Another Girl Who’s Gone From Homeless to Harvard

homeless to harvard

A few years ago, we invited a brilliant young woman, Liz Murray, to speak at our National Leadership Forum. She was called the “Homeless to Harvard” girl, who literally went from living on the streets of New York City to a graduate of Harvard University, thanks to a scholarship from the New York Times.

Well—its’ happened again, this time in North Carolina.

High School graduation was an especially proud day for Dawn Loggins.

According to a local ABC report, the road to graduation was filled with some unusual obstacles for Dawn. One day last summer when she was just 16, she came home to find her parents had abandoned her. She was homeless; left to support herself.

“I saw the neglect, the drug abuse and the bad choices and I saw my family living from paycheck to paycheck; I just made a decision that I was not going to end up like my parents,” Dawn said.

But then she got a job as a school custodian, while working through advanced placement and honors courses. She worked two hours before classes and two hours after school, every day. “I remember doing my homework by candlelight because I am that determined to succeed,” she said.

When it was discovered she was moving around sleeping on the sofas of various families, her principal informed her supervisor at the school. It was at that time, her custodial supervisor invited her to live with their family. Her boss and family became the family and mentors she never had. At her graduation in Shelby, North Carolina, she embraced the family that came to celebrate with her. They were the ones she looked for after walking across the stage; they’re her new family. “She’s an amazing kid, and she’s accomplished more than I could ever hope in my life, and I’m very proud of her,” said one family member.

Not only has Dawn succeeded, she is headed to Harvard University in the fall where she will major in Biology. And the 17 year old is already giving back. Not only has she been accepted to Harvard, she is starting a nonprofit to help struggling students.

Dawn’s story is nothing short of amazing. And here’s what I love about it. This student was the one who led the way. No sense of entitlement. No bitterness. No ingratitude. Just determination. I also love the fact that it was another family that adopted Dawn, with all her needs, into their lives—and celebrated with her at this milestone in her life. This is an opportunity every caring adult has for some kid.

Here’s to you finding that kid in your life!

One last thing. Dawn’s story is an incredible illustration of authentic maturity in a teenager. If you’d like more stories and tips on how to build this in your students, look for my book, Artificial Maturity—Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults. You can pre-order now by visiting

Have you seen students overcome incredible obstacles? Share their story in the comments below.

Artificial Maturity

Another Girl Who’s Gone From Homeless to Harvard