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Graduate Profile : Denise Romero

Milan Institute Graduate Shares Her Journey To A Rewarding Career

Milan Graduate Shares Her Journey To A Rewarding Career: Denise Romero

Milan Graduate Shares Her Journey To A Rewarding Career: Denise Romero

To listen to Denise Romero talk, you would never guess the level of despair and hardship she has faced. However, adverse circumstances are not always a limiter of success. Denise has been able to rise above her troubles, and today, she exudes happiness, confidence, and a spirit of determination.

At one point, after her husband lost his job of over 30 years and experienced tragedy in the death of his 14-year-old daughter, Denise and her husband found themselves in Central California without a home and not knowing where they were going to turn. “The first year here in Fresno was horrible. We sold everything just to get by,” Denise remembers.

There happened to be a Milan Institute campus just down the street from where they were staying. Denise had seen the Milan Institute commercials on TV and recalls: “Something kept telling me ‘do it, just do it.’ I had to believe that something good would come out of it.”

Despite not even having enough money for gas to drive, Denise was determined to find a way, even if she had to walk to class. With that resolve, she went to the campus to enroll. “After that, everything just got better,” Denise says. Being a military veteran’s spouse, she found out that she was eligible for military spouse’s financial assistance to help offset her tuition. Things were finally looking up.
“The very first day of class when I walked in and saw my name up on the board saying ‘Welcome Denise,’ I knew I’d made the right decision by choosing Milan.” Denise was so excited about becoming a massage therapist that she never failed to complete any homework assignment and never missed a single day of class. Even a fear of taking tests didn’t deter her. Denise credits her fellow students for their teamwork, help and support in getting through the tough moments.

Fast forward and Denise is celebrating two and a half years of being employed as a Certified Massage Therapist with The Spa & Hungry Hair Salon, a premier full-service spa and salon in Fresno, California’s Fig Garden shopping center. “I was hired as soon as I met the owner, only one month after graduating. I was self-assured and ready to begin my career. My experience and training at Milan gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my goals. After graduating from Milan Institute, I have more freedom and confidence with a career I can be proud of,” explains Denise.

Milan Institute helped Denise change her life from being unemployed and financially insecure. “I highly recommend Milan Institute to everyone,” she says. “I also regularly encourage people to make use of the value-priced student salon and spa services at Milan Institute for a fraction of the regular cost.”

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Featured Graduate: Christina Casteneda

Milan Institute Graduate, Deira Valadez

“I was a very shy girl who lacked confidence,” recalled Christina Castaneda about her pre-cosmetology days. She decided to enroll at Milan Institute of Cosmetology in La Quinta, California, to overcome her shyness and build up her confidence. Before starting the Cosmetology program, she had recently been laid off from her job. She decided to go back to school because, as a single mother, she wanted to provide a better life for her child, “I wanted to show my daughter that the sky is the limit,” Christina said.

Although she faced many obstacles while enrolled in the program, including a custody battle for her daughter, Christina’s time at Milan Institute of Cosmetology was unforgettable. According to Christina, “My experience at Milan improved my self esteem. If it wasn’t for the love and strength I received from the instructors, students, and staff who helped me along the way, I might have quit school and given up on my dream.” Christina successfully completed her training in about 13 months. “At the time, the program seemed like a very long road, but when I reached the end, I experienced a feeling of pride that I will never forget,” she said.

Since graduating, Christina has become a hairstylist at the Great Clips salon in La Quinta. Regarding her new career, she declared, “I love what I do. My manager is an amazing hairstylist and a role model.” According to Milan’s career services staff, “Christina is currently being considered for a salon manager position with Great Clips. The salon manager has asked us to send them twenty-five more graduates just like her.” Christina has a passion for making people feel good about themselves. She revealed, “The real reward is to see a huge smile when the client gets up from my chair. It’s a very satisfying feeling.”

