Waukesha County Technical College student overcomes homelessness to earn two degrees

Posted at 7:07 PM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-21 20:07:26-04

Success in the face of hardships doesn’t always seem possible, but one Waukesha County Technical College student managed to earn two degrees while juggling five jobs, night school and homelessness. 

Walking helps 25-year-old Rebekah Banaszak keeps the pages of her life story turning.

At 10 years old she lost her best friend, her father, to lung cancer. For years the two were thick as thieves. They shared a birthday, the same initials, she says he was her whole world.

Dealing together, Banaszak and her mother pushed through. Rebekah earned four varsity letters, pageant crowns, girl scout badges, and eventually graduated from high school with her acceptance letter to Carroll University. 

But then things turned for the worse, during the fall semester of her senior year, Banaszak's mother got sick.

"Right before I graduated from high school, [my mother] moved down to Florida. So I was up here by myself," said Banaszak.  

Nonetheless, Rebekah still managed to get to Carroll University. But after one semester, she says complications forced her to drop out. Leaving her homeless and a little lost.

For six months Banaszak lived in a tent in Kettle Moraine State Park. 

Yet, that doesn't mean she gave up. Getting her priorities in line, Banaszak says she worked five different part time jobs, attended Waukesha County Technical College at night,  and graduated with a Business Degree.

While it seems she has superhuman abilities, that doesn't mean there aren't emotional battles. But there are bills to pay and priorities that to get to Rebekah says. 

She says walking really helps clear her mind, but the easiest thing to do, is just feel the bad, then move on.

Banaszak says she wanted more for her future and went back to WCTC for her Marketing Degree. As her Marketing Professor Ed Wierzbicki says he's amazed by her driver and transition watching Rebekah's progress over the last couple of years especially in DECA. He's WCTC's DECA adviser and is filled with pride. 

"I can go back about this student sitting in class... just quiet, and now she wants to be the leader of our organization," said Wierzbicki.

Rebekah is the current President of WCTC's DECA chapter, the new Vice President of Wisconsin's statewide DECA club, and graduates with her Marketing Degree this spring.