For some people, obtaining an education is a matter of prayer.
Isaac Monsalvo said he found the answer to his prayers in the Pathway program.
“I was thinking of going to BYU, but it’s hard considering the fact that we make much less money,” Monsalvo said, who lives in Monterrey, Mexico. “The idea of going to the States to study there seemed impossible to me.”
Monsalvo said the idea to join Pathway originated from hearing about the program during his time working as a secretary in the mission office of the Mexico Tijuana Mission.
He said that although he knew about the Church Perpetual Education Fund, he wanted other options.
Other options are exactly what the Pathway program provided him, but it has not been easy, Monsalvo said.
Out of the 40 students who began the program with him, only 10 made it to graduation.
He said self-doubt was one issue that caused many students to drop out of the program.
“They thought they were not good enough,” he said. “They thought that they didn’t have the skills for it. Sometimes they failed because they would just never show .”
He said lack of previous formal education experience was another reason for students to drop out.
“Some of my classmates dropped because of money, but I didn’t feel that was a valid reason,” Monsalvo said.
He said tuition for the program is $175.
“English and attendance were the real reasons, because people would get discouraged due to lack of educational experience,” Monsalvo said.
Pathway prepares about 7,000 students around the world for BYU-I’s online courses through teaching the tools and basic abilities they will need in order to complete coursework and gain a college degree online, according to pathway.lds.org.
Monsalvo said the culture where he and his classmates live can present a problem.
“Some of them struggled because they didn’t understand the cultural differences from the United States,” Monsalvo said.
Pathway incorporates English instruction for intermediate to low-level English speakers, according to pathway.lds.org.
Monsalvo said language can still be a barrier to new students, including his class of 40 fellow students.
“There were only four of us that were fluent in English,” he said. “The rest spoke very broken English.”
He said it was an opportunity to serve in significant ways.
“People depended on me,” he said.
Monsalvo said his classmates’ dependence on him gave him a greater sense of purpose.
“It wasn’t until my last gathering that it hit me that my purpose as a Pathway student was to help others succeed,” he said. “There were classes where I felt really bad, not because people were rude to me, but because other people would get intimidated because I spoke English very fluently.”
Monsalvo said he noticed several characteristics his successful classmates possessed that helped them to complete the Pathway program.
“They were always willing to participate,” Monsalvo said.
He said he saw the students progress from being able to introduce themselves in English, to learning how to really express themselves as individuals as they pushed themselves on their assignments.
Monsalvo said he noticed another aspect successful Pathway students possessed was dedication.
“They were committed to what they were doing,” he said. “Commitment is one of the most important aspects of succeeding at BYU-I Pathway.”
He said his own commitment to BYU-I and the academic honesty expected played a significant role in his experience.
“I feel like I’m an actual student, even though I’m not on campus,” Monsalvo said. “Regardless of where I’m located, I’m a BYU-I student, and as a BYU-I student, I’m not going to break that commitment.”
Monsalvo said humility was the most important characteristic that allowed Pathway students to succeed, both in learning English and in other academic endeavors.
“They were willing to accept corrections from others,” he said. “They didn’t make excuses on why not to complete the assignments. They were embracing the spirit of BYU-Idaho. They were becoming disciples.”
Monsalvo said the ability to serve his classmates as they learn English and prepare for an education stems from a lifelong education of his own.
“When my father passed away, I received a full scholarship,” he said.
He also said he learned English from a very young age through the resources in his community, receiving his early education at a multilingual school where classes were taught in English, Spanish, and German.
“I would always have a lot of opportunities to speak English at school, at church, or with the missionaries, as well as online, playing video games and watching TV,” Monsalvo said. “The Internet played a huge role in learning English when I was young.”
Monsalvo even said that learning English so young affected his Spanish.
“Even growing in Mexico, even talking with everyone, I didn’t know some words in Spanish,” he said.
Monsalvo said that despite the difficulties his fellow Pathway students encountered, he felt the program accomplished its purpose.
“I had the bright idea of taking eight credits, and it hit me hard, but I felt prepared,” Monsalvo said. “I knew how to use the system, and I knew what resources I had available. It fulfills its purpose, and in addition, it changes people’s perspective.”
Monsalvo said that both learning English and having a degree from the United States can be a huge benefit to an individual’s career in Monterrey.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “It helps you land even bigger jobs here in my country. If you have education from other parts of the world, it opens more doors and, of course, means getting better pay.”
Monsalvo said the impact English can have on an employee’s pay can be significant.
“A starting accountant here would make 5,000 pesos a month, less than $400,” he said. “If you keep working, you might get a raise to 8,000 or 9,000 pesos, and it might grow over time since that’s your career.”
He used the story of a friend of his as an example.
“My friend was working as an accountant, and she was making 6,000 pesos a month, but then she started working in a call center and was making 9,000 pesos just because she spoke English,” Monsalvo said.
He also said languages such as French and Portuguese were in high-demand and that knowing foreign languages, especially English, was a great help in getting a job in management.
As for his own career, Monsalvo said he is hopeful. He said that he is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in applied management, with an associate’s degree in office management and expects to finish his associate’s degree by April 2016.
Monsalvo said he has several options for where he can work.
“I’ve tried to picture myself working in the States, to be closer to family and do my life over there,” he said. “It’s unclear to me. If I get an internship in the States, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.”
He also gave his reasons for staying in Mexico.
“At the same time, I feel that being a student at BYU-I would open doors in my country,” he said. “I feel that we’re given this opportunity to strengthen our community where we live.”
Monsalvo said he is confident that things will end well regardless of where he ends .
“As I prepare and earn my degree, I know that the Lord will prepare opportunities for me, and they could be here in my country or in another country, with one company or another,” he said.
He said the Pathway program’s role was vital to this preparation.
“I realized that people around the world were blessed by Pathway not only for education, but to be prepared to be leaders, parents and responsible workers,” Monsalvo said. “It prepares you on a spiritual level, and there is nowhere else you’re going to find that.”