March 21, 2016
President Henry B. Eyring said, “All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, to listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us.”1
It is common knowledge that PathwayConnect provides education to those who participate in the program. However, PathwayConnect can also strengthen its students in other walks of life. Weekly gatherings provide an environment for students to forge relationships with others that can last throughout their lives. Students at the gatherings grow together, learn together, laugh together, cry together, and accomplish goals together.
Nicole Charbonneau and Sheri Erickson of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, met in the hallway after a gathering during their first semester of PathwayConnect. Sheri was the lead student that particular gathering and knew Nicole would be the lead student the following week, so Sheri offered to help Nicole prepare.
After that night, Sheri and Nicole became inseparable.
“You could count on us sitting together every week and giggling in the corner or walking down the hall together in between classes, buying a snack,” Sheri said.
As trials arose, these women were able to strengthen each other and persevere through trials together. During their second semester in PathwayConnect, Nicole and her mother were on the brink of being homeless. The night before the two decided to check into a women’s shelter, Nicole had a breakdown during her PathwayConnect gathering.
PathwayConnect provided me with a kindred spirit and forever friend.
“One of my worries of having to go to the women’s shelter was that I wasn’t going to be able to complete my PathwayConnect homework and would need to drop the program,” Nicole said.
Sheri and her father stayed after the gathering was over and talked with Nicole and her mom. They kept in touch, and after a few other options fell through for Nicole and her mom, Sheri and her parents offered them a place to stay. The women accepted their kind hospitality and stayed with the Ericksons for two months.
“PathwayConnect not only lifted my spirit and gave me hope for the future,” Sheri said, “ but it also provided me with a kindred spirit and forever friend, Nicole.”
After finishing PathwayConnect in 2014, Nicole started working toward her GED. She has plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business management from BYU-Idaho, presented and coordinated through BYU-Pathway. She also dreams of working in non-profits, starting a clothing line, and possibly becoming a registered nurse.
“PathwayConnect has changed my life completely, and it couldn’t have come to me at a better time. I know for a fact that Heavenly Father put PathwayConnect in Las Vegas and led me to join the Church in the same year for a reason,” Nicole said.
Sheri also finished PathwayConnect in 2014 and started taking online classes through BYU-Idaho. She is majoring in University Studies and has particularly enjoyed her classes in English, family history, child development, and art. Sheri’s dream is to one day become an author. While pursuing her dream, she also wants to pursue a career as a children’s librarian or someday work for the Church History Library.
Of her experience in PathwayConnect, Sheri said, “PathwayConnect has opened doors I never thought possible. I would recommend PathwayConnect to anyone. You never know what you will gain from participating in PathwayConnect; you just might end up with a friend, and everyone needs a friend.”
Because of PathwayConnect, these two women have a friendship that continues to grow stronger.
“We’re best friends, practically sisters,” Nicole said.
“We are forever kindred spirits, and she’ll always be my sister,” said Sheri.
Elder and Sister Brett — service missionaries from Atlanta, Georgia — have made countless friendships in their PathwayConnect service.
“The PathwayConnect model is centered around individual and personal interaction. The students learn from each other in the gathering and online, missionaries and instructors lead and guide those students, and the missionaries have constant interaction with other missionaries and local priesthood leaders. Everything focuses on building ourselves and each other,” said Elder Brett.
The PathwayConnect model is centered around individual and personal interaction.
The Bretts’ PathwayConnect journey started through a request from their stake presidency in 2013 to serve as the local missionaries. The location in Atlanta was brand new, and both were thrilled to be a part of its creation. Throughout their two years of service, PathwayConnect in Atlanta blossomed, serving over 300 students since its creation.
During their time in Atlanta, the Bretts were also called upon to help establish new PathwayConnect sites throughout the southeast United States.
“It was a blast to make new friends throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee and watch other missionaries and priesthood leaders catch the vision of PathwayConnect,” said Sister Brett. “Through these interactions, we’ve made great lifelong friends.
After their service in Atlanta, the Bretts were extended an invitation to continue their service in PathwayConnect — in Rexburg, Idaho, as part of the BYU-Pathway Home Office. After much conversation and prayer, they decided to temporarily leave their family, jobs, and recently-purchased home in the suburbs of Atlanta for the modest college town of Rexburg.
“We thought we were stepping out into the dark in faith, but soon realized we were taking a leap of faith into the light,” said Elder Brett. “We’ve made incredible friends, we’ve grown spiritually, and we are more united as a couple.”
Rebecca Bingham is an Intro to Algebra and Finance instructor from Arimo, Idaho, who says that working as a PathwayConnect instructor has been a wonderful blessing in her life.
“As a stay-at-home mom of three young children, some adult interaction and non-housework is refreshing,” Sister Bingham said.
Because her students are constantly sharing quotes, scriptures, and personal testimonies, she is always inspired to continually improve professionally and spiritually.
“Along with my interaction with the students, I am able to work closely with many of the instructors. I have loved the support I have felt from my supervisor, who encourages me to improve, but more importantly, reminds me of the positive difference I am making,” Sister Bingham shared.
Sister Bingham has had the opportunity to supervise other instructors as well. Working with a variety of individuals has helped her see all of the different ways to teach, love, and inspire others — especially her students.
She has found additional support and strength through the online instructor community page — an online organization which instructors use to collaborate and share their teaching experiences.
“I have observed that when I take extra time to engage in the online community discussions, my ability to ponder and think increases as I reflect on the thoughts of other instructors. In turn, I am better able to deepen the learning on the discussion boards in my own course,” she said.
Above all, Sister Bingham loves that she gets to share her testimony on a regular basis as she works with PathwayConnect.
“Is there a better way to strengthen my testimony than to regularly share it with my students and instructors?” she said.
Cindy Perdue offers a unique perspective to BYU-Pathway’s office because she is not only an office assistant, she is also a current PathwayConnect student. She says that both groups of people have become like family to her.
At the beginning of her experience as a student, Cindy said, “People were really reserved and shy, but everyone quickly became such great friends and supporters to each other.”
If anyone ever needs someone, we are all there to help.
“I was out sick for a while with pneumonia, so the missionaries would text me and ask if I was doing okay,” Cindy said. “Whenever anyone is struggling, they are willing to help.”
In regards to working for PathwayConnect, Cindy has had an equally positive experience.
“Everyone is always busy doing something, but if anyone ever needs someone, we are all there to help.”
One of the first members of the PathwayConnect team, Cindy started working in late 2010 and has been able to see the changes in PathwayConnect from its early stages.
“As PathwayConnect has grown, it is fun to see the different people and their different personalities come through the office. It’s a fun place to work while still being efficient because we find time to get to know each other while having work parties and celebrating holidays and birthdays,” Cindy said.
Break the Ice
Many friends have been made through PathwayConnect experiences, so as you attend your next gathering Thursday night, don’t be afraid to open up and say hello. You never know who is fighting a battle, who needs a hug, or who will become a lifelong friend to you. Take a chance. Smile at someone. Lend a helping hand. Make a friend at PathwayConnect.