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Harvard Square is rallying around an incoming Harvard College freshman from North Carolina, determined to give the once-homeless student a sense of community when she arrives in Cambridge.
Brooke Garber, co-owner of the Mint Julep women’s clothing boutique, moved swiftly after reading a heart-tugging recent CNN story about Dawn Loggins. She’s soliciting donations from other Harvard Square businesses — gift certificates, money, places for Loggins to stay while on school breaks — as part of a “welcome home to Harvard Square” gift basket for the 18-year-old.
“What she has done is just incredible,” Garber told the Herald. “The fact that she didn’t give up and she kept going was just so inspirational.”
Loggins’ parents abused drugs and abandoned her at the start of her senior year at Burns High School in the small farming town of Lawndale, N.C. After a tough childhood without electricity and running water, she was left homeless and started working as a school custodian before and after classes while still managing straight As.
A school custodian and bus driver eventually took Loggins into her home, and community members helped with contributions.
“One of the things that really inspired me was her community had really risen up to help her so she could graduate,” Garber said. “I started to think about when she comes to Harvard, she is going to need a support system. I decided that her new community in Harvard Square should step up.”
While Loggins, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has a free ride to Harvard that includes tuition, room and board, Garber wants to cover the extras that would allow her to go to the movies, shopping or out to eat.
“I’ve got a fantastic response so far,” she said, just one day after an email was sent to Harvard Square businesses. “I’ve gotten tons of gift certificates, a massage …”
For her part, Garber wants to outfit Loggins — whom she’s yet to talk to — with clothes from Mint Julep.
“She’s going to be coming from the South, so she probably won’t have a winter wardrobe appropriate for Boston,” she said.
Loggins is camping this week after graduating last Thursday, according to Burns High School principal Aaron Allen. But she will return to work as a school custodian until she leaves for Harvard and has applied to work for Dorm Crew, a student-run group that employs Harvard students for custodial work in undergraduate dorms. She has fielded correspondence and donations from around the world and requests to be a motivational speaker.
Loggins is a “workhorse,” and Allen said he couldn’t ask for a better student.
“She’s obviously very organized and detail-minded if she’s able to work four to five hours a day — two hours before school and three hours after, five days a week — and take three AP classes and honors classes and pull As in every one,” he said. “Education has been her opportunity to maintain control over her life and really help determine her path. Instead of being a product of her circumstance, she has made her circumstance.”
But Loggins is very explicit about making people aware that “this is not a story about Dawn Loggins,” according to Allen. “This is a story about overcoming homelessness and overcoming obstacles,” he said. “She wants to put a face to homelessness and kind of bring light to a broad term.”-— email@example.comClick here to read the article at the Herald Online!
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