2 years later, former homeless student thrives at Harvard

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comJune 14, 2014 

Dawn Loggins has completed her second year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. The Burns High School graduate has asked to be allowed to pursue her college education without intrusion from reporters.

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— Two years after gaining national attention as a homeless student who was accepted at Harvard University, Dawn Loggins continues to thrive.

Loggins, who graduated in 2012 from Burns High School in a ceremony covered by CNN, NBC and other media outlets, has traded in the spotlight for a much quieter existence in the Northeast.

She does not give media interviews and has asked to be allowed to pursue her college education – majoring in linguistics – without intrusion from reporters. But by all accounts, she is doing well.

People in this northern Cleveland County community say Loggins comes back for regular visits and tells them she is happy at Harvard.

In 2011, Loggins returned home from a summer program for gifted high school students to discover her parents, who were experiencing a number of problems, had abandoned her. She lived with several people, notably middle school custodian Sheryl Kolton, and worked as a custodian herself at Burns High School in her senior year.

Despite the tumult of her personal life, she was accepted at Harvard. She has given several motivational speeches, including one at Governor’s School last year for its 50th reunion.

Her official website gives a look at how she has adjusted as a college student.

Loggins has taken an active role in helping homeless students, including providing a “delicious Southern meal” as an auction item during a fundraising event last winter for a youth homeless shelter in Cambridge, Mass.

Loggins might have been the most famous student facing major obstacles for longtime Burns High guidance counselor Robyn Putnam, but she wasn’t the last.

“Some of them are so overwhelmed by what’s happening in their lives,” Putnam says. “I’ve seen depression, bipolar issues, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) that hasn’t been treated …the sorts of things that parents of most other kids can get them treated for.”

She says Burns is fortunate to have a nurse practitioner to help but adds, “We could use a psychiatrist.”

Putnam and Burns High Principal Aaron Allen said Loggins’ love of learning made a big difference for her.

In a Web page she created for herself, Loggins wrote, “Getting an education is the most important thing that you can do for yourself. It is the only way to lift yourself out of poverty, and an education can never be taken from you.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle

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