Harvard-bound senior gives surprise scholarship away

High school senior Verda Tetteh could have added a surprise $40,000 scholarship from Fitchburg High School to her collection of scholarships and financial aid to pay for her Harvard education. But instead, she asked the school to give the scholarship money to someone who needed it more.

Tetteh, who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from Ghana, delivered a powerful address on resilience at the beginning of the Massachusetts school’s June 4 graduation ceremony. When she spoke, she didn’t yet know she had been chosen as one of two students who would be awarded the school’s General Excellence Award.

“And I say resilient because if we are being honest with ourselves, some of us were born with the odds stacked against us that we may not make it to today,” Tetteh said in her speech. “And I say resilient because all of us, teachers, faculty, and students alike were given a great challenge when the pandemic hit. But we were and we are resilient, and we did it.”

After she took her seat, the school’s assistant principal announced the two winners of the $40,000 scholarship — and Tetteh was one of them. It was a shock to her.

Verda Tetteh at her graduation.

“I mean I applied for it a month ago but also a ton of other amazing students applied so I didn’t know I was going to get it,” Tetteh told USA TODAY. 

After she received the award, she listened to the assistant principal talk about being “selfless” and “bold.” That’s when she made the decision.

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” Tetteh said. She had been awarded other scholarships and financial aid that she plans on using to fund her education.

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