When Maria Gonzales received a phone call about “finding your career,” she hadn’t really given the idea of going to school for career training much thought. “I was already working on getting my GED, and cosmetology school at that moment was not on my mind,” Maria recalled. Even so, Maria took the time to answer questions about what she would like to do for a future career. Soon, based on the information she provided, Maria was transferred to Milan Institute of Cosmetology, and she decided to enroll in the Cosmetology program at the Reno, Nevada, campus.

Starting out, Maria thought completing the program would be easy. She had no children, no boyfriend and thought she would have no obstacles to keep her from graduating. Looking back, Maria admitted, “I was wrong. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!”

While enrolled in the Cosmetology program there were a number of challenges she had to overcome, including having to work two jobs to help pay her family’s mortgage. “Suddenly, I had no time to rest. I would go to work at my first job, then go to school and then go to my second job to work the graveyard shift. It was a lot of hard work,” she said. Due to her busy schedule, she lost touch with many friends and missed spending time with her family. According to Maria, she came to a point where she was nearly ready to give up and quit.

Although she faced many challenges, Maria continued to work toward her goal: “My experience here at Milan was the greatest experience of my life. What kept me going was one simple word ‘graduation.’ For me it has so much meaning and emotion. Since I hadn’t graduated from high school, I was determined to graduate from Milan with the training I needed to begin a career.” In recalling her drive and persistence to complete the program, Maria revealed, “I have no idea where all that courage came from. I am very proud of myself!”

Maria graduated from the Cosmetology program in September 2012 and plans to work as a hairstylist for a year or two. Her future goal is to work as a stylist at runway fashion shows. She also hopes to donate her time and services to those in need.

As a graduate, Maria’s advice to current and future students is: “Do not give up! There might be struggles and obstacles that try to hold you back from finishing what you started, but it is worth fighting for. Listen to your instructors, be physically and mentally involved, and observe as much as you can. And most of all, be positive, be creative and have fun!”

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