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Student Success Stories

Your success is important to us at Empire College. Read more about successful students who attended Empire College.

Angela Zevon
Assistant Accountant
Manly Auto Center
Program: Specialized Associate Degree – Accounting (May 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: December 2011
High School: Casa Grande High School

Read more about Angela

My previous background was in quality assurance in the manufacturing field. I became a manager with a manufacturing company in Santa Rosa and opted for a voluntary lay-off. Then I decided to go into the child care field and did in-home care for four years. I loved what I was doing but learned that I needed separation between home and work.

Following that, I went through a medical crisis in my life. Once I was healthy and able to drive, I decided to go back to school. I knew that I needed to acquire more skills to be able to compete in the work force. I always liked structure, numbers and forms and, with the background I had, there was a lot of accounting tasks that I had done. I am a very goal-oriented person and needed to be challenged in my job. My sister had attended Empire College, graduated, and has been in her job for seven years.

I think my outgoing personality and willingness to learn were a plus in getting this job. I do bookkeeping – post car deals and do the daily deposits (we deal with a lot of different banks). It's different than what I learned at Empire College because we are using ADP's accounting system. However, since I had learned Peachtree and Great Plains, the transition wasn't so intimidating.

My advice to students is to make sure you call everyone back when you have your resumes out there. Even if it is a position you don't think you want, you do not know where it might lead. Have an open mind. I love what I am doing. I am not just doing one thing all day; there is variety. Everyone I work with is great, and my bosses are good teachers.

All of my teachers at Empire College were wonderful and very helpful. I enjoyed them all. Carol was a wonderful teacher and she made learning fun.

Barbara Abbay
Medical Assistant
Gordon Medical Associates
Program: Clinical Medical Assistant (February 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: October 2011
High School: Piner High School

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I had attended Empire College and earned my associate degree in the 80s. I got a job right away, then started having babies. After that I worked as a server for five years, but did not want to continue working nights and weekends. Since I was a child I have wanted to be in the medical field. Retraining for a career in health care was the best thing I have ever done. I got the best job in the world; I love it!

I was originally hired here to set up medical records. I started at that in the hopes of getting an "in" to become a medical assistant. Right now, I am cross training at the front desk and in the lab. I do spirometry, blood draws, nebulizer, and various treatments. Gordon Medical is an innovative health clinic, providing traditional and holistic medicine. I love my job and working with the doctors and nurses here, as well as the other Empire grads (there are three others). I am grateful every day to be here!

What classes were helpful in my present job? My aha moment was when I was looking in the medical charts and understood what was there! I recognize this language and the abbreviations. Every day I hear something I learned at Empire College. Recently I have been helping with blood draws and have found that, even if you have not done a blood draw in a while, it is like riding a bicycle.

It took me a while to get a job, so my advice to students is to be patient but be very on the ball. Apply for every job you can. Everyone is impressed with your employment portfolio. Employers would tell me they had already interviewed five people but had never seen a portfolio like mine with grades, certificates, etc. showcased. It really works! Most every interview I had I got a second interview. Don't get discouraged. The job that is meant for you will come to you. I know that 100% right now.

Betsabe Aparicio
Family Resource Assistant
Social Advocates for Youth, YWCA, Becoming Independent
Program: Legal Office Administration (June 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: January 2012
High School: Lewis Adult School

Read more about Betsabe

I never thought I would be doing this when I was in class. I thought I would be in an attorney's office. That is where I saw myself. Through an encounter someone else had with family law issues, I became aware of this need.

I have a client list of seven that I meet with on a weekly basis to determine what is going on in their lives, what barriers they have, and what has not worked in the past. I receive information from their social workers of any domestic violence or other issues. We discuss resources that are available in the community for them. Sometimes clients think they have wasted their time if they have utilized those resources in the past. I work with them for about eight weeks; visits can be here or at their home. If they do not have a home, then we meet at the Living Room or a park, etc.

A lot of local services are intertwined. Our clients are referred to us by the California Parenting Institute and CPS. In addition to SAY, I work for Becoming Independent and YWCA (a total of 55 hours per week). I have one Spanish speaking client at SAY, and the majority of my clients at the YWCA are Spanish speakers. I answer the hotline a portion of the day, so my bilingual skills are important.

