December 2, 2019
A great start
Valeria Hawkes grew up in Manaus, Brazil, with her parents and two siblings. She always valued education and was taught by her parents to love learning. “My parents are great examples to me,” she said. “She knew how to sew, sculpt, paint, and draw. My dad is a genius with math, that’s kind of his thing.”
Valeria’s parents always encouraged their children to be the best that they could be and to learn as much as they could. Valeria knew that she would have their support in any endeavor.
Trials and stepping stones
When she turned 19, Valeria decided to serve a mission and was called to Boston, Massachusetts. After six months as a missionary, Valeria got very sick. She didn’t tell anyone that she was sick because she didn’t want to have to return home early. 15 months into her mission, her mission nurse demanded that she tell her mission president just how sick she was.
Shortly after, Valeria was sent home, confirming her fear of returning early. She had served diligently even with a very difficult trial, but all of a sudden had less than a week to inform her parents, pack her things, and return home.
When Valeria arrived home, she learned that her parents and sister had all started PathwayConnect, and she had arrived just in time to start the semester with them. She’d been accepted to a college in Rio but was too sick to live there on her own, so she was excited that PathwayConnect could be another option for her to move forward.
When Valeria started the program, it was even better than she expected. The courses taught her to be self-reliant, which changed her life. The culture in Brazil is to live with your parents until you’re married. The idea of moving out at a younger age was new to Valeria, but she felt inspired to do it. After the first year in PathwayConnect and when she recovered from her illness, she decided to move to Rexburg, Idaho, to study at BYU-Idaho.
Valeria had attended some college before her mission but enjoyed BYU-Pathway Worldwide so much. She said, “I wasn’t just learning secular stuff. I was learning about the gospel. I was learning about life and things that I will use everywhere.”
A new home with new opportunities
Now, Valeria and her sister are both students at BYU-Idaho, and Valeria is studying communication. “I just love it. I absolutely love it!” she said. “I’m here because of BYU-Pathway — I have no questions about that. It’s definitely what gave me the courage, knowing that I’d finished and that I could go to college in the United States.”
At a family home evening activity in college, Valeria met her husband, Brennen. If she hadn’t started BYU-Pathway, she wouldn’t have met him. “It was perfect timing. We’re going to have a family someday. It’s just one thing that led to another — it’s God’s perfect plan that I just didn’t know at the time.”
For Valeria, getting sick on her mission was a terrible trial. At the time, she couldn’t understand why she had to leave her mission early, and she didn’t know what would happen next. BYU-Pathway changed her life. “Now I can say it was a miracle for me to participate in BYU-Pathway,” she said, “and a miracle for everything that happened after.”
Valeria knows how difficult it is to achieve higher education and understands that students can get discouraged. She encourages students to focus on “having a goal in mind, knowing that in the end, you’re going to get so much more just for finishing.”
She continued, “Its a program inspired by God — I have no questions about that. So if God gave you a one-year program that’s going to bless the rest of your life, just remember that it might be hard, but it’s going to bless the rest of your life. You cannot go wrong by finishing it, and you cannot go wrong by participating. It’s an investment for the rest of your life. …Every time someone asks me about BYU-Pathway, all I say is, ‘Do it!'”
The blessings and miracles continue
Valeria was hired as a social media intern at BYU-Pathway Worldwide headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, in September 2019. “It’s another way that I’m being blessed,” she said. “I’m telling you, there are so many miracles one after another, and I link it all back to BYU-Pathway. God is really good.”
What miracles and blessings have you seen on your journey? Share in the comments below!