Woman who was a teen mom now set to graduate medical school

Shannon Haines, now 29, shares how she persevered.

When Shannon Haines became pregnant with her daughter at 16 years old, she thought her plans to become a doctor would need to be placed on hold.

But on May 5, the 29-year-old is set to graduate from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).

"It's surreal," Haines told ABC News. "Medical school is something that takes forever and we're still not done, but to have Dr. in front of my name is something that I still don't think is going to [seem] real. I'm overjoyed, overwhelmed and also very proud.

"Being a teen mom isn't something anyone is very proud of, but as a person who's had a child, and being a woman in medicine is a huge accomplishment."

During the summer of her sophomore year of high school, Haines said she learned she was pregnant with her daughter Kaylee -- something her family was, at first, not too thrilled to find out.

"When I found out, it was not great," she said. "I was on track to become a doctor so I was like, 'what am I going to do now?' I felt kind of hopeless. I was scared I would be judged a lot, and I was scared to tell my parents. I felt alone."

A mother perseveres

Despite the unplanned pregnancy, she graduated from Futures High School in Kirkland, Washington, in 2007 when Kaylee was just 1 years old.

Haines said she knew she wanted to become either a meteorologist or a doctor. She said she made her final decision after reading a chapter on genetic diseases in AP biology class.

"I wasn't sure what my life would look like," Haines explained. "I wasn't sure if I could still achieve my dreams. I definitely stumbled on [the thought of], 'I don't know if I could still go through the rigors of medical school.' My parents were still [saying], 'You should still go to college.'"

At 19, Haines attended Craven Community College and majored in liberal arts. She later finished her bachelor's degree at the University of Nebraska Omaha, graduating in 2013 summa cum laude in biotechnology.

Haines married her daughter's father, but they divorced when she was 22 years old. She said she worked a bunch of odd jobs to pay the bills, moving back-and-forth from Omaha to the Seattle area.

"I took a year off after I graduated, selling trampolines in Seattle... I ran sales and distribution for parts," Haines said. "I was a nanny, worked at Pizza Hut after she was born to pay for breastmilk bags and diapers. I decorated cakes. I was a science tutor for two years. I also worked at a movie theater for a summer."

Her father, Michael Haines, told ABC News that like a typical dad he was not happy after learning that his daughter would have a child at the age of 17.

After letting the news settle, the 64-year-old of Parkland, Washington, said that he told Shannon that he'd "love and support her no matter what."

"What I thought was really cool despite a lot of disruption in her life, was that she didn't let up on her college goal," Michael Haines said. "We always had an agreement much like my dad had with me that I would pay for the bulk of her undergraduate as long as she was doing well in school but I expected her to work to make money for personal expenses."

Achieving dreams of medical school

After graduating with a four-year degree, Shannon Haines decided to pursue her dream to become a doctor. She applied and was accepted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In 2014, she began classes to become a pediatrician and is set to graduate in less than two months. On July 1, she will begin her residency through UNMC Pediatrics Residency Program.

She hopes to use her medical degree to work in a hospital, or an LGBTQ clinic, she said.

Forty percent of teenage mothers finish high school with less than 2 percent finishing college by age 30, according to research from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). "Young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time," the NCSL website states.

Dr. Wendy Grant, professor of surgery-transplant at UNMC, was one of Haines' mentors during medical school.

"Shannon Haines defines resilience," Grant wrote to ABC News in a statement. "She and her daughter Kaylee have grown together and have made each other better. Shannon very easily could have taken the path of least resistance and given up on her dreams of becoming a pediatrician. Instead, she chose to walk the walk and show her daughter that together they could accomplish their goals."

Haines said she's grateful for the support she's received from her family, her boyfriend of three years and her daughter Kaylee.

"She's been there for me just by being a trooper," Haines said of her 12-year-old daughter. "She doesn't know any different but she's had to put up with me going to school to study. We'd be at the library studying, and she'd be helping [me] study.

"She also helped me be a true physician," Haines added. "Being able to break things down to a level that she understood has helped me explain things to my patients."

Advice to others

Haines said she has two pieces of advice for fellow young mothers chasing their career dreams.

Ask for help

"I think it's so important to know yourself and [to] know what resources you have," she said.

"Put yourself and your child first and then put everything else afterwards. I tell people not to be afraid to ask for help. That's a big one for me."

Find a mentor

Haines noted that finding someone to advise you can be a difficult task, but sometimes all it takes is a simple email to reach out.

"It helps guide them through a world they might not be familiar with," she explained in regards to having a mentor. "I only knew one doctor growing up and it was not a family member. Looking back, I wish I had connections -- it helps you analyze which part of your dream you really want, helps you to set goals and it provide [you] with support."

Haines said she plans to celebrate her graduation with her family at a special dinner, adding, "I am so excited to share this with everyone who's made it possible."

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