While most American children were pursuing grade school in the comfort of a proper home, unbeknownst to the constraints of financial hardships and the struggle to find food, shelter, light, or love, Dawn Loggins was working as a janitor at her high school just to make ends meet. Abandoned by drug-abusing parents, Dawn and her younger brother, Shane, were left homeless and alone.
But this sort of neglect was something that Dawn and Shane were all too familiar with.
They grew up their whole lives in rags, in cockroach-infested bedrooms, and in desolate, dark living rooms with no electricity and grotesquely-kept bathrooms and kitchens, which provided no running water.
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Dawn and Shane would walk 20 minutes to a public park to fetch water to drink and to fill the toilet. Often going weeks without bathing, Dawn would wear the same dress for a month, only to be ridiculed by classmates who called her "dirty."
But this miserable tale is one that ends happily. You see, despite Dawn's misfortune, she is particularly smart, and her story eventually attracted the sympathies of the residents of Lawndale, North Carolina in which she lives.
Teachers at Burns High School, Dawn's fourth high school, noticed her and Shane's potential and got them both caught up in their studies by enrolling them in online classes. The hard work paid off.
Last summer, Dawn was invited to attend a prestigious six-week residential summer program, the Governor's School of North Carolina, at Meredith College in Raleigh, 200 miles east of Lawndale, to study natural science. A subject Dawn had never studied before.
Burns High guidance counselor Robyn Putnam took Dawn to Raleigh to attend the elite program and bought her the proper essentials she needed. Other faculty members contributed funds, too.
Dawn spoke to her parents only briefly during all this, but when it was all said and done, she was still abandoned. Remarkably, Dawn shows no signs of resentment towards her fleeting mother and stepfather.
"I'm not mad at my parents," Dawn told CNN. "My mom and my stepdad both think that they did what was best for me."
Dawn's academic pursuits continued to reach new heights. And as graduation loomed right around the corner, she began applying to colleges within the state. She sent only one letter, in December, outside North Carolina. That was to Harvard.
Her history teacher, Larry Gardner, wrote her a recommendation letter, which he said took him a number of revisions.
"....how do you articulate her story into two pages?" he said. "How do you explain this is a young lady who deserves a chance but hasn't had the opportunities?"
But Gardner gathered the words he was searching for:
"Once again, words fail me as I attempt to write this letter of recommendation," Gardner began. "I can promise I've never written one like this before and will probably not write one like this again. Because most students who face challenges that are not even remotely as difficult as Dawn's give up. This young lady has, unlike most of us, known hunger. She's known abuse and neglect, she's known homelessness and filth. Yet she's risen above it all to become such an outstanding young lady."
Dawn was accepted to every school she applied to, including Harvard.
Not only was she accepted to Harvard, she received a full-ride scholarship.
Shane will attend Berea College in Kentucky on a scholarship as well.
Dawn has learned the sort of wisdom that one cannot learn in school.
"I love my parents. I disagree with the choices that they've made. But we all have to live with the consequences of our actions," she said ... "If I had not had those experiences, I wouldn't be such a strong-willed or determined person."
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