May 7, 2014
“I have grown in my testimony of how much the Savior loves every person on this Earth. There are no losers, outcasts, or rejects in His eyes. PathwayConnect is really about hope, and it all goes back to the Savior.” —Elder Jack Weyland
The clock showed 15 minutes until 6 p.m., and eager PathwayConnect students were already entering the Church building — a full half hour before their gatherings began. With only one week of their first semester under their belts, many students at the Rexburg, Idaho, PathwayConnect site have already felt a great difference in their lives.
BYU-Idaho introduced PathwayConnect in 2009. What started as a humble pilot program of three sites in the United States serving 50 students has emerged into a successful educational experience of more than 160 worldwide sites, serving thousands of students each year. Nearly five years after the program began, PathwayConnect has come full circle with the opening of its 100th location in the U.S. & Canada — right in BYU-Idaho’s backyard.
“I found it rather poetic that Rexburg would be our 100th site,” said J.D. Griffith, managing director of PathwayConnect. “We did not do this by design; it simply happened this way. We are so excited to be able to bring the blessing of PathwayConnect to our friends and neighbors.”
PathwayConnect opened in Rexburg in April and is currently serving 73 students (50 Ages 18-30; 23 ages 31+). As is typical program-wide, each student has a unique story and journey that has brought them to PathwayConnect. Twenty-three-year-old Sheila Dunn is a perfect example.
“Just in these two weeks of PathwayConnect, I have a greater sense of my daily routine and schedule,” Sheila said. “I stay at home with our son, so I have to balance not only my PathwayConnect classes, but also family and home responsibilities. A structured time for scripture study has helped a ton.”
Sheila and her husband, Christopher, are originally from Hemet, California. As he has started his nursing degree on campus at BYU-Idaho, she has stayed home with their son, Bruce. Sheila was first introduced to PathwayConnect by her mother-in-law, who is currently in her final semester of PathwayConnect in Hemet.
“My younger brother is also doing PathwayConnect with me, so it’s nice to have a built-in study buddy. We have the unique opportunity to sit down and discuss the course material with each other on a regular basis.”
Sheila plans to pursue a nursing degree as well and is grateful for the opportunity to ease into the rigors of a college course load.
Crystal Kelley’s journey to PathwayConnect started recently at the waters of baptism. Originally from McKinney, Texas, Crystal desired to live in a different environment after being baptized last September.
“I had a few friends here in Rexburg already going to school, and I prayed a lot before making the decision to come,” Crystal said.
It hit me like a bag of rocks that this is something we had to do.
Since moving to Rexburg, Crystal has found a job as an assistant manager at a local retail store. Because of PathwayConnect’s low tuition rate and the flexibility of online classes, Crystal can both work and start school.
“I was going to wait and apply to start BYU-Idaho on campus in the fall, but I wanted something to do now. I had the desire to continue my education and feel involved, so I jumped at the opportunity when I heard about PathwayConnect.”
While she is not totally decided, Crystal currently would like to pursue a nursing degree after completing PathwayConnect.
Timothy & Brenna Bushman
PathwayConnect can offer hope and happiness in times of discouragement. After a serious injury to his biceps from working his construction job, Timothy Bushman found himself unexpectedly unemployed. With little education past high school, Timothy and his wife, Brenna, turned to PathwayConnect.
“We had been looking for a way to go back to school and build our education. I knew I had to be educated — more than just life experience and high school,” Timothy said. “When I first heard about BYU-Pathway, it hit me like a bag of rocks that this is something we had to do. After we went to the informational fireside, that feeling only burned deeper and stronger.”
Timothy aspires to earn a degree in psychology and help with youth. Both he and Brenna say their favorite part of PathwayConnect is the discussion boards. They love learning from their classmates and seeing the change that PathwayConnect has made in others as well. Timothy and Brenna hope their four children see their example of obtaining higher education and follow suit.
“It’s helping us open up,” says Brenna. “I know it’s going to make us stronger spiritually and help our family grow closer.”
After initially learning about PathwayConnect, Cameron Christenson, age 23, was instantly drawn to the program. PathwayConnect offers Cameron the flexibility he needs to work two jobs and still earn some college credit.
“I want to eventually pursue biochemistry or neurology,” Cameron said. “After PathwayConnect, I will attend BYU-Idaho and then graduate school. I just got back from my mission, so I wanted something to get me into the rhythm of going to school while still earning a little money. PathwayConnect is just the first step to what I’m doing; it’s like a building block for my future plans.”
I found it rather poetic that Rexburg would be our 100th site… It simply happened.
Cameron has enjoyed meeting new people and studying with the Learning Model. “I love being involved in discussions, and I’m excited to be the lead student,” he said. “Teaching the material to one another helps me retain the information.”
PathwayConnect not only benefits the students who participate — it also provides great personal blessings to the missionaries as well.
“I have grown in my testimony of how much the Savior loves every person on this Earth. There are no losers, outcasts, or rejects in His eyes. PathwayConnect is really about hope, and it all goes back to the Savior,” said Elder Weyland, a missionary overseeing an age 18-30 PathwayConnect group.
Even though the students and missionaries of Rexburg, Idaho, have only taken their first steps in PathwayConnect, they are excited about the future blessings that lie ahead.