REOC Alumni Profiles
James Caldwell hasn’t let his past determine his future. After being released from
prison, James proceeded to take matters into his own hands and pursue his passion
for cooking. He enrolled in REOC’s Food Service Program and after graduating
he didn’t stop. James continued on to receive his Associate Degree in Food Service
Management and his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice.
James has an attitude of “giving back” and he has worked and volunteered for over
20 years in both the food service and criminal justice fields. He started the group
“Just US: Concerned Citizens of Rochester”, an organization that collects funds to
help those with criminal records and those recently released from prison. James has
been a mentor for men and women that were being released from State and Federal
prison, and through his many volunteer efforts he was recognized and received the
2014 ESL Jefferson Award.
James is seen regularly at the REOC B-Stro either assisting the REOC staff
or working in the evening with B-Stro to go. “His knowledge and expertise is
invaluable to the students! His pleasant demeanor, patience and smile make him a
great asset to the REOC.”
Bettmarie was living in Rochester and had moved here with no family around
to support her. She was working three jobs to support herself and her two small
children, as well as studying to obtain her high school diploma. Her real dream was
to become a licensed cosmetologist.
Things kept getting in the way of her dream, and she finally decided that she had
had enough. She knew she needed to build her own independence so that she could
give her children a better life.
Bettmarie enrolled at the REOC, and things started changing for the better. She
completed the program and obtained her license. She left REOC with knowledge,
experience, confidence, and more opportunities than she could ever imagine.
After working in a local salon, Bettmarie was offered a position at a high-end salon
and spa. She knew her skills, experience, and passion had now brought her success.
Bettmarie wants to tell others: “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is
ours to win or lose.”
English for Speakers of Other Languages; Licensed Practical Nurse
Marjorie had always dreamed of becoming a nurse. In her native Peru her father was a doctor, and when Marjorie was a child she would follow her father on his calls in the community. In her twenties she came to the United States and met her husband. She got married and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Work for her and her husband was seasonal and difficult. While Marjorie’s husband trained to be a truck driver, Marjorie studied in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program at REOC, worked as a Home Health Aide, and took care of her daughter.
She needed to improve her English skills in order to pass the entrance exam and be ready for her studies as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). She completed the ESOL program and was accepted into the REOC LPN program. Her studies were intense, through a series of events Marjorie became the sole financial supporter for her and her daughter. She persevered through the program, graduated at the top of her class, and was the first to pass her NCLEX licensing examination.
Marjorie is now a Licensed Practical Nurse at a local hospital and plans on continuing her education to become a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner. Marjorie says that she is “not stopping”, and that she is “ready to change the world!”
Sterile Processing Technician
Vickie Mason needed to increase her income, because she was welcoming a
new child into her family. She knew she needed more education and training
in order to prepare herself for a better career.
This was her time to make a change, like her mother had years earlier when
she attended the REOC. Vickie took classes and studied in the evenings, while
caring for and supporting her family during the day. She completed the Sterile
Processing Technician program and prepared for her certification exams.
Vickie sees her life going in a positive direction.
Her message to others is: “Never stop climbing the ladder, for it is said that
chance favors those in motion.”
Lymarie Ortiz knew in high school she wanted to start a career in culinary arts, but
college was the only option discussed. She knew college was not right for her at that
time. She worked hard in school, but knew hands-on learning was how she learned
best. She LOVED cooking and baking and wanted to make her passion her career.
She cooked for her family and dreamed of someday becoming a baker.
The hands-on learning at REOC helped Lymarie’s confidence and personal skills.
Her technical baking and cooking skills were strengthened every day. She knew that
the REOC could support her moving forward academically and with her testing.
Lymarie was able to try family recipes in the B-Stro and assisted at catering events.
She credits REOC with teaching her how to remain calm and positive under difficult
challenges and pressures, as she knew was required in the culinary industry.
She completed the Culinary Arts program and was immediately hired as a baker.
She says she still finds any way to learn and grow and to sharpen her creative skills.
Lymarie credits her faith for her strength. The verse that keeps her going is, “Call
to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do
Office Support Specialist
Donna Cook was faced with some health care concerns. The challenges she
faced could very well have derailed her or had her decide that her goals were not
achievable. Instead, Donna was determined to take control of her life. She found
work as a sales associate and quickly learned that she wanted more. She enrolled
in REOC’s Office Support Specialist program and gained confidence to perform
any task in an office and at the highest level.
Donna decided that she wanted to continue her education and attend college
after she graduated from REOC. As she was completing her studies at REOC
and enrolling in college, Donna was hired full time as an office support/
receptionist for a local medical association.
Donna is now working full time and attending college part time to obtain her
She wants to tell others that, “Life may knock us down, but we can choose
whether or not to get back up.”
Kameisha Sang wanted to be a cosmetologist. When she was in high school, she learned she could study cosmotology at REOC in the mornings and return to her school for the remainder of the day. She quickly applied for the opportunity and attended REOC during her last years in high school.
