Update (Sept. 24, 2021): Timothy Harrison, the Waffle House employee who was able to attend his high school graduation in May with some help from his co-workers, has now moved into his dorm at Lawson State Community College, WBAL TV reports.
As he started his next chapter on Tuesday, Harrison once again received assistance from his Waffle House manager Cedric Hampton, the same person who made sure the young man didn’t miss his high school graduation.
"I had the pleasure of helping him move into his dorm yesterday and he is loving every part of college life and he is doing really well in his classes," Hampton said, according to WBAL TV. "I also would like to send a special shout-out to Dr. Keesha James. Dr. James is responsible for getting Tim his scholarship and has now become like a second mother to him and making sure he is staying so that he will successfully graduate in the upcoming years."
The community college student said he wants to keep working at the Waffle House in Center Point, Alabama, while going to school. Hampton, however, has told the young man to focus on his schoolwork during the school year and return to work during the summer.
Harrison was offered a full-ride scholarship at the school.
Original (June 22, 2021): Timothy Harrison was set to graduate from Woodlawn High School in Alabama on May 27, but instead of preparing for the ceremony, he arrived at work.
“I didn’t have a ride, I didn’t have tickets, and it was a plan that I couldn’t put together all the way,” Harrison told The Washington Post.
Harrison, an employee at a Waffle House in Center Point, Alabama, shared that his mother works at a daycare and wasn’t able to get the day off for his graduation and he is estranged from his father.
“They did want to go very badly, but sadly, they couldn’t,” Harrison shared.
The 18-year-old’s manager, Cedric Hampton, was surprised that Harrison showed up at the Waffle House at 7 a.m on his graduation date, especially because he wasn’t on the schedule.
"That's when I said, ‘Why aren't you going to graduation?’ And he said, ‘I don't want to miss work,” Hampton recounted, according to Today. “So, I was like, ’You’re going!’
When discovering the graduation was slated for 3 p.m., Hampton left no time to spare and immediately took charge.
“I said, ‘Go home, get your paperwork, call the school, and we will figure out the rest,’” Hampton said. “For me, it was a no-brainer. Graduation is one of those things you get to do once in life, and when you’ve worked all these years going to school to have that moment it’s necessary to be there.”
“I could see in his eyes that he really wanted to go, and I was going to get him there no matter what. No kid should miss their high school graduation,” he added.
Despite not having a cap and gown or the proper attire, Harrison’s employees still managed to help him get him dressed and were able to pick up the graduation garments at his high school.
Four employees contributed around $40 each to help purchase a shirt, gray dress pants and matching shoes for the high schooler, and even some Waffle House customers chipped in as well.
“We decided we were going to step in and take care of everything for him so he could really celebrate this day,” Hampton said. “Within a few hours, we were able to get everything taken care of.”
When Harrison was given his new dress clothes to try on at the Waffle House, he came out to show his co-workers and said he “felt like the president.”
One of the 18-year-old’s coworkers, Shantana Blevins, drove him to the ceremony just in time for the event to begin.
"I had people want to see me succeed, so it kind of made me excited," Harrison said, according to WVTM 13.
Blevins, who was waiting in the venue’s parking lot for Harrison along with a few other Waffle House employees, said that having his hard work come to fruition was “priceless.”
"To see his face when he came out, that was priceless," Blevins recalled after seeing Harrison exit with his diploma.
“It was most definitely the best day of my life,” Harrison expressed. “The experience was amazing.”
After hearing about Harrison’s story, Lawson State Community College faculty members also jumped on the bandwagon and offered him a full scholarship that includes coverage of textbook costs.
“This young man was certainly hard-working and dedicated to the task at hand at Waffle House, and it just showed his perseverance and that he wanted something out of life,” Cynthia Anthony, the president of Lawson State Community College, said. “We just wanted to see how Lawson State could help him to further his education and meet his career goals.”
After Harrison toured the campus with Hampton last week and had a meeting with administrators, the teen will be attending the community college this fall.
"I really didn't expect that to happen,” Harrison said, noting that he initially did not have plans to attend college due to tuition costs. "To know that I have a path to go somewhere, that's something new.”
The 18-year-old will be studying business and computer science.