Harvard-bound student Verda Tetteh asks high school to give her $40,000 scholarship to someone else

"You don't have to have the world to be able to give anything"

Nikki Battiste – CBS News

Verda Tetteh earned a standing ovation as the class speaker at her Massachusetts high school graduation. But what she did next had the crowd in awe. 

The Fitchburg High School student, who will be attending Harvard College in the fall on a full scholarship, won an additional $40,000 scholarship from her high school at last week’s graduation ceremony. She could have used the scholarship for expenses, but instead, the 17-year-old gave it away shortly after it was awarded. 

“I am so very grateful for this but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” she told graduation attendees. 

Tetteh told CBS News that her mother, Rosemary, an immigrant from Ghana who earned her community college degree when she was 47 years old, inspired her to give it to someone else. 

“It just was the thought that someone sitting here might have a struggle like my mom did when she was going to community college,” she said. 

Her mother cheered from the crowd. “I was just happy, I stood up and started shouting so loud! I was afraid those in front of me would be like, ‘Why is she that loud?’ But I was so happy with her decision,” she said. 

Tetteh plans to study chemistry at Harvard. It’s unclear who will receive the scholarship she gave up, according to CBS Boston

“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,” she said. 

banner image: Harvard-bound Verda Tetteh with her mother, Rosemary via CBS News