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Alumni Report

Chapter Focus: Opening Their Eyes

A group of high school students, led by a pair of BYU alumni, journeyed west to explore educational opportunities.

Group Photo

Rob and Dana Linder (left), alumni chapter chairs in Boston, brought a group of high school students to Utah and Idaho to introduce them to Church options for higher education.

When Robert J. Linder (BS ’95) lived in San Francisco, his stake president told him to never cross the Bay Bridge heading to the temple alone in the car. Always bring someone with you when you’re going to do good things, he said.

Years later, that counsel resonated in Linder’s mind as he and his wife, Dana Slade Linder (’01), planned a trip from their home in Boston, Mass., to Utah for a family wedding. They did not want to leave for Salt Lake “alone” in the plane. So as BYU alumni chapter chairs, and with help from Church leaders, BYU employees, and other alumni, the Linders organized a group of high school students to accompany them to the West as an introduction to the higher education opportunities offered by the Church.

“In general, these are kids whose parents have never gone to college,” Rob says. “They might be multicultural, might have single-parent families, might be new converts, or might have some type of a hardship.”

Jessica De Oliveira moved to the United States from Brazil when she was 8 years old. Since then, her parents have worked hard to put her in good schools, and she has worked hard to get good scholarships. When she joined the Linders on the trip to Utah, De Oliveira had already been accepted to and offered scholarships by a long list of top-tier schools. Although she had been accepted to BYU, De Oliveira had only vaguely considered it as an option and had not considered BYU–Idaho at all. But she was far from settled regarding her future plans. “I was really trying to decide where I should go to school,” she says.

With airfare covered by donated tickets and frequent flier miles from Boston Saints, the group left for Utah. They arrived at BYU in the break between semesters, so the campus was relatively empty. Still, it made an impression. “When I saw that there were so many things going on there, I was really surprised,” says De Oliveira, who was very involved in high school extra-curricular activities. She was also impressed by the size and the beauty of the campus.

While visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City after their tour of BYU, the students received a surprise visit from President Henry B. Eyring, whose son John B. Eyring (BA ’95) was the former stake young men’s president in Boston and helped organize the trip. President Eyring chatted with the students for close to an hour, emphasizing the importance of discovering the will of the Lord in their lives.

After their visit, the group drove to Rexburg, Idaho, where they toured BYU–Idaho’s campus, sat in on a class, and attended a singles ward. “It was really interesting to see Sunday School classes being taught by kids,” De Oliveira says. “I felt like everything that was being said really pertained to our lives.” Other activities showcased the academic strengths of BYU–Idaho.

By the time she got off the plane back in Boston, De Oliveira had decided that despite the offers from big-name schools, BYU–Idaho was the place she wanted to be. Now she is a freshman at BYU–Idaho, where she is the secretary in the pre-med club and a Relief Society teacher in her student ward. She says she feels the Spirit every day.

The trip was helpful for others as well. Fernando Sa is now at Utah Valley University working hard to get accepted to BYU, and Juca Deandrade, who was unsure about higher education, is now enrolled at Curry College near Boston.

Rob says he had hoped the trip would convince all of the students to go to BYU or BYU–Idaho, but he acknowledges that what is most important is that they determine what is right for them. For some, the introduction to the Church Education System was a guide to their futures. For others, the trip simply opened their eyes to new possibilities and to the importance of seeking the Lord’s guidance in their decisions.

“Whatever you choose to do . . . be great at it,” Rob says.