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He's a Harvard law student. Two years ago, he was collecting garbage to pay for college.

When Rehan Staton graduated high school, no college accepted him. Now, he's headed to Harvard Law School for his master's.

He's a Harvard law student. Two years ago, he was collecting garbage to pay for college.
Image Source: Rehan Staton / Facebook

Rehan Staton almost abandoned school altogether when life kept throwing adversity after adversity at him. However, he persevered through several challenges and is now pursuing a degree at Harvard Law School. Following his high school graduation, the then-18-year-old experienced financial issues, illness, and a major sports injury. With the support of his family and his team at the Bates Trucking & Trash Removal sanitation company, Rehan joined Bowie State University before transferring to the University of Maryland, where he graduated from in 2018. Though folks may look at his time as a garbage collector as hitting rock bottom, the young man claimed it was where he felt most supported, CNN reports.


Rehan shared, "Life was pretty normal until I was eight years old." At that age, his mother separated from his father and left the country. The previously stable household family thus went through immense financial difficulties. His dad had to raise two sons all on his own. He often had to work two or even three jobs at a time just to keep the bills paid. Rehan and his brother faced food insecurity even though just a few months earlier they had a "solidly middle-class upbringing," having attended a private school for years. The family's extended relatives soon abandoned them, so the trio relied on each other for support.


Unfortunately, the young boy's academics suffered greatly as a result of his home life. "I wasn't eating meals every day and my dad was working all the time," Rehan explained. "Sometimes there'd be no electricity at home." Despite these difficulties, he began focusing on athletics and martial arts. At one point in his academic life, however, a teacher recommended that Rehan be placed in remedial classes at school. His father soon intervened. An aerospace engineer he had met at a local community center offered to tutor Rehan for free for the rest of the school year⁠—and it paid off.


The young man recalled, "I ended up getting on the Honor Roll the rest of that year. The same teacher who suggested I be placed in special education actually wrote my dad an apology note." Over the next few years of high school, Rehan continued to improve with regard to his academics while simultaneously training to be a professional boxer. Unfortunately, his hopes of going pro following graduation were dashed when he suffered a double shoulder injury in the 12th grade. In light of his injury, he haphazardly applied to several colleges before the year was out. He was rejected from every school he applied to. "That ended up just not working in my favor. So, I ended up going to work as a garbage man."


During his time with the Bates Trucking & Trash Removal sanitation company, his co-workers often wondered why he was a garbage collector and not pursuing his academic interests. At the time, with the exception of the management team, all of his colleagues were previously incarcerated. They all encouraged him to go back to school. Eventually, they spoke with Brent Bates, the son of the owners of the garbage trucking company. Brent soon took Rehan "under his wing" and introduced him to a professor at Bowie State University. Incredibly impressed by the young man, the professor the admissions board on his behalf. He began his undergraduate degree later that year and earned a 4.0 GPA. Rehan stated, "I became the president of organizations. I was winning so many scholastic accolades—it was crazy."


By the end of his second year at college, he had decided he wanted to go into law. He also transferred to the University of Maryland. Once he graduated in 2018, Rehan worked in political consulting with the Robert Bobb Group, a firm in downtown DC, while simultaneously studying for the LSAT. He was eventually accepted into law programs at Harvard, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, and Pepperdine. Rehan looks back at his time as a garbage collector with positivity. "It was the first time in my life people were lifting me up for the sake of lifting me up and not because I was good at sports," he said. "I had to go to the 'bottom' of the social hierarchy—that's to say formerly incarcerated sanitation workers—in order to be uplifted."


He now plans to help other young people with LSAT tutoring and college counseling. Rehan stated, "When I look back at my experiences, I like to think that I made the best of the worst situation. Each tragedy I faced forced me out of my comfort zone, but I was fortunate enough to have a support system to help me thrive in those predicaments." He will begin online classes at Harvard Law School later this fall.


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