The North Carolina woman works hard at the school's Acorn Coffee Shop, sometimes staying until 2 a.m., Elon Local News reports.
"I really took to her warmth, and I've seen her here a lot and she's always in here," said Taylor Zisholtz, one of the students behind the surprise. "She's very invested in where we were from, what we were doing."
Zisholtz, a junior, and Lucy Smith-Williams, a first-year, were strangers when Thompson struck up a conversation with both of them at the cafe one night, creating a friendship, the Elon Pendulum reports. During the conversation, Thompson's dream vacation came up. When the pair later agreed Thompson deserved recognition, they knew what it should be.
"I thought, 'Well, there's 6,000 people here with at least a dollar. We could probably make this happen.'" Zisholtz told Elon Local News.
The two created a GoFundMe page, where hundreds of friends and strangers donated, bringing the total over the students' goal. They surprised her at the beginning of her Monday night shift this week.
Thompson broke down in tears when she saw the students standing there with a sign reading, "You and your family are going to DISNEY WORLD." She said she had no idea they had been planning this, but is grateful she and her family will get to go on their dream vacation.
Joining her on the trip will be her son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. Thompson hadn't been able to take them because she couldn't afford it.
"They know I don't have it, to take them, but it's always been a dream of mine," she said.
Thompson told the Pendulum the trip will be extra special for one of her grandsons, who is autistic and a big fan of Mickey Mouse.
"Everywhere we go, he finds Mickey, and he just hugs him," she said. "[I'm excited] to see my grandson's eyes when he sees Mickey."
The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and this station.