A young student who picked trash for years to pay for college recently received an acceptance to Harvard Law School.
Rehan Staton said his family had a privileged life in Bowie, Maryland up until the time his mother left the country and his father lost his job.
His father worked three jobs at a time when food became scarce, and at times, heat was a luxury the family could not afford.
As a result of the insecurity at home, Staton’s grades fell and by the time he was in seventh grade, his father found an aerospace engineer who offered to tutor him free of charge, and his grades started to improve.
During high school, Staton wanted to become a professional boxer but suffered severe tendonitis in both shoulders his senior year. He did not have medical insurance and therefore physical therapy wasn’t an option for him. He started focussing on academics and applied to several colleges but got rejected by all.
He picked up a job as a trash collector at a local sanitation company where his crew-mates encouraged his intellect and influenced his trajectory. “They would say, ‘You’re smart. You’re too young to be here. Go to college, and come back if it doesn’t work out,'” he said.
“Teachers, church leaders, and other upper-echelon people known for being a role model in society were the ones that never saw anything in me,” he continued. “It was the sanitation workers that lifted me up to make me even want to go to school.”
His coworkers put him in touch with a professor at Bowie State University, which previously rejected him, but the professor was impressed and convinced administrators to reverse their decision.
Staton’s older brother, Reggie, needed to drop out of college to support the family since Staton was going to school. “My brother knew I’d be stuck if I didn’t jump on this opportunity and go to school because of my grades,” Staton said. Staton earned a 4.0 GPA and later matriculated to the University of Maryland, where he became immersed with campus life and ultimately spoke at graduation for the class of 2018.
He continued working to work in sanitation to make ends meet. And after graduation, he landed a job at a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., took the LSAT and applied to several law schools. He was accepted to the University of Southern California, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania as well as Harvard, where he’s enrolled for the fall 2020 semester.
Staton credited his brother Reggie for his success in a post on Facebook. “How can I not laugh when people say that I’m ‘self-made?’ Straight up, I wouldn’t have made it here without you,” he wrote.