Beloved janitor surprised with graduation celebration

Derrick Harris was able to celebrate in the same halls he'd worked in for years.

June 2, 2021, 8:48 PM

Derrick Harris was able to celebrate his college graduation in the same halls he'd worked in for years.

The 26-year-old was the beloved janitor at Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama.

PHOTO: Derrick Harris was surprised with a graduation celebration on May 25.
Derrick Harris was surprised with a graduation celebration on May 25.
Tracie Lane

This spring, Harris achieved his dream and graduated from Wallace Community College Selma. He plans to attend Auburn University at Montgomery in the fall.

With the help of his fellow faculty members, Harris was able to map out a college plan so he could attend classes at night and continue his day job at school.

PHOTO: Derrick Harris worked at Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama.
Derrick Harris worked at Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama.
Derrick Harris

Teacher Tracie Lane said that Harris sets an example for hard work and deserves to be celebrated.

"He has been a mentor to so many. He is such a light, a shining light, to everybody he's around," said Lane. "We congratulate you Derrick. We know the sky's the limit for you."

On May 25, the last day of school, the elementary students and staff decided to surprise Harris with a goodbye graduation celebration.

PHOTO: Faculty of Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama, helped Derrick Harris navigate college.
Faculty of Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama, helped Derrick Harris navigate college.
Tracie Lane

The students lined the halls and cheered Harris' name. Some held signs that read, "You're my hero!"

Harris, who hopes to be a physical education teacher one day, told "World News Tonight" on Wednesday that he had been hired as a PE assistant.

"I'm excited to work with more kids and more students and impact them in a positive way," said Harris.

He said his best advice is to stay positive.

"Just keep going in life," he said. "I don't get down too much on myself or things that's going on around me. I just keep going."

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