December 8, 2015
How am I going to pay for this? How am I going to find the time? How am I going to do everything I already have in my life plus go to school?
For many potential PathwayConnect students, doubts like these stand as a barrier between them and their goals and dreams. Kenni Wilcox, a PathwayConnect student from Orem, Utah, and mother of seven, was no different.
“When I was deciding to start PathwayConnect, the seeds of doubt began to sprout, and questions and concerns filled my mind. I had seven children — one serving a mission, one getting ready to serve a mission, a handful of teenagers, and a five-year-old. How could I do everything I was already doing and then add the rigors of school?” Kenni shared.
The Spirit filled me with peace, and I knew that this opportunity was for me.
Though she had many responsibilities and obligations as a mother, along with a multitude of other reasons to continue postponing her education, Kenni eventually received the prompting to start her PathwayConnect journey.
“As I wrestled with my concerns, the Spirit filled me with peace, and I knew that this opportunity was for me,” Kenni said.
A Family Plan
Once Kenni decided to take the leap of faith and join PathwayConnect, she sat down with her family to discuss what the decision would mean for each individual.
“I did not want to compromise too much of my family time, so I decided that I would get up at 4:30 in the morning to get as much homework completed as possible before moving on to the demands of cleaning, laundry, and preparing meals for the whole family,” Kenni said. “The children also agreed to do additional chores when I was doing homework.”
The decision to start PathwayConnect was a sacrifice for her and her family. Not every day was perfect. Some mornings were met with late wake-ups, unfinished chores, or too much homework. Sometimes dinner was comprised of hastily prepared sandwiches, and vacations were postponed to accommodate the commitment to PathwayConnect. But Kenni and her family worked together to meet their goals.
My gathering meant I never had to feel alone.
“I was always able to rely on my family to support me. I got help for my math class from my brother, and other members of my family would proofread my English papers. But even if they couldn’t help me with my work, my brothers and sisters, husband, and kids would all cheer me on as I struggled with assignments. Sometimes I would sit in front of the computer and feel so overwhelmed by what I had to do, but they were there for me. I could not have done it without them, and we have all grown closer thanks to our experiences,” said Kenni.
Blessings of Gathering
Soon after joining PathwayConnect, Kenni realized she wasn’t the only one who had doubted this new journey. As she learned of her fellow students’ similar experiences, she found unwavering support and comfort from her PathwayConnect group, as well as the local service missionaries in PathwayConnect.
“Our group became an extended family. As we gathered each week, we taught and encouraged each other. We learned about each other, and our friendships solidified,” Kenni shared. “Soon, we were able to laugh together, cry together, and testify to each other.”
She continued, “In our gatherings, we were blessed to have opportunities to mourn with people who mourn and to bear one another’s burdens as stories of heartbreak, illness, loneliness, and even death unfolded during our weekly meetings. Testimonies were strengthened and the spiritual growth was visible as we worked and struggled together.”
There were happy moments, such as a baby shower for a first-time dad — and there were sad moments, such as the deaths of some students’ relatives. But all the students shared these moments like friends and family. “My gathering meant I never had to feel alone.”
Kenni completed PathwayConnect in July 2015 and is now working toward a Certificate in Family History Research that builds directly into the Applied Associate Degree in Family History Research in the BYU-Idaho Online Degree Program, coordinated and presented through BYU-Pathway, with an ultimate goal of completing a bachelor’s degree in university studies. This plan allows Kenni to earn a marketable certificate after only five courses while working toward her larger goal of an applied associate and bachelor’s degree. Her sacrifices, faith, and the love of her family and friends have helped her overcome her doubts and obstacles while providing a clear path to achieve her goals.
As advice for students who may face similar doubts, Kenni shared, “The Lord gave me the confidence to know that I could do this when I didn’t think I could. So if you have any doubts, just go forward with faith. Your testimony will grow, and your confidence will grow, and you will have the ability to do the work. Trust in the Lord. It is worth it. The struggles, the sacrifices, the challenges — even in the darkest times — somewhere down the road you will find hope.”
Kenni’s journey has not been easy, but that is partly why her experience has been so worthwhile.
“There is no doubt that PathwayConnect is hard. It has stretched me, and it has taught me,” she said. “It is the Lord’s way. It is His program to make His people better. I have become a better person, and my faith and knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, has increased.”