Blog | Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute


  • Legal Assisting EDU Moment

    by Jessica Reynolds

    Without a doubt, my favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). I love the mix of comic book culture with scientific theories and other “nerdy” genres. The same can be said to describe myself. I enjoy playing MMOs, reading comic books, learning about new scientific discoveries, and…the law. Alright, now I know that last one doesn’t really seem to fit in with the rest. But trust me...“law” can be found in the most inconspicuous places, and can be quite fun, and interesting.

    For example, on TBBT, Sheldon is always referring to the fabled “Roommate Agreement.” Now, individuals living together can enter into a Roommate Agreement (It’s usually not as exhaustive as Sheldon’s), but they can also enter into a “Cohabitation Agreement.” So, why did the brilliant Sheldon Cooper choose a Roommate Agreement instead of a Cohabitation Agreement?

    A Roommate Agreement is a contract between two or more individuals living together regarding the general obligations and responsibilities they have to each other (not including the landlord). Some examples of typical inclusions are: amounts each roommate pays for utilities, responsibilities for overnight guests, and the protocol if a roommate decides to move out. A Roommate Agreement is not required; however, it helps set clear rules and responsibilities for everyone in the household, as well as a means to enforce those rules if and when they are broken.

    A “Cohabitation Agreement” (living-together agreement) is a contract between an unmarried couple to protect their rights as a couple along with clarifying their individual property rights and financial obligations. Some common provisions include childcare, dealing with debt (individual and mutual), ownership of property, and financial support. Although it’s not required, this agreement is very beneficial for unmarried couples who wish to protect their assets and interests in the event of termination of the relationship.

    In summary, a Roommate Agreement is ideal for those individuals in a short-term relationship looking to set clear rules and responsibilities for cohabitating together, while a Cohabitation Agreement is better suited for those in a long-term relationship that want to protect their individual interests as well as their interests as a couple. (Yes, Sheldon chose the best option for his circumstances!)

    *If you have questions about the above as it pertains to your specific circumstances, you should contact an experienced attorney to discuss your case.

    Jessica Reynolds is an Instructor for Ridley-Lowell’s Legal Assisting program.  Courses she teaches include litigation, criminal law & procedure, legal research and communication, and family law planning and probate. Her legal career spans more than 12 years in real estate, mortgages, divorce & family law, corporate compliance, case law research, and civil procedures. For more information about Ridley-Lowell’s Legal Assisting program, call 1-877-606-5325 or email us at

  • Esthetics EDU Moment

    by Jacqueline Pugliese, LE 

    For over a decade, light-emitting diodes – commonly known by the acronym, LED – have been used to treat skin for a variety of maladies. Until recently, one could only find this LED equipment in spas, esthetics institutions, and in the places of practice for licensed skin care professionals. Most recently, however, LED skin therapy products have begun to be marketed for home use. Coming in hand-held assortments, the LED equipment is becoming more affordable and widespread in its use. In Ridley-Lowell’s esthetic curriculum, students learn about LED in classes such as “Electricity and Machines” and “Intro to Paramedical”.  We discuss different treatments using LED light therapy. 

    Estheticians and other skin care professionals – and now the common consumer – use LED therapy for different skin ailments or for improving overall complexion. They work by releasing flashing light onto the skin to stimulate specific responses. Depending on the color of the light, LEDs treat wrinkles, stimulate collagen, reduce acne, heal and calm irritated skin, reduce redness and inflammation, minimize future breakouts, is good overall for “anti-aging” of the skin, and promotes better absorption of creams and serums.

    Different color lights are used for different results; LEDs are available in red, blue, yellow, or green. The red light is used for increasing collagen in the skin. It helps improve circulation and stimulation in the skin. The blue light is mainly used for reducing acne; it accomplishes this by killing the bacteria that causes acne and prevents future breakouts before the acne even appears on the surface of the skin. The yellow light is used for reducing swelling and inflammation and can be used for treatment after any skin-related procedure or treatment that may make the skin red, like waxing. And finally, the green light is used for reducing pigmentation in hyper-pigmented areas of the skin.

    LED skin therapy can also be incorporated into other procedures and treatments to enhance the efficacy of the product or procedure performed. If the treatment irritates the skin, LED skin therapy lights can be used to calm the skin. LED therapy can also be used to help serums and other topical treatments more effectively penetrate the skin.

    Though they are becoming more popular in home use, LEDs still need to be used with the same caution and care as they would be in any professional setting. LED skin therapy should not be performed on anyone with light sensitivities, phototoxic reactions, epilepsy, cancer, or is taking antibiotics, pregnant, or under a physician’s care.

