New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship: Turning Dreams Into Reality

Anne Maclachlan


Evan Lyles, Opportunity Scholar, UNM School of Nursing

The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship is changing lives by reducing or removing significant student debt loads. The scholarship allows people to pursue their ideal professions and provides excellent incentives to stay in New Mexico.

Evan Lyles, a non-traditional student currently in the University of New Mexico’s nursing program, is one such beneficiary. Evan grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he attended R.J. Reynolds High School. Though it was expected that he go on to college, he was hesitant to do so. “I wasn’t sure I was ready,” he says frankly. He studied for two years at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, with what he calls mixed results, and decided to bow out.

“I ran out of motivation and felt discouraged about finding a path,” Evan explains. “I felt really lost.” He gave up on the idea of college and returned to Winston-Salem, where he managed a bar-restaurant for 10 years. He expresses concern that deciding what and where you’re going to study is being pushed to progressively younger ages. “That trend has intensified as time progresses. Even middle-schoolers are expected to be on a professional track.”

In Evan’s case – and he strongly believes it’s true for others – “A better path to success was to wait.” By the time he and his wife, Erin, moved to New Mexico, he had been thinking of returning to school for at least five years. Erin encouraged him. “My wife went back to school after a successful career in the film industry and in the art world, to study art therapy,” explains Evan. “Someone who would do that after experiencing success has been very inspiring.” 


Drawn to help people, Evan began studying nursing, earning his initial credits at Santa Fe Community College before transferring to UNM’s College of Nursing to fulfill his prerequisites. Now, with the two prerequisite semesters at UNM fully covered by the Opportunity Scholarship, he is now in his element. “I’m loving the classes and I feel I’m doing well.” His most challenging—also his favorite—class is in microbiology. “What a large role microbes play in society, for their size!” he laughs.

Evan stresses how grateful he is for the Opportunity Scholarship and speaks strongly of what it means not just to himself, but to those he will be in the position to assist once he is in the nursing field. “I could easily have resigned myself not to further my education and just go with a position that came my way,” he says. “The removal of such a huge fear of financial burden opened up and enlarged possibilities.”

Evan is already considering working toward his master’s degree in nursing and is very much looking forward to assisting as many New Mexicans as he possibly can.

Please visit the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship page for more information about this program, which is designed for returning and non-traditional students. It's never too late to make your dreams come true.