Dawn Loggins is in the news these days, receiving well-earned praise for her guts and gumption. The Lawndale, North Carolina teen returned home from a 2011 summer camp for high achievers to find her parents were gone. It was months before she tracked them to Tennesse, where they had gone for a visit and just stayed.
Her family had never been stable. As she told CBS:
Every time my stepdad would be arrested, we would have to move. Or my mom would use rent money to bail him out of jail. There would be places where we lived where there wouldn’t be power and water for extended periods of time.
When Loggins’s parents abandoned her, Sheryl Kolton took her in. The school bus driver knew she was couch surfing and offered her a home. Then the school offered her a job as a school custodian.
Though she was working before and after school, the honors student kept her grades high in advanced placement classes. She also stayed active in school clubs. Her determination and intelligence paid off. In September, she will head to Harvard to start college.
As for her parents, for all their challenges, they are still family. When Loggins graduated from Burns High School, they were there to celebrate. The MSNBC video is an inspiring tribute to a determined teen.
Two More Successes and a Lot More Waiting
Other homeless youth have been in the news recently. Danielle Baker just graduated from Horlick High School in Racine, Washington. For a year after her mother died, she bounced from relatives to shelters. Then she met Jo Wynn, the homeless woman who started Walkin’ In My Shoes, an outreach program for homeless youth. Wynn found a home for her in a transitional living program for young adults. Now she is a high school graduate with plans for a nursing career.
Samantha Garvey‘s family became homeless after they fell on hard times and were evicted from their rental home. When the bright senior from Bay Shore, New York became a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, her story hit the media. That prompted Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to offer a rent-subsidized home to the family and an internship to Garvey.
These three young women were able to reach for the brass ring and hang on tight. They are, of course, the tiniest tip of a huge iceberg. A January 2011 program on ABC’s 20/20 reported two million American youth are homeless. Youth on the streets are particularly vulnerable. They are also remarkably resilient, as a study of Vancouver’s homeless youth showed.
Every homeless youth who graduates from school, finds a job or marries and raises a stable family is cause for celebration. These young people are at risk in all our communities. They deserve a chance to shine.
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