    It is recommended to see your local skin care therapist before trying any new product for skin analysis and appropriate recommendations. The Ridley-Lowell Esthetic Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 9am - 5pm

    Ms. Jackie has been teaching at Ridley-Lowell’s Poughkeepsie beauty school for over 2.5 years. 

  • By Whitney Folan-Stewart

    Going back to school can be an overwhelming decision whether you are a recent high school graduate or someone who wants to make a career change. What college is best for me? How much time can I commit to learn something new? Will I be able to find work after I finish school? These are just some questions that may come to mind when you are making the decision to continue your education.

    Here are some of the reasons why students chose to attend Ridley-Lowell:

    Hands on Training: Everyone learns differently. Some people enjoy taking notes and some people are more visual. At Ridley-Lowell, our students gain the hands on training that prepares them for the exact job duties in their future careers. Our medical and dental assistant programs go a step further with providing the opportunity to gain more hands on training through externships with local medical and dental offices.

    Shorter Programs: Let’s face it, four years is long time to commit for school and not everyone has the time for it. Some of us are not exactly the “school type,” however; we know in order to obtain a great career that some form of education or training is necessary. Ridley-Lowell offers short certificate and diploma programs that can be completed in as little as nine months! We also offer flexible schedules with day and evening classes. The part-time evening programs allow students who work during the day to complete their education at night.

    New Skills: We teach you what you need to know. You do not have to take unnecessary classes or electives to receive your diploma. Our classes are tailored to each program so that you will gain the skills to obtain a career in the medical, business, or technical field.

    Smaller Classes: Going back to school is intimidating enough. Who needs the added pressure of large classrooms with hard to see white boards? You can easily get lost in a sea of students! At Ridley-Lowell, our classes are small and our teachers are able to come in early or stay late for one on one tutoring if necessary. Being a small school also allows you to network with other students, which can help you when job searching. Ridley-Lowell may be a small school, but we are one BIG family!

    These are just a few benefits to choosing a technical school. At Ridley-Lowell we understand the importance of an education and how it will help you have a successful career. So in your quest to find the perfect school, please count on us! 

    Whitney Folan-Stewart has been an Admissions Representative at the New London Campus since 2012

  • Medical Billing and Coding EDU Moment by Les Schwanfelder, CPC

    We’ve done it! A new era has arrived at Ridley for healthcare coding.

    As always, Ridley-Lowell is ahead of the curve and has taken a leap into the future with progressive thinking and planning. I am referring to the implementation of ICD-10-CM into the Medical Billing & Coding program. Although we see this opportunity as a no-brainer, most post-secondary schools are gun shy and reluctant to take the plunge after the unexpected delay signed by President Obama April 2, 2014 and are “waiting it out.”

    We, on the other hand, have taken a huge leap of faith with the expectation that ICD-10-CM will become a reality October 1, 2015, 12 years after its original implementation date! So beginning with the April 2015 class start, we had our inaugural launch of ICD-10-CM, although I admit that I have not yet discarded my ICD-9 tests and worksheets.

    Even though I have passed the ICD-10-CM proficiency exam, it will take time to know it inside and out like I did with ICD-9.  The ICD-9 has 14,000 codes and each code has 3-5 digits made up of numbers that are separated by a decimal point. That’s it. Period.  The new ICD-10 has approximately 69,000 codes and each code has 3-7 digits.  In ICD-10 the first “digit” is a letter. Huh? The 2nd and 3rd digits are numbers….ok, I can deal with that, BUT, the 4th-7th digits are up for grabs. They will be a mix of numbers and letters. What’s up with that? Oh, I forgot to mention, there is now a placeholder X in the 6th position. Who thought of this stuff? I don’t even want to THINK about obstetric coding! This is definitely not your grandmothers ICD-9!  It’s going to take time to reprogram this old brain.

    We can only hope that by introducing ICD-10-CM to our students now, they will have a leg up when ICD-10 finally goes into effect and can fill those job vacancies created by those retiring or leaving the field because they don’t want to learn a new system. You can’t always teach old dogs new tricks, but here at Ridley-Lowell, we give you the skills.

    I must admit, now that I am teaching ICD-10, it’s really easier than ICD-9 in a lot of areas. The codes themselves just look scary. O10.011 looks like a binary code to me but in ICD-10 it really indicates that the patient has pre-existing hypertension complicating pregnancy during the first trimester. Ugh! If this first group of students in ICD-10 is any indication of the future, physicians and providers take note. The future is looking GREAT.

    Happy coding!

