Let's face it, high school can be tough. Now imagine going through those four years without the stability of a family, home or running water and heat. That's what 18-year-old Dawn Loggins remembers growing up. Her parents were constantly getting evicted from home after home in small-towns in North Carolina. Her step dad running from law enforcement and her mom was constantly unemployed.
The teenager had nightmares police would storm in the middle of the night to kick her family out on the streets.
That was until one day her parents decided to move to Tennessee while she living in Raleigh taking summer classes at the Governor’s School of North Carolina. She came home, they were gone. Cell phones turned off, empty house, no note, no warning -- nothing.
She learned of the move from grandmother, who was living in a shelter.
"I found myself, absolutely homeless with nowhere to go," Loggins said. "I stayed at friend’s houses in between, and instead of worrying about it, I decided to take action. I knew I had to go to school and I wanted to go back to work."
For the first time in her life Loggins had nobody to worry about but herself. In some way, she felt relief. But at the same time, she knew she couldn't do it alone. That’s when she started accepting a little help from guidance counselors and school officials who caught a glimpse of her character and motivation.
"All the help in the world isn’t going to do you any good if you're not willing to work hard," she said. "I think people were so willing to help me because they saw that I was reaching for my goals, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me."
Things started settling down a little for Loggins about a year ago, a little light at the end of the tunnel. She was starting her senior year of high school; she moved in with a school employee, and she was working as a school janitor. Loggins was on campus hours before the first bell rang -- sweeping floors, cleaning up bathrooms and classrooms. It was a schedule, it was money and it was the ability for her to focus on school.
For the first time she didn't have to worry about how to heat Ramen Noodles.
"School has been her ticket to sanity and she knew it was a way out," said school counselor Robyn Putnam. "School was the safe place. [Before that year,] she didn’t have basic needs a lot of the time. You can’t move beyond if you don’t meet the basic needs in food, clothing, shelter and a sense of community were not there for her and it’s hard to focus."
And focus she did. The long-haired teen got her college applications out and took one risky move. She applied to Harvard. An idea she admits was a long shot.
"A lot of people use bad situations as an excuse and instead of doing that, I turned the bad things around into motivation to succeed and do well," Loggins said. "I felt like it would be so easy and even acceptable if I were to just say – you know what, I give up, I can’t do this in this situation, but I didn’t. I knew that if I wanted to make something of myself and I didn’t want to live like this when I got older, I had to get it done."
According to the Covenant House, the nation's largest privately-funded agency in the Americas providing food, shelter and care for homeless kids, every year more than 2 million kids in America will face a period of homelessness
Loggins hopes her situation will bring more attention to these kids and in fact she’s launching her own nonprofit to help. With stories like Loggins and that of David Boone -- another once-homeless teen in Cleveland headed to Harvard, their futures are bright. Perhaps the more attention these two get of beating the odds, it will bring attention to a silent epidemic and keep one less kid off the streets.
"My future is going to be great. And I know it is. And Harvard is going to make that happen. But also, it’s stability, I'm not going to have to worry about where my meals are coming from or where I’m going to sleep at night and I’m going to have so many opportunities," Loggins said.