A former sanitation worker just graduated from Harvard, but doesn’t forget where he came from

Cambridge, Massachusetts – No one ever attended Harvard Law School for its sparkling glass doors or smoke-free countertops. In fact, support staff here say most students are never noticed for their efforts – with one notable exception.

One day a student started thanking them all.

“He says, ‘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 said. “But once I heard his background, that’s when it all made sense. I’m like, ‘Oh, you see us because you’re one of us.’

The student, Rayhan Staton, graduated from Harvard Law on Thursday. Before coming to Harvard Law, he worked in cleaning.

“My job was to refurbish the dumpsters,” Staten told CBS News.

Staten 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 just reminds me to stay humble and just remember that I wasn’t always standing here.”

Staten has not only retained his humility but multiplied it. Earlier this year, she started a nonprofit organization called Reciprocity Effect. His mission is to ensure that the support staff at Harvard Law are not only seen but celebrated from now on.

The first Harvard Law Support Staff Awards Banquet was held in April. In Academy Awards-like fashion, he honored custodians, cafeteria workers, and everyone else who made this place possible.

“The feeling of knowing you’re appreciated will always go a long way, especially for people who don’t know it,” Staten said.

In the coming days, many graduates will stand on a stage, a perfect place, to finally see all the people who got them there.

“I think that’s what made Rayhan so special, because you didn’t realize how invisible you were until you were seen,” Merchant said. “And then, all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s great!'”

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