When Cynthia Fox enrolled in the Medical Assistant program at UEI College in Tacoma, she expected to leave with the training she needed to start a new career. What she did not expect was to leave with a closer relationship and a shared experience between herself and two of her sisters.
Cynthia always wanted to be involved in the medical field. When she was young, she had watched her mother struggle and nearly die due to her complications with diabetes. The experience was traumatizing, but it made Cynthia want to prevent others from going through the same.
“I watched my mom pretty much slip away and almost die,” she said. “It made me think I want to be able to know things so if it happened again at home, I would know what to do to help her, or I could go and help other people and I would have the knowledge to help other people through the same situation.”
For a few years after high school, Cynthia was stuck in limbo, trying to get financial aid approved to attend the surgical technician program at a local technical college. Meanwhile, life was becoming difficult.
“Me and my family were struggling a lot,” Cynthia said. “We were living in an apartment and then I lost my job while we were living in an apartment. We were living on my husband’s income, but it was not enough to pay our rent with all of our other bills. We had to do a voluntary eviction from our apartment and move back in with my mom. I moved myself and my husband and son back into my mom’s four-bedroom home with my other family. I knew I needed to go to school and get certified in something so I could get a job and provide for and help my family.”
Just 10 minutes away from Cynthia’s house was UEI College’s Tacoma campus. Cynthia decided to give it a try.
The first few weeks in class were not easy, but Cynthia adjusted and found a love for what she was learning.
“I had the best time in school,” she said. “My instructor, he helped me with everything. He was an instructor, but he was also there for you. My classmates were amazing. They were the kind of people you could be instant friends with. We all worked together and helped each other.”
Each night, Cynthia would return home and share with her sister and her sister-in-law how much she was enjoying her classes. Her enthusiasm did not go unnoticed.
“When Cynthia started at UEI, she would come home happy,” said Ashley Isaacson, Cynthia’s sister-in-law. “She enjoyed going to class. I looked into medical assisting, but I had never followed through on it. When my sister was telling me about UEI’s Medical Assistant program, I thought maybe this is the field I want to lean toward.”
She decided to enroll in the Medical Assistant program, right alongside Cynthia. A month later, their sister, Heather Isaacson, decided to enroll in the Dental Assistant program.
“I looked into it and to transferred over and enrolled the same day. It was really nice,” Heather said.
While Cynthia and Ashley were placed in the same class, Heather did not get to see her family on campus often, but when they saw each other at home, they all had someone to rely on.
“We all dealt with a lot of the same problems,” Ashley said. “Whenever one of us didn’t know something, the other one did. We knew who to ask. We helped each other with homework even though we were in different programs. It brought us closer together.”
“Everybody has their good days and bad days,” Cynthia said. “I’ve heard both of them come home and when they have their bad days, they talk about it. When they have their good days, we talk about it … We are a big family. All three of us are never not going to have someone to go talk to. We are our own little community. We are our own little support system for each other. I think that is amazing for the three of us and I absolutely love it.”
With support from each other, and the rest of their family at home, all of the women were able to thrive in their program. Ashley became a student ambassador, Heather was continually on honor roll, and Cynthia finished her program with a high GPA.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of going through the program was the way it brought them all closer.
“Once Ashley joined my class, I think it was the best thing,” Cynthia said. “When she married my step-brother, we were not very close. We didn’t talk very much or go out and do things very much but once she joined my class, we became almost inseparable. I don’t call her my sister-in-law. I call her my sister. She is my sister. She made my classroom experience 10 times more fun and more enjoyable. I had that one person that was there for me and that I got to work with every day and pushed me. If I was feeling down or getting something wrong, she would sit with me and push me and help me work through it.”