Harvard-bound homeless teen walks across graduation stage to cheers

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:


SHELBY, N.C. - A Shelby student who was homeless at 16 graduated from high school Thursday evening.

Dawn Loggins’ graduation day has been a long time in the making and required her to battle extreme odds to achieve.

For Loggins, the four years of struggle brought on by poverty and homelessness, numerous nights spent doing homework by candlelight, and using a small wood-burning stove to warm a cup of noodles all faded into the background as she walked across the stage as a Burns High School graduate.

GALLERY: Homeless to Harvard graduation ceremony

And one other thing, Loggins’ hard work and perseverance paid off in the form of a chance at a Harvard education. She’s enrolled for the fall semester.

After the ceremony, she was overcome with emotions.

“It feels great to finally accomplish what I’ve worked 13 years to get,” she said.

Her story and her graduation night, though, have not been ignored. CNN sent a crew to Shelby to capture the ceremony. She’s been the focus of stories around the globe.

But, hearing the screams from her friends and family made Loggins’ night.

“I was about to cry when everyone stood up and was screaming,” she said. “It just felt amazing.”

Loggins said her parents moved her from school to school and could not hold down steady jobs.

Then, one day last summer, she came home from school to find her parents had abandoned her. She was homeless and left to support herself.

So, she got a job as a school custodian, making enough to support herself while she took Advanced Placement and honors classes.

Thursday night, she hugged the family members who came to cheer for her.

“She’s an amazing kid.  She’s accomplished more than I could ever hope in my life, and I’m very proud of her,” said one family member.

She’s looking ahead to the future and starting a life at Harvard as a biology major. But for now, she’s soaking up the moment.

“It feels great to have all the hard work that I put into this, to finally be realized,” she said.

Loggins said one thing she wants to do is help other children in her situation. She’s started a nonprofit to help other struggling students.

Channel 9 has been following Loggins story for several weeks and the story has gained national attention.

Her touching story has gained a lot of attention on our Facebook page.

Jaymie Ganus posted, "It's sad she had to do it alone, but, WOW, the strength it took to do it! Love this story!"

Cybbelle Nolasco wrote, "Awesome Girl! Congratulations for her achievement, she proves that you choose who and what you are and that there is no excuse to to be the best you can be..."

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