Christina continues to dream big. She is currently enrolled in school pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and marketing with a long-term goal of someday owning several salons. When asked what advice she would give to future Milan students and graduates, she recommended, “We all want a better life, whether it is financially or enabling our kids to live more comfortably. No matter what happens in life, keep pushing forward and strive to accomplish your dream. Dreams do come true!”

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Featured Graduate: Renolyn Fuller

Milan Institute Grad | Renolyn Fuller

With a little help from Milan Institute’s career services staff, recent graduate Renolyn Fuller has already found employment at HD Retina Eye Center in Reno, Nevada. Renolyn started working with HD Retina Eye Center just one week after completing her Administrative Medical Assistant program and externship in May. “There’s a lot to learn as an ophthalmic assistant for HD Retina Eye Center but going to Milan institute has prepared me for any challenge and I love the fast pace of the office,” said Renolyn.

Renolyn had been a stay-at-home mom to 2 teenagers for several years before she enrolled in the Administrative Medical Assistant program at Milan Institute. After being at home for that long, Renolyn realized that she needed more skills to rejoin the work force. “Milan fit the bill perfectly. I was looking for something that would allow me to learn a new trade and also something that wouldn’t take too long to accomplish,” she said.

Renolyn completed her program and externship in ten months and said she couldn’t be happier with her experience at Milan Institute. “I never imagined that I would go back to school at my age. Milan made it very easy to make that possible. The staff at Milan Institute does everything to help you succeed,” she explained. She also credits her instructor for keeping her motivated and always striving to do her best.

She genuinely values the relationships that she developed with her classmates at Milan Institute. Recalling that, “My greatest memories are of the people I met. Six of us started at the same time and we tried to keep each other motivated even when things seemed difficult. Thankfully, we all made it through the program and now have an experience we’ll always share.”

Encouraging other students to never give up on their goals, Renolyn pointed out that it can feel overwhelming at times, trying to balance everything and get all the homework done. “You have to be prepared for a lot of homework, but in the end it’s all worth it,” she commented. “Just remember that nothing worthwhile comes easy. If I can do it, anyone can.”

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Featured Graduate: Bubba Arredondo

Milan Institute Graduate | Bubba Arredondo
Bubba Arredondo, a 2011 cosmetology graduate, set his sights on working in the beauty industry early in life. “When I was a child, my mom would take me along when she went to get her hair and nails done at a local salon,” he explains. “The work the stylists’ did and their talent awed me. I always knew I wanted to become a cosmetologist some day.”

While enrolled in an independent study high school, Arredondo heard about the Cosmetology program at the local Milan campus where he lived in Visalia, California. Wanting to get a better idea of what beauty school was actually like, he contacted Milan and set up a tour. “I loved it. It looked like a really fun environment and I knew it was just what I needed to get started toward my dreams of becoming a cosmetologist,” Arredondo said of his tour experience. Immediately he set to work on finishing his high school studies and then enrolled at Milan Institute of Cosmetology.

n the beginning, he found the cosmetology program to be a struggle for him. “I really had to learn how to study and work extra hard,” he reports. He considers completing the program and passing his state license exam to be his biggest accomplishment to date. “I graduated only the day before my scheduled testing date. I may have cut it close but at only twenty years old, I am proud to say that I did it,” he exclaims.

Currently employed by Shear Diva Salon in Visalia, California, he now works full time as a nail technician. This might surprise some of his former classmates and teachers. While in school, Arredondo loved cutting and styling hair but not doing nails. “I didn’t like doing nails at all,” he admits. It wasn’t until he became a licensed cosmetologist that he took a real interest in manicuring and now he specializes in nails. “I love making my clients happy. Most of them tell me to do whatever I want and just go crazy. Their fingers are like my canvas.”

Arredondo believes that it’s important to remember to never give up on your dreams. “You may face struggles along the way, but always do your best. Eventually you will succeed. I’ve accomplished so much, and my journey has just begun.”

