The road to graduation wasn’t always an easy one for Linda Evanhoff.
After finalizing a divorce in 2012, the then stay-at-home mom saw an advertisement for Concordia University Wisconsin and decided to enroll at the CUW Waukesha Center in order to pursue a career in the criminal justice field and start earning a better living for herself and her family.
Some four years later – after a juggling act of classes, studying, jobs, kids’ schedules and an almost non-existent personal life – Linda has completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Management, joining the more than 715 other Concordia students who are graduating mid-school year. A commencement ceremony will be held Saturday, Dec. 19.
“It’s a huge relief,” said 49-year-old Linda, of Waukesha. “I will have time on my hands – and it’ll be filled with something else – but I have the weight of the world off my shoulders right now.”
When Linda made the decision to get her degree, she initially took a job in banking in order to earn an income while taking classes, even though her passion was working with at-risk juveniles. In fact, she had seven years’ prior experience volunteering her time to start and then run a program called Project S.W.E.E.P., which was a cooperative effort with the Waukesha Police Department aimed at helping at-risk youth by creating community service opportunities for them.
She quickly realized that banking wasn’t for her and, instead, took a part-time position at Lad Lake, an alternative education center for youth and later, at the Lauer Center, an alternative school in the Waukesha School District.
“I knew I needed to go back to the kids,” Linda said. “I needed to go back to the system. I’m very comfortable with kids, teenagers. They don’t scare me. They scare some people. … It just was a really good fit for me.”
With her weekdays filled for the past few years with work, pick-up and drop-off routines and classes, Linda spent most weekends studying, sometimes alongside her children.
Others have taken note of Linda’s commitment as well.
“Linda has faced many challenges getting through some of our classes – raising two kids as a divorced parent, and trying to find a job that pays enough to provide a living for her,” said Waukesha Center Director Douglas Wales. “Her story is a story of inspiration, dedication and perseverance to accomplish your goals, no matter what else is happening in your life.”
She’s postponed wedding planning (she was engaged in April) and doubled up on classes at times after having to take a six-month hiatus towards the start, all in an effort to get her degree.
“Sometimes it was really easy to just give up, but I had to finish,” Linda said. “I said to myself I have to be done in December, and I dug in and I did it. Concordia made it fairly easy for me.”