Course lead Daniel Baird learned the true nature of Pathway’s purpose while traveling to gatherings around the world
If someone told me a year ago that I would travel to 13 countries in only three months, I would have told them they were crazy. When I was given an opportunity to lead an international study of PathwayConnect’s curriculum, I could hardly believe it.
I travelled to locations all over the world, from Lima, Peru, to Kyiv, Ukraine, observing how PathwayConnect has been implemented in different cultures and communities. In all, I visited over twenty PathwayConnect locations and met with hundreds of students and missionaries.
Meeting with them expanded my vision of the program and the roles we all play in it. Now more than ever, I understand that PathwayConnect is a program that helps students improve their lives and equips them with skills to build the kingdom of God wherever they are.
I quickly learned PathwayConnect has a much bigger impact on students than I could have ever imagined.
Before my trip, I didn’t see how I fit into PathwayConnect or the effect it had in students’ lives. As a Course Lead for the “Intro to Algebra and Finance” class, I had a narrow vision of the program — I designed the course material, but I didn’t know if it helped or influenced students in any way. But as I met with students, I quickly learned PathwayConnect has a much bigger impact on students than I could have ever imagined.
I thought I would hear from students about how the lessons helped them understand math better, but instead, most told me how PathwayConnect helped their family grow closer together. They explained how their children learned from watching them struggle through their schoolwork every night and how their conversations about the gospel improved as they discussed PathwayConnect lessons from gatherings at the dinner table.
For these students, PathwayConnect was much more than an opportunity to learn important professional skills — it became a way to and grow spiritually and intellectually. It has lifted the educational and spiritual visions of entire families all over the world to help them see where they can be in the future and equipped them with the skills to get there. With that elevated vision, students create a new life for themselves and their families.
Learning by Faith
I saw this take place in students’ lives as I traveled from location to location by the way that PathwayConnect helped students include God in their lives and education.
No matter where I was in the world, I heard the same remarks from students: “Before PathwayConnect, I would not have prayed for help in math class,” or, “Before PathwayConnect, I never prayed for help in school.” But from the start of PathwayConnect, if students learn to use their faith in God and include Him in their educations, they will see a difference in their learning. Many take this lesson and apply it not only in their schooling, but in all aspects of their lives.
While in Ecuador, I met Lorina Collago, who was about to finish her last semester in PathwayConnect. She told me she wasn’t going to pursue an online degree at BYU-Idaho right after finishing the program. She and her husband had gone to the temple to ask God what to do after finishing the program, and they both received an answer that they needed to start their own family business first. PathwayConnect prepared them to listen for the Lord’s voice and follow His guidance.
As students include God in their education, they will see a difference in their learning.
Through encouraging students to do this, PathwayConnect students learn to rely on God with everything in their lives and as a result, they become independent, self-sufficient beacons of spiritual power in their homes, families, and communities as they turn and lift those around them.
Building the Kingdom of God
All over the world, I met members of the Church who know they play a crucial role for the growth of the Church in their home country. The Church provides strength and direction in their lives, and for them, all the expertise, specialties, and degrees they earn in life are ultimately intended for one purpose — to build God’s kingdom.
PathwayConnect teaches students to apply gospel principles to that education.
That is why PathwayConnect is such an important program for these students. It doesn’t just allow them to receive an education, it teaches students to apply gospel principles to that education. It is a tough process that stretches them, but they grow and feel ennobled by it. They use what they learn to turn around and begin lifting up those around them and build a positive environment wherever they are.
Through meeting these dedicated students, I came to understand what Joseph Smith meant when he said the truth of God would “go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent.” Being a Course Lead in PathwayConnect is like being a construction worker who builds one piece of highway. The students are real-life champions of Zion, zooming across my little piece of road with great things ahead of them.
PathwayConnect is so much bigger than I had ever imagined, and we are all part of it — even if our piece in the big picture seems small. Our involvement in PathwayConnect will have lasting effects — not only in our lives, but in the lives of many generations to come.