Most of us are touched by trauma at some point in our lives. Southwestern Oregon Community College student Jonathan Torres turned traumatic experiences into motivation to pursue a career in helping others. As a young man, his parents were involved in life-threatening accidents. Both would probably not be alive today had it not been for the skill and compassion of the emergency medical personnel who responded to the 911 calls. And it was the skill and compassion they showed that motivated Jonathan to pursue a career in Fire Science/Paramedicine.

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Jonathan spent his childhood in Washington and moved to Coos Bay at 11 years old. What prompted the move? The injuries that his father suffered from a head-on collision made it necessary for him to pursue a new type of employment. Jonathan’s father went back to school to study histology (the study of the microscopic structure of tissues) and moved the family of five to the region to take a position at Bay Area Hospital. The summer after the move, his mother subsequently suffered an accident while riding an ATV. Thus far, her injuries have prevented her from returning to work.

“My parent’s injuries changed our lives forever. I had to do a lot more around the house and help them with whatever they needed,” said Jonathan, who went to work when he was 16 to help with expenses. “But things could have been a lot worse! I consider my family very blessed to be where we are now.”

Within two months of graduating from Marshfield High School in 2018, Jonathan joined the student firefighting program at the Coos Bay Fire Department, ready to pursue his career in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). This spring he will graduate with two degrees from Southwestern, an Associate of Applied Arts in Fire Science, and an Associate of Applied Arts in Paramedicine.

“Southwestern has given me the opportunity to better my future by educating myself and acquiring the tools I need for a long, successful career,” Jonathan said. “My goal is to be a firefighter and paramedic so that I can help others in the same way that my family was helped.”

Jonathan gives a shout out to Southwestern’s Fire Science instructors saying, “They made sure I stayed on track, gave me opportunities, and were highly flexible when it came to making my specific situation work out.”

Jonathan summarizes why this career path is so meaningful to him, “My dad is my hero. He came to this country without speaking English. He worked his way up from nothing so that he could provide a better future for himself and our family. Of the many life lessons and morals he has passed on to me, my biggest take-aways are to never give up, even when you fail, treat everyone with kindness and respect, hold your family close, and an opportunity to better yourself is always worth taking.”


Helping people as an EMT or Paramedic is rewarding and exciting. Get started on your path to this worthwhile career. Call our Student Success Center and make an appointment to speak with an advisor at 541-888-7371.


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