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Keila Alboro-Bandalan
Keila Alboro-Bandalan
Keila Alboro-Bandalan, of Makawao, Maui, Hawaii, fell in love with New York City when her mother took her there for her 16th birthday. "I've always been interested in fashion, but in Hawaii we're usually behind the latest trends and there's not much reason to get dressed up," she says. "New York is so vibrant and exciting I didn't want to leave."

When it came time to consider colleges, Keila focused on New York State. "Cazenovia College was the only school I found that met my requirements," she says, "and it offered the best financial aid and scholarships. Since I'm not that good at art, I didn't want to focus on design, even though that's part of why I'm interested in fashion. But I love to travel and thought if I was a buyer I'd get to travel and shop for a living." So she chose Cazenovia's Management Program, specializing in Fashion Merchandising.

"I like it here," says Keila, who has just crossed campus in an early-April snowstorm, "but it's so cold! When will winter end?" She noted that at home in Hawaii, it would be about 80 degrees and sunny. "On my first day here, I was in shock," she says. "We had just arrived the day before orientation started. There's a six hour time difference, so I was feeling the effects of that, and knowing that my Mom would be leaving the next day I was very homesick the whole first week."

"But since I'm from Hawaii," she continues, "everyone was curious about me, and the students and staff were really nice and welcoming. I'm normally very quiet and kind of shy, but people asked all sorts of questions about what it's like to live in Hawaii."

Keila chose a First Year Seminar that was related to her major. "I didn't realize that I could choose a totally different subject," she says. "But I'm glad I signed up for Professor Francine Varisco's Consumer Trends and Retail Marketing seminar. I learned a lot and I'm looking forward to taking more fashion and business classes. Most of my classes this semester are business related, although I'm taking a psychology class now, and it's interesting how the classical conditioning theory links with fashion advertising."

Being in the First Year Seminar with people who shared her interests helped Keila make friends. She's also pleased that she met Professor Varisco so early in her college career. "She teaches many of my classes," says Keila, "and she has some impressive connections in the fashion business world."

Varisco says, "Keila is an excellent student. She was a pleasure in class and I enjoyed getting to know her. My favorite thoughts of her are of when we spoke about the differences between East Coast and Hawaiian lifestyle and trends. Her funniest line was that she never had so many potatoes made in so many ways."

Keila has always been interested in fashion and says that her fashion sense was very different from that of her high school classmates and friends. "People always complimented me on my style and commented that I didn't care that I might seem 'over-dressed', which is what people back home would call it. The guys back home wear snap-back/trucker caps, surf shorts, plain t-shirts and slippers (you folks call them flip flops), and all the Hawaii girls wear 'beachy' clothing, flowing dresses, shorts and tops, and slippers (flip-flops) - nothing really outrageous, it's always something simple."

When she visited New York City, Keila's eyes were opened to the possibilities her fashion sense might provide. "I saw high heels in every form, color and design; leather knee-high boots, blazers, scarves, fancy dresses; street style, urban style, everything completely opposite from home. And nothing a New York City person wore was simple."

Simple has never been her thing, and Keila likes to make her own fashion accessories as well. She has made hair bows out of newspapers and colored duct tape, and jewelry out of recycled materials. "I always had crazy nail designs and I liked altering old clothes and making them new."

Keila had a glimpse of a possible future when she attended a panel discussion of visual merchandisers from a local Forever 21 store during her second semester. Alumna Melissa Poling '09, who teaches at Cazenovia, brought her associates, including Caz alumnae Alyssa Campagna '11; Amy Taranto '10; and Abby Howard '13, to campus to talk with students about their education and work experience.

Keila says, "The panelists went over a lot of the things I learned in my First Year Seminar and talked about the history of fashion and their work as visual merchandisers." The discussion made Keila's dream of living and working in New York City's fashion world more real, and makes the possibility of a career at Forever 21, which is her favorite store, seem within her grasp. For that she will even brave the cold Northeastern winters.

"Cazenovia College met my requirements and offered the best financial aid and scholarships."

Management - Fashion Merchandising
Makawao, Maui, Hawaii
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