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Avellon Williams 

MARYLAND- “The other sanitation workers were the only people in my life who uplifted me and told me I could be somebody.” 

Rehan Staton arose before dawn every morning for three years.

Rehan Staton, /Image, ABAJ/

Having dressed in his neon-yellow uniform at 4 a.m., he headed to Bladensburg, Maryland, to work at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal. His mornings were spent hauling trash to the landfill and cleaning dumpsters, then he went to the University of Maryland for classes in the afternoons.

As he didn’t have time to shower between work and class, he sat at the back of the class to avoid inevitable glares and judgments from his classmates.

Staton, 24, was accepted to Harvard Law School after serving as a sanitation worker for several years.

He said it was a long and bumpy road to receiving the acceptance letter. It was a difficult time for Staton and his family for years because of financial difficulties, illness, and abandonment.

“Things were pretty good until I was 8 years old,” said Staton, who grew up in Bowie, Md., and still lives there. “That’s when everything went south.”

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“My mom abandoned my dad, my brother and I when she moved back to Sri Lanka,” said Staton. 

“I was probably too young to notice some of the things that happened, but I know it was bad.”

Staton says his grades started slipping after his mother left.

“Things just kept falling on us,” Staton said. “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 a lot of my childhood was very lonely.”

In spite of his father’s tireless efforts to provide for his sons, the family of three struggled financially.

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“There were often times without food on the table and no electricity in the house,” Staton recalled. 

“That was common throughout my childhood.”

Staton recalls not receiving any support at school. According to him, his teachers lacked confidence in his academic abilities.

“One of them even called me handicapped,” Staton said.

Growing up, Staton said, he was “losing in everything.”

“I had no social life, home life was just horrible, and I hated school more than anything,” he said.

One bright spot stood out, however.

“I was really good at sports,” Staton said. It was his dream to become a professional boxer that kept him going, he said.

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During his 10th-grade year at Bowie High School, Staton became ill with digestive problems and rotator-cuff injuries, which prevented him from pursuing an athletic career.

“I couldn’t go to the doctor because we didn’t have health insurance,” Staton said. “I was crushed.”

With a low SAT score, Staton applied to college in 12th grade knowing he would not be accepted. 

I got rejected by 100 percent of the schools that I applied to,” he said.

That’s when he started working for Bates Trucking & Trash Removal. To his surprise, it was his coworkers who encouraged him to reapply.

“The other sanitation workers were the only people in my life who uplifted me and told me I could be somebody,” Staton said.

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Brent Bates, whose father owns the trash company, helped Staton find a professor at Bowie State University who helped him appeal his rejection. After being accepted, Staton’s academic life flourished.

I got a 4.0 GPA, I had a supportive community, and I became the president of organizations,” Staton said.

His brother Reggie Staton, age 27 at the time, was also enrolled at Bowie State University, he dropped out to work at the trash company because he needed to support his father and brother financially.

“My brother took a job that people look down on, just so people could look up to me,” Rehan Staton said.

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Nevertheless, Staton’s brother said that the sacrifice had been well worth it.

My brother is everything to me. I would give up everything to see him succeed,” Reggie Staton said. “He’s my hero.”

In order to complete the remainder of his undergraduate degree, Staton transferred to the University of Maryland after two years at Bowie State.

While Staton was succeeding as a student, he still faced personal hardships. During his second semester at the University of Maryland, his father suffered a stroke.

In order to pay for his father’s medical bills, Staton once again started working at the trash company.

Staton said it wasn’t easy to balance work and school, especially since he wanted to apply to law school.

“We all took losses and made sacrifices to take care of each other,” Staton said of his family.

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Staton’s cousin, Dominic Willis, agrees. “Rehan’s desire to provide for his family always overtakes whatever issue he is battling.”

In December 2018, Staton graduated from the University of Maryland (he was student commencement speaker) and started working at the Robert Bobb Group, a national consulting firm.

Staton thrived as an analyst even after graduating, despite stomach issues.

“For Rehan, the sky is truly the limit,” said Patrick Bobb, chief operating officer at Robert Bobb Group. “He is unbreakable. Whatever Rehan chooses to do in his legal career and beyond, he will definitely achieve.”

In order to pursue a law degree, Staton took the LSAT while working full-time. In March, he received his acceptance letters.

When Rehan got into Harvard, “I felt at that moment, my brother made every sacrifice worth it,” said Reggie Staton. “He did what he said he was going to do, and that was to get into a top law school.”

As it happens, Staton was also accepted into Columbia University’s law school, the University of Pennsylvania’s law school, the University of Southern California’s law school, and Pepperdine Law’s law school. Berkeley, UCLA, Georgetown University, and New York University all had waitlists for him.

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Now he offers free LSAT tutoring to students through Brad Barbay LSAT Prep.

Staton graduated from Harvard Law School and plans to eventually specialize in sports law and become an agent. A GoFundMe was set up to help him with expenses.

“No one can promise that life will be fair, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, everything will fall into place,” Staton said.

Staton is now living his best life, doing great things, and getting better every day.

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Avellon Williams

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