Homeless Woman Graduates College

She lost her job and her home, but a Florida woman managed to get a bachelor's degree.

In fact, as Eric Sollman reports, even her professors never knew she was homeless.

She's Slept In Parking Lots, And Studied In Coffee Shops.

"I park at Walmarts, which are 24 hours. I park at Starbucks, that's 24 hours."

Shawna Machado's been homeless for two years - ever since she lost a good paying job at a doctors office.

"I panicked. I was not sleeping. I would go days without sleeping, days without eating because I wasn't getting a job, I wasn't even getting a call for an interview."

"So Shawna decided to come back to school with just a computer and a car."

"I'm definitely more fortunate than a lot of people who are homeless because I have a car."

A car where she keeps all of her belongings. A car that's she's been able to keep through dog walking, or house sitting on the side. For two years Shawna has stayed in her Hyundai or with friends when possible. She's taken showers in her school's bathroom, and caught sleep any chance she could.

"It is hard. I don't sleep more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, and most of the time 3 or 4 hours a day. You go to the beach, throw out a lawn chair, throw out a blanket, read a book, fall asleep. Nobody questions it."

Many of her professors didn't even know about her situation. They found out this weekend when she was awarded most outstanding graduate in her class.

"Shawna is the student I want every semester sitting in the front row. That's how good she's been under trying circumstances. She's personally achieved way beyond expectations."

"Knowing my situation and not telling anybody was huge. I don't want people to feel sorry for me as most people who are homeless don't want to feel like a burden."

Shawna walks the USF-Sarasota manatee campus with her head held high.

She still needs a job, but she knows she's taken a step in the right direction.

"We're given things in life and we're given a different walk of life and I think we have to take that and challenge ourselves to inspire others."

She'll never say it was easy, but this college grad is definitely grabbing the bull by the horns.

Machado earned her bachelor's degree in psychology.

She's looking for a job in social work.

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  • by Kathy Location: Port Richey on May 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
    Wonderful story. What an inspiration.
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