Yanks honor trash collector turned lawyer Rehan Staton for HOPE Week

Workers from Interstate Waste Services, a waste collection and recycling firm, also recognized

June 18th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Gerrit Cole has two young boys of his own, and if they’re all playing soccer together out in the front yard, and “the red trash truck comes to go pick up the trash,” Cole said, “we gotta stop, because we’re fascinated by it.” Cole and his sons are also fans of "Trash Truck," the Netflix animated preschool series about a 6-year-old's adventures with his best vehicular friend.

Which is why Cole thought it important to spend Monday’s off-day at Yankee Stadium, where, after throwing a successful lead-up bullpen session to his season debut later this week, he joined the Yankees in opening HOPE Week. The Yankees kicked off their annual week-long event by honoring Rehan Staton and workers from Interstate Waste Services at a luncheon designed to recognize essential service work that often goes overlooked.

Rehan Staton speaks at Monday's ceremony. (New York Yankees)

“It really doesn’t get enough attention,” Cole said. “When we’re leaving the game, all of a sudden people start filling in between the seats, picking up the trash and making it beautiful for the next day. The people keeping this place secure, opening and closing the gates, making sure all the facilities are clean and running and operating … we really are thankful.”

Giancarlo Stanton, Clarke Schmidt, Jon Berti and Nick Burdi were also among the Yankees on hand to recognize Rehan, a former trash collector who graduated Harvard Law School, and dozens of employees from Interstate Waste, a waste collection and recycling firm, at the stadium. All found inspiration in Rehan, a first-year lawyer and founder of The Reciprocity Effect, a nonprofit that honors support staff affiliated with educational institutions and corporations and aids those affected by personal hardships and catastrophes.

Rehan said he was a poor student in high school who took a trash collection job, where his co-workers encouraged him to apply to college. He originally went to Bowie State University before transferring to the University of Maryland, where he graduated top of his class. Rehan studied for the LSAT while overcoming a long illness during the pandemic.

“What an incredible story,” Cole said. “To seemingly overcome every challenge he’s been thrown, and not only take care of himself, but help all the people who’ve helped him along the way. He’s excelled in his life. Inspired is a word I’d choose for sure.”

The Yankees made a $10,000 donation to Rehan Staton's nonprofit, The Reciprocity Effect. (New York Yankees)

This is the 15th year of HOPE Week, the Yankees’ annual, ambitious community outreach program that aims to spotlight the good people do for others and help pay it forward. For the first time, this year’s honorees were chosen with a common theme in mind: the good social media can do. The organization strove to spotlight individuals who have embraced social media as a tool to uplift, inspire and celebrate what we can achieve when unifying around kindness to each other.

Yankees spokesperson Jason Zillo said the organization learned about Rehan via a reaction video to his Harvard acceptance that went viral, bringing his inspiring story to millions. While at Harvard, Rehan spearheaded award ceremonies to honor the school’s support staff. Those paved the way for his nonprofit, which aspires to give back by providing appreciation to people who already give so much.

The Yankees also donated $10,000 to The Reciprocity Effect.

“I just assumed the Yankees were calling the wrong person,” he said. “I talked about doing something to honor the waste industry. You wouldn’t believe how quickly the Yankees said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It didn’t take any convincing. They were just really excited to bring us all here today.”

Asked about Rehan’s story, Stanton said, “The definition of it is hope.” The slugger also expressed a kinship with the many people who provide essential city services every day, largely out of the spotlight.

“It’s so incredible to see these stories and just be a part of it and understand year after year that we can make an impact,” Stanton said. “It’s a team effort on their side and our side as well. We represent this great city of New York. We’re an important part of this city, as are sanitation workers. So I think it's one in the same.”