Harvard-bound homeless grad 'overwhelmed' by ovation
Dawn Loggins, 18, at her high school graduation ceremony in Lawndale, North Carolina, on Thursday.
June 8th, 2012
05:09 PM ET

Harvard-bound homeless grad 'overwhelmed' by ovation

Dawn Loggins - whose inspirational story of going from homeless to Harvard inspired millions - walked across the stage late Thursday at North Carolina's Burns High School to loud cheers.

When her name, Ashley Dawn Loggins, was intoned, it brought down the house. Everyone in the auditorium erupted with enthusiastic yells and whistles. Most rose in a standing ovation to honor the first person from Lawndale, North Carolina, to ever be accepted to Harvard.

A CNN story on Dawn earlier in the day caught like wildfire through social media, with nearly 60,000 people sharing her story on Facebook. Thousands more tweeted Dawn's tale.

From homeless to Harvard

Dawn Loggins never gave up on her dreams, even when she was homeless. She heads to her dream school, Harvard, this fall. Watch her story, told by CNN's Martin Savidge.

Homeless student to go to dream college

CNN's Randi Kay talks to rising freshman Dawn Loggins about graduatnig and realizing her goal of attending Harvard.

As Dawn took in the crowd's applause Thursday, she beamed with pride and accepted the leather-bound folder that housed the diploma she’s worked so hard to get. She then broke down in tears.

“All I could hear were their screams, I couldn’t hear myself think," she said later. "That’s when I got overwhelmed and really emotional. I felt like all my hard work had finally been recognized.”

After shaking hands with school administrators, she went back to her peers, lost in a sea of light blue caps. Outside, she was mobbed by well-wishers.

A man whose granddaughter was in Dawn’s fourth-period class said, “I don’t know what you’re doing honey, but keep doing it because it’s working. And you’re gonna get where you wanna go.”

Dawn had been abandoned by her drug-abusing parents last summer and left to fend for herself her senior year. She worked as a school janitor to make ends meet, and school staff pitched in to help.

“It feels amazing to finally be done and to have worked so hard for this and to finally have achieved it," she said, crying.

Dawn’s family made the ceremony. Her mother, stepfather, grandmother, half-sisters and cousins attended. But it was her brother, Shane, she wanted to see most. He'd helped her throughout her life. “Love ya,” he told her Thursday evening.

Her custodial supervisor, Julie Barrett, said simply: “Congratulations baby! I am so proud of you."

Dawn, 18, plans to take a week off of work. But she’ll be back at Burns High in a week to once again take up her mop and broom as she works through the summer to help pay for college. While Harvard is paying for tuition, room and board, she still has to pay for textbooks, school materials and other living expenses.

She thanked everyone who has reached out to help with donations. She will use the money to set up her nonprofit organization, named Uplift. “There are other students whose situations are worse than mine, and their futures are less certain,” she said. “The only way to get out of poverty is through education.”

For teens in similar situations as hers, Dawn encourages hard work and communication. “I encourage people in poor situations to talk to someone at school, to talk to a guidance counselor, or talk to an administrator, a teacher. Because the school system can help,” she said.

Any contributions can be sent to: Burns High School/Dawn Loggins Fund, 307 E. Stagecoach Trail, Lawndale, NC 28090.

Dawn's story echoes that of another:  In 2007, The Foundation for a Better Life, a Colorado-based group that promotes values through advertisements, started a nationwide "Ambition" billboard campaign.

"From homeless to Harvard. AMBITION. Pass it on," the billboard said.

It featured a photograph of Liz Murray, a once-homeless girl from the Bronx who graduated from Harvard and went on to become an author. Her story was captured in a 2003 Lifetime movie.

The Foundation for a Better Life says Liz's story was to show people that "dedication pays off - and, if there's something that you want in life, you can better yourself and just work for it."

