Trisha Foreman, an instructor in the Medical Assistant program at Renton Technical College, understands her students because she used to be like many of them.
Years ago she was teenager without a family, a home, a high school education, or any idea where she was going. Two institutions turned her life around – a community college, and 11 years in the United States Army.
“I lived in friends’ houses, on welfare and food stamps, delivering pizza,” she recalls. “I tried to finish high school on my own. But it was weird being a 16-year-old girl, alone, going to school with people who had homes to go back to.”
Eventually, she decided to give school another try. She found the guidance she needed when she approached a local community college for help. The counselors there encouraged her to pursue a GED, and helped her to find the resources to complete it.
“That’s what saved me, going to school, getting my GED,” Trisha recalled. “It gave me the confidence to try other things.”
Among those things was joining the military. She was interested in medicine, and the army supported her training. She soon completed an associate degree in biology at Tacoma Community College.
For the next nine years she served as a combat medic in Germany, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Iraq. She spent two full tours in that last war zone, attached to a company of combat engineers who cleared improvised explosives, one of the most dangerous assignments of that conflict.
Her people skills also drew attention, and she was asked to work as an instructor, teaching soldiers and non-medical personnel how to handle combat injuries. Her classes were full, with 30 or 40 students at a time.
As important as her medical skills were in the field, Trisha was especially valued as a teacher.
“It was my way of saving lives. You train all these people in a classroom, and then they go on to save lives on their own,” she said
After leaving active service, Trisha used her training and experience to apply for teaching jobs and eventually joined Renton Technical College in 2013.
Three short years later, she is a tenured member of the faculty, respected by her peers and appreciated by her students.
She has never forgotten her journey here. It continues to help her as a teacher.
“There are a lot of students here who are in the same boat as I was,” Trisha said. “I let them know I’m a GED recipient, and that gives them more confidence that they can do it.”