Alumni Success Stories

Brenda Davis

davis001Brenda Davis did not have her high school diploma. She knew she wanted to go to college. She saw an advertisement on television for the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center and knew she had what it took to meet her goal. Brenda applied to the REOC for the GED Preparation Program and worked diligently on studying to take the GED examination. Her instructors and the supportive REOC staff not only encouraged Brenda to get her GED, but also to continue on to college. Brenda is currently a full-time student at Monroe Community College and made the Dean’s List in her second semester!

Brenda’s motto is; “Nothing beats a failure like a try.”

Hloniphile Williams

williams001Hloniphile “Phile” Williams was born in Swaziland, a country lying between South Africa and Mozambique. She was the second of ten children born to a very poor family. She had one son, a registered nurse, who died in 2000. In 1990, Phile moved to New York City to work as a nanny, but was treated very poorly by her employers. She left New York City and moved to Rochester where she became a self-employed house and office cleaner. In 2005, after breaking her wrist, she decided to fulfill her long-held dream of becoming a nurse. With a third grade education, she entered into the English for Speakers of Other Languages program where she improved her language, math and computer skills. After graduating from the ESOL program, Phile enrolled in the GED program at REOC and, despite taking the GED exam three times without passing, she never let her determination waiver or her goal change. She just studied harder and welcomed tutoring and advice whenever possible. Her positive attitude was infectious in the halls of REOC.

After receiving her GED, Phile enrolled and graduated from the REOC Certified Nursing Assistant program and is now working as a CNA in an assisted living facility.

Phile’s quote is: “Stay in school. Age does not matter – the sky is the limit!”

Allyson Blume

blume001Allyson was a single mother and working as a waitress to support her child. The income was not steady. A friend who graduated from the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center told her about the nursing programs available. Allyson applied and was accepted into the Licensed Practical Nursing program. She graduated in 2011 and is employed as an LPN Team Leader and Charge Nurse at a local long-term care facility. She says she loves her job, she has a steady income and that she is making a difference.

Her thought for current and future REOC students: “Never let time get in the way of your dreams, because time will always pass.”

Eva Colon

colon001Eva was a stay-at-home mother who was suddenly a single mother without support. She needed to get a good-paying job to support herself and her children, but she knew she needed the skills and education first. She could not afford to go to school. A friend told Eva about the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center’s tuition-free programs and Eva applied for REOC’s Licensed Practical Nursing program. She completed her studies and graduated in 2011. She states that as a result of her education at the REOC she has become a confident, independent woman. She is currently working full time at a local hospital and pursing her Associates of Science in Nursing degree at Genesee Community College.

Her advice to new students or those thinking of making an educational choice: “Don’t let anything stand in the way of your dreams.”

Ebony Buchanan Stubbs

stubbs001Ebony always knew about the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center. She had heard about it from family and friends and saw advertisements for the Center. She didn’t know what direction she wanted to go in after graduating high school. Cosmetology interested her, but the tuition cost kept her from attending school. She applied for the REOC’s tuition-free Cosmetology program and graduated in 2011> She states that being a licensed cosmetologist is “the best way to go!”

Ebony now is a full time stylist and also works as a counselor in a residential facility. She says the clients respect her professionalism. Ebony says: “REOC is the place to be!”

Taunja Isaac

isaac001Taunja Isaac has an artistic side. She always liked to cook and taking pictures was her passion. She found out about the REOC’s Culinary Arts program through a counselor. She applied for the program and was able to keep both passions alive with the help of her culinary instructor. She had a desire to live and fulfill her dreams and enhance her skills. Her success in all of these “grew immensely” as a result of her attending the REOC. After working as a chef for fifteen years, Taunja pursued her other dream of photography and is currently a Graduate Program student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She is also employed at a local community cable television station.

Her motto is: “You can and will be successful if you try your best.”

Leonor Nuῆez

nunez001After working as a pharmacy technician for twenty years, Leonor was faced with unemployment. The establishment for which she was working had closed and she found that she was at a crossroads in her life. Her passion had always been cooking. She found employment to sustain her living, but applied to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center’s Culinary Arts program too because, as Leonor states, she has “dreams of using her cooking skills to ease into retirement.” Recently graduating from the program, Leonor is pursuing those dreams, just as her mother did when she attend the REOC.

Shanae Braithwaite

braithwaite001Shanae Braithwaite has trouble with her reading. She knew her reading grade level was not high enough to pass the GED test. She applied to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center and started taking classes in the GED Preparation program. She became frustrated and withdrew from the program. She knew it was just not the right time for her. However, she always wanted to go to college. So, she re-applied at the REOC at continued to come to classes and bring her reading level up high enough to take the GED examination. She passed the test and enrolled in classes at Monroe Community College.

