EVANSTON — Uinta BOCES has built a solid reputation in the community for quality higher education and continuing education. One of the center’s keys to success is a dedicated and involved staff.
This spring, BOCES experienced the winds of change, as two of their longest-term staff members left the education center for different pursuits.
Executive administrative assistant Beckie Eskelson and self-described “chief everything officer” Rocky Young both retired at the end of March, after more than 19 years of service each.
In her time at BOCES, Eskelson said she’s seen a lot of changes, and experienced a great number of rewards.
“I’ve worked through four administrators,” she said in a recent Herald interview. “It’s always new when someone new is in charge. The board of trustees changes too, and it’s a very new experience, with different expectations.”
But different isn’t always bad. And one constant has remained — the students.
“The most satisfying part of the job has been to see the success stories of the students,” Eskelson said. “We are tax based, and our charge is from the community, to provide what the community thinks it needs. A lot of our students don’t see a future for themselves. It’s been good to see them go further than they thought they could.”
Rocky Young worked for BOCES part-time for many years, before developing the Business Skills Institute.
“We started on Sept. 5, 1995, with 14 students,” Young said. “We were hoping for at least five students. We talked to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, to Workforce Services, to the public. We wanted to get our name out there and let people know what we were doing.”
Young said the 10-month program was a tremendous success. Following the education piece of the Business Skills Institute, Young was required to place the graduates in jobs.
“I was the only instructor,” he said. “I was also the placement director. I helped these people get an education and get jobs.”
Young ran the BSI for 13 years, training and placing more than 200 students. Enrollment declined over the years, but he attributes that to a changing economy.
“Most of our enrollment was women,” Young said. “About 99 percent of our students were women. A lot of them were single moms who wanted better jobs. Once the minimum wage went up, a lot of people lost their incentive to go back to school. They could get better-paying jobs without taking 10 months out of their lives.”
Both staffers agree that a sense of unity and cooperation are hallmarks at BOCES.
“We aren’t a very big staff,” Eskelson said. “We all do a little bit of everything. You have to be flexible.”
Young agreed. “I’d say I’m the CEO. The chief-everything-officer,” he joked, with a large smile. “Whatever they asked me to do, I did. Adult basic education, industrial safety training, and I’ve helped out a lot with the BOCES community education program.”
Both also agreed that after nearly 20 years, the best part of BOCES is the students.
“The need for higher education is always going to be there,” Eskelson said. “It’s been good to see students who can come in and turn their lives around. It’s been good to see that happen.”
Young concurred. “I felt pretty good that we could help 200 students improve their lives,” he said.
Young and Eskelson agreed on one final point: how to spend their newfound time after retirement.
“Family is the most important thing to me,” Eskelson said. “I’ll be spending more time with my grandkids.”
Young said he will spend more time with his kids, the ones who live in Evanston and the ones who live elsewhere.
“We’re planning to do more camping and traveling. I just want to relax for a while,” he said.