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Former school janitor finds success at AUM


Auburn University at Montgomery interdisciplinary studies major Derrick Harris took an unconventional path to a bachelor’s degree.

An aspiring educator and coach, Harris selected AUM after completing a junior college degree at age 26 while working as a janitor at Wacoochee Elementary School in Salem, Alabama. That caught the attention of national media outlets like ABC News and NBC’s “Today.”

The elementary school that celebrated his junior college graduation will also have a presence at AUM’s Spring 2023 commencement on Saturday, May 6, in the form of the “teacher moms” who encouraged him and inspired him to persevere through adversity.

Harris lost his father while in elementary school and endured a house fire and the death of his grandparents during his educational journey.

“I’m blessed to have had the support that I’ve had,” Harris said. “AUM chose me. I knew AUM was the right place when I went to orientation. Everything aligned the way I needed it to.”

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