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Teen speaking at her graduation ceremony and a man wearing a lime green jacket

Teen Wins $40K Scholarship But Gives It to Students In Need

YouTube/ Steve TV Show
Uplifting News

Teen Wins $40K Scholarship - Decides to Give It All Back For This Reason

This graduate earned a massive scholarship, then at the last minute gifted it back.

Getting an education and strong grades are definitely important, and those values were certainly ones that a teen named Verda Annan grew up with. But she was also raised to understand the importance of community and giving back, so when she saw an opportunity to make an incredible difference in someone else’s life, she rose to the occasion.

A Surprise Donation

Verda Annan sits down with Steve Harvey

Woman sits down on a talk show with Steve Harvey

YouTube/Steve TV Show

At her high school graduation, 18-year-old Verda Annan had a lot to look forward to. She had just received a full ride to Harvard, and she had just accepted a $40,000 scholarship to help her pay for additional expenses.

But as she sat there, listening to her assistant principal give a speech, she really resonated with some of his ideas.

“It reminded me of a lot of the principles and values I was taught by mom and siblings and community in Ghana,” Annan recalled to Steve Harvey. “He talked about integrity and doing the right thing and kindness, all of these things that are just so right.”

Immediately, Annan knew the right thing to do would be to give the scholarship back and ask that it be used toward someone who needed it more. So she got up, returned to the mic, and asked for a couple of minutes of everyone’s time.

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” she told the crowd. “Knowing my mom went to community college and how much that was helpful, I would be so very grateful if the administration would consider giving the general excellence award to someone who is going to the community college. It is such a great honor, but I also know I am not the most in need of it.”

Paying it Forward

Sitting down with Steve Harvey for his talk show, Annan explained that she had gotten to know her peers very well over her four years at the high school and knew that the money could help them achieve their dreams as well.

“I’ve gotten to know firsthand how strong they are but also how much there is a struggle and a need in the community, which is low-income and very diverse,” she explained. She added that, after coming to America from Ghana at the age of eight, her family had always instilled the importance of education but also opportunity and kindness.

“My mom always let us know education is one of our strongest tools to get us out of poverty,” she said. “[But] beyond grades, do things that are good. And not just for yourself.”

The 18-year-old cited how, earlier in her high school education, she had helped to create a community program for newcomers coming to the school for the first time, based on a need she saw.

“Keep your eyes open, what does the community need, what do people need to make their lives better and then go out of your way to do that, everyone can do that,” she added.

Inspiring Others

According to Annan, the school administration was unsure what to do with the $40,000 scholarship. So, they created a committee, and now the scholarship has been divided into $10,000 scholarships to help four students go to community college.

“Those students are students who kind of needed it, are very much deserving of it, great students of integrity and academics, and I’m so proud of that,” Annan said.

Annan's act affected more than those four students, though: it also inspired others to create change. Another donor decided to match the $40K, creating the opportunity for four more students to attend college the following year.

Meanwhile, another local charity heard what Annan did and was inspired. So it created a separate scholarship for community college students, too.

“I want to be someone who makes a difference in life,” Annan added. “I want to get the education and be in that place to help somebody else.”

Creating Lasting Change

Stories like Annan’s give everyone hope for the next generation and the belief that these kids will continue to create positivity in their corners of the world. But this story is also so beautiful because it reminds us how much one small act can ignite and inspire myriad others.

By standing up for change, making a donation, volunteering your time, or looking around your community to see how you can improve someone else’s life, you’re doing something good for someone else. That alone is amazing, but your act may also inspire others to do the same, which in turn creates a better community for us all.

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