The biggest challenge I have in my job is being emotionally detached. Certain things may trigger me to want to take clients under my wing and save them. Realizing that I cannot always change things is difficult. I must accept where they are and what they choose.

I have noticed that sometimes a client can be in such a panic that they don't see the big picture. For example, taking a bus is a better alternative than getting a car because the biggest priority is to keep their house. I try to keep clients aware of what they need versus what they want. We live in the moment sometimes and don't always do what is best. I try to help them see that now it is time to correct that.

The Empire skills I am utilizing are interviewing skills and being confident when meeting new people. With my legal skills, I understand restraining orders and child support. I document cases in Microsoft Office. My portfolio and the great reference letters I had from my instructors were very helpful. I liked the fact that instructors at Empire all had experience in the field for which I was training. That made it realistic.

I took a tour of Empire College when I was 17. I had a social worker because I was a teen parent. Since I did not have a social security number, I had to establish my residency in order to attend Empire College. When I wrote my letter to Immigration, I said: "I want to walk across the stage as a graduate of Empire College." My social worker inspired me and made me see the vision. That is what I want to do for my clients. I was 19 years old when I enrolled at Empire; I am 21 now with a 5-year-old daughter who is my inspiration.

Daniel Ryan
Senior IT Engineer
KLH Consulting
Program: Network Specialist (September 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: October 2011
High School: Santa Rosa High School

Read more about Daniel

I was laid off from the construction industry at 49 years old. Fortunately I qualified for retraining through Sonoma County Job Link. The process was to choose three schools to research. I checked out SRJC and ITT Tech as well as Empire College. My research indicated ITT is not as helpful with career services and job placement. Empire College met my needs because of the ability to get you back into the workforce quicker and the programs are certification driven. Empire College did a good job of giving me job leads.

There are at least six Empire College graduates working here who have been hired over the past 12 years, including my supervisor. I have been here five months and have recommended two other Empire College hires. KLH has over 50 employees and a diverse client base, located primarily in Sonoma, Napa and the Greater Bay Area.

Initially I was doing remote server maintenance. Now I do desktop support for clients and sometimes help desk, giving advice regarding networks, desktops, workstations, laptops, and servers. I work primarily with one client, a major health care company.

KLH also provides both on-premise and cloud services for its clients. We are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and also work with Apple products (mostly laptops and iPhones). I use a specialized Professional Service Application for work order tickets and use email heavily for communication.

My advice to students is:

  1. Listen when your teachers tell you the guy sitting next to you might be the one that helps get you a job.
  2. Work as hard as you can. Do your best. Get good grades.
  3. Develop a good personality. In IT there are a lot of people who don't make it through the interview because they cannot talk with people. Unless you are going to be a programmer, you need to be able to talk with people.


Dan suggested that Empire consider teaching a ticketing system of some sort. With AutoTask, every note, every stat can be correlated into reports to assess where time is spent and where resources are lacking. He also thought entry-level programming might be helpful.

He mentioned that CompTIA now has an IT health certification which emphasizes high-level security.

David Fackrell
Special Events Coordinator
DeLoach Vineyards
Program: Tourism, Hospitality & Wine Industries – Accelerated (June 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: November 2011
High School: Blackfoot High School

Read more about David

David's background is unique. He worked in corporate training in Japan for 18 years. He taught English to home-stay students in Sacramento. From there he went to Mexico for five years to teach. Now he is the Special Events Coordinator for DeLoach Vineyards. Here's what he shared with us:

I work with vendors, caterers, restaurants on various occasions/events that are held here – from corporate events to weddings and anniversary celebrations. I thought it might be more difficult working with brides because I am a guy; however, I have found that I can help get the groom more involved.

My main goal is to share what Sonoma County and DeLoach Vineyards offers to our guests. It is exciting because we are growing our events program and are working to expand our distribution to Asia.

Some of the people I work with now are past graduates of Empire; we are a close-knit group that continues to be a resource for each other. Social networking (Facebook and LinkedIn) is a big tool in our industry to help bring in visitors and guests. Networking is crucial in this field, and one of the advantages of Empire's program is that Sheri Eachus (Hospitality/Tourism Department Head) not only taught us the industry but introduced us to her connections. I continue to go to events held twice monthly by a concierge group.

