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September 24, 2018

One Degree, 21 Years

PathwayConnect gave Stephanie the opportunity to finish what she started 21 years ago

I never graduated from college the first time. That was okay, though, because I served a mission, married my husband, moved to a new state, and started having kids. I wouldn’t trade any of it.

I know every single decision in my life was for a reason. It just meant my goal of a college degree would have to sit on the back burner for a while.

PathwayConnect was the first step toward finishing my degree

Stephanie and her husband on her graduation day.

When PathwayConnect first opened a site near me in Vancouver, Washington, I attended an informational meeting to learn more about it. It wasn’t until I was back home explaining the program to my husband when he suggested it would be a good fit for me. We decided to move forward in faith, and I enrolled in the program.

In September 2014, our kids started elementary school and kindergarten while I started my first semester of PathwayConnect. The courses were simple: one academic class and one religion class for a total of five credits each semester. Plus, I got to meet with other local students once a week at a gathering. This year-long program allowed me to get back into the groove of school while still being a mother.

For me, the biggest benefit PathwayConnect offers is the opportunity to enroll in the BYU-Idaho online degree program for a discounted price. I paid the same price per credit for my online degree as I did for my PathwayConnect certificate. Amazing, right?

Online courses allowed for the flexibility to build my own school schedule

Almost all of my general requirements for BYU-Idaho Online were taken care of by classes I had taken on campus at BYU in Provo, Utah, when I first attended college in 1997. Online courses aren’t always easy, but there are a lot of great things too. There was flexibility in the number of credits I had to take, and I could work on assignments whenever I had the time. There’s even a Facebook support group for online students that is really active and helpful.

I had the opportunity to gain real world experience in my local community

“Those dreams you have? Don’t give up on ’em.”

Last year, for my online bachelor’s degree in web design and development through BYU-Idaho, I was lucky enough to find a year-long, paid internship at the Port of Portland which operates in the Portland International Airport (USA). While doing the internship, I was still able to complete the last six courses I needed. This let me graduate a whole semester earlier than I had originally planned!

In my internship, I was able to do everything from print and digital design to basic coding for departments all over the airport. I learned so much and got to work on some really fun projects. This hands-on experience was an invaluable opportunity that allowed me to practice what I was learning in my courses in the real world.

For my senior project, I redesigned my blog—and then it was time for graduation! I finished my internship, and my family and I drove to Rexburg, Idaho. I know it would have been just as official if I’d had my degree mailed home, but I loved being able to hear my name read as I walked across the stage, with my husband and kids cheering me on, to receive my diploma. This whole adventure really was a family effort, with everyone stepping up and making sacrifices along the way.

I got my degree for myself and my family, not for a career

PathwayConnect helped Stephanie reach her goal of a college degree!

So now, you ask, what’s next? It may seem silly to some, but for me, the most important thing was the education and not the career. I’m planning to remain home with my kids. I will keep blogging and will look for web design jobs here and there. I’ll be able to volunteer at my kids’ schools again and in my community. I also have some projects around the house that have been ignored for the last year—or three—that I’m finally diving into.

As I wrote in my Instagram post:

Those dreams you have? Don’t give up on ’em. You might have to hold them in your back pocket for a while, while you work on other dreams, but you can get there.


Learn how you can start your path to a university degree today!

Comments on "One Degree, 21 Years"

Norman Johnson says:

Oh, this touched my heart … and brought me to tears as I consider my own situation at 72 years of age and retired. Wow! That would be awesome to cross the stage in Rexburg with my family from Salt Lake … and any others who’d make the trip from Nebraska or Texas or Illinois there; or if it’s just my Sweety and me … even if she is watching from the wings of the Eternal stage. Even for THAT, I will DO IT!

J.A. Banez says:

Norman, thank you for your sweet comment. Stephanie definitely reminds us that it is never too late to chase after our dreams! As she said regarding our dreams, “Don’t give up on ’em!” Are you currently enrolled at BYU-Pathway Worldwide, Norman? What is a dream that you want to chase after even at 72-years old?

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