High school student Verda Tetteh could have added a surprise $ 40,000 Fitchburg High School scholarship to her collection of scholarships and financial aid to pay for her studies at Harvard. But instead, she asked the school to give the scholarship money to someone who needed it most.
Tetteh, who immigrated to the United States with her family from Ghana, gave a powerful speech on resilience at the start of the Massachusetts school’s graduation ceremony on June 4. When she spoke, she was still unaware that she had been chosen as one of the two students who would receive the school’s General Achievement Award.
“And I say resilient because if we’re being honest with ourselves, some of us are born with the odds against us not arriving today,” Tetteh said in her speech. “And I say resilient because all of us, teachers and professors and students, faced a great challenge when the pandemic hit. But we were and we are resilient, and we did.”
After taking his seat, the school’s principal assistant announced the two winners of the $ 40,000 scholarship – and Tetteh was one of them. It was a shock to her.
“I mean I applied a month ago, but also a ton of other amazing students applied, so I had no idea I was going to get it,” Tetteh told USA TODAY.
After receiving the award, she listened to the deputy director talk about being “selfless” and “daring”. It was then that she made the decision.
“I’m very grateful for this, but I also know I’m not the one who needs it the most,” Tetteh said. She had received other scholarships and financial aid that she plans to use to finance her studies.
She knew that the community college had helped her mother greatly, and she knew how far that money would go to fund an education there. So she said at the ceremony that she wanted the administration to consider giving the scholarship to a student at a community college.
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“When I first gave it I felt relieved actually. I was very happy that God gave me the strength to do the right thing and thinking about it now I stand by my decision,” Tetteh said. “I don’t think there was a time when I regretted my decision.”
Tetteh said her parents, like herself, didn’t know she was receiving the scholarship until it was announced upon graduation, so it was a very spontaneous decision.
“Actually, you know, my manager found me later that day and said, ‘I’m very proud of you and that was a very selfless gesture. “My mom said she gave me a round of applause and gave me a standing ovation so I think it was a very positive feedback and response from all sides,” Tetteh said.
Tetteh told USA TODAY that she has met with Principal Jeremy Roche to discuss how the scholarship will be reallocated. The plan: The single scholarship will be divided into several scholarships which will be awarded over the next four years. Starting this year, two students from the class who will go to the community college will each receive $ 5,000.
She encouraged new high school students to keep their eyes open in their community.
“You can make a change in every community because you know the world is always getting better, so keep an eye out for what you can do, then be bold and courageous, and work hard for that change,” Tetteh said. .
“She represented the classroom and the school incredibly well, and I dare say, her generation,” Roche told the Washington Post.