On the occasion of Timothy’s high school graduation ceremony, he went to work as usual at Waffle House. The store manager, Cedric Hampton, was surprised to see him at 7. a.m. for a shift at the restaurant in Central Point, Ala, as he was supposed to be on leave that day. Timothy Harrison, a senior at Woodlawn High School, asked permission from the store manager a few days back if he could take leave on May 27 for his graduation.
However, unexpectedly, Harrison’s family didn’t manage to attend the event and he didn’t have a ride to the ceremony, held at a venue in Birmingham which is an hour away from his home. Harrison shared with his co-workers that his parents wanted to go, but unfortunately, they couldn’t. And he is not in touch with his parents, works at a daycare, and couldn’t get the day off to be there. “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 explained.
So, at last, he chose to go to Waffle House to do some work on his usual shift. His store manager immediately took matters into his own hands. “I said, ‘Go home, get your paperwork, call the school, and we will figure out the rest,’ ” said Hampton, working for four years at the Waffle House. He added, “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.”
Moreover, Hampton shared that he knew Harrison really wanted to go, and I was going to get him there no matter what. “No kid should miss their high school graduation,” Hampton added. Harrison informed his co-workers that he didn’t have a gown, cap, and tickets to the event as he was not present at the graduation rehearsal. However, the Waffle House employees were so determined that they decided to make it anyway. And when the assistant manager of the restaurant came to know about it, she also joined them.
One worker drove Harrison to the high school to get his graduation essentials, and another employee went to buy new outfits for him.
Four employees contributed $40 each to buy him a pair of gray pants, a blue dress shirt, and a tie. They also got him a matching pair of gray shoes. After receiving his gown and cap, he came to the restaurant to try them out with his new clothes. He remembered, “I felt like the president when I came out of the bathroom.” Harrison was overwhelmed by the efforts that all his colleagues showed him. He now calls them his “work family.” “My work family is helpful and thoughtful. They make sure everybody around them is okay,” he said. “They are very loving people.” He is very grateful to Hampton for making all these possible. It was because of him he didn’t miss the graduation ceremony.
“He is a leader. He makes sure everybody is at their maximum potential,” he said. “We are one big family at my Waffle House. We are all about supporting our people,” says Hampton. Because of the epidemic restrictions, not all the Waffle House employees were allowed to attend the graduation ceremony, so they chose to wait for Harrison to congratulate him in the parking area. Harrison said, “It was most definitely the best day of my life.” He added, “The experience was amazing.” Although employees wished to see him receive his diploma, they felt proud that he made it to the graduation ceremony and enjoyed it to the fullest.
Later, when Harrison’s story got published in a local newspaper, a faculty member at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, offered him a full scholarship as well as textbooks. Harrison shared that he didn’t plan to go to college because of the expenses. He planned to continue working at Waffle House and aimed to join the military.
Hampton says that it’s “the crowning moment” as he wasn’t even thinking about going to college, and now, there will be so many opportunities opened for him. Later, Hampton and Harrison visited the college campus, where they discussed various housing and program options. And Harrison chose to study business and computer science. Hampton shared that now, he is Harrison’s full-time mentor, and “I feel really glad what’s about to happen next for him. And I’ll always be there along the way,” he added.