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Single Albrightsville mother with three kids and two jobs is also a full-time college student

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect. For Shannon Palazzo of Albrightsville, it was a lesson learned the hard way, but with a lot of work and determination, it brought her to a very good place.

After 10 years of marriage to the man she had been with since she was 17 years old and with whom she shared a family, Palazzo found herself alone raising two kids, Ellana, who is now 18, and James, who is 15. Her divorce was final in 2008. Suffering from low self-esteem and feeling untethered after being a wife and a mother for so long, Palazzo quickly found herself in another relationship, which eventually became abusive. During that time, she lost two family members, and was also working three jobs.

Her family felt broken.

It took five years for her to leave her abuser, but the harassment continued. Her stress level climbed until she suffered a near-fatal medical issue.

A lot of things happened that fractured Palazzo’s family even further, but a surprise pregnancy and the birth of her third child two and a half years later, signaled a turning point.

“Mason was a big surprise, but he restored life into my home and my family,” said Palazzo.

The newest member of the family will turn 2 in December.

“When I found out I was pregnant, I was not prepared, but it felt right. He’s a light in a dark place. He motivated me to make major changes.”

The first nine months after Mason was born were the most difficult for Palazzo.

“I was in a funk. I had postpartum depression. I felt a little defeated.”

Although Palazzo knew she would be raising him alone, “It was more emotional than I thought it would be.”

‘Time to take my life back’

By the fall of 2016, Palazzo decided she’d had enough.

“I had to make some changes Be more grateful for things I have,” she said.

“Between wanting a better life for my kids and showing them a good example, spiritually, it was time to take my life back.”

Palazzo became more invested in her church, Community Church of Tobyhanna; she lost 60 pounds; was able to shift some of her responsibilities at her job at Youth Services Agency and focus on her main responsibility as human resources manager.

And she started going to college.

She is a full-time student at University of Phoenix, studying online to earn a bachelor’s in business management specializing in human resources. She is on track to graduate in 2020.

“Mason was sent to save my life and to make sure I keep going, continue to grow, and not settle for anything, like crappy relationships, crappy friendships or crappy familyships,” Palazzo said. “At the end of the day, he’s the reason I’m in school, to make me have a better life for them.”

Palazzo’s life is more hectic than ever, but she’s not complaining.

Monday through Friday she works at YSA from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, she’s a bartender at Hickory Run Tavern.

During the day, Mason goes to a day care provider, who Palazzo said is “awesome.” But it’s her older kids, Ellana and James, who pick up the slack.

“The older kids baby-sit,” said Palazzo. “It limits their time out, but they take turns so they have alternate weekend nights to themselves.”

And even though he’s only 22 months old, Mason likes to look up to and mimic his big brother, a responsibility James takes very seriously.

“James and Mason have a cool relationship.”

In addition to all of the things Palazzo has on her plate, her kids are also involved in a lot of activities. When she’s home, she’s mom — a role she cherishes. “I wait to do schoolwork until after the baby goes to bed, which means sometimes, I often don’t get to bed until 2 a.m.”

Palazzo said she’s found living on the mountain in northeast Carbon County has been a positive experience for her.

“The lifestyle is cohesive to being a single mom. I have a great network of friends, many of whom are single mothers — powerful single mothers.”

The secrets to success

To succeed, Palazzo says you should set goals.

“Every 18 months, you sit yourself down and make your goals for the next 18 months. Make small, attainable goals so you don’t set yourself up for failure,” she said.

“It’s so important to look at yourself and love yourself enough to do the right thing and keep going. I was in an abusive relationship for five years. I removed myself from that situation. It’s so important not to rely on someone else to make you happy. It’s important to wake up every day and be happy and joyful, no matter your circumstances. If not, that’s what leads to making bad choices and accepting things that you wouldn’t normally accept.

“I always had this personality. Strong, independent. You wouldn’t expect someone like me to be in a situation like that,” she says of her abusive relationship. “But you settle because of your insecurities. And when the good outweighs the bad, you ignore the red flags.”

Happiness is the key, she said, as well as self-love and knowing your worth.

Palazzo also knows her limits, and said it’s OK to say no sometimes.

Her priority these days is to make sure her kids are OK, and to be genuinely happy and grateful for what she has,

“I’m overwhelmed every day. I’m not organized. I’m always on the go. Always frazzled. The house isn’t perfect. But my kids and I are truly happy.”

<p>Shannon Palazzo in her office at Youth Services Agency where she is the human resources manager. The mother of two teenagers and a toddler, Palazzo started college nine months after her youngest son was born. KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS</p>