In December 1971, Henry B. Eyring, then president of Ricks College (now called BYU-Idaho), made a prophetic statement in his inaugural address. “We must also find ways for this college to serve young people whose needs are shaped by a great variety of cultures and situations, and who may not be able to come to this campus…. We will find direct ways to move the blessing of education … from this campus out into the lives of men and women everywhere.”
Today, Pathway is the fulfillment of this promise. Pathway offers church members a low-cost educational opportunity that combines online courses with local student gatherings. Pathway is enabling the blessing of education to issue forth from the BYU-Idaho campus and spread throughout the world! This life changing program is making a difference all over the world and specifically here in our Woodbridge stake.
Consider the possible barriers to getting an education: money, time, family responsibilities, grades, fear of failing. Brother Brigham Taylor, Pathway Manager from BYU-Idaho, said, “Our goal is to lower and remove barriers to education.” With a simple application process and very few requirements, Pathway students take three semesters, over the course of a year. Each semester includes two classes – one religion class and one academic class. They take the classes online and then gather together with a group of fellow students once a week for student led discussions and active learning and, as many Pathway students shared, for an uplift. Speaking of the Thursday group Steve Krieski, a Pathway student, said, “The spirit there is unmatched.”
Once through the three semesters students have earned college credit that is eligible for transfer to BYU-Idaho and other universities and can lead to a variety of online degrees and professional certificates.
On Sunday May 31, a special Fireside introduced Pathway to interested Woodbridge stake members; the entire stake Presidency was there. President Clark Price said it is rare that they are all in one meeting together and that they were all there shows how important the Pathway program is. He said, “This program is inspired of the Lord.” He felt that already when the Stake Presidency was introduced to Pathway in the summer of 2012. He explained that through Pathway many stake members are able to seek after and obtain intelligence to help them and their loved ones return to Heavenly Father. He said, “In the last two years I don’t know of anything other than this that has brought about so much good. Hundreds of men and women have been blessed by it.”
Trent and Sherie Christensen of the Prince William ward were called as Church service missionaries for the Pathway program in November 2013. Sherie said, “We worked really hard to get the word out so that (stake members) knew the opportunity existed. It spoke to so many people who wanted to go back and finish. The Pathway program is such an incredible opportunity not just academically but for personal growth.”
Such a high number of interested participants signed up by the December 2013 deadline, that the Woodbridge Stake was approved to be an overflow site from the Fairfax Pathway site. More than 50 students began their Pathway year in January 2014 in the Dale City building in the 30+ age group. The Christensens served as the facilitating missionary couple and lead the first and last meeting of the semester. Pathway students lead all of the other weekly gatherings. Sister Christensen said these were “spirit filled and spirit driven classes.”
In March 2014 the Woodbridge Stake was officially approved to start a regular site in September 2014. The Christensens began recruiting again and recruited enough students to form two cohorts divided by age. Two more facilitating missionary couples were called to lead the cohorts; the Kidbys led the 31+ cohort in Dale City building and the Worthingtons led the 18-30 cohort in the Stake Center.
Being a part of the Pathway program changed the lives of these students. Sister Christensen said that the students often described how Pathway strengthened their testimonies. They felt the empowerment that knowledge brings to them. Sister Christensen said, “We saw people go through the temple, read all the way through the Book of Mormon. Their lives changed. We saw a lot of beautiful moments of faith. We’ve seen people who were less active come back to church.”
Moses Conteh, a Pathway student from the Woodbridge 1st ward, said, “Pathway is not only about academics; it is about our spiritual lives. It has brought my spiritual life up to a level I had never expected.”
Jennifer Ruiz, from the Potomac River ward, is a mother of seven children. She said that Pathway is “a great blessing to improve ourselves. I can prepare myself to be a better disciple of Christ and to help others too. “
In 2009 Pathway began with 3 sites and 50 students. Today it has 314 sites in 32 countries and 9,316 students. Taylor said, “Pathway is an amazing fruit of the gospel.” And the fruit leads to other fruit of the gospel – the blessings in individual’s lives.
Steve Krieski, from the Woodbridge 1st ward was baptized in 2011. Once he started the Pathway program he really felt tremendous spiritual growth. He said, “There was so much more I could become and Pathway taught me that.”
Matt and Penny Clark shared, “This was our window of opportunity to go back to school.” They have seen the hand of the Lord in their lives as they both have worked through Pathway. Sister Clark said, “I testify that if we simply do that which we are inspired to do, the Lord will provide a way. I’m excited to matriculate and carry on with my education and hope others will pray about this amazing opportunity and have the strength to follow through with their decision. “
Brother Clark said, “Pathway is an inspired program and I hope many who don’t think they are capable can pray and act on their promptings.”
For those interested in applying for the Pathway school year that will start in September 2015 the application process is simple. There is no application fee, and no standardized scores (ACT/SAT) or ecclesiastical endorsement are required.
To apply, you must be a member of the church, have daily access to a computer and the Internet, attend the weekly gatherings, strive to live the Honor Code, pass an English assessment (for non-native English speakers) and be able to pay for your class credits. The cost of Pathway credits is significantly lower than credits at other schools; one credit is $65. For the Pathway year, the total cost is $585 for 18-30 year old students and $975 for students 31 and older.
By Camille Kerr
Writing Specialist on the Woodbridge, Virginia Stake Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints