Pathway Brings New Hope, New Skills
Imagine for a moment the stake center gym in Monterrey, Mexico. With its clean and comfortable setup, ward members can play basketball or hold stake activities. On a Thursday night last April, however, the gym was lined with tables and chairs for 67 very important guests: students hoping to register for their first Pathway semester.
The atmosphere was charged as the room buzzed with catch-up chat, welcome greetings, and cheerful anticipation for what lay ahead. While a gym might not be your typical educational forum, this was not your typical student body, either. Pathway students included bishops, future missionaries, single parents, married couples, and converts.
These faithful Church members came with a common goal: to improve their lives by making education a priority, regardless of their age or background. During the gathering, students and leaders joined voices for the encouraging hymn “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” Sung predominantly by students just learning English, the tune was accompanied by a spirit so strong one could tell this was not just any back-to-school course.
Pathway, the program that brought the students together, is a three-semester post-secondary educational program that teaches life skills and basic academic curriculum. It helps students shore up basic skills that will help them to succeed wherever their path takes them. Spanning the course of a year, it is infused with online courses, local weekly gatherings, and English-speaking partner opportunities.
Pathway opens the way for students to reach their goals. For some, that may mean a job promotion. For others, it may mean more confidence or improved English abilities. And for many, Pathway may lead to a local technical or university education, or even to an online degree from BYU-Idaho. No matter the goal, Pathway can help.
The success of the program is based on four factors. First, it is Priesthood led at the local level. Second, weekly Thursday gatherings serve as a platform for peer teaching and amicable support. Third, existing stake and institute facilities are utilized to their full potential. Fourth, students are shepherded by a local missionary couple.
The growth of Pathway in Mexico has been significant. In 2013, the number of sites soared from 6 in 2012 to 21 in 2013. The number more than doubled to 43 by spring 2014.
Why the amazing growth? The gospel is flourishing in Mexico, but many families struggle to support those they love. Improving their lives is important. Since becoming Pathway missionaries in Mexico in 2011, Elder and Sister Rodriguez have thoroughly enjoyed fostering a family-like bond and love with countless students.
“I once joked that every semester we had new daughters and sons,” said Sister Rodriguez. “But our lives are so touched by their strength and hard work. We come to love the students quickly, and we are grateful to be even a grain of sand in their lives.”
Third-semester students Hyrum and Yvette de la Rosa are an example of the faith and fortitude shown. They have overcome weekly opposition and obstacles to travel over an hour from Saltillo, Coahuila to attend Thursday gatherings.
What drives them? “We have a clear purpose and dream,” said Hyrum. “We know we can find what we want here. We can help others find jobs and employment. We can leave a legacy for our children.” Holding fast to her husband’s arm, Yvette added, “We know we are in the right place to learn what God wants. He is helping prepare us for His purposes.”
While learning English is a key motive for many students who enroll in Pathway, many see their lives blessed in other ways as well. Armando Guereca, a former commercial pilot who started Pathway last semester with his son, said he gained more than just an opportunity to brush up on his English.
“I found myself developing more faith in God as I studied the scriptures and learned hymns,” he said. “My wife said she could see it changing my life in a positive way. I really want to be a better person, a better father, a better member of the Church.”
During the weekly gathering, Pathway students take turns leading. The dynamic lessons encourage group discussion and provide ample opportunities for self-reflection. Students leverage their strengths in peer essay revisions, reminding their classmates of comma rules, verb conjugations, and spelling.
Isaac Monsalvo, a recent graduate, was invited to share his testimony during his final Pathway gathering. He said, “I’m very grateful for Pathway personally. We are not only given the opportunity to learn, but we are given the opportunity to teach, to help others, and to receive help. It’s a very humbling experience.”
Pathway in Monterrey, Mexico is about new beginnings and fresh starts. It has brought hope and a refreshing shift of perspective to students. Lehi Santana, a musician, photographer, and first semester student said, “Pathway has given a new sense of direction to my work life. I didn’t think I’d be able to learn anything new at 42, but the Lord is helping me.”
Elder Rodriguez likes to remind students that the Lord’s help and blessings are there for those who seek them. “To me, all of the students are warriors,” he said. “They are searching earnestly for better lives. Even if they have struggles, the Pathway program will give them hope and new skills. It will help them come unto Christ.”