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Alisa’s Journey to BYU-Pathway

Single mother Alisa Petersen is able to continue her education thanks to PathwayConnect

In early 2014, Alisa Petersen, a single mother, was accepted to a local university and was excited to pursue a degree in medical laboratory science. She had all her classes scheduled and was eager to begin but soon “felt sick about it and didn’t know why.”

Alisa Petersen
Alisa’s prayers were answered through PathwayConnect.

After a priesthood blessing, Alisa met with an academic advisor and learned the program would require more in-class time than she had previously been informed. Because of her devotion to her children, Alisa knew she couldn’t sacrifice being a mother to become a student.

For her, night school would require too much time away from her family, and she was already working 25 hours a week as a phlebotomist hosting blood drives. As her work hours constantly changed, so did her and her children’s schedules, which required a level of flexibility that on-campus courses couldn’t offer. With her work schedule alone, Alisa needed additional support from her father to care for her children before and after they went to school. Finding an academic program that would allow her to be home was essential.

“In despair, I withdrew from the program,” Alisa said. “I prayed and explained that I had done all I could to pursue an education in a manner that would allow me to keep up with my family. I pleaded with Heavenly Father that if I was to earn a degree, I would need His help to prepare the way — my family had to come first.”

Alisa knew she needed an online program, and her prayers were soon answered.

A Path of Opportunity

A few weeks after she withdrew from her local university in 2013, a family member called Alisa about a PathwayConnect fireside that weekend, expressing the desire to help her situation and even offering to pay PathwayConnect’s low tuition rate for her if she joined. During the fireside, Alisa received inspiration that PathwayConnect was exactly what she needed to complete her education and be present for her children. She is forever grateful for the blessing and generosity of this family member and the simple invitation to a PathwayConnect fireside.

I had done all I could. I would need Heavenly Father's help to prepare the way to earn a degree.

Soon after, Alisa started the program she had been anxiously searching for.

“As I attended the PathwayConnect gatherings, I felt peace in knowing I'm on the correct path. The word ‘Pathway’ has significance to me as I feel PathwayConnect was the path that the Lord prepared especially for me. I enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship within our group. I am so grateful that the Lord answered my heartfelt prayer that day and provided a way that I could obey His spiritual promptings to further my education,” said Alisa.

PathwayConnect blessed Alisa as she had the opportunity to reinforce principles like decision making, time management, budgeting, and study habits. All of these she now passes on to her four children, who were under the age of fifteen at the time, as best she can through her example, encouragement, and teachings.

“My kids and I get up early every morning, have prayer and scripture study, and do homework and chores before they go to school. They have strong testimonies of the gospel. My children observe my hard work and are learning the value of education through my example,” shared Alisa.

A Growing Family

During her time in PathwayConnect, Alisa also met Randall Sly through a dating website for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has two sons and teaches high school computer animation and technology. They began dating and preparing to marry and combine their families — bringing a regular influence of a husband and father into the lives of Alisa and her children.

Alisa and Randall Petersen with their children on their wedding day
Alisa and Randall with their children on their wedding day

Although she completed PathwayConnect in July 2015, Alisa’s story is not over. She is now married to Randall and works three days a week while continuing her education. She is enrolled in the BYU-Idaho Online Degree Program and plans to obtain a degree in health care administration , which she says “fits my family situation perfectly.” Through BYU-Idaho online, Alisa is able to take classes at her family’s pace — allowing her to still be a student and the mother and wife she wants to be.

Randall has been supportive of Alisa obtaining a degree as the two are teaching their six children the importance of education. When the kids complain about how difficult school is and claim their parents don’t understand, Alisa reminds them that she’s in school, too. She also sets an example by showing them it is possible to earn good grades and by working with Randall to teach them the importance of good study habits.

The word ‘Pathway’ has significance, as PathwayConnect was the path the Lord prepared especially for me.

She said, “I am so grateful that the Lord inspired me to pursue an online degree that gave me the time I needed at home. The Lord guided me toward a good education. I'm forever grateful to those who created PathwayConnect as a means for single mothers to gain a quality education.”