The woman who has helped nudge thousands of Yavapai College students to believe in themselves, experience success and gain the confidence that both engender is passing the torch to the next generation of Yavapai College advisors.

Linda Evans, longtime Student Support Services TRIO Coordinator for the YC Verde Valley Campus, is retiring effective March 3, a bitter-sweet departure from what she describes as the "addictive quality of higher education."

Working at YC, Linda said, has been like working in a butterfly aviary: "You're working with all these men and women who are becoming – they're growing and changing. It's a neat thing to be able to watch."

Linda has been watching her advisees succeed in one class, then another, then graduate and thrive in careers or business since 1997 when she became the first Verde Valley Campus SSS TRIO advisor. The program was founded during the Civil Rights era with a goal of, as Linda put it, "helping students achieve their goals with more success and less stress."

Initially, Linda worked part-time for YC while also working in the non-profit arena in the Verde Valley. She transitioned into social services after a 10-year stint in real estate finance in California, where she became determined "to get out of a field that's so much about money." While pursuing a master's degree in public administration at Northern Arizona University, working in registration at the university and later working in non-profits, she said "she discovered even more about money when you don't have any. "

Her own education and career journey helped Linda excel at "demystifying" college for YC SSS TRIO students – many of them first-generation collegegoers, working people, disabled individuals and parents --and helping them choose a starting point. "I like to be honest, telling students I premade all the mistakes for you. That's why I'm an advisor."

"I fell in love with the (SSS TRIO advising) position. It involved tutoring, mentoring and working with students in a little more personal way," Linda said, explaining that grant-funded SSS TRIO advisors have a lighter advising load, enabling them to "delve a little deeper" into each student's preferences and needs. "Some people are told all their lives that they can't do math. Our college shows them that they can. Not only that, but that they can do it well."

Linda acknowledged "it's hard to leave" YC and her students after so many years. But she knows she's leaving an incredible legacy of student success -- educators, nurses, lawyers and business owners near and far. "Seeing people achieve their dreams beyond YC is just awesome," she said, adding, "Probably the best compliment is when they bring in their siblings, their children, even grandchildren and say this is who you need as your advisor. The best evidence of our success is seeing ripples in the pond."

While she understands why many people look to digital platforms like YouTube for knowledge and skills, Linda said there is no substitute for a certification or a degree -- "package deals" that build confidence and hone communication, time-management and other invaluable skills.

Understandably, Linda's YC colleagues and current advisees are mourning her retirement.

Cathy Gertsch, SSS TRIO Manager and advisor, said she already misses Linda for the generous support and encouragement she gave the advising team and her exemplary service and mentorship to students. "Students really listen to her because she considers many points of view, including what works well and where students often go astray. When she does a presentation, it is routine for students to follow up with her because they see her expertise and feel her caring. I would like to be as good as her in many ways."

"I have learned many things from her and have always felt supported as her teammate in SSS. Her devotion to our students is second to none and she works tirelessly to see that all her students are well cared for in their journey with SSS and YC," said fellow SSS TRIO advisor Carol Beard.

In a nomination for an employee award, YC Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Tania Sheldahl said of Linda: "I receive emails regularly from students who have identified Linda as the single reason that they persevered and completed their academic goals. She is their ultimate mentor, cheerleader, and advocate."

YC Nursing student Elisa Carley wrote Linda to congratulate her on her impending retirement and to thank her. "I will always remember you from the first day I walked into your office, you helping me get my application package for the nursing program ready to mail and your many words in person and in emails of encouragement. Thank you for being such a good listener and encourager and for never being judgmental."

Another student named Dorina wrote: "Thank you again for all the hard work you do and for all the encouragement along the way. I remember one instant when I was about to drop a class and you helped me to stay and give it more time. I will not forget those things. Thank you!"

YC's loss is Linda's already-retired life companion's gain. The pair plan to spend more time enjoying nature together. Linda also plans to continue exploring the variety of classes on offer at YC and get together with her YC family of friends and fellow retirees regularly. Beyond that, she said, "I deliberately didn't make burning plans. I want to take my time, do some fun stuff and catch up on things the need to be done."

While she's ready for a new life chapter, Linda said she is grateful to have spent nearly a quarter of a century at YC. "It's been an honor. It's been an incredible honor to witness people's transformation on a daily basis. It's awe-inspiring when someone who says ‘I don't need an education,' or someone who's terrified – to see them grow through the stages – to see them go from fear to confidence, from resistance to enthusiasm. To see that growth in students I think is the addiction of higher education."