Going back to school wasn’t something Debra took lightly, after years of consideration when she seized the opportunity to complete her BYU degree. Debra’s path to graduation was rocky. Only three years into her BGS journey, Debra lost her oldest son Jeremy. Debra said, “Jeremy was the larger than life big brother who couldn’t overcome his alcohol addiction.” It was hard for Debra to process the emotions that came with her son’s death but focusing on her studies helped her concentrate on the positive things in her life.
One year after her son died, Debra was sitting on a plane on her way to Nepal. Debra trekked through the Himalayas with a few friends to reach the Mount Everest Base camp. The Mount Everest Base camp is at 5364 meters (17598 feet) above sea level, the trail is 80 miles round trip, and it takes most people 12 days to make the trek. Debra’s experience was incredibly difficult, both physically and emotionally, but she also described it as epic and amazing. Debra proved to herself that she could do hard things and that she could take a deep breath and push through. Debra needed that confidence in herself while she was completing her degree because while she was finishing her degree she balanced her career, her callings as an early morning seminary teacher and the Stake Relief Society president, her role as a grandmother, and a trip to Paris. In April 2018, Debra finished her educational trek and graduated from BYU with her Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies.
When asked how she felt about finishing her degree Debra said, “Earning your degree is a very deliberate effort. Similar to trekking into higher and higher altitudes the effort increased, but I knew as long as I kept moving I would reach my goal. I feel more complete and a great deep sense of accomplishment. My degree has been unfinished business for so long. I feel at peace to know that I finished. Now I belong at BYU.”