Enduring college rejection after college rejection, a Maryland graduate became a sanitation worker to help make ends meet at home. Now, he’s been accepted into Harvard Law School.
Though Rehan Staton, 24, will soon be a Harvard graduate, his journey there wasn’t without a lot of work and struggle behind him.
Life for the Statons was normal until their mother left and moved out of the country, CNN reports. Their household, once stable, now struggled with finances.
By seventh grade, Staton was having difficulties at school.
“I wasn’t eating meals every day and my dad was working all the time,” he told the publication. “Sometimes there’d be no electricity at home.”
His grades were suffering so much, in fact, that his teacher recommended he be placed in special education classes. But that was when Staton’s father jumped in to advocate for his son’s schooling, finding him a local tutor, free of charge.
“I ended up getting on the Honour Roll the rest of that year,” Staton said. “The same teacher who suggested I be placed in special education actually wrote my dad an apology note.”
As his grades rose, so did his passion for boxing, which he’d been training in through school, along with martial arts. A double-shoulder injury in his final year of high school dashed his dreams of going pro.
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After hurriedly applying to colleges, Staton received a stack of rejection letters.
“That ended up just not working in my favour,” he said. “So, I ended up going to work as a garbage man.”
His colleagues at Bates Trucking Trash Removal Inc. spoke to the company’s owner, Brent Bates, who took him under his wing and introduced him to a professor at Bowie State University. Staton was admitted after an appeal to the board and went on to earn a 4.0 GPA in his first year.
“I became the president of organizations. I was winning so many scholastic accolades, it was crazy,” he said.
“It was the people at the ‘bottom’ of the hierarchy that lifted me up,” he told CBS This Morning. “Failure wasn’t an option.”
Two years in, he transferred to the University of Maryland. Following his 2018 graduation, he worked with a political consulting firm while studying for the LSAT.
He was accepted into Harvard, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and Pepperdine.
Staton penned a heartfelt Facebook post for his brother, Reggie, on June 25.
“It goes without saying that I never thought I would be accepted to Harvard Law School,” he begins. “I find it sort of humorous because there was a time when you were the only one who thought I would even go to college.”
The letter continued: “We both know that after mom abandoned us, our lives became very turbulent. I was thinking about it today, but I don’t think I ever realized how it forced you to grow … Do you remember that was the year my teachers tried to place me in special education because of my bad grades? How was I supposed to concentrate under our circumstances? After you found out what was happening you started to find ways to get me food so I wouldn’t be miserable in class.”
“As time went on, literally everyone from law school advisors, professors, and friends advised against me applying to all these schools because they said, ‘You’re applying too late in the cycle.’ But you said, ‘Don’t worry about applying too late. Bet on yourself.'”
In a video shared by CBS, Staton can be seen beside his brother and another unidentified person, sitting in front of a laptop.
“I’m clicking it,” Staton says in the video, before exclaiming “congratulations” after reading of his acceptance to Harvard.
“When I look back at my experiences, I like to think that I made the best of the worst situation,” he told CNN. “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’ll begin virtual classes at Harvard this fall.