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One Degree, 21 Years

PathwayConnect gave Stephanie the opportunity to finish what she started 21 years ago


I never graduated from college the first time. That was okay, though, because I served a mission, married my husband, moved to a new state, and started having kids. I wouldn’t trade any of it.

I know every single decision in my life was for a reason. It just meant my goal of a college degree would have to sit on the back burner for a while.

Stephanie and her husband on her graduation day
Stephanie and her husband on her graduation day

PathwayConnect was the first step toward finishing my degree

When PathwayConnect first opened a site near me in Vancouver, Washington, I attended an informational meeting to learn more about it. It wasn’t until I was back home explaining the program to my husband when he suggested it would be a good fit for me. We decided to move forward in faith, and I enrolled in the program.

In September 2014, our kids started elementary school and kindergarten while I started my first semester of PathwayConnect. The courses were simple: one academic class and one religion class for a total of five credits each semester. Plus, I got to meet with other local students once a week at a gathering. This year-long program allowed me to get back into the groove of school while still being a mother.

For me, the biggest benefit PathwayConnect offers is the opportunity to enroll in the BYU-Idaho online degree program presented and coordinated through BYU-Pathway for a discounted price. I paid the same price per credit for my online degree as I did for my PathwayConnect certificate. Amazing, right?

Online courses allowed for the flexibility to build my own school schedule

Almost all of my general requirements for BYU-Idaho Online were taken care of by classes I had taken on campus at BYU in Provo, Utah, when I first attended college in 1997. Online courses aren’t always easy, but there are a lot of great things, too. There was flexibility in the number of credits I had to take, and I could work on assignments whenever I had the time. There’s even a Facebook support group for online students that is really active and helpful.

stephanie at graduation
“Those dreams you have? Don’t give up on ’em.”

I had the opportunity to gain real world experience in my local community

Last year, for my online bachelor’s degree in web design and development from BYU-Idaho, presented and coordinated through BYU-Pathway, I was lucky enough to find a year-long, paid internship at the Port of Portland which operates in the Portland International Airport (USA). While doing the internship, I was still able to complete the last six courses I needed. This let me graduate a whole semester earlier than I had originally planned!

In my internship, I was able to do everything from print and digital design to basic coding for departments all over the airport. I learned so much and got to work on some really fun projects. This hands-on experience was an invaluable opportunity that allowed me to practice what I was learning in my courses in the real world.

For my senior project, I redesigned my blog —and then it was time for graduation! I finished my internship, and my family and I drove to Rexburg, Idaho. I know it would have been just as official if I’d had my degree mailed home, but I loved being able to hear my name read as I walked across the stage, with my husband and kids cheering me on, to receive my diploma. This whole adventure really was a family effort, with everyone stepping up and making sacrifices along the way.

quote sign
PathwayConnect helped Stephanie reach her goal of a college degree!

I got my degree for myself and my family, not for a career

So now, you ask, what’s next? It may seem silly to some, but for me, the most important thing was the education and not the career. I’m planning to remain home with my kids. I will keep blogging and will look for web design jobs here and there. I’ll be able to volunteer at my kids’ schools again and in my community. I also have some projects around the house that have been ignored for the last year — or three — that I’m finally diving into.

As I wrote in my Instagram post:

Those dreams you have? Don’t give up on ’em. You might have to hold them in your back pocket for a while while you work on other dreams, but you can get there.

Learn how you can start your path to a university degree today!