After graduating, she continued her studies in cosmetology at REOC in order to be able to take the New York State Board Examination. Kameisha didn’t stop there. She built her client base and networked every chance she could get. She now owns her own business and has won numerous hair show awards with photos of her work going viral.
She wants to tell others, “The best stylists keep learning and never stop.”
High School Equivalency Medical Secretary
Jasmine Torres had tried several times at several different agencies to complete her high school equivalency. Nothing seemed to be the “right fit”. She saw the REOC building and inquired about the programs. She organized her life and knew this was the time to make things happen.
Jasmine enrolled in the REOC and graduated with her High School Equivalency. After graduation she immediately enrolled in the Medical Secretary program and increased her skills.
She graduated from the Medical Secretary program the next year and is on her way to a career in the office and medical customer service fields. Jasmine says that, “Only I can change my life!”
Hazel Azcona always wanted to become a cosmetologist. She wanted to combine her background in communications and media arts with her passion for hair, makeup and nail technology. Hazel had practiced techniques with members of her family and her friends, but knew she needed formalized training to obtain her license. She didn’t know if she could afford to get the training she needed so Hazel kept postponing her dream.
She heard about the REOC from one of her mother’s friends. She learned that she could not only afford to get trained and start her new career, but that the quality of the training surpassed any she had seen.
Hazel completed the training and obtained her license. She is now a business owner with a steady set of clientele.
Hazel gives back to REOC through her volunteer activities and her constant promotion of the place that she credits for helping her make her passion her new career!
Deondra Dukes was sickened with a rare auto-immune disease that changed her life. She was incapacitated for many years and through her journey with the illness, she had learn herself all over again. As a result she decided to not let her illness dictate her life. She had a passion for hair and nails since she was a child. She decided that this was the time to go cosmetology school and get her license.
Deondra’s mother, brother, and friend all graduated from REOC, so she knew that REOC had a great reputation — it was an easy decision to apply. Throughout her training, Deondra realized that what she was told was correct: REOC has great training programs, amazing teachers, and dedicated staff that help student’s succeed.
Since graduating and obtaining her cosmetologist’s license, Deondra has established a set of clientele, worked in a salon, and now is self-employed. She is so glad she took control of her life and is in a dream career doing something that she loves.
Her message to anyone thinking about REOC is, “No matter what challenges you may face in life, have faith and continue to press toward your goals, because pressure can make you better.”
Melinda Le was a single mother and she was being faced with many of life’s challenges. She knew that she needed to start a career not only for herself, but also to support her and her son. She knew that she wanted to be a good role model for him.
Melinda found out about REOC at a community event and applied for the Cosmetology program. She credits REOC for not only providing her the quality career training that she needed to change her life, but also the ability to build her confidence for the workforce.
With the training she received at REOC, Melinda was able to work in various salons and build confidence and clientele to eventually own her own nail salon. Melinda has owned Nail Trix Salon for the last eight years and has a growing business.
She wants to tell potential students, “The glass is not half empty or half full because it’s always fillable.”
Certified Nurse Assistant; Licensed Practical Nurse
A family friend told Safa Rabah-Muhammad to seek out the training offered at REOC. As a single mother with two small children, Safa desperately needed to obtain a job with a good wage. Her son has sickle cell anemia and she was inspired to study all she could about health and health education.
During her programs, Safa gained the confidence she needed to be able to serve patients well and to be able to advocate for her family and friends in health-related issues. Safa completed the Certified Nursing Assistant program and worked in the field for many years. She returned back to REOC and completed the Licensed Practical Nurse program. She continued on to college, becoming a Registered Nurse, and earning a bachelor’s degree. After working as a Rehabilitation Nurse she wanted to give back to REOC. Safa is currently an instructor at REOC shaping the minds of future nurses.
Safa says, “We are all created with gifts and talents. A good education helps
you discover and develop your talents. Life is fulfilling and meaningful when
you can share your talents to help others develop their own.”
Andrea Mason heard about REOC from her friend at church. She had always debated becoming a fashion designer or a cosmetologist. Before hearing about REOC, she thought cosmetology school would be more expensive, so she started a college journey and quickly decided that cosmetology was more in line with her career goal.
After graduating from REOC’s Cosmetology program, Andrea established herself in a salon and grew her clientele. She worked hard and eventually opened her own salon. She says that by training at REOC, she was able to obtain a career with growth potential and in a field that she enjoys.
Andrea says, “REOC gives students the ability to start a career quickly and without debt.”
Attia Wall heard about REOC from her sister and other REOC alumni. She knew that her job in a call center was not a secure field, even though she had been in this position for 10 years. Attia knew that she needed a change and to take that step toward a career and moving away from just having a job.
She enrolled in the REOC Medical Secretary program so that she could utilize her excellent customer skills and computer skills and enhance them with medical billing and coding. Attia knew that this would propel her into a career in healthcare that would sustain her for many years.
