What, like it’s hard?
Believe it or not, getting into Harvard Law School wasn’t easy for Rehan Staton: the 24-year-old college student from Maryland was admitted into the iconically prestigious school after spending years collecting garbage to support himself and his family.
While many of his peers were enjoying their full college experience, Staton spent years waking up in the early morning hours to collect trash for Bates Trucking & Trash Removal before attending class at the University of Maryland. He told the Boston Globe that the job left him no time to shower, and he usually sat in the back of his lecture halls to avoid his classmates.
And although it was the years of hard work that led him to Harvard Law, Staton said he never would’ve gotten there without the people in the sanitation industry who wanted to help him succeed.
He told CBS News:
“It was the people that were on the bottom of the hierarchy who really lifted me up. It helps me keep my eyes on the prize. If this were just about me and just fighting for myself, I definitely would have quit.”
Staton faced countless obstacles from an early age, ever since his father struggled to raise him and his older brother as a single parent. He recalled:
“My mom abandoned my dad, my brother and I when she moved back to Sri Lanka. I was probably too young to notice some of the things that happened, but I know it was bad… Things just kept falling on us. My dad lost his job at one point and had to start working three jobs in order to provide for us. It got to the point where I barely got to see my father, and a lot of my childhood was very lonely.”
In addition to the loneliness, Staton said the family went without food or electricity due to the financial difficulties. Through it all, though, Staton excelled in high school while also training to become a professional boxer. But those dreams were derailed when he experienced a double shoulder injury during his senior year.
Staton didn’t get into college and he became a sanitation worker — which would end up changing his life. He recalled:
“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.”
Eventually, a higher-up at the company heard Staton’s story and took him to meet a professor at Bowie State University, who ultimately persuaded the school’s admissions board to let Staton enroll.
He started that year, then transferred to the University of Maryland and decided he wanted to go to law school. Unfortunately, there were more hurdles he had to overcome outside of his education: during his stint at Maryland, Staton’s father suffered a stroke, and Staton rejoined Bates Trucking & Trash Removal to support his family and continue his studies. He said:
“We all took losses and made sacrifices to take care of each other.”
After he graduated in 2018, Staton took an analyst job at a consulting firm in Washington DC before applying to law school. He was accepted into many great schools (Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University), and waitlisted at many others (Georgetown University, New York University, the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA).
He ended up choosing Harvard, and will start class this fall. A GoFundMe has been set up to raise funds for Staton’s tuition and, as of Thursday afternoon, has raised more than $80,000.
He told CNN of his journey:
“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.”
Wishing him nothing but success — not that he needs our wishes!
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