Debra Carter

Name: Debra Carter


Age: 61



I am a wife of 43 years, a mother of four daughters, now grown and married, and grandmother of 12. My husband and I serve every Tuesday as ordinance workers in the Seattle Temple, which we love. I am also a CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. It is a volunteer position. As such, I talk to teachers, therapists, counselors, social workers, attorneys, relatives, foster parents and the child so I can prepare reports for the judge and speak in court on behalf of the child’s needs and wishes. It can be difficult work, but I have met many wonderful people who are doing great things for kids. I feel passionately about this work; it really does make a difference for a child. I am a Marriage and Family Studies Major, and what I am learning is making me a better CASA, wife, mother, grandmother and member of the community. My home is in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State), my favorite place in the whole world.


How did you learn about pathway?

In the late summer of 2012, while sitting in a Sacrament meeting, I heard part of a mumbled announcement. It was something about a meeting for more information about an online college opportunity through the church, called Pathway. Even though I did not hear all of the announcement, and it was not delivered very enthusiastically, it really intrigued me.


Why did you decided to join pathway?

I attended the meeting to get information about this “Pathway” thing, and was amazed to see our stake center chapel was almost full. Not a lot was really known about Pathway back then, as it was totally new to my area ( greater Tacoma area of Washington State.) I continued to get a strong feeling about it. Even though I had always wanted a college degree, and this was looking like a really good opportunity, I was quite scared. I was not sure I could handle the commitment, the money or the math classes. There was only a short window of time to figure that out and make the commitment, too.

I talked to my husband about it, and he was very supportive. When I lamented that I would feel like a failure if I started, and then couldn’t continue all the way to the degree, he said the greatest thing. He told me that anything I learned, I got to keep, and so no investment of time or money would be a waste or a failure. That was the decisive point for me and I registered.


How has pathway helped you in your life since you first started?

First, I made 21 great new friends when we came together for our Pathway meetings every Thursday night for a year. Going to college also gave me some street cred with my grown children. My confidence has soared. Some might wonder why a woman of my age would bother with a college degree, and I joke that by the time I graduate I will be old enough to retire from the career I never had. But I will be throwing one big party anyway! (If only I could convince someone to give me a student discount and a senior discount).


At this point in time, I do not anticipate a career for income, but my education is contributing greatly to my volunteer work.  I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, also known as a CASA (some of us are called Guardian ad litem). I am an officer of the court who advocates for children who have been abused or neglected, and come into care of the court. As such, I gather information about the child I am assigned to, write reports for the judge, and speak in court on behalf of the child. My writing classes have made me a better writer of reports, my child development classes have helped me understand whether the child is showing distress, and the psychology classes help me understand and deal with the parents. The religion classes keep me grounded when I see and hear really tough stuff, and need to get centered again.


I also find I have better quality conversations because my world is larger. I enjoy visiting about ideas and philosophies more than about people and things.


Would you recommend Pathway to anyone?

Definitely. I would help them understand though, that it is a real commitment. Even though online college is growing exponentially, and not just at BYU-I, some still think it will be an easy way to get a degree or that it is not quite as good as a traditional degree acquired on campus. It is flexible, and staying home to study has it’s benefits, as does the price, but anyone considering doing Pathway and matriculating to regular online classes should keep in mind that they will need to work hard.