Shannon believes that things happen for a reason. But she learned the hard way that the reasons for the setbacks in life often aren't revealed until much later.
When she found herself pregnant at 19, Shannon did not have a job or a home. Coming from what she called a dysfunctional home, she hadn't lived with her family for a few years.
"My three older sisters had all also had babies as teenagers and my brother had served serious jail time," Shannon said. "Obviously, I didn't learn from their mistakes but rather followed in their footsteps."
What happened next changed the course of Shannon's life. She got a call from Susquehanna Health's Nurse-Family Partnership, a community health program that provides guidance to women who are pregnant with their first child. The mother is paired with a registered nurse early in her pregnancy and receives home visits throughout the remainder of the pregnancy and through the child's second birthday.
Cindy helped Shannon find public housing, obtain health insurance, search for a job, gather baby items and provided a listening ear.
"I loved that she listened to me and took me seriously, unlike the not-so-good people I had surrounded myself with at that point in my life," Shannon said.
Cindy encouraged Shannon to open a new chapter in her life. When her daughter was just 5 months old, she began taking paralegal courses at Pennsylvania College of Technology. Shannon felt an instant connection to the intricacies of the law and what it represents in society. This, she said, laid the foundation for her desire to continue to study and practice law.
In 2006, the year her time with Nurse Family Partnership came to an end, Shannon earned an associate's degree. Because of that degree, Shannon knew she no longer could receive public assistance. That same year, she also learned she was pregnant with her second child.
She found a paralegal position in Williamsport with meager pay. The job caused her to lose even more financial assistance and she realized then that she would need to further her education if she wanted to support her children.
Shannon also met her fiance in 2006. Much like the encouragement from Cindy, Shannon found a rejuvenated sense of determination when Eric pushed her to enroll in school.
In 2009, she trained to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate of Lycoming County.
"These organizations make a difference in children's lives and are quite simply investing in the future of this country," Shannon said. "I decided that, whenever possible, I would use my knowledge to advocate for children in one way or another."
And finally - eight years after starting school -Shannon earned a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies with minors in business administration and management, cum laude. Just a few weeks ago, she was accepted to Penn State Dickenson School of Law with a $60,000 scholarship.
"There, I will focus on child advocacy," Shannon said. "I now have three daughters. They are 9, 6 and 2. I'm glad that I am setting the example for them that anything, and I mean anything, is possible."
Cindy, she said, is owed much of her gratitude.
"She didn't only change my life, but she changed my childrens' lives, and perhaps the lives of children that I will be able to help in my career," Shannon said. "She set the ball rolling the other way. I can say without hesitation that the Nurse Family Partnership is an invaluable resource, which so many people desperately need."
Lycoming County United Way supports Nurse Family Partnership each year through its annual campaign. Contributions from community members help nurture the lives of first-time mothers who have nowhere else to turn. With your help, we can redirect the lives of women who may find themselves on the road to nowhere.
Please consider giving to Lycoming County United Way campaign this year. The affects of your donation reach neighbors in your community just like Shannon, who may find themselves facing a hardship. For more information, visit www.lcuw.org.