Rehan Staton first came onto our radars in 2020 when he shared his inspiring story of perseverance against all odds. Coming up in humble beginnings, Staton’s father raised him and his brother as a single parent. Now his father’s work has been proven not to be in vain, the former sanitation worker recently graduated from Harvard Law, NBC Washington reports.
“Things were pretty good until I was 8 years old. That’s when everything went south. My mom abandoned my dad, my brother and me when she moved back to Sri Lanka. I was probably too young to notice some of the things that happened, but I know it wasn’t good. 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 much of my childhood was very lonely,” Staton recalled.
His schooling subsequently suffered and after getting rejected from every college he applied to, Staton and his brother Reggie took jobs as sanitation workers at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal in Bladensburg, MD to help support himself and his family. “I ended up becoming a garbage man. And that’s when my life changed forever,” recalled Staton. He woke up daily at 4 am, spending his days hauling trash, something others would consider menial work.
But it was there that Staton found the much-needed support he longed for. “The other sanitation workers were the only people in my life who uplifted me and told me I could be somebody,” said Staton. Once motivated to go back to school, he was able to appeal his rejection to Bowie State, getting accepted to the HBCU and immediately excelling, earning a 4.0 GPA and becoming president of several campus organizations. His brother Reggie eventually dropped out of college so Staton could afford to go, a decision that his elder brother says was a no-brainer.
“My brother is everything to me. I would give up everything to see him succeed. He’s my hero,” Reggie Staton said.His hard work eventually paid off and after transferring to the University of Maryland, Staton was accepted into Harvard Law, an accomplishment that went viral. Many people reached out to help Staton, media mogul Tyler Perry even lent his support to help Staton with tuition. He made sure that the generosity was not wasted, paying it forward during his time at Harvard.
Staton was intentional about befriending staff on campus, making friends with the school custodians, and launching a nonprofit called The Reciprocity Effect, focusing on giving back to support staff at educational institutions who may be in need. Staton focused on supporting them through Amazon gift cards and an annual award ceremony held that honored them for their work.
“I’m simply trying to pay that forward by giving other individuals a time to shine, because I just think we should all be appreciated for the work we put in,” said Staton. Some custodians were shocked at his efforts, said Staton, remarking that they had never been engaged in that way by students before. While Staton continued to battle some health challenges, he made it through, graduating last week from the prestigious law school.
Of course, his family was cheering him on and now that Staton has accomplished another milestone under his belt, he’s even more excited about the future. “It’s nice to be able to say that we finished this. Things are on an upward trajectory. We made people smile through it. I’m just excited,” said Staton. Now that he’s graduated, Staton is headed to New York where he will begin his career working for a law firm.