Unlikely Harvard Success

Wonderful story about a young man - Rehan Staton - from a poor background, who flunked high school, became a garbage collector, re-ignited his mojo, and eventually succeeded in getting in to Harvard Law School.

Let's face it, Harvard Law School conjures up images of wealth, exclusivity and prestige. You would be very unlikely to include a man like Rehan Staton as a likely, or even remotely possible, candidate. Getting into Harvard Law School is no easy feat for anyone, but Rehan, whose single parent family was poor, truly had his work cut out for him. And he doesn’t take all the credit either - he gives most of it to the people around him.


The 24 year-old college student told Today, “After going through everything that we did as a family, I just felt that we got into Harvard, and like, I just can’t even explain it. It was ‘we.'” The community around him made all the difference, he says.


While he was growing up in Maryland his mother abandoned the family when he was 8 years old and moved overseas. His father had to do multiple jobs in order to support Rehan and his older brother. Those times tested the family as a whole.


After years of struggling, Rehan’s high school grades were so bad that he was rejected from every college he applied to. So, instead of heading off to college at 18, he took a job at Bates Trucking and Trash. Most of his colleagues there had been to prison at one time or another but, extraordinarily, this was the point at which Rehan started to turn his life around.


“It was the first time in my life a group of individuals that weren’t my father or my brother just came around me and… really just empowered me, uplifted me, told me I was intelligent.”

He believed the hype, when his coworkers urged him to go back to school, and one of the company owners, Brent Bates, helped him enroll in Bowie State University. Rehan achieved impressive grades and was able to transfer to the University of Maryland.


But Rehan’s struggles still weren’t over. During his junior year at Maryland, his father suffered a stroke, and Rehan had to return to work at Bates in order to save their family home. Many people would’ve given up, but he doubled-down on his schedule. Instead of dropping out of school, he woke each day at 4 a.m. to work his sanitation shift before class.


He graduated in 2018 with accolades - in the 80th percentile - and began applying to law schools, including Harvard. Luckily, because that school comes with a hefty price tag, the young man found another supporter. Carmie McCook, a communications coach, started a GoFundMe page to help him with the cost. The initial goal was $75,000, but it surged to over $185,000 in donations. Carmie wrote on the page. “I felt incredibly strong empathy and admiration for him. A bond was formed and I told him I’d always be there for him if he needed me for anything. He now calls me ‘Ma’.”


When it came time to finally hear the news whether Harvard had accepted him or not, Rehan recorded the moment on video. With his brother sitting next to him, he opened the notice on his computer - and their reaction was pure joy.


“Yes, Rehan is smart, but what makes his achievement even more admirable is his courageous journey to this moment,” said his mentor.


While most people heading to Harvard Law have the classic education route and the financial support, Rehan just had his own painful story to stand on - the same story that makes him an inspiration.