News Story

Giving People a Hand Up in the South Pacific

BYU-Pathway Worldwide offers everything from basic life skills to university degrees 

Two South Pacific women were able to dramatically change their lives through hard work and an innovative educational program offered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU-Pathway Worldwide helps people increase their skills and confidence, opening doors to further study, career and other opportunities. Courses start with basic life skills and progress to higher education and employment programs.


Latu Kata and Lani Smolik were looking for ways to help their families. They both realized that the thing they needed most was more education so they could improve their circumstances. They also realized they could serve as role models for their children to show them first-hand the importance of education. 

Lani Smolik, from Samoa, became interested in PathwayConnect when it first arrived in her country in 2015. She completed her first semester through the BYU-Idaho online program in the spring of 2016 and knew this was what she had been looking for. 

She completed the remaining two semesters at home and also earned an Administrative Assistant Certificate in 2017. Then she became a regular student at BYU-Idaho and received an Associate Degree in 2018 in Samoa. 

She continued her studies and then in 2019, she was able to attend commencement ceremonies at the BYU campus in Idaho in the United States to receive her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She now works as a Team Lead in the Human Resources Department for the Church in Samoa and is working on an Occupational Safety and Health Certificate to help increase her HR skills. 

“What amazes me the most about this path is that I did all of this while working full time, raising three children, assisting my parents and serving in some challenging Church callings,” she said. “I also got to help others get into the Pathways program, serving as a volunteer facilitator and now as a supervisor for all of Samoa. I just love Pathways. It changed my life.”

BYU Pathway Worldwide graduate Lani Smolik at home with her children in Samoa who have also used Pathways to further their own educations. September 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lani’s children have also participated in Pathways courses. Her oldest son started there and then enrolled in BYU-Idaho Online, completed the connect program, served a Church mission and is now working on his first certificate. Her daughter is in her last semester of Pathways which includes her first certificate from Ensign College.

Latu Kata grew up on a small remote island in the Kingdom of Tonga. Her education opportunities as a child were very limited. As a teenager, her family moved to New Zealand, which meant she could attend school.

A few years ago she learned about BYU-Pathway Worldwide and enrolled in the starter program called PathwayConnect. At first, she had lots of fears and uncertainty and almost gave up ─ but she always felt it was the right thing to do. 


An exciting day in the life of Latu Kata (center) shown here along with a fellow student and well wishers after completing the BYU PathwayConnect program. New Zealand, September 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Latu had the desire to work hard and with the help of some volunteer missionaries and after many sleepless nights, she passed her first semester which gave her, for the first time, belief in herself. She finished the needed three semesters and at her PathwayConnect completion ceremony, her mother and close family were there and her goal was to become a judge. 

She next enrolled in the Brigham Young University ─ Idaho online program as a regular student, and graduated in 2019 with an Associates Degree in Administration and again in 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Management. She has continued her studies and earned law certificates at Monash University, Sheffield University and The Open University. She plans to continue on towards Masters and PhD degrees.

Her husband Sete has been a significant part of her support network. While serving as a leader in their local congregation and other regional Church leadership roles, Sete has taken care of a lot of the family’s domestic duties so Latu could pursue her education goals.

Latu Kata (center) at her BYU Pathway Worldwide ceremony with the Kaka and Armstrong families who supported her through the program. New Zealand, September 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Moses Armstrong is the welfare and self-reliance manager for the Church in northern New Zealand. “BYU PathwayConnect provides an education option which is flexible around life challenges, affordable for people in the Pacific and across the world and includes learning faith-based principles that can be used for individuals and their whanau (families) throughout their lives. It changes whanau and future generations. These two women are perfect examples of how lives have been lifted and whanau are being blessed through their spiritually-centred learning.”

With the availability of high-quality computer-based educational programs, Church leaders realized the Church could help with self-reliance courses anywhere. This allows students from all over the world to take courses in a wide variety of topics and gain practical skills to improve their employment situations. 

Students begin with the inexpensive PathwayConnect program consisting of three semesters, and are aided by tutors and counselors to get them off to a good start. After completing PathwayConnect, people can go on to online certificate and degree programs at Brigham Young University-Idaho using the BYU Pathway Worldwide system which serves more than 50,000 students annually in 152 countries. 



Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.