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Filed under: Education • North Carolina
soundoff (389 Responses)
  1. The Flamingo Kid

    WOW! What a joke this story is. This girl was NEVER homeless. In fact, she was provided with a free place to live, free meals, and a nice little job. She also had family in her life (evident by the fact that so many came to her graduation- including mom) and she had friends and the support of her entire school system. She never showed herself to be a genius in any subject. She did not even have a 4.0 GPA. Why in the world was she given a full scholarship to Harvard? Answer: To make Harvard look good and receive some publicity. I'm sorry folks, but this girl was more blessed than most, certainly not more disadvantaged. This is the sort of shallow feel-good story that you sheep fall for that makes me want to puke. There are REAL cases of TRULY disadvantaged people who made it to the top who's stories we never will hear. How sad!

    June 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Robbie

    WOW! I can't believe the disparaging messages and views of some here. Why not just be happy for this kid?

    June 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Flamingo Kid

    mmbrbss:

    Actually, it is YOU who are an absolutely disgusting human being. I am actually nice, care for people, do volunteer work. You just cannot stand the TRUTH of everything that I stated. There are real people out there who have had HORRIFIC lives and who have risen above ON THEIR OWN. This girl – not so much. THE TRUTH HURTS -doesn't it?

    June 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • GenghisKhan

      Flamingo Kid. You seem to be bitter and highly judgmental despite being "actually nice, care for people, do volunteer work." How did you make those conclusion from the little information presented here.

      How can you be so quick to judge this girl, then tell mmbrbss that he is disgusting? Can you recognize that you are both jumping to conclusions. I would suggest mmbrbss restate that you are not disgusting. Rather, your message seems disgusting not you. After all, you are "actually nice, care for people, do volunteer work." I also trust that your are a selfless soul that doesn't remind the people you are helping of your charity.

      I suggest you talk to your therapist about your anger problems. The truth may hurt, but you don't know it. Hurt's doesn't it?

      June 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Marilyn

    I hope one of these rich people that is wasting their money on things and vacations reads this and helps her out, she is an inspiration to other young people and hope she never looks back just forward. Good luck honey and keep up the good work, it's nice to see not all young people are lazy and expect someone to rescue them.

    June 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Marc in Florida

    God puts up with humans because every once in a while somebody like Dawn comes along. Also, there are many people who should be recognized and appreciated for being critical to her success . Kudos and best wishes our family is lifted by your accomplishments.

    June 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    This isn't just a story about her. This kid is amazing, but so is the community that said it wasn't going to let this kid be a statistic. They took her in and made sure she had a fighting chance. That community should be commended as much as Dawn. She's now one hell of a great statistic.

    June 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThinkAgain

      Let's hear it for community – a community of PUBLIC school people who came together and helped this woman help herself.

      And sorry to get all political on an incredible story, but the GOP today wants to cut funding to public schools and folks like Ron Paul think we'd all be better off in a dog-eat-dog world.

      We need to stand up for community!

      June 10, 2012 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. The Flamingo Kid

    WOW! What a joke this story is. This girl was NEVER homeless. In fact, she was provided with a free place to live, free meals, and a nice little job. She also had family in her life (evident by the fact that so many came to her graduation- including mom) and she had friends and the support of her entire school system. She never showed herself to be a genius in any subject. She did not even have a 4.0 GPA. Why in the world was she given a full scholarship to Harvard? Answer: To make Harvard look good and receive some publicity. I'm sorry folks, but this girl was more blessed than most, certainly not more disadvantaged. This is the sort of shallow feel-good story that you sheep fall for that makes me want to puke. There are REAL cases of TRULY disadvantaged people who made it to the top who's stories we never will hear. How sad!!!

    June 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Wow, you must really be uneducated...
      Homeless = Not owning or living in own home. Living in a friend's or family's home is considered homeless.

      The community that took this girl in should be applauded, as we need of these today.

      June 10, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Luna

      I could not agree with you more! It amazes me how many moronic people insist that she was "homeless." Homelessness is being out on the street living in a cardboard box, or living under a bridge, etc. This girl never knew "homelessness." She did not even come close. Just because she was made fun of in school and had idiots for parents does not mean that she should have a free-ride to college and have a fund for people to donate to! It amazes me! Rather than giving money to the poor they want you to give it to this girl. It is really ridiculous. People are starving in this country and are really homeless and this girl wants donations when she already had room and board paid for and a full scholarship to school! This shows how screwed up this country is.

