell myself when I’m having a hard day,” Austin said.

Nicole got through the long days with morning coffee and having friends make sure she stayed awake during school.

Paul Nettleton said he’s very proud of Austin and Nicole and can’t wait to see what they accomplish in the future: Austin wants to own a business that designs prosthetic limbs for Wounded Warriors. “It’s all about helping other people and that’s what I really want to do,” Austin said. Nicole wants to be a musical therapist, helping people heal with music.

Herald Managing Editor Richard Walker said of the Nettletons: “We were all impressed by their discipline and focus. It’s no surprise that they are going to universities to major in fields in which they believe they’ll make a difference. We believe they will make a difference too.”

— Hannah Chisholm is an intern for Kitsap News Group. Contact her at