For 32-year-old Afu Fakatou, going back to school “was like being pushed into a swimming pool with alligators.”
“But,” he says, “through faith, persistence, fervent prayer and diligence he overcame his challenges and completed his three semesters of study.”
Fakatou is one of 27 men and women from Tonga who have recently completed the BYU-Idaho Pathway program.
Pathway enables people around the world to improve their English competency as well as bridge into further studies.
The 27 graduates are the first to complete the course requirements in Tonga, and are now looking ahead to further tertiary studies, better employment options and other pursuits.
Brigham Young University—Idaho is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Last week Church and university leaders announced the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide (BYU-PW) that would now be available to more people around the world.
Designed to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in post-secondary education, Pathway is a low-cost educational opportunity that combines online courses with local gatherings. Students earn college credit that is eligible for transfer to BYU—Idaho and some other universities. The program takes one year (or three semesters) to complete and can lead to professional certificates and degrees.
A graduation ceremony was held in Nuku’alofa last week under the direction of Elder Aisake Tukuafu, Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Another local Latter-day Saint leader, Sione ‘Ilaniume Langi, conducted the proceedings.
Dignitaries at the graduation included the guest of honour, His Royal Highness, Prince Ata; Semisi Sika, Minister of Infrastructure and Tourism; Claude Tupou, CEO of Education; Ana Bing Fonua, CEO of Internal Affairs; and Garrick Parr, Manager of the LDS Service Centre. They were joined by high school principals, local Church leaders and families of the graduates.
One graduate, Faka’anaua Palaiti, expressed her love for the Pathway program. She missed only one week as she gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Missing her “Pathway family,” as she calls her fellow students, she faithfully brought her daughter each week until she finished the course.