"Although I get credit for working hard, working hard was the easy part,” said Rehan Staton, who graduated from Harvard Law School last week
Three years ago, Rehan Staton, a college student and sanitation worker, made headlines by getting accepted into Harvard Law School. Now, the Maryland man has his degree in hand.
Staton received his juris doctorate from Harvard during a commencement ceremony at the Massachusetts school on Thursday, according to The Guardian.
The young man was cheered on by onlookers as he walked across the stage, as seen in a recording of the ceremony. One individual can be heard yelling “My boy! Go Rehan!”
The 27-year-old told ABC News that his family “started to run into a lot of financial insecurities” after his mom left when he was in second grade.
"There were holes in the ceilings. There was black mold festering in the basement. There were a lot of areas in the house that didn't have floors,” Staton said. “It was a really bad situation."
Staton graduated from high school having barely earned a 2.0 GPA, according to ABC News. Teachers had previously attempted to place him in special education classes, and spoke poorly of his intelligence.
After high school, Staton began working for Bates Trucking and Trash Removal in Maryland, ABC News and CBS News reported. There, his colleagues encouraged him to go back to school, and eventually, he reapplied to college.
Staton began his college career at Bowie State University before transferring to the University of Maryland, per ABC News. He graduated in the winter of 2018, and even served as the undergraduate commencement speaker.
While battling a serious illness in 2019, Staton’s family nearly lost their home to foreclosure. After watching his father go back to work after having a stroke, Staton decided to take matters into his own hands and return to school.
Staton passed his LSAT less than a year later, and was eventually accepted into Harvard Law School according to ABC News.
Actor Tyler Perry even offered to pay for Staton’s schooling after seeing a viral video of the young man reacting to his Harvard acceptance, NECN and NBC Boston previously reported. Additionally, more than $200,000 was raised via GoFundMe to help send Staton to the university.
“Although I get credit for working hard, working hard was the easy part,” he said in a recent profile by The Harvard Gazette. “But I just happened to be around people who cared enough about me. I worked for a trash company, where my co-workers told me that I should go to college instead. I had a boss who let me leave work, go to school, and come back. I had a cousin who helped me study for the LSAT."
"I couldn't have done it alone,” he added.
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While attending the prestigious university, Staton made friends with many of the staff members who worked on campus.
“We text, we hug when we see each other, I call them aunts and uncles,” Staton told The Washington Post. “I have felt very safe, taken care of and loved, specifically because of the bonds that I have with my support staff.”
Staton frequently gave back to the Harvard community, including members of the school’s staff. In Feb. 2022, the Maryland man used his savings to buy 100 Amazon gift cards that he later gave out to staffers on campus, according to the Post.
Earlier this year, Staton helped raise $70,000 for janitors and other support staff members, the Post and ABC News reported.
Additionally, Staton founded an organization called The Reciprocity Effect, which aims to “create a more holistic” community at Harvard while bridging the “disconnect between staff and students,” according to its website.
Bates Trucking and Trash Removal, where Staton made his money for school, donated $50,000 to help get the organization started, per ABC News and the Post.
Brent Bates, assistant operations manager at Bates Trucking and Trash Removal and co-founder of The Reciprocity Effect, said offering support to members of the community is something both he and Staton “pride ourselves on.”
Staton now plans to move to New York City, where he intends to to work at a law firm, according to ABC News and the Gazette.
His goal is to explore his love for sports, but on the business side, per ABC News. Eventually, he hopes to own a professional sports team.
Ultimately, whatever the future holds, he'll never forget where he came from. “I didn’t want to change after going to Law School,” he told the Gazette. “The allure is huge. I went to work in fancy places. I made cool connections and friendships. But I don’t want to forget who I am.”
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