Homeless to Harvard: Cleveland County teen defies the odds

Posted June 22, 2012 8:27 p.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2012 11:29 p.m. EDT

— A Cleveland County teen who was abandoned by her parents and worked as a janitor through high school to make ends meet will be attending Harvard University this fall.

Dawn Loggins is certainly not the typical Ivy Leaguer. It was perserverance, she says, that got her through a tough childhood, a period of homelessness and a high school career marked by instability and uncertainty, to put it mildly. 

"I didn't give up," Loggins says.

Her story inspired the North Carolina District Exchange Club to award her with a $1,000 scholarship during a ceremony in Cary Friday evening.

Loggins, 18, grew up in a home where drug abuse was commonplace. At times, she had to do her homework in the dark because the electricity had been cut off for nonpayment.

In high school, her parents abandoned her.

She moved in with a school custodian and worked as a janitor, but still managed to excel academically.

"(She didn't let) a bad thing bring her down," said Exchange Club spokesman Jon Lund.


She graduated in May from Burns High School in Lawndale and will start at Harvard in August. She looks forward to being able to focus on her studies, free from the distractions of a troubled home life.

"If you look at all that I've been able to accomplish with everything sort of working against me, just imagine what I'll be able to do when things are actually working for me," she said.

Though Loggins says she hates all the attention she's been getting, she hopes her story can inspire other people to never give up on their dreams because truly anything in possible.

"The reason that I decided to put my story put there was in the hopes of inspiring other people to succeed," she said.

Being awarded the local Exchange Club scholarship will automatically make her eligible for a $10,000 scholarship from the group's national chapter. Loggins said she plans to major in biomedical science.