Harvard-Bound Senior Surprises Graduation Audience by Asking to Give Away Her $40K Scholarship

Inspired by her mother's graduation at age 47, Verda Tetteh wanted her scholarship to help a student attending a community college

A Massachusetts high schooler heading to Harvard in the fall shocked the audience at her graduation when she turned down a $40,000 scholarship — and asked that it instead be given to someone more in need.

Verda Tetteh, 17, addressed the crowd at Fitchburg High School on Friday in an impromptu message that urged school officials to offer the money to a student attending community college, according to WBZ.

"It is such a great honor, but I also know that I am not the most in need of it," the teen said on stage of her school-awarded scholarship, which would have gifted her $10,000 per year over four years.

Verda has already received plenty of scholarship money and financial aid from Harvard, she told CNN. So when she heard the school's assistant principal Jeremy Roche telling her and her classmates to be "bold and selfless," she knew what she had to do, WBZ reported.

Verda's thoughts quickly went to her mother, Rosemary, who brought her family to the U.S. from Ghana and who earned her own college degree at age 47 from community college, according to the Boston Globe.

"Whatever happens, someone else needed it more. I'm excited to see who it helps and how that changes their life, so I'm so happy that God gave me the strength to do that," Verda told WBZ. "No one had the chance to say, 'Don't give away $40,000!'"

Roche, for his part, said that the school will honor Verda's wishes for the money, though its recipient has not yet been selected, he told the Washington Post.

"When she started speaking on the microphone, I was overwhelmed," Roche told CNN. "I think a lot of people in the stadium were, honestly. I was so moved by her generosity."

Verda's mother Rosemary told the outlet that while she was "in shock" at her daughter's decision, she was also very proud.

"I just knew she's ready for me to let her be on her own," she said. "I'm not afraid, and I'm not sad about it that someone's going to get some good help. If I had gotten that help, I would have been thrilled."

With plans to study chemistry on a pre-med track at Harvard, Verda is looking forward to the bright future ahead.

"I feel that God has gotten me this far and he will take me the rest of the way," she told WBZ. "Yes, I would do it again."

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