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October 21, 2014

An Anxious Journey

PathwayConnect helped Meredith Foster fight against her anxiety and earn a higher education

Eleven years ago, Meredith Foster turned 16 and had just started the second semester of her sophomore year in high school. But something was different about this new term. Instead of socializing with friends, she’d come home from school crying and wasn’t sleeping at night.

“I felt more withdrawn every day,” Meredith said. “I talked to fewer people and felt like I was cut off from everyone. My mom took me to the doctor. I took a test and the doctor said, ‘You have anxiety. We need to figure out how to help you through school because you can’t drop out this young.’”

Meredith began taking high school classes online. Some classes she performed well in, but overall she still found education to be a struggle. Then came PathwayConnect.

PathwayConnect gave me the confidence to continue in school and follow through with my commitments.

While taking an institute class, Meredith heard about PathwayConnect from her instructor. She was intrigued, primarily because of the affordable cost, its affiliation with BYU-Idaho, and the lighter workload than previous online classes she had taken. Soon after, she applied and became one of the first 50 students to start PathwayConnect during its initial pilot launch in 2009.

“I was nervous before the first gathering because I didn’t know who was going to be in my group or how many people were going to be there,” Meredith said. “I felt uncomfortable around people. The unknown really triggers panic attacks in me.”

During the first semester, these fears subsided. She developed close friendships with her PathwayConnect group, which consisted of 10 students. “We would help each other with homework and sometimes go get ice cream after gatherings. I still keep in contact with three of the girls from my group.”

Elder and Sister Driggs, the first service missionaries called to support PathwayConnect in Mesa, Arizona, were very impressed by Meredith’s hard work.

“Working with Meredith was like fitting your hand into a glove; she was easy to work with,” said Elder Driggs. “She was a serene, solid, personal student always there, always steady, always on top of things.”

Meredith enjoying a visit to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

Since completing PathwayConnect, Meredith started attending her local singles ward and making friends there. PathwayConnect helped her become more comfortable around people because she became friends with strangers.

“While participating in PathwayConnect, I had to meet new people and get to know them,” Meredith said. “That experience motivated me to go to the singles ward to meet people and to enjoy life.”

After completing PathwayConnect, Meredith moved on to BYU-Idaho’s Online Degree Program, presented and coordinated through BYU-Pathway, and plans to finish an associate degree in general studies this December.

After that, she will pursue a bachelor’s degree. She looks forward to getting married in the future and having a family of her own. If money gets tight, like it did in her family when she was a teenager, she plans to follow her mother’s example and step into the workforce to help provide.

Meredith has paced herself while pursuing her education. She has taken breaks from classes to relax and remain healthy, but she knows the Lord has been there to help her through her struggles.

“The Lord blessed me to get through this trial because my father was always there to give me a father’s blessing when I was struggling or having an anxiety attack,” Meredith said. “Other things helped, too. When I started praying more and studying my scriptures more, I was able to get more done in a day. I felt more accomplished.”

For Meredith, PathwayConnect helped her become a better person.

“PathwayConnect gave me the confidence to continue in school and follow through with my commitments. It gave me confidence in myself to help other people,” Meredith said.

This story is one part of a three-part feature in honor of BYU-Pathway’s fifth anniversary. Each post follows people who attended PathwayConnect in its first semester as they share their stories and growth. Part two is the story of two parents who challenged the odds as they cared for their young family and pursued their goal of gaining a higher education. Part three is about an actress and mother who wouldn’t give up on her dream of getting a college education.

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