By Juli McDonald

BOSTON (CBS) – It takes a lot to earn acceptance into Harvard Law School, but Rehan Staton’s story stands out, because of all the things that went wrong. The now-24-year-old from Bowie, Maryland was no student growing up.

“Food insecurities, housing insecurities, I remember our HVAC system went out so in the winter it was super super cold. That all trickled down into my education,” he said.

After barely getting through high school, Rehan became a sanitation worker to help his single dad pay the bills. When all seemed hopeless, there was always someone in his corner: an inspiring tutor, a kind coworker, Rehan’s loyal cousin Domenic, or his number one fan.

“My brother literally looked me in the eye and said, ‘You were born different. Every time you want to be the best at something, you do it. Choose to be the best at this and you’re going to be alright,’” Staton said.

Not only did he get into college locally, Rehan became a student leader and the commencement speaker. Now Harvard Law is a victory for his whole community.

“It wasn’t the role models of society who pushed me up. It was the people at the bottom, the people formerly incarcerated, sanitation workers – people society says don’t be like who were able to come around me and pick me up. I’m just going to always be grateful and probably always surprised my whole life,” Staton said.

Juli McDonald