Education is a Family Affair

Friday, March 8, 2019
Dr. Toyo Trenou

Dr. Toyo Trenou is a successful emergency room doctor in west Phoenix supported by his family and friends.  He’s known his whole life that he wanted to become a doctor and has worked hard to achieve his dream.

By all appearances, life is easy and straightforward for Dr. Trenou; he’s living the American Dream.  But success stories are never this easy. People who build resiliency and strength through their life experiences become successful in life; Dr. Trenou is no exception.

Leaving Home

Dr. Trenou was born in Togo, a small sovereign state in West Africa bordered by Benin to the East and Ghana to the west. During internal political upheaval in 1993, Dr. Trenou and his family became refugees and took shelter in the neighboring country of Benin. In 2000, his family immigrated to the United States.

Though arriving in the United States was exhilarating, it offered new challenges for the family. With a French native language, moving to the US was a culture shock. Both Dr. Trenou and his parents could not speak or understand English.  Dr. Trenou was a high school student at the time and fortunately able to take advantage of English as a Second Language (ESL) programs at Summit High School.

A New World & Language

After a year of acclimation to Arizona, Dr. Trenou’s parents made the important and forward-thinking decision to enroll in Phoenix College’s ESL program to both build their confidence in English and gain highly-desired employment skills. They knew that there was a difference between learning by working (i.e. picking up conversational English/slang) and studying English grammar through an ESL program.

“The ESL Program was a stepping stone for my parents to learn the language. It set a firm foundation for them. They were also able to connect with other immigrants from various countries and build a sense of community and shared understanding”. – Dr. Trenou

Dr. Trenou joined his parents at Phoenix College (PC). Though he struggled to learn the English language in high school, he felt confident to begin moving toward his dreams at PC. His favorite classes were biology and calculus and he helped current ESL students – tutoring part-time in the PC Learning Center. During his time as a student, Dr. Trenou visited his ophthalmologist. During the exam, the doctor told him that he also attended Phoenix College. This only served to reinforce that Dr. Trenou was on his way to achieving his goal of earning a medical degree.

Education at Phoenix College was a family affair.  His father, Comlanvi, completed his Associate’s Degree and his mother, Ayawovi, completed her Associate’s Degree and went on to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in social science. Both Dr. Trenou and his mother completed their Associate’s Degrees at Phoenix College in 2003 and were able to celebrate this achievement together.

Medical Dreams Become Reality through Education

After Phoenix College, Dr. Trenou earned his Bachelor’s Degree in medical technology at Arizona State University and completed his Doctorate at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona.

Dr. Trenou’s path to medicine was not straightforward. It had many turns and a few big moves across the world. He didn’t let relocating and learning a completely new language as a young adult stop him from his childhood dream.

“Always follow your dreams. No matter what your goals, don’t let anyone prevent you. Everyone has to start somewhere. I always remember where I came from and how I started on my path. I still keep my honor medal, graduation gown, and commencement program from my time at Phoenix College”. – Dr. Trenou

In true Trenou family fashion, Dr. Trenou came back to Phoenix College in the spring to watch his cousin graduate with her nursing degree at the PC Nursing Pinning Ceremony in May 2018.

To learn more about ESL program at Phoenix College, visit the PC ESL web page, or contact Jeff Eldot at

To learn how you can help students through scholarships, contact Deborah Spotts at