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December 4, 2018

74 And Still Learning

PathwayConnect helped Mary Copeland, at age 74, overcome her fears and realize the power of working together

Panic set in long before I had set my GPS for the church building in Olympia, Washington.

What had I been thinking when I signed up for PathwayConnect? I was completely out of my mind, returning to school at 74. Why had I committed to driving an hour and a half each way to gather with people I didn’t even know? I was shy, and carrying a conversation was difficult for me.

How could an “old lady” like me, who had waited to start my education again until I was not just retired, but ancient, keep up with these younger people who worked, took care of children, and were going to school? I would have never been able to do that back in the day.

My first interaction

Elder and Sister Pollard, Mary’s BYU-Pathway missionaries.

My anxiety heightened as I turned the corner and saw the church building. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, stepped out of my car, and walked reluctantly across the parking lot to a group of people standing by the door.

An older gentleman asked if I was there to help with the church service project.

“No,” I said nervously. “I’m here for the PathwayConnect class.”

The gentlemen directed me to the side door of the building, and I stumbled into the room. It was filled with people — all of them strangers. I think I went into shock — the kind where you feel numb and your brain goes on autopilot and you respond to questions with a vacant smile on your face.

After finding a seat, I opened my laptop and found myself — a person who had spent most of her adult life working with and teaching computer classes — all of a sudden not remembering how to even open a browser.

“Several of them smiled and stopped to talk to me.”

There were several other things during our gathering that were stressful, but not remembering how to do something I’d spent my whole life teaching — that topped it off.

I soon realized there were other students who were also having computer problems, but a few had found a solution and were coming around to help. In fact, several of them smiled and stopped to talk to me. Our group’s missionary couple reassured us that everything was okay.

Helping one another gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves in a way we may not have done otherwise. As we shared some of our hopes and fears for the class and our future, it became apparent that we would succeed together. My fears slowly melted away as I threw myself head-first into PathwayConnect.

Working together brought us closer to one another

“We worked toward a common goal.”

Each semester was a growing experience for me, especially during my math class! It started with the basics, which I could do, but then came the dastardly “word problems” … then pi … then integers … then linear equations — oh, my! I was back in panic mode!

Luckily, my group members gladly walked through the problems with me until I understood. I wasn’t afraid to show my lack of knowledge because there were others struggling too, and we would all help each other.

Because of my group, I made it through math. We made it through math. We were more than just a group of students now — we were a family.

Our group grew close as we worked toward a common goal — we were all there to learn, to support, and to share. My feelings of panic and anxiety subsided and were replaced with feelings of acceptance and joy. By the end of the semester, the gathering became my “special outing” every Thursday.

We were more than just a group of students now—we were a family.

My PathwayConnect family brought out the best in me. Even at the age of 74 and even with the daunting long drive, I completed PathwayConnect — and with all A’s! I did it because of the support and encouragement of my PathwayConnect family. We did it together.

Education is for everyone, regardless of age. Learn how to continue your education today!

Comments on "74 And Still Learning"

Sherry L Thomas says:

I started PathwayConnect in January and am now in 103. I will be 78 in a few weeks, and have wondered if there was anyone else my age. I was ok with most of my assignments until we got into graphs and slope and solving for x and y. Yikes! I did not do well on my last test on that, but thanks to dear classmates who helped, I was able to complete conversions on my LAST math test. I have grown to love the students I have been with since January. I feel like a sister to some, a mom to some and a great grandma to some, and am overwhelmed at how much we have grown to know and care about each other and our individual problems and needs. We even fast and pray for each other. I wonder if I will be able to finish my degree before I pass on. If not, maybe during the Millennium.

Judi Clark says:

I was 73 when I did PathwayConnect and I learned so much, even the dreaded math. I could not have done it without the Holy Ghost, my husband, and my dear fellow students. How much we learned to love each other, our missionaries, and our Savior. I am now a BYU-Pathway Missionary with my husband. We love our students and I am so grateful to have taken PathwayConnect and experienced it for myself. It is such an inspired program.

Lauren Conrad says:

That’s amazing, Judi! Thanks for your great example of lifelong learning and service. We wish you and your students the very best!

Maureen Begas says:

At 58, Intoo thought I had made a mistake. Now the first semester is over and I know I did not make a mistake.
I am nervous about the math this semester, but our service missionaries have told me that it will be fine. Last semester there was a lot of tutorials available to help out.
Best thing I’ve ever done for myself!

Minerva Hisita says:

I salute you! That made me more comfortable to continue and finish my course. Thank you for your inspiring story…

Lucrecia del Carmen Sofoifa Soto de Osorio says:

Guah! Thank you very much for your example. I am from Guatemala when I saw your face I think you serve here in Guatemala. Maybe in The Temple but it´s a pleasure to see your enthusiastic picture. After 18 years I am in Pathway Program. I am so happy to be in this beautiful program. It´s hard for me to have time to do my homework I am studying with my daughter she is 17 years old and I am 51. I testify Our Heavenly Father is giving us this opportunity. Please brothers and sisters don´t wait to start! let´s go to do it.!

J.A. Bañez says:

Lucrecia, we are glad that you are continuing your education even at the young age of 51-years old! We are grateful for your example. Please keep it up!

Pfidzisayi Nyampunga says:

Georgie and Mary you are shining example to us all.Thank you so much for sharing your stories.

Age is not a deterrent to learning. Mary has just shown that. I also felt the same when I attended my first gathering. I am glad I have made friends and we are moving on at the same pace. We are all young in educational matters.

J.A. Bañez says:

We agree with you Edward! Thank you for your positive and encouraging response!

Georgie Ann Guthe says:

I see I am not alone. I am 77 and just started pathway in September 2018. Thought I had made a big mistake also, but finding it very interesting, Can’t wait to see how I do in math!!!
Thanks for sharing.

J.A. Bañez says:

Georgie, it is wonderful that you would continue your education even at the young age of 77-years old! Thank you so much for your example to us! Good luck on your journey through PathwayConnect. Please let us know how it goes!

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