This Harvard graduate won a $ 40,000 scholarship – and quickly gave it away
Verda Tetteh says she was honored when her high school awarded her a US $ 40,000 scholarship at her graduation ceremony. But she knew almost immediately that she couldn’t keep him.
âI was just sitting down and, you know, I was thinking of my classmates around me and my community,â said Tetteh, 17. As it happens host Carol Off. “And I just knew someone around me needed it more.”
Tetteh had just finished a speech at the Fitchburg High School graduation ceremony in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, when she learned that she had won the school’s General Achievement Award.
At first, she accepted the price. But a few minutes later, after hearing her deputy manager talk about being selfless and doing the right thing, she returned to the podium.
In a second impromptu speech, she implored her school to take back the scholarship and give it instead to someone considering attending community college.
The move elicited a standing ovation from the crowd. School principal Jeremy Roche said it was a “powerful” moment.
âIt was an exceptional act of generosity that was completely genuine and pure,â Roche said. “The feeling in the stadium was electric with the understanding of what she had just done, and I know that is because everyone knows how genuine Verda is and that she was ready to do it so that someone else has a chance to have an education. “
WATCH | See Tetteh deliver the speech, receive the award and make it.
âIt was very spontaneous, but I think I knew it was the right thing and I would have so many regrets in myself if I hadn’t done it. So I got up and did what I did. I thought I was the right thing, “Tetteh says.
“I’m very happy that everyone somehow trusted me to come back up and say what was on my mind, and no one even tried to stop me – and that was with them without even know what was going on. “
She did it for her mom
Tetteh says she was thinking of her mother when she asked for the scholarship to be given to someone on their way to community college.
The teenager was already accepted to Harvard in the fall and says she has been awarded several scholarships and doesn’t worry about funding her studies.
But her own mother, Rosemary Annan, an immigrant from Ghana, attended local community college when she was 39 – while doing two jobs, raising four children, and learning to speak English and use computers.
âShe worked really hard during her two years there,â Tetteh said. “It was a lot on his plate. And I just thought if someone else was going through this, shedding that financial burden would be such a blessing for them.”
Annan told CNN that she is immensely proud of her daughter.
âI’m not sad that someone is getting good help,â she said. “If I had gotten this help, I would have been thrilled.”
Do good things and work hard and it will really come back to you.– Verda Tetteh, high school graduate
Tetteh says she will meet with the principal next week to work out a plan to redistribute the money from the scholarship, which is not specifically for tuition and can be used as the recipient wishes.
In the meantime, Tetteh is preparing to leave for Harvard in the fall. She tentatively plans to study chemistry and biochemistry on a premedical path, although she says she keeps an open mind.
Meanwhile, her mother is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, Tetteh said.
Tetteh says she has a message for “every immigrant and every dreamer out there.”
âYou really can do it. Don’t short sell yourself. Work hard and it really pays off,â she said. “Do good things and work hard and it will really come back to you. God will bless you.”
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview by Katie Geleff.