Verda Tetteh is headed to Harvard with a full-ride scholarship to study biochemistry (pre-med). She was also awarded $40k for books, computers, and living expenses, earned for her general excellence at Fitchburg High School. She was quick to give it back though, saying, “It is such a great honor, but I also know that I am not the most in need of it.”
It’s a great feel-good story for graduation time, and it also is just one example of how young graduates are taking a stand and giving back.
Verda made the decision without much thought, but she later said, “Yes I would do it again.” She already has her Harvard scholarship, so she was immediately thinking of her fellow students. “I’m excited to see who it helps and how it changes their life,” she said.
Verda told the audience that she was inspired by her mom, Rosemary Annan, an immigrant from Ghana, working two jobs with 80-hour weeks, and attending community college herself. She thought about all the help her mom got when she needed it the most. She had to pay it forward. She had to do something to help a fellow student who faced something akin to what her mother faced.
Her mom was so proud of her decision. Her mom said, “I just knew she’s ready for me to let her be on her own.”
At age 39, Rosemary Annan started pursuing a degree at a local community college while working two jobs and taking care of the family.
Verda Tetteh, Annan’s daughter, thought about her mother’s journey as she decided to turn down the $40,000 scholarship. https://t.co/FacbTpkUP9
— Here & Now (@hereandnow) June 15, 2021
As she stood up on that stage, she spoke of resilience: “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.” It’s been an unforgettably horrendous year. But she never took a moment to feel sorry for herself, to lament the senior year that might have been.
Instead, she spoke of strength and resilience: “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.”
Valedictorians and other keynote speakers talk about how graduates should embrace their futures and change the world. But Verda demonstrated how to change the world for a fellow student. She said, “You don’t have to have the world to be able to give anything, you know, the little you have, just think about others around you and how you can help.”
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Verda further proved her resilience when the mass of journalists asked her about what she would do if/when the scholarship money runs out. Throughout the interviews and questioning, she maintained unwavering faith that her decision was the right one and that it would all be ok. She reiterated, “Whatever happens, someone else needed it more.”
What are your thoughts on Verda Tetteh and her gift of $40k to her fellow students? Should she have kept the money? Let us know what you think about it below in the comments!
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