    Les Schwanfelder, CPC, has been working in the field since 1999 and teaching at Ridley-Lowell’s New London campus for >5 years. 

  • Information Technology EDU Moment by John Adams

    Saving money is always a good thing, but not easy to accomplish, unless you know where to look. In this era of technology, there are vast numbers of computer programs which are free alternatives to software. In this Information-Technology blog, we will dive into the world of open-source software and show you some simple ways to get the most out of your computer for the least amount of money.

    You may find yourself wondering, “Just what is open-source software”? The answer has multiple parts. By pure definition it means the “source code” of the software is open and freely available to the public so that anyone can modify it and distribute it. This answer, however, may leave many asking “What does anything mean”? Bottom line, open-source software is an idea in which people can collaborate on a program and make it better as they add their own personal touches. In most cases it is freely distributed with the understanding that it is supported by the same people who write it. There are no warranties that come with open-source software and the only support you will find is from other people who use it or perhaps contribute to the coding and design of the software. If you don’t mind the fact that the software may have some rough edges, or may not be as polished as the paid software it is trying to replace, then perhaps you can consider trying some software alternatives that may make your life easier and help keep your wallet a little fatter.

    We will begin with the foundation of the computer itself, the Operating system. By now, we are used to the idea of Apple™ vs Windows®; the two major players when it comes to operating systems. However, most people overlook the bounty of open-source operating systems available today from basic needs like checking email and surfing the web, to extreme Home-Theater PC’s or video/audio editing. Linux operating systems have been powering computers and even web-servers for years. Many companies have begun looking to open-source as a way to cut costs and with the options available to the average or even the advanced computer user, it is easier than ever to obtain a complete operating system solution.

    The most notable and popular “free” operating system is Ubuntu. It is a Linux based operating system with compatibility for running many Windows® based programs. Several well-known programs for Apple™ can also be run on Linux since OsX is actually based on the Linux code structure. Ubuntu, is available in what has become known as “Flavors”, which are variations on the main program designed to suit specific needs. Some versions offer the user different interface choices, while other versions are custom tailored. If you were building your own DVR box to record your favorite shows there is actually an Ubuntu “Flavor” just for that purpose. One common question that seems to pop up is “What’s the catch?”

    •             It’s not Windows® or OsX®, but  the Ubuntu community does offer themes and styles which can help make the transition easy on someone who has only used an Apple or a PC.

    •             Not everything in the operating system is free. There are dozens of programs and add-ons you can install that do not cost you anything but there are also programs and games that you would have to pay for to be able to install. 

    For businesses and small office users, Ubuntu also provides solutions for server operating systems and cloud computing. They are currently working on producing mobile cellular devices that operate on the Ubuntu platform. Best of all, the systems resources needed to run Ubuntu are extremely low. This means, that if you have a computer that’s a few years old and you are not sure if you should try upgrading it or just junk it; you may very well be able to migrate to Ubuntu and find a whole new experience without the need to upgrade any parts at all! A huge win for you and your wallet!

    Moving along in the open-source landscape we come to a choice of office suite software that provides word processing, spreadsheets, slide-show style presentations and even data-base operations. It is critical for both business and home computer uses alike. In the world of office suites we know that Microsoft Office™ is the heavy-weight champion. The budget conscious user may not find the cost of the program to be something they can work with. Yet again, open-source software can be the difference between getting that report finished and handed in or scrambling to find some spare change in the couch so you can afford the paid software. In this section we will discuss two common open-source office suites, Open-Office and LibreOffice. Both of these free office suites are feature packed and provide all the tools you would expect from an office program. In fact, they even open each other’s native document types.

    You may be wondering the same thing so many others often do; “what is the actual difference and why do I need the two different programs”? Open-Office is maintained by a mainstream commercial company and tends to be updated far less often than LibreOffice. For this reason when there is an update it usually has many features or changes. LibreOffice is produced and written by a group of software designers with frequent community involvement which creates a much more steady update base. The more frequent updates do however tend to seem trivial or not very noticeable due to the fact that the changes happen at such a regular rate you may wonder “what actually changed”? Open-Office updates rather infrequently, so when they do you notice many new features and fixes. One interesting piece of trivia to share is that because LibreOffice is maintained by a software community and not a mainstream commercial company, things you can do in LibreOffice you may never be able to do in Open-Office because of licensing issues. So if you fancy yourself a bit of a risk taker, and like the latest and greatest software, then LibreOffice may be worth an install. If you prefer to have a program with a little more polish and thorough development testing then you may find Open-Office to be your suite of choice.