Because of her training at the REOC Attia was promoted in her current position, has been given the responsibility to train others at her company, and now has the confidence to move toward a career in healthcare whenever she wants.
Attia’s message to others is, “DO IT! The only things you can’t do are the things you don’t do.”
Brielle Salandy thought that she had no hope to ever further her education. She dropped out of college with, in her words, “a horrible transcript and no motivation.” She saw herself “becoming something that she wasn’t.” Her faith, hope, and dedication to anything was slowly drifting away.
She heard an ad for the REOC and decided that she needed to change her life around. As a result of attending REOC her life changed drastically. She found that passionate, hard-working woman inside her. With the support of her teachers, staff, and family she excelled in her program and had the courage to continue her education.
After graduating from REOC, Brielle enrolled in college and received her associate’s degree. She is now continuing her education at The College at Brockport, studying Public Health.
Brielle wants to tell the current and future students of REOC to, “Believe in yourself, encourage yourself, and shoot for the stars!”
Ellen Reneé Johnson
General Office Skills
Ellen Reneé Johnson was a divorced single mom with four children to support. She had just been terminated from her job, had a high school equivalency, and was 23 years-old. She knew she needed a career to take care of her family. She heard about REOC’s General Office Skills program on the radio and applied.
By going to REOC Ellen was not only learning skills in the classroom, she discovered that she wanted to continue her education. After graduating REOC, Ellen secured full-time employment and while she was working and raising her family, she obtained her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees.
Ellen is a Senior Staff Accountant at a local college, is fluent in sign language, has received numerous academic and professional awards, and is a self-published author. Ellen wants to tell others, “When you make it, make sure you reach back and pay it forward.”
Licensed Practical Nursing
Sharon Stewart was a single mother when she began her nursing classes at REOC. She heard about REOC through some friends. At that time Sharon was working part-time and receiving public assistance. After training at REOC and passing the State examination, Sharon gained full-time employment, was now self-sufficient and was in a career that she loved.
Sharon continued her studies and became a Registered Nurse, receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing after further study. She wanted to give back to her community and Sharon does just that in her current position as a refugee program manager. She also continues to do volunteer work in her community and is a graduate of the United Way’s African American Leadership Development Program (AALDP).
Sharon says that as a leader it brings her great pleasure in knowing that her dedication and work is impacting the lives of the community. Sharon’s motto is: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Marla Dinkle was a young person who aged out of the foster system at 21. She had been told about all the things that she could NOT do as she was growing up. She was a single mother of young children when she heard about the REOC on the radio. Marla did some research, then enrolled and completed the Surgical Technician program. She worked in the operating room at a local hospital and through that experience she quickly determined that she could do so much more.
Marla enrolled in college and as she was working full-time and raising her five children, she continued with her education receiving a master’s degree in Social Work and is Doctoral Candidate for her EdD in Higher Education. She sits on several boards and has completed the African American Leadership Development Program (AALDP) with United Way.
She currently works for a local community college in a collaborative leadership position directing students on a post-secondary educational path.
Marla quotes Maya Angelou with her inspirational piece that has sustained her through her journey: “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust I’ll rise. You may shoot with your words, you may cut me with your eyes. You may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Licensed Practical Nursing
Anthony McAbrew wanted to be a nurse and help others. He was preparing for his exit from military service and came across a flier for REOC’s Licensed Practical Nursing program. The application and entrance requirements were challenging, but Anthony’s passion and determination made him an excellent program candidate. Anthony’s choice to attend REOC was simple. He wanted to stay in the community that he came from, and it was important to Anthony to learn in and to give back to his community.
Anthony credits REOC for helping him to hone his natural leadership skills, increasing his patience and resilience, and rising to accept and address new challenges. He completed the program and passed his NCLEX examination to receive his license.
He has been employed as a nurse since graduation as well as being on active duty assignment in Virginia and Fort Drum. His next step is going back to active duty and completing his Bachelor of Science in Nursing and continuing on for his master’s and doctorate degrees. Anthony’s drive and determination will guide him through his plan.
Anthony’s words of advice are, “Stay focused. Every day is different and the more that you prepare for success, the greater the chance you have to succeed.”
Jose Santiago found that there were many challenges in his life. He could see that he was being indecisive, and his decisions were inconsistent. He needed to make a change. He knew that he loved to cook, and he could increase his skills and get the certifications he needed to be successful in something he was passionate about. Jose researched REOC and found that the Culinary Arts program combined his passion for cooking and his desire for learning.
The structure in the Culinary Arts program was just what he needed. He applied himself and found that he had good organizational skills and motivational skills for others. The program and the structure helped Jose to become more confident in his goals and his skill level.
He completed the Culinary Arts program and decided to serve his country. He is currently a United States Army recruit.
Jose wants to tell others to, “Know what you want and remember why you want it. It’s all about priorities and the values thereof.”