When I was job hunting, I took my portfolio to every job interview. I added the hospitality certifications to my resume, which was a big plus. Having that, especially in this industry, shows you have the necessary education and experience. In the hospitality field, is a crucial tool in job hunting.

Most of the students at Empire are in a transition and have other backgrounds. They have lots going on in their lives. When you return to school, it's easy to get distracted with finishing classes and getting good grades. Those are important, of course, but it is also important to do your research on the industry while attending Empire. Be patient and persevere.

Johnny Romeo
PC Technician
Simple Office Solutions
Program: Specialized Associate Degree – Information Technology – Microsoft (April 2008 Graduate)
Date of Hire: March 2010
High School: New Vistas

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"Johnny has been gung-ho to learn and is becoming certified on Sharp copiers at Simple Office Solutions (SOS). About a year ago Johnny started coming into the store every couple of months looking for employment. He was always personable and networked effectively so that when we were ready to hire, Johnny came to mind," says Teisha Titus, office manager at SOS.

SOS has twelve employees, three of which were hired in the last few months. "We are not slowing down in this economy," said president, Tom Pierucci. SOS is a dealer for HP, Sharp, and Dell. They service and sell copiers, printers, computers, and fax machines, with their primary business being contracts for copier service. Along with a large number of local customers, they have national and statewide accounts, such as Homeland Security, Caltrans, San Quentin Prison, and DMV.

"Feedback from customers about Johnny has been great," Tom says. "We are a call center for problems, and it is important to keep things light and as positive as possible."

"Johnny definitely uses his own initiative and will do whatever is needed," adds Teisha.

Along with Jarrad Barone and Eddie Samuels, Johnny is one of three Empire graduates currently employed at Simple Office Solutions. Since being hired, Johnny has been removing viruses and installing drivers, performing QuickBooks file transfers, and supporting Outlook. He is hoping to train with Jarrad, who is the Mac technician, in the near future as well as becoming Sharp certified.

Johnny learned about Empire College through a family member who recommended he check it out. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College previously but preferred Empire College's hands-on instruction, a method best suited to his learning style. "I learn more that way," he says. Prior to graduating from Empire, he achieved his A+ certification.

Jon Nussbaum
Linux Systems Administrator
Disney ImageMovers Digital
Program: Specialized Associate Degree – Information Technology – Security (January 2008 Graduate)
Date of Hire: January 2010 (employed following graduation as a network specialist with Rotofactory)
High School: Montgomery (2004)

Read more about Jon

After graduating from Empire College, I landed my first IT job at Rotofactory, in Santa Rosa, CA. I spent a year and a half there as head of their IT department and was then approached with an opportunity to work for Walt Disney's - ImageMovers Digital, a company known for its motion capture performance recently seen in Disney's A Christmas Carol.

Currently there are 15 people in IMD's Information Technology department. We have a ticketing system that every artist has access to. Some of my responsibilities include answering to trouble tickets submitted by Artists, tasks from upper management that include hardware and software management and deployment, and development/troubleshooting current hardware and software issues with vendors and support groups. Our trouble ticketing system is accessible by any employee at IMD, where they state the problem that they're experiencing followed by a level of importance, and it's up to us to figure out how to solve these issues, in an according priority hierarchy. Anything from new keyboards to render blades that won't turn on, IT is on it round the clock!

Disney has made the decision to close IMD's doors after the completion of our next film, Mars Needs Moms, which will release in theaters March 2011. IMD will hold job fairs with other digital image companies within the industry and I hope to land a position that allows me to continue working with my fellow colleagues from IMD.

"One particular highlight of my visits with employers and graduates has been with Disney ImageMovers Digital. One of our I.T. grads was hired last December, after being recommended by his previous employer. His current boss complimented Jon for his training at Empire College and stellar work ethic as well as ability to use initiative in solving problems as they arise. He said he wouldn't be able to do his job successfully without Jon in his department."

