AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Timothy Harrison had requested the day off from work last month to go to his high school graduation. He worked at a Waffle House in Alabama. But on the day he was supposed to collect his diploma, he showed up to work in his uniform instead.
TIMOTHY HARRISON: I didn't have the necessary things I need to attend the ceremony - my cap and gown, tickets and a ride.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
His boss, Cedric Hampton, was surprised to see him.
CEDRIC HAMPTON: We had already talked about it and made plans for it. So just - when I saw him walk in the door that morning, I was just like, you know, why are you here?
CHANG: And when he heard Timothy's reasons...
HAMPTON: That's when I sent him home to go get his paperwork, called the school to figure out what's going on. And while he was gone, we came up with a whole plan to get him to his graduation.
CORNISH: Cedric called his assistant manager to explain what was happening. It was her day off. But Cedric says, even so...
HAMPTON: She said, I'll be right there. So when she got to the store, we tasked her with going to get the clothes. Another coworker said she would drive him to the graduation. And then all we had to do at that point was get the clothes, get him dressed and get him out the door.
CHANG: Cedric says he wanted Timothy to celebrate his day.
HAMPTON: That's a milestone in someone's life that everyone should be able to celebrate. I mean, he spent all that time going to school. Why should he not celebrate his graduation?
CORNISH: Timothy made it on time in his new slacks and shoes. And he says when he walked across that stage...
HARRISON: I felt like a king. When I walked across that stage, it felt like a shift. A new path was opening.
CHANG: And so it was. Timothy and his fellow Waffle House employees' story made the local news. After it aired, Lawson State Community College in Birmingham offered Timothy a full ride. Going to college wasn't on Timothy's radar, but he says he'll start studying business and finance this fall.
HARRISON: I feel as though I have more opportunities that I can take advantage of and make best use of. This is a huge deal because I wasn't presented nothing like this before. I never had nothing like this, never had a chance like this before.
CORNISH: And to other students, he says...
HARRISON: Don't stop - keep going - even when you feel like you got to give up, even when you want to, you can't. You just got to keep going.
CHANG: That's right - no waffling, so to speak. And nice work, Cedric and Waffle House employees, for cooking up such a great plan.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALEX BARCK'S "REUNION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.