Conroe, TX

Miracle Students Overcame Odds To Attend Harvard: Aurora Castner Was Born in Jail; Rehan Staton Picked Up Trash

Clarence Walker
Born in a Texas County Jail Aurora Sky Castner Heads to Harvard. Her Mentor Mona Hamby Looks On SmilingPhoto byConroe High School Newspaper

A Texas teen born in prison defied the toughest odds in life of living in poverty and without the support of her birth mother still took the bull by the horn and graduated this year at the top of her high school class and now she will attend Harvard University during the upcoming fall season.

What a wonderful feat!

The Houston Chronicle reported that Aurora Sky Castner graduated third in her class at Conroe High School on Thursday night, 18 years after she was born in the Galveston County Jail.

"I was born in prison,” is how the new grad opened her application essay to the Ivy League school before she was accepted through early action, the newspaper, reported.

Castner's mother was incarcerated when she gave birth, and she has not been a part of her life since her father picked her up from the prison as a newborn and raised her alone.

Castner was able to achieve her goal of attending Harvard, where she intends to pursue a legal profession, with the assistance of the Conroe community.

Miracle Breakthrough

The staff at her elementary school introduced her to a community mentorship program in which adult volunteers eat lunch with young students at least once per week and counsel them on their needs, aspirations, fears, and futures. Castner's relationship with her mentee was similar to all the other mentor-mentee pairings, which last for years.

The Chronicle story recalled how Mona Hamby was like an angel hovering over Castner's shoulder for the past decade.

"I was provided with a paper on her. Her idol was Rosa Parks, her favorite food was Dairy Queen tacos, and she enjoyed reading. Hamby told the publication, "I thought this sounded like a smart little girl."

"I still have that paper today."

Hamby, like Castner, was raised without a mother.

When Castner attends Harvard, she will pursue psychology and philosophy.

"She said, 'I've been in jail,'" She stated that she told the 8-year-old, "No, that cannot be true." "I knew I couldn't just have lunch with this child once per week; she required more," Hamby told the Chronicle.

Last year in March, Hamby reportedly took Castner to a salon for her first haircut, helped her get spectacles, and even took her on a campus tour of Harvard.

"After this trip, her affection for the school grew," Hamby said.

The adolescent stated that she found value in her life both before and after joining the mentorship program.

"It was a very different environment than the one I grew up in, and that's not a bad thing," Castner told the Chronicle. "Everything that Mona taught me was equally as valuable as everything that I had experienced prior to meeting her."

Aurora Sky Castner is a winner despite being born in a county jail cell in Texas.

Collecting Trash For a Living
Rehan Staton, a Former Trash Collector Receives the News He Been Accepted into Harvard. He Graduated May 25, 2023Photo byCourtesy of Rehan Staton

Rehan Staton, a devout college student from Maryland who worked hard to make ends meet, was accepted to one of the nation's top law schools after starting out by collecting trash.

Yes, removing trash off the streets.

And Staton wasn't accepted into a school with an ordinary name. He was accepted into Harvard, a world-renowned college, the same institution where Aurora Sky Castner is going this year.

Staton told CBS News about his journey to Harvard Law School, "The people that were at the bottom of the hierarchy really lifted me up." "It helps me keep my eyes on the prize. If this were just about me and just fighting for myself, I definitely would have quit."

For some years, Staton had to rise and shine early to pick up trash for Bates Trucking & Trash Removal before heading off to class at the University of Maryland.

Staton said collecting trash was a demanding profession that left him with little time for rest. He frequently sat in the rear of lecture halls to avoid his students. But the 24-year-old put in a relentless schedule to overcome the many challenges he faced.

Staton claimed that his father struggled as a single parent to raise him and his older brother from an early age.

"My mom abandoned my dad, my brother, and me when she moved back to Sri Lanka," Staton recalled with a hint of sadness in his tone.

I was probably too young to notice some of the things that happened, but I know it was bad."

Since students could study remotely Harvard tuition costs didn't increase during the 2020-2022 seasons.

Things simply continued dropping on us, according to Staton. "My dad had to start working three jobs to support us after he lost his job at one time. My father and I were only able to see each other sometimes at that point, and I spent a lot of my youth alone.

Staton lamented that the family frequently went without food or electricity because of these financial issues.

Despite these struggles, Staton excelled academically while pursuing a career as a professional boxer. But after suffering a double shoulder injury in his final year, his aspirations were derailed, according to CNN.

When Staton failed to gain admission to college, he applied to work as a sanitation worker. This decision would change his life.

While employed as a sanitation worker the dynamics of his dire situation changed tremendously.

For the first time in Staton's life, Staton said, "People were lifting me up for the sake of lifting me up and not because I was good at sports."

As soon as a higher-up at the business learned of Staton's story, he was taken to meet a professor at Bowie State University. Staton finally was permitted to enroll by that professor's efforts, and he began that academic year.

A People Magazine article reported that after Staton graduated in 2018, he took an analyst job at a consulting firm in Washington D.C.

He eventually applied to law school and was accepted to Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, and Pepperdine University. (Georgetown University; New York University; the University of California, Berkeley; and UCLA placed him on their waitlist.)

Ultimately, the article further reported, Staton chose Harvard Law School. He started class during the 2018 fall. Crowdfunding raised over $46,000 to help Staton offset extra college costs.

"When I look back at my experiences, I like to think that I made the best of the worst situation," Staton told CNN. "Each tragedy I faced forced me out of my comfort zone, but I was fortunate enough to have a support system to help me thrive in those predicaments."

Staton made good on his promises to finish college. He graduated from Harvard Law School on May 25, 2023.

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I am a freelance news reporter, investigative journalist, true crime writer and historical researcher. I write about community news, crime, business, real estate, human interest, entertainment & politics. Expect to get the stories that matters most.

Houston, TX

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