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Support still pours in for homeless Harvard-bound grad

Dawn Loggins’ incredible story of persistence and hard work reached a climax Thursday night when, amid the attention of media from around the country, she and her fellow Burns High School seniors received diplomas in commencement exercises at Gardner-Webb University.

But the flood of emails and phone calls continued Friday from people who, touched by the story of the homeless Cleveland County teen who is headed to Harvard University, are offering to help.

“We’re still getting calls and notes from everywhere,” said Burns High secretary Wendi Norton, who has been at the center of the media whirlwind for the past week. “It’s amazing, all the people who want to help.”

Meanwhile, Loggins told the Observer she has set up a foundation to help other homeless students succeed.

“That’s why I’m telling my story,” she said. “I hope this can help others.”

More than 300 Burns High seniors graduated Thursday night, getting attention from ABC, CBS and CNN. Loggins was featured on a segment of CNN’s Anderson Cooper show. A spokeswoman for Fox News said Friday that the network is planning to air a feature story about Loggins sometime this weekend.

The Burns High senior class and others gathered at Porter Arena on the Gardner-Webb campus broke the rules during the commencement exercises, violating the policy to hold all applause until the final graduate has crossed the stage.

When Loggins’ name was called, about halfway through the distribution of diplomas, she received a standing ovation as she crossed the stage and got her diploma from Principal Aaron Allen.

Loggins and her older brother, 19-year-old Shane, were abandoned by their parents last summer. Shane went to live in Hickory and will graduate Friday night. Dawn lived with friends for a while and then spent the school year living with Sheryl Kolton, a custodian at Burns Middle School and the mother of a friend.

Loggins helped pay her bills by working a part-time job at Burns High as a custodian.

People across Cleveland County helped provide clothing and toiletries, but Loggins also learned to support herself in part with earnings from the job.

On her big night Thursday, she was able to celebrate with some family. Shane, who also thrived academically and is headed to Berea College in Kentucky on a scholarship, was on hand for the commencement exercises. So were two half-sisters, 12-year-old Alexis and 11-year-old Kiley. They are daughters of her stepfather and have been living with other family members in McDowell County.

Loggins said she recently celebrated her half-sisters’ accomplishments.

“Alexis got all 4’s on her end-of-grade tests, and Kiley is having her first dance recital,” Loggins said.

The outpouring of support is continuing for the 18-year-old, who was accepted to UNC Chapel Hill and Davidson College, among others, before receiving the letter from Harvard several weeks ago.

“We’ve had people who wanted to give her their frequent-flier miles,” said Norton, the school’s secretary.

Loggins says she appreciates all the support but hopes people will help the Burns High Uplift Fund she has helped establish.

Between support from Harvard and the promise of a job on the university campus, Loggins’ college bills will be covered. But, she says, others need help.

“You would be surprised, how many students are homeless,” she says. “I have been contacted by students who heard of my story. I know they need help.”

But a fund set up for Loggins earlier by the principal also is still in place.

So donations may be sent to:

Burns High School,

307 East Stagecoach Trail,

Lawndale, NC 28090,

c/o Uplift Fund.

-- or to --

Burns High School,

307 East Stagecoach Trail,

Lawndale, NC 28090,

c/o Dawn Loggins Fund

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