‘I’m not the one who needs it most’: Harvard-bound student, 17, gives away $40,000 scholarship donated by her high school for ‘excellence’ to help ‘someone in need’
- Verda Tetteh (17) received a $40,000 grant with her ‘General Excellence’ award from Fitchburgh High School in Massachusetts
- In a speech at graduation, Tetteh announced that she would not accept the money
- “I’m so grateful for this, but I also know I’m not the one who needs this the most,” said the aspiring physician.
- Tetteh had already received other grants to cover her tuition at Harvard
- Tetteh said her mother, Rosemary, was the inspiration for the unscripted gesture
- Rosemary was from Ghana and graduated from a community college at the age of 47
- Fitchburgh High School principal said they will respect Tetteh’s wishes, but are not yet sure who will receive the scholarship
A Harvard-bound high school graduate gives away a $40,000 scholarship she earned at her Massachusetts high school to “someone who is struggling.”
Verda Tetteh, 17, was chosen by her colleagues last Friday to address her fellow Fitchburgh High School students at graduation, where she received the “General Excellence” award.
In an unsolicited and heartwarming gesture, Tetteh announced that she would not accept the $40,000 scholarship associated with the award — considered the school’s highest honor — after already receiving several other scholarships to cover her tuition at Harvard.
“I’m so grateful for this, but I also know I’m not the one who needs this the most,” Tetteh said, wearing a maroon cap and gown with the prize in her hand.
“I would be very grateful if the administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who attends community college because I know I don’t need it the most.”
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Harvard-bound Verda Tetteh (pictured) announced she’s giving away a $40,000 grant from Fitchburgh High School to “someone who is struggling” during a graduation speech
Tetteh hugs her mother Rosemary after graduation. She said her mother is the inspiration for the charity decision
“I would be very grateful if the administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who attends community college because I know I don’t need it the most,” Tetteh said.
The high-performing senior goes to Harvard on a pre-med track — which costs just $200,000 for a four-year undergraduate degree — on a full-time drive, but the $40,000 Fitchburgh scholarship can be used for anything school-related; not just tuition.
Tetteh said the inspiration came from her mother, Rosemary, a Ghanaian immigrant who graduated from community college at age 47. Tetteh came to America with her mother as a child and started a student ambassador program.
The selfless act propelled her classmates—many of whom are considered “economically disadvantaged”—to their feet to a standing ovation.
Leslie Barnor, Tetteh’s stepfather, said the family didn’t realize what was happening because the ovation was so loud, so people standing next to Tetteh’s family filled it in. Washington Post reported.
Tetteh later explained that it was a split-second decision that her parents understood.
“We’re a Christian family,” Barnor told the Washington Post. “We believe we don’t need to have that much before you give it to others.”
Tetteh surrounded by her friends after graduation
Tetteh graduates from Fitchburg High School in Massachusetts
Tetteh (right) and her mother are interviewed after Tetteh .’s heartwarming moment
Tetteh’s mother Rosemary graduated from a community college at age 47, which inspired her daughter to succeed
Director Jeremy Roche told the Washington Post, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“She represented the class and the school wonderfully, and I would even say, her generation.”
Roche said the school will honor Tetteh’s wishes for the money and plans to talk to her soon, but she’s been busy with work, so it’s not yet known who will be awarded the grant.