      June 10, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac Stone

      Luna... Are you really saying those words that you are typing? Homeless means not having a home, which she did not have. Okay, she didn't live in a cardboard box, or under a bridge, but that doesn't mean she wasn't homeless.
      Homeless means to not have a home. So, answer me this. Yes, she had people who took her in for a day or two. That would be the equivalent of a slumber party. If you have a kid, and that kid goes to a friend's house for a day or two, does that mean where that kid is sleeping for those two days is their home? No... But they HAVE a home they call home. Dawn didn't have a home.... Hence, she was homeless. Yes, she was lucky to have a community that took her in... but AGAIN, that's part of what makes this story... that the community would do this.

      This story isn't just about Dawn, it's about the community too.

      June 10, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Delmar Knudson

    Dogged determination works. Some encouragement from time to time is good, and a little bit of help can help a lot. Been there done that. I got on a tractor 1/2 hr after the end of the high school day, driving it until dark; worked 36 hrs/week through college, 90 hrs/wk summers; had no help from home or government until I took a residency and fellowship at Johns Hopkins. However, I don't recommend that many hours work for anyone else; and realize people who were given a bit less talent could not do it. Was lucky enough to pick up a relative and non relative who loaned me some money during last 3 years of medical school. Have taught medicine the rest of my life until retirement.

    June 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flava

      Well you just deserve a gold star.

      June 10, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. NothingLikeAGoodStory

    There is nothing like a good story and this is nothing like a good story. This is far from important enough to be NEWS. I guess the people who were murdered today will have to wait for a feel good story about how they rose from the dead. The world is full of important things that happen and this just isn't one of them. When I go to work on Monday, I will explain to the parents of the child that was murdered by a drunk driver this story and that should fix WHAT?.................. Get a clue people!

    I hope God isn't watching.

    June 10, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • GetAClueYourself

      Oh, I see. Someone else's success leaves you bitter? Jealous? Why in the HELL shouldn't we congratulate this woman? You come on here and rain on her parade because YOU don't feel she achieved anything? Well, guess what? It's not about YOU! It's about HER! Wish her well, or shut up!

      June 10, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • NothingLikeAGoodStory

      GetaClue: Help is on the way...

      June 10, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac Stone

      Really? So, thousands upon thousands of people are murdered everyday... Okay... fine...
      So, let's always deem it worthy to tell the horrible news out there and steer clear of news that may be inspirational.

      You're probably one of those idiots who hates "good news" and only wants to see the "bad news".

      Maybe sometime soon, someone can write your obituary.

      June 10, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Booga Booga

      U R one of the few people who have commented on here who tell it like it is. People hate having their bubbles burst and thr truth exposed! KUDOS to you for having the guts to go against the grain and not being a typical sheep!

      June 10, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bohemian

    This is sooooo stupid. Dawn Logging was not homeless a single day in her life. She from time to time went without modern day LUXURIES, but she always had a place to stay and food on the table. If you want to see real suffering, go to Africa or another 3rd world country. This story is bogus.

    June 10, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. High IQ'er

    Isaac Stone:

    You really are an arrogant pompous fool!

    June 10, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac Stone

      Being arrogant and pompous doesn't make me wrong...

      And could you point out the part that makes me a fool? Because, I do know the community this happened in... I do know people who helped her out... I do know more details to this story than what CNN, Anderson Cooper, The Today Show and others have commented on. So... What part of this makes me a fool?

      This community and this young girl makes me extremely proud to be a Burns High alum.

      June 10, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  12. High IQ'er

    fools all fools

    June 10, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rampage

    This is

    June 10, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rampage

    Isaac Stone;

    GO AWAY. You are stupid.

    June 10, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Isaac Stone

      Tell me what part of anything I have said that would be considered stupid?

      June 10, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Rampage

      Everything you have said is stupid. The guidance counselor gave her candles instead of buying her a nice safety light. She could have burnt the house down. I guess a nice safety light was too pricey.

      June 10, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. Halo

    This girl's guidance counselor actually gave her candles! She could have burnt the house down! That is insane and really stupid. I guess the counselor was too cheap to get her a nice safety light or something.

    June 10, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
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