Timothy Harrison didn't have his cap and gown, or graduation tickets or even a ride across town to get to the ceremony. But that didn't stop his co-workers at Waffle House in Center Point, Alabama, from making sure this 18-year-old ended his high school career on a high note.
According to WVTM 13, an NBC affiliate, Harrison had been working at the Waffle House for just over a month and was finishing up his senior year at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham. The young man has seen tough times and didn't see a way to make it to graduation. Now the teenager has a great reason to believe in the goodness of other people.
"I had people want to see me succeed, so it kind made me excited," said Harrison.
On May 27, Woodlawn High School was holding commencement across town at Birmingham CrossPlex. Harrison didn't have a ride so he headed to work.
"That's when I said why aren't you going to graduation?" said Cedric Hampton, Harrison's manager at Waffle House. "And he said 'I don't want to miss work.' So I was like, you're going!"
"I thought you were supposed to graduate today?" said Harrison's coworker Shantana Blevins. "What do we need to do?"
The Waffle House employees put everything on hold. They had a new mission — to make sure this promising young man made it to graduation. The Waffle House team banded together, buying Harrison dress clothes including slacks, a new shirt and a tie. They headed over to the high school to make sure he could get his cap and gown.
When Timothy put on the new clothes and his graduation robe, it was a transformative experience.
"When I put on clothes, that was a different feeling," Harrison said. "I don't even know the words. A million dollars? It was the best feeling."
Blevins drove Timothy 20 miles across town just in time for graduation.
"To see his face when he came out, that was priceless," she said.
But the story didn't end with commencement. After Harrison's story went viral, Lawson State Community College offered him a full scholarship, books included.
"I really didn't expect that to happen," said Harrison.
He will attend college this fall and the possibilities for his future are wide open.
"Now he can go to college and figure out what do in his life and we're gonna help guide him," said Hampton, the Waffle House manager whose action in one moment changed the course of this teenager's life.
"To know that I have a path to go somewhere? That's something new," said Harrison.
The young man who just over a week ago was struggling is now looking at a bright future thanks to Waffle House. It was certainly a day he and his coworkers will never forget. Blevins said it's the little things that can make all the difference.
"You never know who you can touch or who you can influence with one simple gesture," she said.