A 24-year-old Maryland man has captured headlines after he spent three years working in sanitation before later securing a highly coveted spot at Harvard Law School, the Washington Post reports.
For three years, Rehan Staton, who lives in Bowie, worked at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal in Bladensburg, according to the newspaper. The 24-year-old would wake up at 4 a.m., pick up trash, clean dumpsters and head straight to class at the University of Maryland. The circumstances were less than ideal but unavoidable, Staton said.
Growing up, Staton had a rough childhood, he told the Post.
“My mom abandoned my dad, my brother and I when she moved back to Sri Lanka,” he said. “I was probably too young to notice some of the things that happened, but I know it was bad.”
As a result of his mother’s departure, Staton’s grades slipped. It also didn’t help that his father had lost his job at one point and had to work three jobs to make ends meet. On many occasions, the family wouldn’t even see food on the table or have electricity at home, Staton said.
“It got to the point where I barely got to see my father, and a lot of my childhood was very lonely,” he recalled.
School didn’t provide much of an escape for the 24-year-old either, Staton said. Because of his poor grades, one of his teachers allegedly called him “handicapped.”
“I had no social life, home life was just horrible, and I hated school more than anything,” he told the Post.
While Staton did have a promising career in boxing, those dreams were dashed when he began suffering from rotator-cuff injuries and digestive problems in the 10th grade. Two years later, things seemingly got worse when he applied for college and got rejected by every single school.
With no university to attend, Staton found himself at Bates. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. His coworkers encouraged him to reapply for college, and Brent Bates, whose father owns the company, even got Staton in touch with a Bowie State University professor who helped Staton appeal his rejection.
“The other sanitation workers were the only people in my life who uplifted me and told me I could be somebody,” Staton said.
Upon being accepted, Staton saw his life slowly begin to take a positive turn.
“I got a 4.0 GPA, I had a supportive community and I became the president of organizations,” he said.
Two years later, Staton transferred to the University of Maryland, where he finished the remainder of his undergraduate degree. Still, he faced hardships — during Staton’s second semester, for example, his father suffered a stroke, forcing the 24-year-old to briefly work at Bates once again to help pay the medical bills.
“We all took losses and made sacrifices to take care of each other,” he said.
After graduating from the university in 2018, Staton took a job at consulting firm the Robert Bobb Group, where he excelled as an analyst while preparing for the LSAT. According to the Post, Staton, who was also accepted to the law schools at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California, learned about his acceptance to Harvard Law School in March.
“My brother is everything to me,” Staton’s brother Reggie, who dropped out of college to similarly support the family, said. “I would give up everything to see him succeed.”
Now, with his eyes set on attending Harvard in the fall, Staton, who has plans on becoming a sports agent, is raising money to pay for his tuition. His GoFundMe has so far raised over $178,000 of its $75,000 goal.
“No one can promise that life will be fair, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, everything will fall into place,” he told the Post.
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