Dr. Debra Peppers describes her younger self as a “250-pound suicidal high school dropout.” She eventually went on to achieve many personal and professional victories, but it was a long, hard road to get there.
“The purple house,” which her mother painted, on 112 Main Cross in Clarksville, is where Peppers grew up.
Twice in her junior year, along with a friend, Peppers ran away from home. “We felt we did not fit in with all the cute little cheerleaders…I just couldn’t compete,” Peppers said. “It wasn’t anybody’s fault but my own. My parents were so good and tried to help and took me to doctors and counselors, but I just felt that I couldn’t fit in, and I just wanted to get away from there.”
With the little money they had, the teenagers took off, but it didn’t take long before they ran out of money. “We just stayed wherever anybody would let us stay,” Peppers said. “Many times, you know, hitchhiking with truckers. We could have been killed, easily.”
When she left, her father, Duke Duvall Jr., wrote a letter to his daughter, which she writes about in her story “Embrace of a Father.” Peppers wouldn’t know about that letter until 20 years later, when at the Missouri State Teacher of the Year Banquet, her parents gave it to her.
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