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Featured Graduate: Judy Martell

Milan Institute Graduate, Judy Martell

In this issue, we catch up with 2013 Dental Assistant graduate, Judy Martell from Milan Institute in Nampa, Idaho. Judy now works as a dental assistant at the general dentistry office of Dr. Loren Francis, DDS. “The best thing about working for Dr. Francis,” says Judy, “is working with my patients and being able to talk to them. I love that I get to perform the work that I really enjoy.”

Even before becoming a dental assistant, Judy was a very busy woman. She owned and ran her own preschool, was wife to a husband that worked out of town a great deal of the time and was a super busy mom of seven kids in a blended family. Even with all of this on her plate, Judy felt she was ready for a new challenge. When she heard about Milan Institute on a television commercial, she decided to stop in at the Nampa campus and talk to an admissions representative. “At my age, I wanted to get into the field quickly, and I didn’t want to spend four years in college,” says Judy. “I felt like Milan and the Dental Assistant program would be a good way to reach that goal.”

Judy had worked previously as a certified nursing assistant, so she already knew that she wanted to work in a medical-related field. “I am compassionate and caring and enjoy helping people. I had considered going into the Medical Assisting program but I didn’t like the thought of being stuck with needles!” she admits. She chose the Dental Assistant program because she felt it would work the best for her lifestyle. The hours of the evening program at Milan were a big help to Judy in trying to fit school into her busy family life.

Reshaping her home and family schedule around her school schedule proved to be a major challenge. She had to make many sacrifices including missing out on her kids’ sporting events and various family functions. Judy’s older children provided a big help to her in making it all work out. They were able to help around the home when she was busy with studying and school. For Judy, her biggest challenge was trying to achieve perfect attendance. “I ended up missing only one day,” says Judy. “It was a tough decision, but my daughter was receiving an academic award at school, and I decided that was where I needed to be.”

“I feel like my biggest accomplishments in life are my kids and my education,” Judy says. “I have worked hard to get to where I am.” Her best advice she would give to her fellow Milan students is to stick with it even when it seems difficult and overwhelming. “Work hard to keep good grades and have a positive attitude,” she says. “You’ll make it, and having a successful career will be worth it in the end.”

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Featured Graduate: Christina Miller

Milan Institute Graduate, Christina Miller

Prestigious El Paseo Drive in Palm Desert, California, is where you will find 2012 Cosmetology graduate Christina Miller. Christina, a graduate from Milan Institute of Cosmetology in La Quinta, California, is a stylist at The Last Tangle salon in the El Paseo shopping district. “I specialize in hair and makeup, and I do a lot of special events like weddings, proms and birthdays. I’ve also done a few fashion shows for Spotlight 29 Casino in nearby Coachella, California,” says Christina.

While having had an interest in cosmetology for several years, Christina was taking classes at a community college as well as working part time as a nanny, and high school cheerleading coach before she finally decided to take the next step and turn her interest into a reality. When she decided that she was ready to enroll in a cosmetology program, she did her homework and visited a number of schools before making her decision. “First impression is everything,” Christina says. “After taking the introductory tour at Milan, I felt that compared to the other schools I’d visited, Milan outshines them all.”

While in school Christina recalls that she struggled with certain aspects of the program. “An obstacle for me personally was attendance. I was constantly late, absent or leaving early. It wasn’t because I disliked the program. It was because I felt like I knew it all. I only wanted to be there if my own personal referrals were coming through the door.” Christina notes, “While I was in school, I was constantly given clients who requested highlights, and it used to drive me nuts because it wasn’t something I liked to do. Today I am so thankful for the entire experience. All of that practice in school made me faster and more knowledgeable about highlighting. Now, highlighting is one of my primary moneymakers.”

Another difficulty for Christina was learning aspects of cosmetology outside of hair design. “Even though I made it through the skin care and manicuring areas of the program,” she says, “they were probably the toughest subjects for me. My interest in those areas just wasn’t as high as it was in hair design.” Christina credits Milan’s instructors and staff with helping her along by motivating her, not giving up on her and pushing her to succeed.

