Former Sanitation Worker Accepted To Harvard Law School

Wednesday, July 8th 2020, 7:39 pm
By: CBS News

Rehan Staton recently found out he was accepted to Harvard Law School — as well as to law schools at Columbia, UPenn, USC and Pepperdine. For Staton, the sky's the limit, but it wasn't always that way. He once worked as a sanitation worker in Maryland before following his dreams and applying for law school.

Staton, 24, was raised by a single father who worked hard to provide for him and his brother. "I mean, we would literally watch our father work three different jobs, break his back. And literally, he didn't have much fun," Staton told CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers.

Staton said growing up was tough and he used to struggle in school. One teacher even suggested he switch to a special education class. 

But with help from a tutor, who worked with Staton for free, he ended up excelling.

"I actually ended up getting honor roll that same year, in 7th grade, when my teacher tried to stick me in special education. And I actually ended up getting an A in his class," he said. 

Staton was a high school athlete, focusing on martial arts and boxing. After suffering an injury, Staton said his options for college dwindled. "It ruined the chances of me turning professional in sports. So, that being said, when applying to college, I got denied by every single one," he said.

Instead of pursing higher education, Staton started working at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal, which he said changed his life in ways he never imagined.

"I said, 'I want to go work here because here's something I could do to help my dad pay for the mortgage and things of that nature.' What I didn't expect to happen was, most of the people I worked with were formerly incarcerated ... So, it caught me by surprise how much they uplifted me and really wanted me to make something of myself."

"It was the people that were on the bottom of the hierarchy who really lifted me up," he said.

His coworkers encouraged him to enroll in Bowie State University in 2014, and in 2016, he transferred to the University of Maryland, where he thought he could grow as a student. 

"After I started doing well [there], I just knew I wanted to go and practice law," Staton said. He took the LSAT and applied to nine schools — getting accepted to five and waitlisted at the other four.

Staton and his friends decided to film his reactions to reading the law school acceptance emails. Email after email, Staton and his friends were in shock and elation to read the good news.

Ultimately, Staton decided to commit to Harvard Law School — and he'll never forget all the people who helped him get there.

"Throughout this time, people kind of ask me, 'How did you do it?' It's more so how could I not do it when everyone is breaking their backs for me, and pushing for me to win," he said.

Staton said when you have a support system, you want to give them your best shot. "Because as much as you're investing into yourself, you have others investing into you too. And you got to make sure that investment is good, as long as it's genuine," he said.

First published on July 8, 2020 / 3:16 PM

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.