It was a train wreck she didn’t see coming. In one conversation on a summer’s day, Debbie Miller’s world came crashing down when her husband of 28 years said he was leaving her and the children.
“I instantly felt impressed to return to BYU and finish what I had started 30 years earlier,” Debbie said. “I returned to BYU with a head full of doubts and a mind full of fears. I didn’t know if I had what it took to succeed. But I had unshakable faith in my Father in Heaven. I knew that He wanted me to finish my education at BYU. I sold my home in Maryland and moved across the country.
“I was so relieved when I learned that I had received a scholarship,” she said. “I had two children who were also attending BYU at the time, and a 12-year-old daughter at home. I needed to finish my education in order to provide a stable financial future, but I did not want to spend any more time away from my daughter than absolutely necessary. The scholarship made it possible for me to attend school full-time.
“The anxieties and uncertainties of my first days and weeks on campus soon gave way to confidence and enthusiasm. I felt the energy on campus and was profoundly grateful for the privilege of attending BYU. I was accepted and treated with respect, in spite of my nontraditional student status. I felt humbled and extremely grateful for the generosity of these good people whom I had never met. Knowing that they were willing to sacrifice their means to help someone they did not even know touched me deeply.
“This scholarship meant more to me than I could ever adequately express,” Debbie continued. “In addition to being a huge financial blessing, it was emotionally empowering as well. If someone believed in me enough to pay for my schooling and have confidence in my ability to succeed, then I could take courage and believe in myself. The voices inside my head that kept telling me I wasn’t smart enough or capable enough soon gave way to feelings of hope and optimism. I began to feel that I really could make a fresh start and have a fulfilling, happy life in spite of my circumstances.
“My ultimate goal is to earn a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and get a job with LDS Family Services. I especially want to help individuals and families dealing with addictive behaviors,” she said.
Debbie is now remarried, more financially secure, and able to afford her tuition. “However,” she said, “I will always be grateful for the scholarship, which served as a springboard, launching me into a better life. I will never forget the generosity and kindness of strangers to me in a time when I needed help.
“I now want to follow their example and spend the rest of my life trying to give back, lending a hand to all I can wherever life may take me,” she said.