Ethics Hero: Verda Tetteh

Here I am, always desperately searching for positive ethics stories, and there was a great one sitting for two months in my “Read This” file…

Verda Tetteh, a 17-year-old Fitchburg, Massachusetts high school senior, was already accepted into Harvard (poor kid!) which is going to pay her tuition, room and board. She also had qualified her other scholarships that would cover her college expenses. Her guidance counselor still urged her to go for another one, the $40,000 local award called “The General Excellence Prize.” Every year the prize goes to one male and one female student selected by a committee of teachers, administrators and guidance counselors

Verda applied to shut him up, essentially, assuming she would never win. But she did. She found out at her graduation ceremony on June 4, when the assistant principal of Fitchburg High School announced to the audience that she was the winner. Surprised, she accepted the award, thought hard as she walked away, then turned and walked back to the podium.

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” Verda said, her voice shaky. “I would be so very grateful if administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who is going into community college.”

Her fellow classmates and the crowd rose to give her a standing ovation.

Ethics Hero.


13 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Verda Tetteh

  1. What more can be said. She is an exemplar of ethical behavior. We should not neglect to admire the ethics of her hard work to be in a position to help others.

  2. This student’s generosity is underscored by the fact that her mother, a Ghanaian immigrant, attended community college when she and her family moved to the States ten years ago. According to the New York Times article,

    “When Ms. Tetteh was 9, her mother, who provides care for people with disabilities, enrolled in Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass. Her mother, Rosemary Annan, was working 80 hours a week but decided to pursue an associate degree in science, hoping it would help her get a job that would support her four children and help reduce her hours.

    “‘She realized that there is a lot of opportunity if you’re educated,’ Ms. Tetteh said.

    “Her mother’s efforts inspired Ms. Tetteh, who came to the United States knowing little English but already eager to excel at school.”

    Good on her.


    • Suspecting something like that sort of backstory, I was looking up the info, apparently as you were posting. Sad that it’s often immigrants who value the country the most. [Though not always…(cough)… Ilhan Omar… (cough).]

      Another bit to her credit: The $40K award ($10K/yr) wasn’t tied to educational expenditures; she could have bought a car, clothes, whatever, but passed it on to help others.

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