Verda Tetteh, an immigrant student about to go to Harvard, turns down a scholarship and asks that it be given to a community college student instead.
Tetteh grew up understanding strength and resourcefulness. Her family emigrated to the United States from Ghana when she was eight years old, and her mother went to community college to make sure Verda and her siblings had every opportunity she could manage.
On June 4, 2021, Verda Tetteh graduated Fitchburg High School in Massachusetts. She won her school’s general excellence award, which included a $40,000 four-year scholarship. Tetteh has already been accepted at Harvard University, where she intends to major in chemistry and pursue medicine. In 2019-10, a year’s undergraduate tuition and fees at the private Ivy League school cost an average $52,000, an amount that $10,000 a year would go a long way toward defraying.
“It is such a great honor,” said Tetteh, accepting her award, but not the scholarship. “But I also know that I am not the most in need of it.”
“I am so very grateful for this but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” she said in her speech. “And knowing my mom went to community college, and how much that was helpful, I would be so very grateful if administration … would consider giving the general excellence scholarship to someone who’s going to community college.”
Verda Tetteh has won other, smaller scholarships this year, and plans to supplement them with financial aid to cover her education. It is more important to her that she help another student who might not have her resources than that she graduate debt-free.
“Someone else needs it more than me, and there just was no excuse why I wouldn’t give it up when that was the right thing to do,” she told NBC Boston in an interview.
Fitchburg High School has not yet commented on whether it will agree with her request to redirect her scholarship.