A Maryland student who worked as a garbage collector is accepted into Harvard University
By: April Carson
A dedicated Maryland student who was employed as a garbage collector every morning at 4 a.m. in order to support his family has received an acceptance letter from Harvard Law School.
Rehan Staton, 24, from Bowie, Maryland is a prime example of determination and resilience. After overcoming many obstacles that could have led him to give up on his dreams, he has been accepted into the prestigious law school this fall.
After a tumultuous upbringing, Staton's mother abandoned him and his father struggled to make ends meet. His hopes of becoming a professional boxer were dashed when he suffered a major injury. So, he took up a job as a garbage collector at Bates Trucking & Trash Removal company.
"I always told myself that I would never let my circumstances define me," Staton said in an interview. "I was determined to get an education and make something of myself."
He said his ex-convict colleagues and the company owner's son Brent Bates saw his potential here and helped him get ahead. Staton took night classes at a community college and eventually transferred to the University of Maryland, where he excelled in his studies.
This was the first time in my life that people were cheering me on just for being me, rather than because of my athletic ability, Staton told CNN. "It felt amazing."
Now, the 22-year-old has been accepted to Harvard University. He plans to study sociology in hopes of becoming a lawyer or professor.
"I want to show people that where you come from does not have to dictate where you are going in life," Staton said. "You can always rewrite your story."
He said that the people he was supposed to look up to throughout his life were the ones who always made him feel inferior and left him with a poor opinion of himself.
In order to improve my social standing, I had to align myself with those at the bottom of society - former inmates who worked in sanitation.
According to Staton, he had a stable childhood in Bowie until his mother left the family and country when he was eight.
As a single parent, Staton told CNN that it was difficult for his father to support him and his brother Reggie financially.
His dad was frequently working multiple jobs to support the family and provide them with basic necessities.
Staton said that he started working when he was 10 years old, which included mowing lawns and shoveling snow.
Eventually, his father got a job as a truck driver and the family's financial situation improved.
As a young adult, Staton began working as a garbage collector in Bowie.
He told CNN, "I wasn't eating meals every day and my dad was working all the time. Sometimes there'd be no electricity at home."
Staton's previous private school education was no longer an option by 7th grade, and as a result, his grades dipped. One of his teachers even recommended he be placed in special education classes.
The young boy subsequently turned to sports and developed a real passion for athletics, martial arts, and boxing. In the meantime, his father met an aerospace engineer at a local community center who offered to tutor him free of charge for the rest of that school year.
He trained to be a professional boxer and, as a result, his academics improved so much that he ended up on the Honor Roll list. His father even received an apology from the teacher who had recommended he be placed in special education.
In his 12th grade year, Staton's aspirations to turn his passion for the sport into a professional career were cut short by sustaining a double shoulder injury.
He initially got discouraged when he found out that he didn't get into any of the colleges he applied to. But instead of giving up, he thanked Bates Trucking & Trash Removal for hiring him - which ended up being one of the best opportunities in disguise.
Staton's colleagues, who were all previously incarcerated with the exception of senior management, pushed and supported him to attend school.
After Bates spoke with a professor at Bowie State University, the professor advocated for him and he was able to attend.
He is now on track to graduate in May 2020 with a degree in sociology.
Staton plans to pursue his masters degree and continue working to increase social mobility for people who have been systemically disadvantaged.
"When I was working at Bates, it didn't feel like work because I enjoyed it and the people I worked with," he said.
"I'm so grateful for that opportunity because it allowed me to see that there was more to life than what I was doing."
Now that he's been accepted into Harvard, Staton is looking forward to continuing his education and making a difference in the world.
"I want to continue working to increase social mobility for people who have been systemically disadvantaged," he said. "It's something that I'm passionate about and I know that I can make a difference."
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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