At a Massachusetts graduation ceremony for “economically disadvantaged” high school students, Verda Tetteh delivered an unforgettable lesson on generosity – one that cost her $40,000. (Watch above).

The Harvard-bound seventeen year-old, who came to the U.S. from Ghana when she was a little girl, was selected as the commencement speaker. She declared “To every immigrant child, you can make it.”

Later on in the ceremony, she was awarded the school’s highest honor, the ‘General Excellence’ scholarship.

“Then I sat down, and it hit me. This is $40,000. That’s a lot of money. Obviously I could use that,” Tetteh told CNN. “But there’s definitely someone sitting in this crowd who needs it more.”

Tetteh was particularly moved by a speech from her assistant principal, who urged the graduates to be “selfless” and “bold.” So Tetteh got out of her seat, came back on stage, and made an unplanned announcement that shocked and delighted the crowd.

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most,” she said. She urged her high school to give her $40,000 scholarship to another student. “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 … scholarship to someone who is going to community college.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” principal Jeremy Roche told The Washington Post. 

“I just knew she’s ready for me to let her be on her own,” Tetteh’s mother told CNN. “I’m not afraid, and I’m not sad about it that someone’s going to get some good help. If I had gotten that help, I would have been thrilled.”

Tetteh said her Christian faith inspired her act of generosity. She’s also set to receive scholarship money and financial aid from Harvard, where she’ll study biochemistry.

The school plans to honor Tetteh’s request. They’re eager to sit down with her and work out the details, but she’s busy with her summer job – at a grocery store.