A Massachusetts high school student went viral for using her graduation ceremony to request that a generous school scholarship be given to another student.
Verda Tetteh, who will be attending Harvard University in the fall, was Fitchburg High School’s class-selected speaker at their graduation ceremony on Friday and was awarded the school’s top “General Excellence” award with a prize of $40,000.
However, Tetteh, whose family is from Ghana and who last year was awarded a state scholarship to cover up to 50 percent of college expenses, returned to the stage after receiving the school's award and asked that administrators reconsider their decision.
"I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most," she said from the podium.
"And, knowing my mom went to community college and knowing how much that was helpful, I would be so very grateful if the administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who is going to community college because I know it is such a great honor, but I also know I am not the most in need of it,” Tetteh added, prompting a standing ovation from fellow graduates and families in attendance.
Tetteh told The Boston Globe that she had already received significant financial aid and scholarships to help her attend college, where she plans to study chemistry on a pre-med track.
School principal Jeremy Roche told The Washington Post on Tuesday that he’d “never seen anything like” Tetteh giving away the scholarship, which awards a student $10,000 annually for up to four years.
“She represented the class and the school amazingly well, and I would even dare say, her generation,” said Roche, who added that the school will honor Tetteh’s request.
Tetteh during her speech earlier on in the ceremony highlighted the diversity of her school in Fitchburg, Mass., located about 47 miles northwest of Boston.
The student noted flags from other countries displayed throughout the school’s campus, using them to highlight the successes of her classmates.
“The flag tells a story of the Nigerian girl who became a star athlete,” she said. “They tell the story of a tall Haitian boy who knows how to plan a party and liven up any event. ... They tell the story of a girl who came from Puerto Rico, and now she’s going to Stanford University.”
Tetteh’s mother, Rosemary Annan, told CNN that she was proud of her daughter’s decision to give away the scholarship.
“I’m not sad about it that someone’s going to get some good help,” she said. “If I had gotten that help, I would have been thrilled.”