Meet Rehan Staton, a Garbage Collector Who is Now a Harvard Law Grad


Rehan Staton was among the approximately 700 graduates who crossed the stage at the 2023 Harvard Law School graduating event in May, but he had to work hard to get there. Staton, then 24, was attending the University of Maryland while still working for Bates Trucking and Trash Removal to help pay for his studies and support his family.

His path has been “filled with poverty, roadblocks, setbacks, sacrifices, illnesses, and heartbreak,” a GoFundMe set up for him stated. Abandoned by his mother at age 8, Staton and his brother were raised by their father who worked three jobs to put food on the table. The financial problems at home negatively affected Staton’s performance in school, and his teachers even made his situation worse. School authorities tried to put him in special education classes and one of his teachers even called him handicapped. Staton was good at sports but he hated school because of how he was treated.

When he was unable to attend college, he and his brother began working as trash collectors to help support their father, who had suffered a stroke. Staton’s coworkers encouraged him to attend college while he was working at the sanitation company, and he listened. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a 3.84 GPA and began working for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm to help support his family.

Staton, a DMV native, was accepted to Harvard Law School in 2020, where he planned to specialize in sports law in order to become an agent. That year, his tale made headlines, and filmmaker Tyler Perry announced that he would assist him in paying for his law school degree.

Staton had established his GoFundMe campaign at the time to help him pay for his tuition and his father’s medical requirements while he was in school.Staton, now a law school graduate, obtained his juris doctorate last month and is grateful to everyone who helped him achieve. He never forgot where he came from while in school, so in February 2022, he used savings from his summer work at a D.C. office to buy 100 Amazon gift cards and give them to university support employees.

He subsequently started The Reciprocity Project, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to create “a more holistic HLS [Harvard Law School] community whose members reciprocally support one another.” Following his graduation in May, Staton said he will be moving to New York City soon and will be working at the Paul Weiss law firm.

“If I could talk to my younger self still living in poverty, I would tell him this: 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,” the law school graduate wrote on Facebook.