A 24-year old graduate student and intern in the Evanston city manager’s office won $18,000 in cash and prizes on the TV game show “Wheel of Fortune” aired Thursday evening.

Alyssa Tillmon, who said she was nervous but confident when the show was taped back in October, guessed correctly on enough of the word puzzles to win $11,000 in cash, and a trip to Mexico worth $7,000.

She was the top winner on the Thursday broadcast.

The program was seen everywhere in the United States, but here in the Chicago TV market, “Wheel” was interrupted 10 minutes in by live news coverage of the shooting at Oakbrook Center Mall, and the rest of the show was not seen locally.

Tillmon would have won even more — a car — if she had correctly solved the puzzle in the bonus round.

She did get the correct phrase leading into that round, “Double Hoop Earrings.”

“Wheel of Fortune” is based on the familiar “hangman” game, where contestants try to guess a word or phrase based on as few letters as possible.

Tillmon says her next conquest is to “look for a job” after graduating from Northern Illinois University this spring with a master’s degree in public administration.

Tillmon says she thought of her mother leading into the show, and thinks of her after winning as well.

“I lost my mom eight years ago,” Tillmon says.

“She always pushed me to do my best in everything, no matter what it is.”

With that kind of inspiration, winning “Wheel” was no puzzle at all.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.