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Beverly A. Phelps

Photo of Beverly PhelpsWhen Beverly Phelps, a retention specialist, meets with new students, she gives them a very direct, three-part message: Find your career passion, get a college degree and give back to your community.

It’s advice that has worked for Phelps. Going to college has increased her earning power and given her the knowledge and skills to help others and have a career she’s passionate about.

But when Phelps graduated from Waukegan West High School, she wasn’t sure if college was for her. She worked as a manager at a fast-food outlet, uncertain of what career path to follow. 

Eventually, Phelps came to work at the College of Lake County. After an initial clerical job, she took another in the college’s Career and Placement Services department. “My major duty was to take the job openings that arrived from employers and enter them into the computer system.  Each job had a required level of education.  Seeing the requirements showed me that education equals getting a career.”

Encouraged by Eleanor Murkey, former dean of CLC’s Lakeshore Campus, and other African American women in leadership roles, Phelps decided she needed to get more education. “I was a single parent, and I realized that I needed to think of my daughter and take steps to build a better future for her.”

Phelps continued to work at CLC during the day, and took classes at CLC in the evenings. She earned her associate degree and went on to also earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In the 20 years that she has worked at CLC, she has advanced from clerical jobs to her current   position as a retention specialist helping students improve academic skills and serving as an advisor to the Sister 2 Sister student club.

Her education was a path not just to better earnings but also to a career she loves that lets her give back to the community. One of the best parts of her workday, she said, are the phone calls and e-mails that she gets from former students who are now attending graduate school, working in professional careers or are active in the military. “To see these students develop makes me very proud,” she said with a smile.” I get to see the fruits of our labors.”