Capital District Educational Opportunity Center (EOC)
a division of Hudson Valley Community College
Success Stories - Service Programs

Amy Rivera

Graduated: 2005

Ms. Amy Rivera, the single mother of two young sons both under the age of six, was referred to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center Bridge program in September of 2004. Amy completed the two-week Bridge Assessment component by October and enrolled in the Culinary program full-time. During the academic year, and in addition to her daily responsibilities to both her children and educational pursuits, Amy volunteered to represent the Capital District EOC Culinary program at the Annual Legislative Conference for the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican legislators Inc. in February of 2005. Amy graduated from Basic Culinary, enrolled in Advanced Culinary, and completed this program in April of 2005. She was hired by the Albany Marriott in April of 2005 as a full time Station Attendant. Amy was invited back as a guest former student speaker at the 2005 April Employer Recognition breakfast held by the Capital District EOC employment services and addressed the audience about her accomplishments and success as a Culinary graduate.
EOC Program(s):

Glenn Guerriero

Graduated: 2002

Their Thriving Business Has Earned National Attention

Glenn Guerriero and his wife, a cosmetologist, moved from Brooklyn to Saratoga Springs and wanted to open a family opened business. Both Glenn and his stepson, Paul Wartel,l graduated from the EOC's Cosmetology Program and soon after achieved their family dream by opening their own salon, Brooklyn Attitude, in Saratoga Springs in 2003. Their thriving business has earned national attention for its innovative styling techniques, New York City themed décor, including subway beams and a mural of the Statue of Liberty, and its community outreach, including a recent make over of the Saratoga Springs mayor.


EOC Program(s):

Melissa Jarvis Bauder

Graduated: 1995

Cosmetology Program Springboard To Beauty Career
Bauder has given back to the EOC by doing in-class presentations and donating supplies so current students can be successful in their training.

Melissa Jarvis Bauder had tried business courses, but she found it was not for her. She heard about the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center through a television ad and, with the encouragement from her stepmother (“You were always good with hair!”), she enrolled at the EOC in fall 1994.

Melissa found the EOC was just what she needed. She was impressed that the instructors “went the extra mile” by providing emotional support as well as sound theoretical and practical instruction. Melissa especially took heart from her instructor Doug Ivy’s encouragement.

Melissa graduated in 1995 and worked as a cosmetologist, building her clientele. She began working part-time for the Wella Corporation, a major supplier of beauty products, teaching classes while working as a hair stylist during the day.

In 2000, she took a full-time position at Wella as a Salon Service Educator. In 2004, she was promoted to a sales manager position in charge of sales for a large geographical area covering more than eight New York State counties. She has given back to the EOC by doing in-class presentations and donating supplies so current students can be successful in their training. Melissa is forever grateful to the training the EOC provided.


EOC Program(s):

Michael Buonagura

Graduated: 1992

Cosmetology Graduate Combines Career, Song
Along with his business, Buonagura is a multi-talented musician who has performed throughout the area.

Michael Buonagura, a 1992 graduate of the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center’s Cosmetology Program, was the recipient of the 1993 Richard “Butch” Anderson Award, in recognition of his success in overcoming personal hardships and of his dedication to the CDEOC.

After working in a salon for eight years, Michael struck out on his own in 2001 when he took ownership of Michael John’s Men’s Hair Styling and Salon. In addition to operating his thriving business, Michael is a multi-talented musician who has performed with several bands in local clubs throughout the area. He and his wife live in Albany with their two children.


EOC Program(s):

Doug Ivey

Graduated: 1984

Graduates Finds Success Through EOC, Then Returns to Teach Others
"It wasn't hard work," reflected Doug Ivey years later, "it was smart work!"

Before coming to the EOC, Doug Ivey had "good jobs and bad jobs." He was working as chief engineer at a hotel when personal problems, combined with unhappiness with his job, made him search for a new career. He found out about the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center through his sister, who had graduated from the Center in 1980. Enrolling in 1983, Doug initially didn't take the program seriously, but he soon loved the classes and instructors. "It wasn't hard work," reflected Doug years later, "it was smart work!" Doug graduated in 1984 from both the Cosmetology and Esthetician Program. A year later, he opened up his own salon, Unique Dimensions Hair Design on Central Avenue in Albany.