~ Lucille Inman, Director of Career Services, Empire College

Kendall Rocca
Educational Aide
Anova Center for Education
Program: Computerized Business Skills (December 2011 Graduate)
Date of Hire: November 2011
High School: Montgomery High School

Read more about Kendall

I was hired one month before graduation because I started my job search personally ahead of time. When I first came into the classroom, most things were handwritten. I said, "This isn't organized. Let me type it up, and get it organized for you." I learned that the more organized you are, the easier your day will be.

We are a K-12 school for autistic children. Working with children with disabilities is very difficult. We have crises intervention training, and many meetings about how we can continue helping the students. I feel that my input is heard and valued when discussing what is best for the students.

The computer software skills I learned at Empire College have been tremendously helpful in my job. I have made tests and have revamped the entire banking system for the high school in an Excel workbook. (Students earn actual money to go on mall trips as a reward system.) I have been teaching my coworker how to maintain the Excel workbook, and she is very grateful for my help and excited to learn how to use the software.

The Career Transitions class with Carl Oeschger helped me very much. I learned a lot about myself, how to work with other people, how to tone down some of my characteristics and accept others better. Really, all of my Empire classes have been beneficial and applicable on this job. Being fresh out of school makes it easier for me to teach the students.

Prior to coming to Empire College, I had a certificate in childhood development from the National Homeland Security and mixed credits from SRJC in business and child development. I was teaching pre-school and had my hours cut back with the downsizing economy, so I decided to go in another direction. The biggest thing I obtained from Empire College was confidence that I have something to bring to the table, something of value that can help other people.

Cindi Ott, Jeanette Landin, and Rose Batzdorff were very influential instructors. I feel that I had a great relationship with all of my instructors, but those three stand out the most for me. I attended the Reno Air Races in 2011 where there was a horrifying accident. The support I received following the event stands out as being very true of the spirit at Empire College. They truly care about you and your success.

My advice to students is: you are going to get out of your Empire education what you put into it. I attended every day. Everything goes so quickly at Empire College; if you miss one day, you are already behind. You invest your money and time into this, so why not get everything out of it? I am the kind of person that if I got 99% on a test, I wanted to know what I missed and understand it.

Anastasia McCrary & Caitlin McAllister
Paralegals (left and right in photo)
Second from right: Orchid Vaghti, Attorney at Law, Empire College School of Law graduate

Law Offices of L. Stephen Turer
Program: Specialized Associate Degree – Paralegal (August 2008 & December 2010 Graduates)
Date of Hire: September 2008 & January 2011
High School: Murdock High School & El Molino High School

Read more about Anastasia & Caitlin

Stephen Turer: We came to Empire when we were looking for a temporary replacement. We were told Caitlin would be a perfect fit as an intern, and she was. She was within one month of graduation. We took advantage of as much of her skills as we could. When she started applying for other jobs, we knew we had to keep her. Caitlin has tremendous potential. She has good grounding and learns as fast as we can throw things at her. She is doing case law – drafting motions.

I have been very satisfied with the quality of the graduates from Empire College. Anastasia was hired from about 20 paralegal applicants. She has gone beyond our expectations. She is one of the most loyal, hardest working employees I have had.

I have taken all of our law clerks from Empire College School of Law, four in all. I only select law clerks from Empire College; they are very capable.

There are not that many new lawyers who have the experience to go to trial. I would not normally have a six-month attorney sitting in the second chair. They would not be ready for it. Seeing the practical points of the legal process through her Empire education gave Orchid an advantage.

Empire Law School gives people who have the ability to become lawyers, but can't stop and take three years off to go to law school, the opportunity. It is an untapped source of talent and has served a huge role. It allows people to improve their lives.

I have been in trial for three weeks. Everything went like clockwork at the office. They are one of the best – if not THE best staff – I have had. They are loyal, smart, helpful and friendly.

Caitlin: I have an AA degree and some units from San Francisco State. Of the 4-5 of us who started our Empire programs at the same time, all got jobs within 2-3 months of graduation. I really enjoyed Empire College and it got me a job that I really love. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to work here.

Anastasia: Going through a divorce, going to Empire College was a milestone in my life. I had been doing marketing and working on commission. I was a single mom. I have a lot of gratitude to Empire College because they placed me here. I love both of my bosses.