Education Week crowds campus

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It wasn’t the circus, Mardi Gras or even Woodstock. It was Education Week.

Guests came in droves from near and far to participate in this year’s festivities, returning in person for the first time since the pandemic after an exclusively virtual offering in 2020.

RVs and campers stationed themselves in the LaVell Edwards Stadium and Smith Fieldhouse parking lots for days, and the Cougareat was packed with visitors.

Speed-walking attendees clutched notepads, tugged rolling backpacks and hauled BYU bookstore merchandise as they darted from session to session to learn from the renowned selection of speakers. They braved the week’s sweltering heat and pouring rain, denying the elements from spoiling the quest for knowledge.

Some came with an extensive, predetermined itinerary to squeeze the most out of the course lineup, while others intimidated by the lengthy menu faced decision fatigue. Some were old, some were young, and few were masked up following strong encouragement to do so. Amid the collective chaos, there was a sense of peace and chipper joy among attendees in gathering together.

Maria Gundaker, a native of Panama now residing in Orem for the past three years, made her second trip to Education Week this year and appreciated the opportunity to feel closer to the Spirit. Gundaker said she felt the preparation from the instructors was a great blessing to those in attendance looking for enlightenment.

“I find it very inspiring and good for the soul,” Gundaker said. “It’s very special because all of the people who prepare the workshops are inspired and educated, and I feel like there’s a lot of peace here to be around so many people who are working to improve their lives.”

Valdean Irvine of Fallbrook, California, who made the trip with her husband Jeff, said Education Week offered a source of motivation to improve and start anew. “Being here motivates us for the coming year, it inspires us to do better.”

By their own estimate, the Irvines have attended education week together “more than 25 times.” Jeff said there has always been an easy way to ensure they’d never miss out on the week’s spiritual benefits.

“A lot of people we know always say they wish they remembered to come, but if you put it in your calendar every year you’ll never forget about it,” Jeff said.

The Irvines have taken advantage of the entire Education Week experience, lodging at Helaman Halls, eating at the Cannon Center and enjoying the various nightly performances on campus. Despite the separate quarters for men and women in the dorms, Valdean has found fun in the unique accommodations. “It feels like we’re dating again since we can’t stay together,” she said.

Jeff named Tuesday’s devotional from Elder Uchtdorf as a highlight from the week, while Valdean enjoyed hearing from the Young Men and Women General Presidents along with learning more about different Church apps.

“Education Week gives us a chance to look at and learn about things we don’t normally think about,” Jeff said.

At the end of the week, the classes, events and Spirit served as a much needed relief to those burdened by today’s world.

“After a crazy year of staying home, it was so great to come up here to this beautiful campus,” Valdean said.

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