Homeless Shelby teen accepted to Harvard set to graduate Thursday

by: Erica Bryant Updated:

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SHELBY, N.C. —

Like many students across the country, a Cleveland County teenager is preparing to graduate from high school on Thursday, but her story is anything but ordinary.

Her journey from homelessness to Harvard has captivated the entire community.

For Dawn Loggins’ family, money was always tight.

Her parents were out of work, squatting in homes and regularly facing eviction.

“I missed a lot of school because of the moving,” she said.

But, one day she came home, and her family was gone.

“My mom and dad were nowhere to be found. I later found out they had moved to Tennessee, and I didn’t have a way to contact them,” Loggins said. “I had no idea where they were. Their phone had been cut off.”

Homeless and alone, she continued school at Burns high, got a job as a school custodian and managed to perform well in Advanced Placement and honors courses.

“I would have to do my homework by candlelight and to use a wood stove, which was our only source of heat, to make a cup of noodles to eat,” she said.

She said succeeding in class helped her cope with the struggle at home.

“It took my mind off of everything else that was happening. When I was doing my homework, I didn’t have to think about other things,” Loggins said. “I had a goal, and I focused on it. And when I got it done, I felt accomplished.”

Now, that accomplishment is paying off with an acceptance letter from Harvard University.

Loggins said she plans on majoring in biology and has already started trying to give back by starting a nonprofit to help other struggling students.

“I know I’ll be able to make it work, and there are dozens in our school alone who are homeless right now,” she said.

Principal Aaron Allen said he sees Loggins’ bright future moving well beyond Harvard.

“She’ll graduate, but it’s definitely the connections she will make there that will drive her to be even greater and allow the level of her contributions to be even greater,” he said.

Allen said Loggins in the only student in the school’s history to be accepted to Harvard, which has proven to be an inspiration to her peers and the entire community.

“I want other people -- everyone -- to realize that you can achieve your dreams if you try,” she said.

Loggins has financial aid to cover tuition, room and board. Harvard has also committed to helping her find a job on campus when she arrives in the fall.