Verda Tetteh Won a $40,000 Scholarship. Then She Gave It Away.
For weeks, Verda Tetteh felt qualms about making use of for the $40,000 benefit scholarship her highschool in Fitchburg, Mass., provided graduating college students.
She was certain for Harvard, which had agreed to pay her tuition and room and board. Her 4.9 G.P.A. had certified her for different scholarships that might cowl faculty bills.
Nonetheless, her steering counselor urged her to go for it, telling her she had labored onerous and deserved the award generally known as “The Basic Excellence Prize.”
Ms. Tetteh, 17, utilized, figuring that the scholarship, which yearly goes to at least one male and one feminine scholar chosen by a committee of academics, directors and steering counselors, would in all probability go to another person.
Then, throughout her commencement ceremony from Fitchburg Excessive College on June 4, the assistant principal introduced she was the winner. Ten minutes after she accepted it, she walked again to the rostrum and apologized for interrupting the ceremony.
“I’m so very grateful for this, however I additionally know that I’m not the one who wants this essentially the most,” Ms. Tetteh stated, her voice trembling. “I’d be so very grateful if administration would take into account giving the Basic Excellence scholarship to somebody who’s going into group faculty.”
Instantly after her speech, her fellow classmates and the group on the ceremony cheered and rose in a standing ovation.
Ms. Tetteh stated she was flooded with reduction.
“Once I stated the phrases, after they got here out, I knew they have been the best factor to say,” she stated in an interview on Thursday. “It was the best factor to do.”
Robert Jokela, the district superintendent, stated that one week after the ceremony, he remained awed by Ms. Tetteh’s spontaneous announcement. The Boston Globe and different native information shops reported on her speech this week, and it quickly gained consideration from nationwide newspapers and tv networks.
“She walks 30 yards again to stage. She’s strolling again like she owns the place,” Mr. Jokela stated. “All people bought it. What we simply witnessed was the last word in generosity.”
Ms. Tetteh was 8 years outdated when she moved from Ghana to Fitchburg, a metropolis of about 40,000 individuals, 50 miles west of Boston. As soon as a bustling metropolis of noticed, paper and cotton mills, Fitchburg started to say no within the twentieth century as native house owners offered their companies to nationwide firms and the paper business’s dominance gave method to pharmaceutical firms and different producers.
Greater than 60 p.c of the scholars in the highschool are recognized by the State Division of Training as “economically deprived,” and 67 p.c are described as “excessive wants.”
At Fitchburg Excessive, a public faculty, 75 p.c of the roughly 1,300 college students are college students of colour, stated Jeremy Roche, the college principal. At the least 40 p.c of these college students go to group faculty after they graduate, he stated.
Be a part of Michael Barbaro and “The Day by day” group as they have a good time the scholars and academics ending a 12 months like no different with a particular dwell occasion. Meet up with college students from Odessa Excessive College, which was the topic of a Instances audio documentary collection. We’ll even get loud with a efficiency by the drum line of Odessa’s award-winning marching band, and a particular superstar graduation speech.
“So much are first-generation college students,” Mr. Roche stated. “A variety of them are college students who’re the primary to graduate highschool of their household.”
He added, “There are a lot of households right here who work actually onerous and don’t make a lot of cash.”
When Ms. Tetteh was 9, her mom, who supplies look after individuals with disabilities, enrolled in Mount Wachusett Group School in Gardner, Mass.
Her mom, Rosemary Annan, was working 80 hours a week however determined to pursue an affiliate diploma in science, hoping it will assist her get a job that might help her 4 youngsters and assist scale back her hours.
“She realized that there’s a lot of alternative if you happen to’re educated,” Ms. Tetteh stated.
Her mom’s efforts impressed Ms. Tetteh, who got here to the USA realizing little English however already desperate to excel in school.
She arrived in school early and stayed late to enhance her English and take part in enrichment applications. Her mom repeatedly took her to the library, and he or she grew to become an avid reader.
When she bought to highschool, she helped begin a welcoming committee for immigrant college students, Mr. Roche stated.
“She was at all times eager about find out how to make our college a higher place, how will we make our group a higher place,” he stated.
Her fellow seniors selected her as class speaker on the commencement. In her speech, which she gave simply earlier than she was awarded the scholarship, she spoke of the richness of her faculty’s range and the resilience of her classmates.
“A few of us have been born with the chances stacked in opposition to us, that we might not make it to right now,” Ms. Tetteh stated. “I’ve gotten to know so a lot of you these previous 4 years and there’s a lot potential in our class.”
She added, crying: “To each immigrant little one, you may make it. To each dreamer, you may make it.”
Her resolution later to sacrifice the scholarship was overwhelming, however not stunning, Mr. Roche stated.
“I used to be not shocked that she did that as a result of that’s who she is,” he stated.
Ms. Tetteh, who plans to main in chemistry and needs to grow to be a physician, stated she wish to begin a separate scholarship for college kids who’re immigrants and can’t afford faculty.
For now, she and Mr. Roche have been engaged on find out how to redistribute the scholarship cash she gave up, an annual reward of $10,000 that’s renewable for 4 years.
The plan to date is to award it two college students who need assistance paying for group faculty.
“I believe that each one forms of totally different college students go to group faculty,” Ms. Tetteh stated. “The widespread theme is that they wish to get an training, they wish to higher their lives and that’s one thing that’s so commendable.”
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