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Start the Run and You'll Find the Finish Line: A High School Girl Left Homeless by Her Parents Becomes A Harvard Recruit

Updated on June 19, 2013

Life has a funny way of teaching you how to survive. For some, it’s only a matter of learning the important life skills from your parents or your chosen idol. For others, it’s reading the lessons of those who have gone before us in text books or history videos. Then there are those who are simply thrown into the mix…with no guidance, no plans, and no help of any kind. It’s a frightening thought, having to walk in the world alone without knowing how exactly you’re going to be able to make it…because you’ve had no one in your life to show you how it’s done.

Dawn Loggins is such a person, who at a young age has already learned not only how to survive, but actually LIVE the life she has dreamt to live.

On June 8, CNN did a special report on Dawn who is a student at Burns High School in North Carolina. She is also the school’s janitor.

For most of her youth, Dawn grew up in a home that had no electricity and no running water. Often she and her brother Shane would have to walk 20 minutes to a public park just to fetch water. Dawn had even talked to staff members at the school to allow her and Shane to use the school’s washing machine to clean their clothes. She also borrowed candles so she could see at night and do her homework. She would go on without showers for at least 2 months at a time and often wore the same clothes for weeks.

Dawn’s family life was anything but easy and stable. She had moved with her parents from one town to another with Burns being her fourth high school.

Robert Putnam, her guidance counselor, saw the toll the moves were taking on Dawn’s education progress and enrolled her in online courses to make sure she did not fall far behind her peers. In addition, Putnam had taken Dawn to attend the Governor’s School of North Carolina. The school invited her to attend a six week program last summer to study natural science. It seemed to be a lucky break for Dawn with a chance for her to turn her life around for the better.

However, her return from the program would give her a rude awakening. Her parents were nowhere to be found and their phone had been disconnected for some time. "When I returned, my grandmother had been dropped off at a local homeless shelter, my brother had just left, and my parents had just gone," she says. "I found out later they had moved to Tennessee."

After her parents left, Dawn had discussed her options with her counselor. In the interim, she would jump from the home of one friend to another, usually sleeping on their couches. She also went through the school force work assistance program to work as a janitor in order to make ends meet. Dawn finally found a stable place with Sheryl Kolton, another janitor at the school, who was contacted by her counselor to provide Dawn some shelter at Colton's house.

CNN Report

In a report dated June 7 from ABC news, Dawn strived hard to keep up with her custodial duties while finishing her studies. Her day started at 5:20 am, where she would sweep the floors and clean the classrooms for two hours, followed by a string of demanding school courses including AP US History, AP Calculus, and honors English. After school, she went straight home to complete her assignments, keeping her up until 2:00 am. While the work was hard, the end results enabled her to maintain a 3.9 GPA and achieve a SAT score of 2110.

By her senior year, she began to apply to various colleges, including Harvard. When the acceptance letters came in, they were usually in big heavy envelopes. However, Harvard’s envelope was small and thin, giving Dawn a somber feeling that the school was not in her future.

As she opened the envelope, she was stunned by its contents, welcoming her as part of the 2016 class of Harvard. According to the ABC article, the school staff was delighted by the news and pooled their money together to help Dawn pay for a trip to visit the campus. In addition, Harvard will provide Dawn financial aid to attend and the money from her job will help pay for her books.

Since the story was released, Dawn has received a great deal of support and monetary donations from her school community as well as donors from the outside. Currently, donations can be sent to Burns High School/Dawn Loggins Fund, 307 East Stagecoach Trail, Lawndale, NC 28090. Dawn is hoping the funds will enable her to help other children who are now homeless.

"I'm in a good place right now," she said. "I have a lot of community support."

Before I started living on my own, I enjoyed living in a perfect bubble where I thought everything would fall into place on its own. During my college years, I was sure I was living in a perfect world and had everything put into place. After college, my life was spiraling out of control, struggling to find purpose in the life I was living because I could never figure out what I was good at doing. In either case, I was not willing to take any risks because I was afraid of destroying the perfect world I thought I had or making my life worse than I thought it once was.

