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."

Post by:
Filed under: Education • North Carolina
soundoff (389 Responses)
  1. Zenawi Kabato

    Bravo Harvard !

    June 10, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dee

    Why is this EXACTLY like a lifetime movie I saw years ago?

    June 10, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Booga Booga

      The girl in the Lifetime movie really did face hardships. She studied on the subway.

      June 10, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Martian

    I heard this chick dropped out of school at one point.

    June 10, 2012 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. ThinkAgain

    @The Flamingo Kid: What proof do you have to back up your spiteful words? Harvard did this for publicity – the same Harvard that has millions upon millions in endowment funds and an international reputation? You really think Harvard needs a "feel good" story?

    Turn off Fox and turn up your mind, buddy.

    June 10, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. logan5

    This girl is a prodigy, therefore, why should I be surprised that she made it into Harvard? And even if Harvard had not accepted her, with her grades, scholarships, grants, etc etc. she could have easily been accepted to and attended another school and succeeded. How about a story about an average student, with average intelligence, who beats the odds and makes it into Harvard now that's flippin impressive! Academic success comes to prodigies as easily as breathing does to you or me, again, NOT impressive!

    June 10, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • lifeofcarter

      Oh... you mean like most "legacy" students? Truly impressive indeed... You've got a point my friend.

      June 10, 2012 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
    • lifeofcarter

      Ahh... you mean like most "legacy" students. Truly impressive indeed. You've got a great point there, my friend.

      June 10, 2012 at 4:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary Talmi

      But this story isn't just about her intelligence-it's more about her character and perseverance -her ability to withstand terrible rejection and neglect. No matter how smart someone is those conditions are hard to overcome.

      June 10, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul232

      No, she is one of the average students who worked harder.

      The truth is neither you or I know which she is, but you are goofy for assuming either without knowing.

      June 10, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
    • FesterNScab

      Wat is colege? Can I be go der? I am stoodent in and I get teahced at a calforinia shcool, get A all times. Iam relly smart and no how to reed and I can right. Momma alway say Iam a prodgee but pappa walways sez Ima a worthles peece of dirt and he hitz me relly hard with his phist.

      June 10, 2012 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Ployes

      I don't think you got the point of the story.

      June 10, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
    • southerner01

      You sound jealous. The girl was homeless and working for her school as a janitor. Her accomplishment is impressive. Besides, being smart is not a bad thing and doesn't diminish heer accomplishment.

      June 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angel

      I think you missed the point: being smart is not enough if you do not work hard and persist.

      She could have easily given up and be an average student given that she had also to work to feed herself
      but she did more than that and that *is* the important message.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      you're an idiot.

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

      You're a real snot...go away

      June 12, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • KKDenver

      How clueless can you get? There is nothing more prevalent than wasted talent and genius. Her persistence is what makes her admirable. Stop being jealous, it's below you.

      June 12, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mateo

      Logan5....NOT IMPRESSIVE. Her drug abusing parents abandoned her and left her fend for herself for her senior year. That alone would make most people emotionally crack. She may have a very high IQ and terrific grades...hence Harvard. But, you have no appreciation for how this girl focused and took care of herself when her drug addict parents won't. 18 year old girls are normally pretty fragile emotionally. She fought and got what she deserved. Your post reeks of jealously, immaturity and ignorance.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chut Pata

    She is one of the many indigenous gifted who would go to Harvard. The talents of the rest would end up on street. The story of a bouncer with an IQ of 200 has already been broadcasted on CNN. On the other hand many students who were not even straight A would end up in doing their masters and Phds because their rich parents can afford to send their kids to Huntington Centres and C2 centres. This is the curse of a capitalistic society.

    June 10, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. alice

    This young lady is an inspiration to all. Good Luck and God Bless.

    June 10, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Just Jane

    Worst interview ever! What was this CNN newsperson thinking? The interview was insulting! Where wlll you be living? Horrible!!

    June 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RH

    This story made be cry. Sure, as others are saying in this thread, there is more earth-shattering news to report, but there has to be a balance. A story like this brings balance–and maybe it will inspire some of us to keep an eye out and extend a hand. It's not about politics, people, it's about people. Best of luck to Dawn and to others who come from similar situations.

    June 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. G. McDonald

    Congratulations, Dawn! Over the years, I had students who had little guidance at home, who had all the material things but no parental support or care, and who struggled to make it in school in spite of being in the "upper class". You made it without all of it, a miracle. I know who will do great things! I don't know you, but, as a former teacher, I want to praise you and tell you to keep working hard. You will be great!

    June 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RDManuel

    Is there a foundation to which one can contribute to help this impressive young woman?

    June 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David Laubach

    I do not think the vast majority of Americans have any idea the amount of homeless public school students we have in the United States.
    Dawn Loggins story is not only encouraging but a statement as to what can and should be done in such cases. She sought help and received if from school personnel in Burns, North Carolina. And her perseverance led to a scholarship to Harvard.
    Now she wants to create a nonprofit organization she calls Uplift to help others with the same plight. She realizes there are many youth struggling with the same issues. And her first goal is to give back.
    Dawn Loggins is trying to make America a better place to live. And she should be recognized for that.

    June 11, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Fred

    “The only way to get out of poverty is through education.”

    Great story but I wish she hadn't said that. Too many people think that means public education is the answer. It is too often the problem. Plenty of people go on to be successful after being home schooled and without college.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mateo

      Fred.....where did she say public or private or any kind of organized education in that comment? Um, last I checked home schooling is proper education. Also, how many people in Palo Alto who don't have a degree earn millions, so yes you are right there. But, it was unnecessary to try and "call her out" on that quote. Your just lazy with nothing to do probably and in turn write this junk. I'm defending this girl....so that's why I'm here. Not just u.....but there are so many stupid comments on this thread. It makes me sad that so many people are sooo messed up.

      June 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Madhu

    More than 50% of the students in developing countries face the exact same situation as this young lady, there is nothing great here with the exception of how the community handled the situation. Kudos to the high school team for creating an environment that fostered learning and development, provided food and a roof over her head. This article speaks volumes of how small town folk treat others and the enormity of their altruism – impressed!

    June 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Stu

    If this is not proof that you hold your future in your own hands, then there is nothing that will convince anyone that you can make what you want out of your life. What an encouraging story.

    June 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16