From trials to triumph: Rehan Staton’s journey from sanitation worker to Harvard Law grad
Staton is not an exception to the tens of thousands of students who each year leave law school with experiences that are one of a kind. While he has numerous great recollections, he said his excursion to progress has been a lofty difficult task since he was in primary school.
“Ever since second grade when my mom ended up leaving, [my family] started to run into a lot of financial insecurities,” Staton, 27, told ABC News.
Although he said his dad worked constantly while raising Staton and his brother by himself, Staton and his family dealt with housing insecurity caused by a lack of finances.
“There were holes in the ceilings. There was black mold festering in the basement. There were a lot of areas in the house that didn’t have floors, it was literally below code, honestly. And the house didn’t have heat for almost a decade. It was a really bad situation,” he said, describing the home in which he was raised.
His living and financial situation adversely affected his educational experience, and according to him, the teachers he had growing up didn’t make the situation any better. Staton recalled attempts to put him in special education classes and a teacher comparing his brain to a gym cabinet, alluding to his supposed lack of intelligence, which Staton said made him discouraged.
Staton turned to a familiar company for which most of the men in his family had worked, seeking to help his household and family financially: Bates Trucking and Trash Removal.
The Bladensburg, Maryland, sanitation company provided Staton with the stepping stone he needed to jump-start his life. Staton said it was his colleagues at Bates Trucking and Trash Removal who helped him reapply for college, and he eventually got accepted to Bowie State University.
Staton ended up transferring to the University of Maryland and graduating in Winter 2018 as the undergraduate commencement speaker. However, he soon began facing even more hardships that set him back again.
In 2019, Staton was overcome with an unknown sickness that left him bedridden, dropping from 150 pounds to 117 pounds. Due to his inability to work during that time, and his family’s continued financial insecurity, his home was nearly foreclosed on. To prevent foreclosure, his father, who had recently suffered a stroke, was forced to return to work.
It was then that Staton knew he had to do something.
“If I can get to a place that has the resources, it takes out the middleman,” Staton recalled thinking. “I can take care of the health issues. I can take care of the foreclosure. I can take care of my father being in a position in which he has to compromise his health.”
He added, “And I said, ‘Let’s get into Harvard Law School.'”
Staton began studying for the LSAT while nursing himself back to health, though he was unable to seek professional tutoring or assistance due to his financial situation.
“My cousin would come over every single day, and he would hold, like, a cold rag over the back of my neck while I studied so I could distract myself from nausea, because I felt bad 24 hours a day,” he said, adding that he never found out what he was sick with. “I would study like that for hours.”