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74 And Still Learning

PathwayConnect helped Mary Copeland, at age 74, overcome her fears and realize the power of working together


Panic set in long before I had set my GPS for the church building in Olympia, Washington.

What had I been thinking when I signed up for PathwayConnect? I was completely out of my mind, returning to school at 74. Why had I committed to driving an hour and a half each way to gather with people I didn’t even know? I was shy, and carrying a conversation was difficult for me.

How could an “old lady” like me, who had waited to start my education again until I was not just retired, but ancient, keep up with these younger people who worked, took care of children, and were going to school? I would have never been able to do that back in the day.

My first interaction

Elder and Sister Pollard, Mary’s BYU-Pathway missionaries.

My anxiety heightened as I turned the corner and saw the church building. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, stepped out of my car, and walked reluctantly across the parking lot to a group of people standing by the door.

An older gentleman asked if I was there to help with the church service project.

“No,” I said nervously. “I’m here for the PathwayConnect class.”

The gentlemen directed me to the side door of the building, and I stumbled into the room. It was filled with people — all of them strangers. I think I went into shock — the kind where you feel numb and your brain goes on autopilot and you respond to questions with a vacant smile on your face.

After finding a seat, I opened my laptop and found myself — a person who had spent most of her adult life working with and teaching computer classes — all of a sudden not remembering how to even open a browser.

“Several of them smiled and stopped to talk to me.”

There were several other things during our gathering that were stressful, but not remembering how to do something I’d spent my whole life teaching — that topped it off.

I soon realized there were other students who were also having computer problems, but a few had found a solution and were coming around to help. In fact, several of them smiled and stopped to talk to me. Our group’s missionary couple reassured us that everything was okay.

Helping one another gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves in a way we may not have done otherwise. As we shared some of our hopes and fears for the class and our future, it became apparent that we would succeed together. My fears slowly melted away as I threw myself head-first into PathwayConnect.

Working together brought us closer to one another

“We worked toward a common goal.”

Each semester was a growing experience for me, especially during my math class! It started with the basics, which I could do, but then came the dastardly “word problems” … then pi … then integers … then linear equations — oh, my! I was back in panic mode!

Luckily, my group members gladly walked through the problems with me until I understood. I wasn’t afraid to show my lack of knowledge because there were others struggling too, and we would all help each other.

Because of my group, I made it through math. We made it through math. We were more than just a group of students now — we were a family.

Our group grew close as we worked toward a common goal — we were all there to learn, to support, and to share. My feelings of panic and anxiety subsided and were replaced with feelings of acceptance and joy. By the end of the semester, the gathering became my “special outing” every Thursday.

We were more than just a group of students now—we were a family.

My PathwayConnect family brought out the best in me. Even at the age of 74 and even with the daunting long drive, I completed PathwayConnect — and with all A’s! I did it because of the support and encouragement of my PathwayConnect family. We did it together.

Education is for everyone, regardless of age. Learn how to continue your education today!