CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — No one ever fell for Harvard Law School for its sparkling glass doors or smoke-free countertops. In fact, support staff here say most students don’t even notice their efforts — with one notable exception.
One day a student started thanking them all.
“He said, ‘I just want to give you a hug and, you know, say hi,'” pantry steward Bonnie Larkin told CBS News.
“‘Thank you for what you do,'” dining service worker Maria Andino recalled the student saying.
“I’m like, what’s this kid’s angle?” Skeptical food service cashier Brione Merchant. “But once I heard his background, that’s when it all made sense. I thought, ‘Oh, you can see us because you’re one of us.’
The student, Rehan Staton, graduated from Harvard Law on Thursday. Before coming to Harvard Law, he worked in sanitation.
“My job was to renovate dumpsters,” Staton told CBS News.
Staton worked for Bates Trucking and Trash Removal in Maryland.
“I’ve heard people literally point at me and point at my coworkers and say, ‘Don’t be like them,'” Staton recalled. “I think it reminds me to stay humble and just remember I wasn’t always standing here.”
Staton not only maintained his humility, but multiplied it. Earlier this year, he started a non-profit called Reciprocity Effect. Its mission is to guarantee that from now on, Harvard Law’s support staff will not only be seen, but celebrated.
The first Harvard Law Support Staff Awards Banquet was held in April. In Academy Awards-like fashion, it honored parents, cafeteria workers and everyone else who makes this place possible.
“The feeling of knowing you’re appreciated will always go a long way, especially for people who don’t know it,” Staton said.
In the coming days, many graduates will stand high on a stage, a great vantage point, to finally see all those who got them there.
“I think that’s what makes Rehan’s work so special, because you don’t realize how invisible you’ve been until you’re seen,” Merchant said. “And then, all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cute!'”