In 1993, Doug was hired as a part-time instructor at the EOC as a grant-funded Bridge instructor. Two years later, he was hired full-time by the EOC. Because of his own past experiences and because of his caring, compassionate teaching style, Doug has been an inspiration and a guiding light to his many students. His passion for the EOC and its mission is seen in both the classroom and in his strong advocacy for the Center's programs, including his starring role in the original EOC commercial. He has hired EOC graduates to work in his salon and has helped hundreds of others find gainful employment in area shops.

In August, 2000, Doug shared his expertise on a state-wide level by conducting a workshop at the New York State Cosmetology Association Conference at SUNY at Binghamton multi-cultural techniques workshop. Doug partnered with Jonathan Perkins, a Rochester EOC cosmetology instructor, in a three hour presentation on multicultural styling techniques and procedures. Doug recently was promoted from instructor to assistant professor in the CDEOC Cosmetology Program.

Doug was highlighted in the first issue of "Stepping Stones to My Success," a compilation of EOC success stories. For his 18 year commitment to the EOC, Doug was recognized in May 2001 as the first recipient of the CDEOC’s Distinguished Award.


EOC Program(s):

Virginia Berrios

Graduated: 1982

Finding Career and Love Through Cosmetology
"EOC graduates are very employable and ready to work." Virginia and Tony Berrios

Virginia Mattacchiero, tired of her job as a waitress, was referred to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center’s Cosmetology Program by a former student. She enrolled in September 1981 and was impressed with the quality of the teaching offered. Virginia loved all aspects of the program, especially the additional training workshops in sculptured nails that were held in conjunction with Nu Day, a Schenectady-based beauty supply center. From this experience, she was able to become a mentor to other students, sharing her expertise with others.

Through classes offered by Nu Day, she was introduced to Tony Berrios, owner of Perfect Cuts Hair Styling Salon, who hired her after her graduation in 1982. Their working relationship slowly developed into a personal relationship, and they were married five years later. The couple has a long history of hiring EOC graduates. “EOC graduates are very employable and ready to work,” they commented. The Berrios regularly serve as judges at the EOC’s Cosmetology Program’s Styling Competition.


EOC Program(s):

Debbie Walker

Graduated: 1974

Seeing Debbie
"Debbie creates an atmosphere that is warm, supportive, and welcoming." Dr. Ann Marie Murray

Before she came to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, Debbie Walker had been working at a dead-end job in a supermarket. She had no direction and no life plan. Upon a friend’s recommendation, she enrolled in the EOC's Cosmetology Program in 1973. Although initially not sure if she wanted a career in the beauty field, Debbie soon warmed to the program and thrived on the encouragement she received from her EOC instructors.

Soon after her graduation from the EOC in 1974, Debbie obtained a hair stylist position at Hair Shapers in the 20 Mall in Guilderland. As her clientele base expanded, Debbie was able to open up her own hair styling salon, Contemporary Images, with a friend. She kept up with current trends by taking classes in cutting and hair color. As she gained experience, she shared her expertise at hair and color shows. She was on her way to a lifetime career in Cosmetology.

One of her loyal customers is Dr. Ann Marie Murray, a Capital Region resident who currently is vice president of academic affairs at Broome Community College and a former long-time employee of Hudson Valley Community College. Dr. Murray praises both Debbie’s technical and people skills. “Debbie creates an atmosphere that is warm, supportive, and welcoming,” said Dr. Murray. “It’s not just getting a hair cut; it is going to see Debbie!”

Debbie also has given back to her community. Joan Meyer, director of public affairs for Living Resources, first met Debbie at a cut-a-thon for the Leukemia Society. Since 1984, Debbie has overseen major fundraisers for Living Resources. “She has done it all, whether it is manning the phones, organizing volunteers, or personally fund raising by running cut-a-thons,” said Meyer. “She is our agency’s number one volunteer.” “If you had told me in 1974 I would still be cutting hair 31 years after graduating from the EOC, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Debbie. "But now I would not think of doing anything else. I love it!”