    Our final stop on this Open-Source tour is a little place called Photoshop. You can’t turn a page in a magazine or read a posting on social media without hearing about people who are always “photoshoping” this or that. Even the home photographer likes to edit the pictures they take and make certain changes. Unfortunately for many people that program is financially out of reach. Never fear, for your old pal GIMP is here! Gimp, or the {GNU Image Manipulation Program}, has a long history and began as a project by two students at the University of California; Berkeley. It was originally called General Image Manipulation Program, however the designers of the program,  Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis, created it under the guidelines of the GNU Project (a program created by Richard Stallman at MIT, which aimed to provide a way for software creators to manage and distribute their projects freely). When Richard Stallman visited the Berkeley campus, Spencer and Peter asked for his permission to change the G in Gimp from General to GNU as a “tip of their hat” to Mr. Stallman for his creation of the GNU Project under which they made the program. With the history lesson out of the way, let’s review the program itself. Gimp is in many ways comparable to Photoshop™ in both substance and performance, however the creators did not want to make a simple clone. They wanted a program that gave the user freedom to manipulate photos in a powerful way but present it in a simple to navigate interface. Gimp supports plugins and scripts, which further extend the abilities of the program in ways the original designers couldn’t have imagined. While some professionals in the photography and art world fall on traditions and only work in Photoshop™, Gimp is beginning to make its way into the main stream. Its ease of installation and out-of-the-box power for photo editing, cropping, and image-format handling make this free program a real viable option for the budding photographer or graphic artists of the world to manage and edit their work in a powerful and cross-platform program. 

    In closing, we have covered a few areas where open-source software can provide a way for the average computer user to take full advantage of their computer and all it has to offer without the strain on their pockets. While this blog has offered quite a few options for open-source software that you can use in place of “name brand” programs, it is only the tip of the open-source iceberg. After you check out some of these programs and hopefully experience them for yourself I encourage you to explore the internet, and should you decide to install an Open-Source operating system perhaps, you can even discover new open-source programs to try. There are dozens to choose from, be it banking, music editing, video editing, media management, etc. There is a vast frontier for you to explore, and perhaps a long lasting relationship between … Open-Source Software and You!

    John Adams, is an Information Technology Instructor at Ridley-Lowell’s Danbury Campus. He is CompTia™ A+ Certified and has over 25 years of experience with HTML Coding, Web Server / Site management, Networking, Scripting, and hardware troubleshooting and repair.  He enjoys designing and building “High-End” Custom Gaming PC Systems in his spare time. Please email for any questions or comments.

  • Massage Therapy EDU Moment

    by Kelly McCaffrey, LMT

    Did you know our skin is the largest organ of the human body?

     It is our first line of defense and our first impression. Working as a Licensed Massage Therapist I am often asked by clients “What can I do at home, to help my dry, itchy skin?” My answer “Exfoliate your skin.”

    I love terminology; the term “exfoliate” comes from the Latin word exfoliare, which means to strip off leaves. 

    Back to skin. Your skin. There are many benefits to keeping your skin healthy.  Exfoliation or using body scrubs helps to rejuvenate our skin by removing the oldest skin cells on the most superficial layer to uncover and reveal the smoother deeper layer underneath. This also gives our skin a youthful appearance, promotes beauty and is a great way to practice self-care.

    There are a few different ways to do this; you can use loofahs, body brushes or exfoliating gloves. You can go to a spa and have a body treatment. Or you can make your own body scrubs at home! The following is a quick recipe to custom blend your own body scrubs.

    1 C  Granulated Sugar (you can use brown sugar or sugar cane)

    ½ C Olive Oil (you can also use coconut or jojoba oil)

    Milk and Honey Scrub : add 3 Tbsp Milk and 3 Tbsp of Honey.

    Chocolate Scrub : add 3 Tbsp cocoa powder.

    Coffee Scrub : add 3 Tbsp coffee.

    You can also add on essential oils :

     5 drops of Lavender for relaxation.

    5 drops of Chamomile for calming.

    5 drops of Peppermint for rejuvenating.

    I recommend incorporating a body scrub into your bathing routine every 1-2 weeks. Getting into the shower, applying your body scrub in circular motions and rinsing the scrub away.

    The possibilities are endless. Keep in mind to know if you have any allergies and always do a skin patch test prior to using any new combination on your skin. You can do this by applying a small amount of the product to the inside of your wrist and waiting ten minutes to see if you are sensitive to any ingredients.

    Kelly McCaffrey, has been working as a licensed massage therapist for over 20 years and teaching at Ridley-Lowell for the past 5 years. Her specialty is relaxation and mind-body connection massage therapy.

    Call 203-797-0551 for an appointment in our student clinic.