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It’s Hard to do Homework without a Home

November 19, 2020

Jennifer Deuel fought long and hard to get to where she is today – a mother of two boys, a homeowner, a successful employee, and a student looking to advance her career. Just a few years ago, she was a victim of domestic abuse and homeless.

Jennifer sits center with her two sons on each side of her

(Pictured: Jennifer and her sons in the Success Center on Central Campus)

Getting into a relationship when she was young, love soon turned to control. Jennifer’s partner wanted to know where she was every moment, refused to let her have a job, and isolated her from her friends. Once the reality of her situation set in, she sought a way out.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. It is emotionally challenging to uproot your life and try to start over. It is also physically challenging to leave the only home you have without any source of income and try to reestablish yourself.

It took her several tries, but Jennifer finally left for good in 2013, eight years after the relationship began. Today, Jennifer is a prime example of how the housing assistance system is supposed to work, providing help to those who need it until they can get on their feet and support themselves.

The program operates by having the city initially cover about 70% of a client’s rental expenses while the client pays the rest. As the client gains employment, they take over a more significant percentage of the rent until they are entirely self-sufficient. To be eligible for the program, potential clients must pass background checks and face continual follow-ups to prove they are doing their part.

Choosing BTC was easy for Jennifer; she’d been a student here when she first graduated from high school. It was close to home. So, when she was looking for a place to continue her education as she worked to get her life back on track, BTC welcomed her return.

In 2014, Jennifer successfully passed the Nursing Assistant course and clinicals at BTC and began work as a CNA. She is currently pursuing a nursing degree, attributing a lot of her success to instructors who’ve helped along the way.

“Tiffany Garrison-Stanley has been such a great support for me this semester! She sees how badly I want to complete the biggest goal of my life after everything I’ve been through to get this far, so she supports me in any way she can,” said Jennifer.

Tiffany operates the Blackhawk Anatomy Learning Center, a place many health science students come to know as their second home while they complete their programs. Tiffany has watched Jennifer fight to reclaim her life and calls her “a shining star in General Anatomy and Physiology” while being “a great role model to her fellow students who also deal with challenges many of us could not comprehend.”

While Jennifer is on a personal growth trajectory that will lead her to great things, securing work and housing did not eliminate all challenges. She refers to nursing school as an “emotional roller coaster” that has been fraught with great successes and some failures. Working full-time, raising two boys, and going to school has challenged her to find the proper life balance and pick herself up after the devastation of failing a few courses. 

Getting into the nursing field has made her want to pursue an even greater goal. When she graduates, Jennifer will be a registered nurse. But she’s not stopping there. “After BTC, I plan to transfer to UW Oshkosh,” she said, “to finish my Bachelor of Nursing degree. Then I can go for a Doctor of Nursing practice.” Those who achieve a doctorate in nursing can work as full partners in clinical practices seeing patients on their own or joining research teams to help advance medical treatment. 

Jennifer wants to encourage other students out there to keep going. “Any failures you experience along your journey only make you wiser and stronger!”

If you’re facing issues of homelessness or abuse, please seek help. Domestic abuse resources and support can be found at thehotline.org, 1.800.799.SAFE (7233), or TTY 1.800.787.3224. Help with housing in the Janesville area is located at 18 North Jackson Street, Janesville, WI 53545 or can be accessed by calling (608) 755-3065.

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