Verda Tetteh, a newly minted graduate of Fitchburg High School in Massachusetts, surprised her classmates during their commencement ceremony last week when she asked school administrators if the $40,000 “General Excellence” award they had given her could instead go to a community college student, The Washington Post reported.
“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” she said.
Tetteh told The Boston Globe that her mother, an immigrant from Ghana, earned her bachelor’s degree at a community college at the age of 47 and was part of the inspiration for her decision. She said she had sufficient financial aid and scholarships to help cover her tuition and did not need the award — $10,000 annually for up to four years — from her high school.
Fitchburg administrators plan to meet with Tetteh and honor her request, Principal Jeremy Roche told the Post. The majority of Fitchburg High School students are economically disadvantaged, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Roche said. “She represented the class and the school amazingly well, and I would even dare say, her generation.”