EOC Program(s):

Helena Srokowska Marsh

Graduated: 1971

Cosmetology Instructor Thanks EOC
"The EOC gave me the vocational training to do what I love." Helena Marsh

Helena (Srokowska) Marsh had tried her hand at many career paths when a friend told her about the Cosmetology Program at the EOC. "My parents thought that cutting hair was not a respectable career," said Helena, "but I loved the beauty field and wanted it as a career." She enrolled in September 1971 and found the program both interesting and challenging. There were times when she was fearful of not finishing, but through her own perseverance and the motivation and support of her instructors, she graduated in June 1972.

Helena moved up the ladder, first working in a small salon, then moving to a larger, full service center, and then opening her own salon in Amsterdam, New York. She obtained certification for vocational teaching through SUNY at Oswego and after teaching at various vocational programs, she obtained permanent certification and tenure at what is now known as the Abrookin Vocational Technical School in the Albany City School District.

Throughout her 20 years of teaching, she has kept in close touch with all of her EOC instructors and has brought her own students into the EOC to allow them to see the advanced methods used in the EOC classroom. Helena was instrumental in developing the agreement between the EOC and the Abrookin School in the acceptance of Abrookin graduates. She retired from teaching in June 2006 but continues running her own business, Desiree's, in Ballston Spa. "The EOC was great," said Helena. "It gave me the training to do what I love."


EOC Program(s):

Racine Day

Graduated: 2006

Single Mom Excels in Classroom and Life
Because of her determination, perseverance, and talent, Day was recognized with the Vice President's Award.

Racine Day was referred to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center by her Department of Social Services caseworker through the EOC’s Bridge Program. After completing Bridge Assessment, Day enrolled in the Culinary Program because she didn’t know how to cook and wanted to learn a skill. She found her first days in the program “invigorating” and soon realized that learning how to cook would lead to a career she loved.

For many EOC students, childcare and transportation issues result in poor attendance and discontinuance, but not for a woman as determined as Racine. A single mother of twin girls, Racine rose early each morning, dressed and fed her six month old babies, took a bus to their daycare, and then took another bus to get to the EOC. Despite these obstacles, she attended classes faithfully and was a top performer in her class, graduating with an “A” average and passing the National Serve Safe exam with an 89 percent score.

While enrolled, Racine participated in many EOC functions, including the Girl Scout Cookie Cuisine Competition, the EOC All Staff Christmas Buffet, and the Employer Recognition Breakfast. Racine also participated in an outside cake decorating class and utilized those skills to create beautiful and delicious cakes for the monthly birthday celebration for EOC faculty and staff. All these activities demonstrated her willingness to go beyond the expected to do the unexpected with her talents.

What most impressed her instructors was Racine’s maturity. Only 20 years old, Racine demonstrated initiative, reliability, and problem solving ability “far beyond her years.” These characteristics, so important in the quest to obtain employment and retain a job, earned the respect of her instructors, her fellow students, and EOC staff.

Because of her determination, perseverance, and talent, Racine was recognized with the Vice President's Award. She is a graduate of Schenectady County Community College and is currently working in the culinary field.


EOC Program(s):
Culinary Training

Robert Johnson

Graduated: 2001

Grateful to the EOC
"The CDEOC gave me the opportunity to change, and I just took advantage of that opportunity." Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson Jr. first heard about the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center when he was at Homer Perkins, a therapeutic residence in Albany. He initially started in the College Preparation Program, but he himself admits that he wasn't ready for the CDEOC.

Robert was in and out of treatment over the next few years, serving some time at Albany County Jail and losing custody of his daughter. Robert realized he needed to change. In order to get the education needed to effect that change, Robert enrolled in the Center's Culinary Program in 2000. A straight “A” student, he was recognized by his instructors a role model and motivator to his classmates. Joseph Forget, Culinary Instructor, called Robert "a shooting star" who each day focused on a new idea or technique to improve his skills.

He completed both Basic and Advanced Culinary, as well as Culinary Math and a Safeserve course in sanitation. As part of a class project, he and a classmate built a gingerbread house that placed second in the 2000 Festival of Trees competition held at Hudson Valley Community College.