“I met Christina when she came in for her initial campus tour,” remembers Stacey Kane, Admissions Representative at Milan Institute of Cosmetology in La Quinta. “I have to admit, I followed her progress while she went through the program, and there were moments when we weren’t sure Christina was going to succeed. She struggled through school with attendance.” Adds Stacey, “I was so pleased when I saw her pull it together, graduate and immediately secure a booth rental on El Paseo, the desert’s own ‘Rodeo Drive’. She’s made a success of herself as a professional stylist, and I am especially proud of her.”

If there’s one thing that Christina wants to impart to current Milan cosmetology students, it is to take every advantage the program offers. “You’re in school for 1600 hours, and then you’re done and on your own. Don’t waste any opportunities. Be there on time, take every client you can and don’t be afraid to try something new.”

Recently Christina was invited to be a guest speaker for current cosmetology students at the La Quinta campus. Only two years out of school, she shared with them the sense of accomplishment she has from successfully working in a salon on El Paseo Drive. “I love my clients and what I do,” she shared. “Every day I walk into the salon, I know I am going to be making people look and feel better than when they came in. It may sound cliché, but it is truly an incredibly rewarding feeling.”

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Featured Graduate: Rebecca Schembri

Milan Institute Graduate | Rebecca Schembri

Have you ever wondered how many different ways there are to put a cosmetology education to use? Just look to Rebecca Schembri of Reno, Nevada for an inspiring example. Rebecca is a proud graduate of the Milan Institute of Cosmetology campus in Reno, Nevada. She is a resident stylist for the beautiful Salon 215 South, located in midtown Reno and also works with the best regional talent in the beauty industry on projects for television, film and photo shoots. You’ll also want to stay tuned for her upcoming appearance on The Plush Life television show as Salon 215 South’s new premiere hair and makeup artist.

Rebecca balances her professional time between hairdressing and educating in salons nationwide. She has an online magazine, Your Personal Stylist and is the only TIGI® Colourist Ambassador in the state of Nevada. She will also be the lead hair and makeup artist for the Mrs. USA Universal pageant in Reno coming up in June 2015.

It was during a difficult period in her life that Rebecca learned about Milan Institute of Cosmetology. She was a single mother of three kids and unemployed after losing her job due to the recession. The State of Nevada Division of Welfare required that she either find a job or enroll in school. “Companies in my previous field of real estate leasing still weren’t hiring, so I chose beauty school,” says Rebecca.

One of the most difficult elements of going to school for Rebecca was not having a steady income. State welfare helped out with food for her and her kids, and she received federal grants and loans to pay for her tuition. “I had to have faith ?that one day I would be able to support myself.”

About six months into cosmetology training at Milan, Rebecca experienced another difficult setback. “My mom gave us sixty days’ notice and asked us to move out of her house. I was unemployed, had seven months until I would graduate and now my children and I were going to be homeless.” Though the financial stress weighed heavily, Rebecca realizes now that her mother believed she could do it on her own. “I was scared and angry, but I dug deep, rented an apartment and made it work. My mom’s actions forced me to be independent. I thank her for that now, and I still give her flowers on Mother’s Day,” laughs Rebecca.

At Milan, not only did Rebecca learn about the beauty industry, she also learned how to run a business, and how to think positively and set goals. “Those are skills I use every day,” says Rebecca. “I recommend Milan to prospective cosmetology students because I believe that I received a superior education. Now I have a career that pays well and is globally recognized. I love that.”

Rebecca’s encouragement to those desiring to enter the beauty industry: “Ask yourself, how soon do you want to be successful? If the answer is right away, then you must do the things that will drive you to success right away. Achieve excellent grades. Have exceptional attendance. Respect your instructors. Do your homework. Practice often and always work diligently. Most importantly, embrace your fear; set out and land your clients.”

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Featured Graduate: Ray Woods

Milan Institute Graduate | Ray Woods

Ray Woods, 2013 accounting graduate from Milan Institute, Visalia, California, didn’t fear what he would become after graduation. On the contrary, he faced his future straight on with confidence and enthusiasm, just as he did when he enrolled at Milan Institute.

