People always say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but Dawn Loggins, an 18-year-old student from North Carolina, actually experienced this life lesson in one of the most heart-wrenching ways.

Finding herself homeless several times and earning a living as her high school’s janitor, her dreams of a better life finally came true when she got accepted to Harvard University.

It was a long road for Loggins, who was abandoned by her parents and left in the care of her grandmother as a child. While there, she lived in deplorable conditions. “There was trash all over the house.  [My Grandmother] never really explained to me like that it was important to shower - it was important to take care of yourself, so I would go months at a time without showering,” said Loggins.

Unfortunately, things only seemed to get worse. She and her family were evicted several times and the plucky teen bounced around from school to school. “There would be times we went without power or water for months at a time,” she said. “I remember doing my homework by candlelight cause I am that determined to succeed.”

In the end, the teen earned herself a partial scholarship to attend the prestigious Ivy League school, where she plans to study biology. Her success, she said, was the direct result of sheer determination.

“I looked around at my family and I saw the neglect, the drug abuse, the bad choices and I saw my family living from paycheck to paycheck, and I just made a decision that I was not going to end up like my parents,” she said. “I wasn’t going to end up having to decide should I buy food this month or should I pay my rent.”