A 24-year-old Maryland college graduate is on his way to Harvard Law School, despite the fact that the odds weren’t always in his favor, due to financial issues and other struggles in his life.
But Rehan Staton’s story is one of triumph, as he is due to start classes online at Harvard Law this fall, with an entire virtual community behind of him that raised more than $70,000 on GoFundMe in a week to ensure that he could start his first semester without worrying about money, at least.
According to Staton, he has made it so far thanks to the help and support of his father and his colleagues at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal, where he’d work the very early-morning hours, up way before sunrise, before attending classes at the University of Maryland.
Sometimes there was no time to shower between work and class and so Staton would sit in the back of the classroom in order to avoid judgment, the Boston Globe notes.
But he revealed to CBS This Morning that his coworkers were the ones who kept him on his path.
“It was the people that were on the bottom of the hierarchy who really lifted me up,” he said. “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’s life took a turn when he was just 8 years old. That’s when his mother left his father and moved out of the country. A once-stable home life turned into one stricken with financial difficulties as his father worked, often multiple jobs, to raise his two sons and ensure they had a roof over their head and food to eat.
The insecurity at home led to issues at school.
“I wasn’t eating meals every day and my dad was working all the time,” he told CNN. “Sometimes there’d be no electricity at home.”
However, when a teacher suggested that Staton be put in remedial classes, his father stepped in, finding a tutor who was an aerospace engineer who offered to help Staton for free.
At the same time, Staton turned out to be a talented athlete, training to become a professional boxer in high school, although that dream was ultimately cut short following a double shoulder injury in 12th grade.
His schoolwork improved, but he was still rejected from every school he applied to, leading him to get a job in sanitation.
But that is also where he met some of the most uplifting people, who he said encouraged him just because.
With the help of his colleagues, Staton spoke to Brent Bates, whose father owns the trash company, and he helped Staton reach out to a professor at Bowie State University. Staton successfully appealed his rejection from his school and began to flourish, the Boston Globe reports.
His older brother, who was also enrolled at Bowie, even dropped out to work at the trash company to help support his father and brother financially.
“My brother is everything to me. I would give up everything to see him succeed,” Reggie Staton said. “He’s my hero.”
Rehan Staton later transferred to the University of Maryland but even there, there were struggles, as his father suffered a stroke in his second semester there.
So Staton once again began working at the trash company to help out with his father’s medical bills while still juggling school. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2018, and gave the commencement speech.
He went on to take an analyst job at a consulting firm in D.C., before applying to law school. Staton was also accepted into Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University.
“No one can promise that life will be fair, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, everything will fall into place,” Staton told the Globe.