Ellen DeGeneres surprised Summit Academy Charter School’s entire senior class with college scholarships on Thursday, in what she’s calling her single biggest gift ever.
DeGeneres had previously honored two of the Red Hook school’s educators, Natasha Campbell and Cheryl Lundy Swift, with a $25,000 check from Walmart when they appeared as guests on her show on Feb. 9. Campbell and Swift described the neighborhood as one of Brooklyn’s “most underserved communities,” where “over 28 percent of children under the age of 16 live in poverty.”
When Campbell and Swift returned to the show on Thursday with their entire class of soon-to-be high school graduates, they thought they were dropping by to update DeGeneres on their school’s progress.
“So many people say great things can’t come out of Red Hook,” Campbell said, “but we have 93 percent of our scholars from Red Hook in college and we are working to get 100 percent of our scholars in college this year.”
Welcoming the students onto the stage, DeGeneres awarded them with the huge surprise.
“We’ve never done anything this big before. We reached out to the people at Walmart and they want to give each one of you a 4-year scholarship [to college],” she said. Screams, tears and hugs instantly followed.
DeGeneres shared a nearly 10-minute video of the entire surprise to her Facebook page Thursday night, telling her followers it was “one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever been a part of.”
“This is by far the best giveaway any talk show has given. The gift of an education, the gift of empowerment, the gift of hope. Great,” one Facebook user commented.
“Can we make Ellen the president of the U.S.? We need kind people in positions of leadership,” another wrote.
According to NBC, the $1.6 million donation will cover tuition costs for all 41 graduating seniors.