Verda Tetteh from Massachusetts has big plans for her life. The 17-year-old is smart and determined — but at her high school graduation, she proved that she is generous and thoughtful as well.
Tetteh is set to start her college journey at Harvard this fall, where she earned a full-ride scholarship and where she will pursue a degree in biochemistry.
She’s done her due diligence in school and been recognized with a variety of other scholarships that will cover school expenses.
On June 4, at the Fitchburg High School graduation ceremony — after giving a speech that was met with a standing ovation — Tetteh was recognized with the school’s coveted general excellence award.
That award comes with a $40,000 scholarship ($10,000 for each of the four years).
She could have used it to cover living costs and other non-tuition school-related expenses, and no one would have questioned it. She’d earned it.
But her thoughts turned to her mother, Rosemary Annan, an immigrant from Ghana who’d poured her heart and soul into working to provide for her family — as well as earning a degree at a community college at age 47.
Tetteh knew what the scholarship money could mean to someone like her mother, who had the drive and the ability, but struggled with the means.
So after thinking about it for a moment, Tetteh made the decision to bless someone else’s educational journey.
“Then I sat down, and it hit me,” she later told CNN. “This is $40,000. That’s a lot of money. Obviously I could use that.”
“But there’s definitely someone sitting in this crowd who needs it more.”
So she got up again and let the school know her decision.
“It is such a great honor, but I also know that I am not the most in need of it,” the straight-A student said from the podium.
As she explained that she would be giving it away to someone who needed it more, her mother was ecstatic and started cheering enthusiastically in the crowd.
“I just knew she’s ready for me to let her be on her own,” Annan said. “I’m not afraid, and I’m not sad about it that someone’s going to get some good help. If I had gotten that help, I would have been thrilled.”
Principal Jeremy Roche was surprised too, and said the crowd was touched by Tetteh’s noble decision.
“When she started speaking on the microphone, I was overwhelmed. I think a lot of people in the stadium were, honestly,” Roche explained. “I was so moved by her generosity.”
Now that she’s had some time to think about her choice, Tetteh says it still resonates with her.
“Whatever happens, someone else needed it more,” Tetteh told WBZ-TV. “I’m excited to see who it helps and you know, how that changes their life, so I’m so happy that God gave me the strength to do that.”
“We’re blessed to be a blessing. I thought that I was in the position where God has blessed me so much, and I thought it was the right thing to do to bless somebody else.”
“I feel that, you know, God has gotten me this far and he will take me the rest of the way.”
Another recipient for the award has not yet been announced, though Tetteh has asked that the funds go to someone who really needs the scholarship in order to attend college.
Tetteh also urges others to give as they can, reminding viewers, “You know, you don’t have to have the world to be able to give anything.”
“You know, you … the little you have, just think about others around you and how you can help.”
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