A Student Headed to Harvard Wants Her $40K Scholarship to Go to Others in Need

·2 min read
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their graduation photograph at the University of Birmingham degree congregations on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England. Over 5000 graduates will be donning their robes this week to collect their degrees from The University of Birmingham. A recent survey suggested that there are 48 graduates competing for every job. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their graduation photograph at the University of Birmingham degree congregations on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England. Over 5000 graduates will be donning their robes this week to collect their degrees from The University of Birmingham. A recent survey suggested that there are 48 graduates competing for every job. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Shoutout to Verda Tetteh, a recent high school graduate on her way to Harvard University who wants to give a $40,000 scholarship she earned to a community college attendee.

The Boston Globe reports that Tetteh announced her decision to turn down the scholarship—awarded to her by Fitchburg High School in Fitchburg, Mass.—during the school’s graduation ceremony on June 4.

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Tetteh told the newspaper that she was inspired by both her Christian faith and her mother, who moved Tetteh from Ghana to the United States when she was young and who later earned her bachelor’s degree when she was 47.

From the Globe:

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” Tetteh, who had previously addressed her fellow graduates as class speaker, said onstage.

“Knowing my mom went to community college, and how much that was helpful, I would be so very grateful if [the] administration would consider giving the … scholarship to someone who is going to community college.”

Tetteh told NBC Boston she was “in awe” of her mother’s dedication to continue her education.

“... I think that’s something that’s very difficult to do,” she told NBC Boston. “But she knew she wanted to improve her life and improve the lives of her children.”

Tetteh’s selfless act earned her a standing ovation from her peers, according to the Globe.

The cynical part of me wants to point out that while Tetteh’s decision to give this scholarship to another deserving person is beyond admirable, it also wouldn’t be necessary in a perfect world where all 50 states offered free community college tuition instead of the current 17—or at the very least offered more equitable access to higher education for those who want it without having to rely so heavily on student loans.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, and the reality is that we all should be doing the best that we can to make things easier for our fellow humans who need a hand.

Verda Tetteh did that last Friday in a way that will make a big difference to someone down the road, and that deserves multiple ovations.

According to the Globe, Tetteh will soon meet with Fitchburg High’s principal to discuss either re-awarding the scholarship or splitting it among multiple students.

She plans to study chemistry with a pre-med track at Harvard.