November 14, 2016
Joenee Briones watched from his airplane window as the last lights of Manila faded into the distance.
As BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s newest area manager, he had just overseen PathwayConnect’s launch in his homeland, the Philippines — the first country in all of Asia to offer the program. He reflected on his trip, overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude.
For BYU-Pathway, this was a historic event — bringing the program’s availability to 13 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 15 geographical areas outside the United States and Canada. For Joenee, it meant seeing his people blessed.
Education in the Philippines
Joenee understands the difficulties members of the Church face in the Philippines as they struggle to improve their lives, and he knows the difference a program like PathwayConnect will make.
The Church in the Philippines:
“Education is one of the highest priorities for people in the Philippines,” Joenee said. “There is a great need for it, but many struggle to afford it — even to the point where parents work multiple jobs just to put their children in school.”
Unlike in some parts of the world, education isn’t free in the Philippines — not even for young children. Students and their families work hard every day to earn and save enough money to pay tuition every year — something that often requires great sacrifice.
Joenee experienced this as a child. “My parents were the poorest of the poor,” he said. “All they had to eat growing up was rice and eggs, but even as children, they would walk hours to school because they knew education meant rising above poverty. Their example made an impression on me.”
Through hard work, dedication, and some luck, Joenee’s parents were able to provide an education for themselves, and later, for their children. Joenee then went on to earn a degree from a Church-sponsored university, a goal that many members in the Philippines could only dream of — until now.
Embracing BYU-Pathway with Open Arms
PathwayConnect’s launch in Quezon City, a district in central Manila, has instilled hope in the hearts of the Filipino community. That hope was manifest at a local stake center on the night PathwayConnect was first introduced, where more than 1,700 Church members came to learn about the program — many traveling up to eight hours to be there.
One local member, Psalm Rafael P. Serrano, said, “When my wife and I heard about the meeting, we immediately informed everyone in our ward and encouraged them to attend. During the presentation, I felt in my heart and mind that I needed to immediately accept this blessing and opportunity from the Lord.”
After talking it over, Psalm and a group of close friends decided to enroll in the program together. Psalm said he looks forward to “a wonderful journey in PathwayConnect and someday receiving a bachelor’s degree online through Brigham Young University-Idaho to more fully serve the Lord and my fellow men.”
Psalm and his friends were among the 72 excited, pioneering students who began the program in early September. Many of them were eager to improve their professional skills — like Mary Grace, who said the opportunity to practice writing and speaking English will help her speak confidently and contribute more to the business she works for. Others look forward to the blessings they will receive from PathwayConnect’s dynamic, spirit-driven curriculum.
Bernardo Rueta, a student who switched to PathwayConnect from a local university, explained how he expects to learn and grow during his time in the program.
“I strongly feel that PathwayConnect will help me both temporally and spiritually,” he said. “It will not only provide me with practical knowledge, but spiritual growth, too. It boils down to the program’s purposes — which is to get the gospel down into student’s hearts, help them become capable learners, and prepare them to lead and support their families.”
That is what PathwayConnect is all about. And with such strong enrollment in the Philippines during its first term, Joenee anticipates many more students will soon participate all over the country. “For the Philippines,” he said, “the program is only just beginning.”
The Doors Have Been Opened
Now that PathwayConnect is up and running in one location with plenty of eager people ready to begin their studies, the program’s expansion is already on the minds of many.
Before Joenee arrived in Quezon City to open PathwayConnect’s first location in the Philippines, a fellow colleague told him, “When you open the doors to the Philippines, they will swing wide open.” And that is exactly what Joenee has seen. He and local ecclesiastical leaders are thrilled to see the program growing and developing in the area.
For students in the Philippines, the future looks bright, but they are only one part of an expanding global program. As PathwayConnect continues to grow, the blessings of education will extend to many more people throughout the world, helping them receive the education they previously thought was impossible.
Just like in the Philippines, PathwayConnect can have a great impact on your life. Learn how at byupathway.lds.org.