As a result of his transformation, Robert was chosen as a student representative on EOC Day, which was held at the State Capital in March 2001. He also was the student speaker at CDEOC’s graduation the following May. On a very personal level, Robert has gained custody of his daughterm Shawnee. He now works as a residence manager at Project Lift and part time for Sodexho Marriott at the State Fair Café in the New York State Museum.

Robert is grateful to the CDEOC for his success. "The CDEOC gave me the opportunity to change, and I just took advantage of that opportunity,” he says. He comes back to the CDEOC from time to time to talk with and help motivate other EOC Culinary students.


EOC Program(s):
Culinary Training

Willie Mae Chapple

Graduated: 1999

Culinary Student Finds Career at EOC
"Willie Mae Chapple was a dynamic, creative student with incredible motivation in all aspects of her training." Joseph Forget, Culinary Instructor

Willie Mae Chapple, a 1999 graduate of Basic and Advanced Culinary Training programs, entered the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center as a single mother with no public assistance. While attending the EOC, she worked part time to support her daughter. Willie Mae was praised by her instructor, Joseph Forget, as "a dynamic, creative student with incredible motivation in all aspects of her training.” Her 1999 entry in the Gingerbread House competition, sponsored by the Albany Institute of History and Art Festival of Trees, placed third. She also received the Faculty Alliance Award for academic achievement.

After graduating, Willie Mae was employed by Quality Food Management as a manager trainee. Within three months, she was promoted to food service director of Chartwells Dining at Indian Quad at the University at Albany. Her responsibilities include purchasing all food and beverages, maintaining proper cost control, overseeing sanitation, preparing the menu for over 500 daily lunches, and supervising eight employees. Willie Mae married William Michaels, a 1998 EOC Culinary graduate. Willie Mae has not forgotten her roots at the EOC. She visits the Center often, inspiring current culinary students by showing them just how far they can take their EOC training.


EOC Program(s):
Culinary Training

Rhonda Nwakalor

Graduated: 2003

Former Social Services Recipient Finds Success in Health Field
"Thanks for your help, training, and belief in me!" Rhonda Nwakalor

Rhonda Nwakalor, a single parent of a teenage daughter, felt she was at a dead end because of her lack of formal training. She was referred to the Department of Social Services for supplemental services, where she read about EOC’s Nursing Assistant Program while researching viable vocational training programs. She enrolled in the six-week program in fall 2003. A week after her graduation in December she was hired by Ann Lee Nursing Home.

Rhonda continues to enjoy her job and her benefits. She is presently enrolled in the Nursing Program at Maria College through the Albany County Nursing Home tuition-reimbursement plan. One of the student speakers at the EOC's 2005 Employer Recognition Breakfast, Rhonda expressed her gratitude to the EOC. "Thanks for your help, training, and belief in me!" she stated.


EOC Program(s):
Nursing Assistant

Ida La Chance

Graduated: 2002

Nursing Assistant Grad Is Now LPN
"You have to have a goal and you have to work for it!" Ida La Chance

Ida La Chance dreamed about being a nurse as long as she could remember but it just didn't work out. She graduated high school, had a son, and eventually took a job with Altek, a steel piping manufacturing firm. When Altek began downsizing, Ida found herself out of work and on unemployment. She saw this as an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream.

Ida applied to work at Van Rennselaer Manor, and the nursing home paid her to attend the Nursing Assistant Program at the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center. Initially afraid to return to school at the age of 41, Ida, with the encouragement of her instructor Rob Faraone, found it was "not as bad as I thought!” She completed the program with strong grades and a recommendation from Faraone to pursue further education.

After working at Van Rensselaer Manor for a year, Ida enrolled in the Licensed Practical Nursing Program at Questar III. She attended classes during the week and worked at the Manor on weekends, a grueling schedule that she feels was well worth the work. In August 2005, she passed her state boards and is currently working at the Manor as an LPN. Her ultimate goal is to work as a registered nurse in a hospice setting. "You have to have a goal,” said Ida, “and you have to work for it!"


EOC Program(s):
Nursing Assistant