She feels the opportunity that she received through the REOC enables her to move forward with her life.

Rose Chester

chester001Rose Chester always wanted to care for children. She was employed at a local community center and heard about the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center through her colleagues. She knew this was her chance to receive her certification to work directly with children at a child care agency. She applied to REOC’s Child Development Associate program and after completing her classes received her Child Development Associate Certification. Rose began working in daycare and with the children she loved and was able to see these children grow and thrive in her care.

She tells others: “Never give up. Follow your dreams.”

Joy Pendergrass

pendergrass001Joy Pendergrass started at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in the GED Preparation program. After receiving her GED in 2006 she applied for the Licensed Practical Nursing program. She soon realized after a few classes that nursing was not the field for her, so she withdrew from the program and took some time to work and find what she wanted to do. She starting cooking and knew she found her life’s passion. She re-applied to the REOC in the Culinary Arts program and is employed as a line cook in a local restaurant.

Joy is continuing in her passion for cooking and has enrolled in college to obtain her degree in accounting. She will utilize her skills in cooking and accounting to open her own business.

Her advice to others is: “Never let anyone or anything get in the way of your dreams. As long as you put your mind to it, you can do it.”

Ryan Sears

sears001Ryan Sears was interested in cooking. His mother told him about a great Culinary Arts program at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center. Ryan applied and was accepted into the program and says that during his training he met some great people who opened him up to new food and ideas. He found a fun, supportive community and gained strength and hope to make a better future for himself and the world.

His advice to others is: “A man may last 3 months without shelter, 3 weeks without food, 3 minutes without oxygen, but cannot last 30 seconds without hope. Never give up or rely solely on others for hope, for that is the time when life becomes truly difficult.”

Toriya White

white001Toriya White was a drug and alcohol counselor for 10 years. She was laid off from her position and knew that it was time for a change. She applied to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center’s Licensed Practical Nursing program after reading about the training program online. She “met a lot of great people from nursing class” and after graduating works as an LPN in a medical care facility.

Toria’s thought for others: “You can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

Robin Shields

shields001Robin Shields had difficulty with math. So much so that it took her 5 times to pass the entrance test to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center. But Robin stuck with it and practiced and studied math and attended math classes until she was successful on her fifth try. She applied to the REOC’s Licensed Practical Nursing program and upon graduation and passing her state board examination Robin started working as an LPN in a residential care facility. She states that as a result of attending REOC her whole life has changed, and she is able to make a difference in the lives of the residents she cares for.

Her motto is: “Keep your eye on the prize.”

Allison Gissendanner

gissendanner001Allison Gissendanner’s aunt recommended she look into attending the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center’s Licensed Practical Nursing program. Her aunt had just completed the program and knew that REOC would be a great fit for Allison. Allison applied to the Certified Nursing Assistant program and started working as a CNA after completion of the program. She knew she wanted to make nursing her career. Allison applied to the LPN program and was accepted. She has been working at an assisted living facility and as a private duty nurse since graduating.

Allison says she has “a successful career without the debt many others incur”.

Rafaelina Plascensia

plascensia001Rafaelina Plasencia was a single mother looking to better herself and her financial situation for her and her child. She was tired of making the wrong choices that, as a result, were not getting her where she needed to be. She heard about the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center from friends and applied for the Licensed Practical Nursing Program in 2010. She was accepted into the program, graduated in 2011 and is now working at a local long-term care facility and also working as a private duty nurse. She is continuing her nursing studies and career and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Rafaelina’s thought for future students is: “Don’t give up. Use your resources. Don’t burn your bridges. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Darnell Smith

smith001Darnell Smith decided to go back to school in his forties. Life circumstances made his road to education long, but he knew he had also procrastinated. He applied to the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center’s College Preparation program and worked with the supportive faculty and staff to gain the confidence he needed to continue on to college. After completion of the program Darnell went on to Monroe Community College. During his time in college, Darnell was a peer leader, assistant advisor and a communication assistant. He made the Dean’s list twice. Darnell received his Associates degree in Human Services and is employed as a Service Coordinator with a national service agency. He is pursuing an Addictions Counseling degree and will be completed within the next year.

Darnell states: “REOC is the beginning of the rest of your life.”

The REOC Admission Office will have special hours August 20- 24: 

Monday, August 20: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. ONLY
Tuesday, August 21: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 22: Closed
Thursday, August 23: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Friday, August 24: Closed

To start your career training today, 
apply now or call (585) 232-2730 ext. 235 with any questions.

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