I believe, though, that many of us go through that phase. We think we have everything in place and prefer to stick with it. If anything were to come along and ruin that world, we would panic and not know where to go next. Sometimes it gets so frustrating for us that we think our life i is not worth the value of the dirt collected at the bottom of our shoes.

Dawn’s life story should give us a real insight of what it really means to struggle...and eventually succeed. She’s never grown up in a stable home and the things we’ve taken for granted are things that she has never had up until now. While others her age are stressed over exams and finding dates for their proms, she’s dealing with getting a real education while keeping a roof over her head and food in her mouth. Her classmates deal with the conflict of not knowing what soda to buy for their lunches....Dawn is dealing with the dread of whether she’ll able to have enough water to bathe, wash, or even drink. Her peers are dealing with teenage worries and stress...Dawn is being forced to learn how to grow up before it's even her time to do so.

The struggles that have plagued Dawn’s life probably anger us to a great deal because of how her parents left her. While understandable, it’s not for us to judge their actions. Dawn had mentioned in several interviews that while she doesn’t fully understand what happened, she feels no hatred towards them.

Instead, she focuses her energy on where she is right now. She is grateful for the community that has come together to make her life so full and rich. We, like Dawn, hit so many bumps in the road and for numerous reasons. Some are because of circumstances beyond our control while others are because people we care about so much have either abandoned us or have broken our hearts.

Dawn is a young girl who was faced with a choice between survival and starvation. It’s a choice that most of us would never want to make, especially at such a young and inexperienced age. However, she made that choice not only to survive, but truly live the life she wanted.

What also makes this story so incredible is that she didn’t have to face these struggles alone. The school staff came to her when she needed help. They gave her shelter. They helped provide the credentials that she needed to get into the programs she wanted. They even provided her the basic necessities that she needed to get by while she worked her job and completed her studies.

While these experiences hurt, they teach us to grow. If we take the time to think about what is wrong with our lives, we can think of the solutions to help turn our lives around rather than let them burn us on the inside out of fear and anger. Often those solutions are not quick or easy fixes, but the rewards make the struggles worth it. If we work hard enough to meet those goals, others will see it and help us along the way. Granted, that kind of work requires a great deal of knowledge and skill on how to get those goals done, but we attain those skills through endurance and patience. Dawn certainly displayed both these incredible traits or she would have never gotten to the place where she is today.

We all have a long race to run as we try to become the people we want to be, but for every step we’re willing to take we will eventually cross that finish line.


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    • gmaoli profile image

      Gianandrea Maoli 5 years ago from South Carolina

      It certainly is. Dawn grew up in a home that, for all purposes, gave her nothing but limits and broken dreams. She proved that anyone could go above and beyond of life's greatest lessons. Thanks for the votes!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Dawn Loggins' story is truly inspirational and we can all learn alot from her remarkable example.

      Thanks for sharing this.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • gmaoli profile image

      Gianandrea Maoli 5 years ago from South Carolina

      You're welcome, luz2hike. Thank you for coming by!

    • luv2hike profile image

      luv2hike 5 years ago

      This is an amazing and inspiring story, thank you for sharing it.

    • gmaoli profile image

      Gianandrea Maoli 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Angela: I appreciate you sharing my work. Whatever help I can get to spread the good message, I could always use it. Dawn went through a great struggle indeed. If I had any film experience I would certainly would make a movie out of this story, so people could really appreciate what Dawn went through to get where she is and be inspired.

      nybride710: I'm happy to share and I thank you for the praise.

      Becky: You're right on the money. The people that need are help are beyond the ones we know who live in our backyard. The more we extend to others no matter who they, then the more they help us in return during our rough times and we'll have plenty of our own.

      elle64: I'm happy to share this and I'm glad you got something positive out of the story.

    • elle64 profile image

      elle64 5 years ago from Scandinavia

      fantastic-good on her- sad though as well- thanks for sharing

    • Becky Bruce profile image

      Becky Bruce 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Great article! It shows the importance of community during rough times. We can't only extend a helping hand to our own families, but we must go above and beyond to help others as well. Just as Dawn's community did!

    • nybride710 profile image

      Lisa Kroulik 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Amazing story! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is an amazing story of struggle. Leaves me feeling like I just watched a great movie! Your hub nuggest was more than deserved. You are amazing and I am happy to share any of your work!