TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida woman received her bachelor’s degree despite being homeless after losing her job. Shawna Machado has been homeless for two years.
“I park at Walmart, which are 24 hours,” Machado said. “I park at Starbucks, that’s 24 hours.”
Machado used to have a good paying job at a doctor’s office. After being laid off, her world changed.
“I panicked. I was not sleeping,” she said. “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.”
Even though she was homeless, she decided to go 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,” she said.
She’s been able to maintain her car by walking dogs and house sitting on the side. She’s stayed in her Hyundai or with friends whenever possible. Machado managed to take showers in her school’s bathroom and survived on very little sleep.
“I don’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours at a time, and most of the time 3 or 4 hours a day,” she said. “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 know she was homeless. They didn’t know about her situation until she was awarded outstanding grad in her class.
“Shawna is the student I want every semester sitting in the front row,” said Michael Fehily, Shawna’s Professor. “That’s how good she’s been under trying circumstances. She’s personally achieved way beyond expectations.”
Shawna said she didn’t want to share her circumstances for a reason.
“Knowing my situation and not telling anybody was huge,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me as most people who are homeless don’t want to feel like a burden.”
Now that Machado has graduated she still needs a job. She knows by obtaining her degree, 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 said.
Machado earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She’s looking for a job in social work.