Like many potential students, says Ray, “I was nervous and unsure of myself. I certainly wasn’t where I wanted to be in life at the age of thirty-two. I needed to take quick action and redefine the direction my life was heading.” Ray enrolled at Milan Institute and set his goals before the first day of class. “I would be at the top of my class, with a 4.0 GPA, perfect attendance, and I would exceed all expectations. These perhaps weren’t goals as much as they were demands that I had made upon myself,” he says.

As a student at Milan, Ray was focused and driven to succeed. The classroom environment, instructors and staff fostered these traits that pushed him to succeed. “My instructor was there to help whenever I needed additional explanations. Moreover, as graduation neared, she was even able to point me in the direction of an internship that turned into my first accounting job. When a new potential employer was hesitant to interview me, Milan made contact and helped me get my foot in the door,” remembers Ray.

Unlike other programs at Milan Institute, the Accounting program doesn’t have an externship that provides soon to be graduates an opportunity to work in real employment environments. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Ray. A few months before he graduated he sought out an internship at Community Services Employment Training (CSET) thanks to the advice of his instructor. The week he graduated it turned into a part-time paid position with the possibility of becoming full time as new budgets were created. “CSET was a wonderful place to work, but I continued to look for full-time employment as the promise of a possibility is not a sure thing. I was highly selective in the positions I applied for, as the Professional Development courses at Milan had given me the confidence I needed,” says Ray. One position he applied for was a Corporate Accounting Officer position with Milan Institute. “On paper I was probably under qualified for the position, but with the support of the campus I managed to get a phone interview. The phone interview quickly led to second and third interviews in person. At least two other applicants were still waiting for interviews for the position, but I kept my confidence high as I left the interview and the next day I was hired.”

Ray has been working at Milan’s corporate office now for about a year and a half. “Prior to enrolling in the Milan Institute Accounting program I couldn’t conceive the possibility that I would be where I am now, but even this is not the end. Where I am now is simply the end of my new beginning. As life moves onward so, shall I. The choices you make will determine the path you take, and if you haven’t made the choice of enrolling at Milan Institute, I recommend you do. You never know where you might be in the future.”

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Featured Graduate: Kelli Torrence

Kelli Torrence, Esthetician, Forever AdoredAn affordable, short-term program and flexible class schedules are what attracted Kelli Torrence to the Esthetician program at Milan Institute in Clovis, California. “At the time,” says Kelli, “I was working as a professional makeup artist on TV commercials and corporate videos. Although I was able to maintain enough part time work to support my family, I knew that in order to take my career to the next level I needed to get my esthetics license.”

Heading back into a classroom environment was a little daunting. “I was nervous that I was going to be the old lady of the group. I graduated high school in 2002, college in 2005, and was married with a child by the time I started at Milan,” says Kelli. Much to her surprise, she discovered her classmates to be both younger and older. There was also a good mix of people in various life stages, some just starting out and others like her returning to school to further their education. “We helped each other, motivated each other, kept each other accountable and supported each other through the program. I would never have imagined that I would meet so many strong, intelligent women in one class,” says Kelli of her classmates.

With the fast pace of the program, it took a little of bit of adjusting to get her mind back into school mode. “I think my experience in the beauty industry helped me,” says Kelli. She remained focused on her goal and didn’t let self-doubt get in the way. “We can be our own worst enemy. There were times when I would get overwhelmed with school, work and family life, but I did my best to keep my eye on the prize,” says Kelli. Today, Kelli is a licensed esthetician working part-time at Estancia Day Spa and Salon in Fresno, California. In addition, she continues to grow her business Forever Adored makeup and beauty services where she recently added a cosmetics line and bridal division. She has also become certified in eyelash extensions and is now providing that service. “I love, love, love what I do,” exclaims Kelli. “I truly believe that I have the best job in the world.” You can check out some of
Kelli’s work at

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