Dawn Loggins: Homeless, Abandoned Teen Heads to Harvard

Courtesy WBTVCourtesy WBTVWhile other kids were hitting their snooze buttons and pulling the covers over their heads, 18-year-old Dawn Loggins was mopping the halls and emptying the trash at Burns High School in Lawndale, North Carolina. At the end of last summer, while she was attending a prestigious summer program on scholarship, Loggins called home to discover her phone had been disconnected. According to the Shelby Star, her mother and stepfather had left the state and dropped her grandmother off at a local homeless shelter. Her older brother, Shane, was couch surfing with friends. "I realized I was getting nowhere calling my parents," she told the Star. "What was I going to do? Cry about it?"

Related: Columbia University Janitor Graduates with Honors

The teen persevered. "I just made a decision that I was not going to end up like my parents," she told WBTV. And her determination paid off. Tonight is Loggins's high school graduation, and the next stop, Harvard University.

When she was growing up, Loggins's parents were drug abusers who lived "paycheck to paycheck." Sometimes there was no power and she had to do her homework by candlelight. There were also days without food. She had been abandoned by them for periods of time before and stayed with her grandmother. "When I lived with my grandma," she says, "there was trash all over the house. She never really explained to me that it was important to shower--it was important to take care of your self, so I would go months at a time without showering. I would wear the same dress to school for months at a time." In middle school, some classmates teased her that she was ugly and others called her stupid.

Related: 6 Colleges Cutting Tuition

Although Loggins attended three different middle schools and four high schools, she made an impression at Burns. Guidance counselor Robyn Putnam helped her catch up with online courses. She became a straight "A" student, joined the National Honors Society, and scored 2110 on her SATs. The community rallied around her and she moved into the home of a friend's mother, Sheryl Kolton, who works as custodian and bus driver at the school. Faculty and staff gave what money they could, and Loggins got a job doing janitorial work before class.

Loggins applied to four colleges in North Carolina as well as her reach school, Harvard. When a thin envelope arrived postmarked Cambridge, Massachusetts, she assumed it was a rejection. "Dear Ms. Loggins," the read the letter. "I am delighted to report that the Admissions Committee has asked me to inform you that you will be admitted to the Harvard College class of 2016….We send such an early positive indication only to outstanding applicants."

Loggins will be headed to Harvard this fall. "If there is anybody at all who has a dream, then they can definitely make it happen," she told WBTV. "There are no excuses. It depends on you and no one else."

Also on Shine:

South Carolina Mom Arrested for Cheering at Daughter's Graduation

Welfare Mom Creates Million Dollar Biz: How She Did It

Smart Ways to Start Saving for College