When Waffle House store manager Cedric Hampton learned that his employee Timothy Harrison was going to miss graduation, he rallied the team to make sure he didn't.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 1, 2022. It has since been updated.
On the day of his graduation, Timothy Harrison, aged 18, showed up at his local Waffle House in Center Point, Alabama, to work an extra shift. His boss, store manager Cedric Hampton, was surprised to see him there. This is because the Woodlawn High School senior had originally requested to take the day off to attend graduation. Soon enough, the manager learned about his limitations: Harrison did not have the means to get to the venue, nor did he have tickets. Instead of letting the student miss out on an important milestone, Hampton decided to do something about it, The Washington Post reports.
"[My parents] did want to go very badly, but sadly, they couldn’t," the student explained in an interview with the news outlet. "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 is not in touch with his father and his mother, who works at a daycare center, could not get the day off. Further to this, the graduation was held at a venue in nearby Birmingham, an hour away from his home. Due to these structural challenges, the young student decided to just go to Waffle House in the hopes that he could work his usual shift. However, his manager had other plans.
With no ride to his high school graduation, @WaffleHouse employee Timothy Harrison of Birmingham reported to work instead.— Rick Karle WVTM 13 (@RickKarle) June 1, 2021
But the Waffle House people had other ideas:https://t.co/X7PmIm0gqf@WVTM13 #GoodNews pic.twitter.com/OkjZnhtnWQ
When he told his co-workers about his situation, Hampton jumped straight into the action. He shared, "I said, ‘Go home, get your paperwork, call the school, and we will figure out the rest.' 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." Harrison did not have a cap, gown, or tickets for the event as the items were distributed during the graduation rehearsal. Nonetheless, the employees were determined. "I could see in his eyes that he really wanted to go, and I was going to get him there no matter what," Hampton reaffirmed. "No kid should miss their high school graduation."
In no time, one employee drove Harrison to the high school to pick up the graduation gear he needed, while another visited a nearby Target to purchase a new outfit for him. Four employees at the store chipped in $40 each to buy the student a pair of gray pants, a baby blue dress shirt and tie, and matching gray shoes. Hampton stated, "We decided we were going to step in and take care of everything for him so he could really celebrate this day. A couple [of] customers contributed as well. Within a few hours, we were able to get everything taken care of." Harrison returned to the Waffle House to change into his new clothes. He recalled, "I felt like the President."
Timothy Harrison, an employee at The Waffle House came to work on his high school graduation day! He had no tickets and no way to get to graduation. Cedric Hampton, his boss, bought Tim clothes and a co-worker Shantana Blevins drove him to get his cap & gown then to his ceremony! pic.twitter.com/RjcpZvYj0I— Brunell Donald-Kyei (@brunelldonald) June 4, 2021
Hampton finally helped the high school senior put on his cap and gown. Then, they all drove down to the venue. Given social distancing restrictions, the employees were unable to attend the event. Therefore, they waited outside in the parking lot to congratulate Harrison when he walked out—with a glowing smile. "It was most definitely the best day of my life," the graduate stated. "The experience was amazing." This moment was not even the best part of the whole affair. When his story went viral, he received a full scholarship to attend Lawson State Community College in Birmingham. "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."
#NewsWeLove 😍 Timothy Harrison is only 18 years old and a new Woodlawn High School graduate, but his future has never been brighter thanks to one simple gesture by a few good people at Waffle House: https://t.co/Ti5P3veBgP pic.twitter.com/wQhtCuWzdX— #WVTM13 (@WVTM13) June 7, 2021
Hampton and Harrison toured the college campus together once. "He tugged at my heart when he told us that this was life-changing for him, and it’s something that is going to give him an opportunity that he would never have," Anthony stated. "As I told Timothy, it takes a village, and at Lawson State we want him to know that we are his village right now." The student's village extends far beyond his college, as he will always have his Waffle House family to back him up. Hampton affirmed, "We are one big family at my Waffle House. We are all about supporting our people. I am [Harrison's] full-time mentor. I feel really good about what’s about to happen next for him. And I’ll always be there along the way."