Erika and Killian Lord aren’t the first people to fall in love at Yavapai College. Nor will they be the last. But their story is sweet. It’s unique. It’s a treasure. And it just may cause you to cast aside any doubt and believe in love for the first time, or better yet, again.

Erika’s descent on YC:

After graduating from high school in Surprise, AZ, in 2010, Erika enrolled at YC both to strike out on her own and pursue a nursing degree. A year into her prerequisites and determined to boost her independence, Erika went looking for a job to support a social life beyond the residence halls. The Del E. Webb Family Enrichment Center, an early childhood development laboratory on the Prescott campus, was hiring student workers. Erika recalled seeing the charming brick building with its lively playground during a campus tour and thinking at the time that she would like to work there. Fast forward about 12 months and she submitted an application. She remembers during an interview with then-FEC Director Vickey LaMotte admitting to never having taken any early childhood education (ECE) classes at YC. That changed in spring 2012, when Erika signed up for two ECE courses and was hired at the FEC. “I always knew I wanted to do something with children,” Erika said, explaining her abrupt decision in fall 2013 to change her major from nursing to education. “I fell in love with this field and I thank God I did.”

Killian’s path to career certainty:

Killian arrived at YC by way of some not-so-productive time in Flagstaff after graduating from Prescott High School. “I decided to enroll in a bunch of different classes. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” he said. One among the “bunch” captured Killian’s attention: child development with Dr. Larry Grimm. “I really enjoyed it,” he said, adding that he had never worked with nor had much experience with kids, but became really interested in their development. “I started working at the FEC and I was sold. I’ve been here ever since.”

Friendship first:

Killian remembers his first day at the FEC like it was yesterday – especially spotting Erika during a LaMotte-led workplace tour. She was helping a toddler in the bathroom as Killian and LaMotte were cruising through. The bathroom door opened and the pair were briefly introduced. While Erika went on with her work. Killian continued the tour shaken to the core by the woman he had just met. “I loved her right when I saw her,” he recalled.

Despite Killian’s secret adoration, his and Erika’s connection only simmered for what seemed like an eternity to him – roughly three years. “Every day I was like, that’s my future wife,” he said. The pair become close friends borne of their mutual passion for children and teaching. Their near inseparability, even while dating other people, was recognized and was frequent fodder for comments and questions among family, friends and co-workers. “Everybody thought we were dating and we weren’t,” said Erika who, oblivious to Killian’s rapt attention, nevertheless greatly admired his quiet, shy demeanor and his steady support while the two pursued bachelor’s degrees together at Prescott College and earned lead teacher promotions at the FEC.

“We grew up together here (the FEC). We were here on about the same timeline, were on the same path really and we just always connected,” Erika said. “The time was never right personally or professionally to get involved romantically.”

For his part, Killian never pressed the issue with Erika out of fear his feelings wouldn’t be reciprocated. But his unrequited love was wearing on him. “It came to the point that I decided we’ve got to get together or I’ve got to leave, because it’s too hard,” he said.

Fortunately for Killian, in late 2016 Erika was starting to see their relationship in a new light. She recalled a memorable office Christmas party together: “I remember we had so much fun. He made me laugh a lot.” After the party, Erika ruminated nonstop about Killian, discovering that what she felt for him was much stronger than friendship. She started asking herself ‘what if?’ And, like Killian, she grew increasingly frustrated not knowing the answer to that question. So, in spring 2017, she took action. While she and Killian were preparing FEC classrooms on a Sunday afternoon, Erika essentially popped the question. The result: this succinct and ultimately life-changing conversation:

Erika: “Would it be so bad if …?
Killian: “If what would be so bad?”
Erika: “If we were together.”
Killian. “No. I don’t think so.”

In just six weeks, Erika and Killian were engaged, the announcement photos taken outside the FEC bathroom where their love story began. The couple married in June 2018 and on Feb. 17, 2020, welcomed their first son, Logan. Their second son, Maxwell, is joining the family this spring.

“I’m totally happy with the way it played out,” said Erika. “It all fell into place very beautifully,” added Killian. Along with being thankful they found each other and became a “family within a family” at the FEC, Killian and Erika said they plan to continue working side by side at the center and watching their own children benefit from its early childhood education.

“Right now my biggest thing is focusing on my own children and making sure the FEC is a happy, fun place for kids to grow and learn,” Erika said. Killian, his hand on his wife’ knee, said he’s not going anywhere either. “I’ve done this for so long, I feel really passionate about it. I’m glad we’re here.”