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.

She arrived at school early and stayed late to improve her English and participate in enrichment programs. Her mother regularly took her to the library, and she became an avid reader.

When she got to high school, she helped start a welcoming committee for immigrant students, Mr. Roche said.

“She was always thinking about how to make our school a better place, how do we make our community a better place,” he said.

Her fellow seniors chose her as class speaker at the graduation. In her speech, which she gave just before she was awarded the scholarship, she spoke of the richness of her school’s diversity and the resilience of her classmates.

“Some of us were born with the odds stacked against us, that we may not make it to today,” Ms. Tetteh said. “I have gotten to know so many of you these past four years and there is so much potential in our class.”

She added, crying: “To every immigrant child, you can make it. To every dreamer, you can make it.”

Her decision later to sacrifice the scholarship was overwhelming, but not shocking, Mr. Roche said.

“I was not surprised that she did that because that’s who she is,” he said.

Ms. Tetteh, who plans to major in chemistry and wants to become a doctor, said she would like to start a separate scholarship for students who are immigrants and cannot afford college.

For now, she and Mr. Roche have been working on how to redistribute the scholarship money she gave up, an annual gift of $10,000 that is renewable for four years.

The plan so far is to award it two students who need help paying for community college.

“I think that all types of different students go to community college,” Ms. Tetteh said. “The common theme is that they want to get an education, they want to better their lives and that is something that is so commendable.”

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