At age 24, Rehan Staton was working for Bates Trucking and Trash Removal while also a student at the University of Maryland. He used to get up at 4 a.m. for work. Sometimes, he wouldn’t have time to shower before class, so he’d sit in the back of the lecture hall to avoid his peers.
In 2020, he achieved a major goal. He was accepted into Harvard Law School, where he hoped to specialize in sports law so he could become an agent. Staton made the news when that happened, and now he’s attracting media attention again. In 2023, at age 27, he achieved another goal: He is now a law school graduate.
Staton received his juris doctorate in May during a commencement ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts — and got some of the loudest cheers, according to The Guardian.
“Mission accomplished,” he said on Facebook, reposting a video from a D.C. journalist who has been following his story. Her post shows the moment he walked across the stage.
His diploma is well-deserved since Staton has worked hard to escape a bad situation. “His has been a path filled with poverty, roadblocks, setbacks, sacrifices, illnesses, and heartbreak,” a GoFundMe set up for him explained (and yes, it met its goal).
Staton was abandoned by his mother at age 8. His father raised him and his brother alone in financially insecure conditions despite having three jobs, and Staton received very little support at school. One teacher even called him handicapped, leading to the boy feeling like he was “losing in everything,” even though he was good at sports.
“I had no social life, home life was just horrible, and I hated school more than anything,” he told the Washington Post.
Staton failed to get into college, but he and his brother, Reggie, started working as sanitation workers to support his father, who’d had a stroke. The difficult schedule took its toll on his own health as well. That made Reggie drop out to support both family members.
But fellow workers at the sanitation company encouraged Staton to keep pursuing a college education. He finally graduated from the University of Maryland with a GPA of 3.84 and took a job with a Washington, D.C., consulting firm to continue supporting his father. The GoFundMe was meant to supply tuition and ensure that his father would be cared for while he was in school, and Tyler Perry also chipped in, the Post reported.
Here’s a Facebook post from the grad, which tells his story and features some words of wisdom to his younger self.
“Regardless of what you lack, know that your resilience, hope, and the rich love and support you endlessly receive from your communities (no matter how big or small) will carry you through life’s greatest challenges,” Staton posted.
Staton has been paying it forward already. In February 2022, the law student used savings from that summer job at a D.C. office to purchase 100 Amazon gift cards to give to support staff at his university. Then, he started The Reciprocity Project, a nonprofit organization with the goal of creating “a more holistic HLS [Harvard Law School] community whose members reciprocally support one another.” He was honored in May by the Boston Celtics for this effort.
We can’t wait to see what he does next!