Ellen DeGeneres Surprises High School Students with Scholarships to CofC

Staff Report From Charleston CEO

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

They thought they were going to The Ellen Show on Monday, March 11, 2019, to talk about their goals of becoming teachers. But high school students Jaheim President and Darius Smith got a lot more out of the visit than just good conversation.

Smith told host Ellen DeGeneres that he found out earlier this year that he had been accepted to the College of Charleston. President said he was still waiting to find out if he would be joining the Cougar family.

“I’ve been stressing out for the last five months, but I believe in positive energy, so College of Charleston, if you’re watching this, accept me now,” he said with a laugh.

It turns out, the TV host had the answer to President’s quest of becoming a Cougar.

“We may have told them to slow the process down,” DeGeneres said. “We may have said we would like to let him know, so the answer is here in this envelope. I think your mother’s going to be happy if this works out. And if not, we really picked a bad time to have you on.”

Peering into the envelope, DeGeneres said, “Uh oh, you’re certainly going to college!”

The show aired in Charleston on WCIV Channel 4 on Tuesday, March 12, at 4 p.m.

DeGeneres told President and Smith, who both attend Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, South Carolina, some even better news: “The College of Charleston heard about you and Darius, and they want to cover your college tuition for all four years.”

On top of that, DeGeneres in conjunction with Cheerios presented Smith and President each with a check for $20,000 as well as a check for $10,000 for Ashley Ridge High School. Smith and President appeared on the show with Ashley Ridge teacher Victoria Merritt, whom they said was among the teachers who inspired them to pursue careers in education.

“The College of Charleston is getting two fabulous young men,” said Ashley Ridge High School Principal Karen Radcliffe. She predicts that President and Smith will be great teachers. “I think they will be amazing. They have a heart for people and an enthusiasm for people. They are going to be those kinds of people who cheer for the underdog and want to do everything they can to ensure their students’ success.“

President and Smith both participated in the College’s Otto B. German Minority Male Initiative program, which assists prospective male students of color, and both will participate in the College’s Call Me MISTER program, which supports minority students who choose to major in education.

“My main inspiration to become a teacher was because for the kids I wanted to be what I didn’t see when I was growing up,” Smith told DeGeneres. “So, for me, my father was incarcerated when I was four years old, so not having that male presence growing up and like that’s really important because like the older I get, the more I understand things and having a father, even if it’s at school seven hours a day, that still helps. For the kids, that’s what I would do, that’s my goal. I want to be for them what I didn’t have.”

President added, “For me, I didn’t have my father growing up … my teachers have impacted me. I believe teaching is the greatest way I can give back to what they have done for me.”