Shannon Haines always had a thirst for knowledge.
First, she wanted to be an astronaut. Then a meteorologist.
Then in high school, an AP biology class convinced her she wanted to be a doctor.
But at 16, she discovered she was pregnant. She thought her dream had crumbled.
“I had never been around anyone who was a teen mom who got beyond a bachelor’s degree,” said Haines. “I just felt because I was a mom, I couldn’t keep going with it. It was ignorant, but I was 16.”
Now 29, Haines is a fourth-year medical student and credits her daughter, in part, for how far she's come.
On Friday, she and other members of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine class of 2018 learned where they will do their residency training. Haines will complete her residency in pediatrics at UNMC.
"That sense of ‘I made it’ is overwhelming," she said. "We’ve worked so hard for this, and for it to be here is surreal.”
Haines hopes to be part of a community in a way that positively impacts underprivileged people. She’s also interested in LGBTQ care and policy.
Haines wasn’t always sure she’d reach her dream.
When people found out she was pregnant, they implied “her life was ruined.”
After her daughter, Kaylee, was born in 2006, Haines attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Things were going well.
During her sophomore year, she took a few sciences classes and the flame of becoming a doctor was ignited once again.
“I owed it to my daughter and to other teen parents in my situation,” she said. “I owed it to them to keep going and be a role model.”
But the journey hasn’t been easy.
It took her five years to get her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from UNO. While in college, after four years of marriage, she went through a divorce with her daughter’s father, who hasn’t been a big part of Kaylee's life since.
After that, she took a year off to spend time with her daughter. Then it was time to tackle medical school as a single parent.
“I think being a parent and juggling different responsibilities in general is difficult, but being a medical student involves you studying every waking second,” Haines said.
Kaylee, now 12, has attended her fair share of study sessions and medical events with Haines. She’s helped her mom study and has learned a thing or two about human anatomy.
Haines jokes that Kaylee deserves a biotechnology degree, too.
And while their relationship might not be the same as a stay-at-home or working parent, Haines doesn’t think it’s “any better or worse.”
After all, neither mom nor daughter knows anything different.
“I would say we have a relationship like the ‘Gilmore Girls,’" Haines said. "We do things together, and it’s fun, yet she knows I’m her mom, and I’m there for her."
Haines isn’t sure she would’ve made it had it not been for the many cheerleaders and mentors she had along the way.
“My parents, after the initial shock, still encouraged me to pursue my dreams,” she said. “I was lucky I had people in (high school and college) who believed in me and were great mentors.”
She’s also in a long-term relationship, and she credits her boyfriend and his two children for helping her — especially during her third year of medical school.
She has some advice for young parents who have dreams they want to pursue.
First: Set realistic expectations. “It might take you an extra year or two to get your dreams accomplished,” she said.
Second: Don’t be afraid to look for or ask for help — especially single parents. “We’re not good at asking for help,” she said. Help might even come in the form of government assistance, which Haines said she took advantage of.
Finally: Don’t give up.
“Eventually you’ll be able to get there. It just might not look exactly the same as everyone else,” she said. “It’s possible to achieve your dreams.”