Surprise! Roxbury Community College graduates given $1,000 each

More than 150 Roxbury Community College graduates got more than just a diploma Friday. They got a gift of $1,000.

Celtics co-owner Rob Hale sprung the surprise on them, giving each graduate $500 to spend on themselves and another $500 to give to someone who had helped them or to a charity of their choice.

“It was shocking,” said Tiara Dunbar, 28, of Dorchester. “It’s the most generous gift anyone could give … We weren’t expecting it at all. This is definitely the biggest gift I’ve ever received. It got proven today that everyone really is for us.”

Dunbar said she was going to hold onto the envelopes the gifts came in and “cherish” them because of the donation and they came in envelopes decorated by children.

She was a full-time student majoring in early childhood education and plans to use the money toward buying a home with the help of the Boston Housing Authority’s Self-Sufficiency Program and running a childcare center out of it.

Hale, the keynote speaker at the graduation, advised the graduates to follow their hearts, give more than they get and “don’t let fear of failure define you.”

Anetra Warren called Hale’s donation a “blessing and said she plans to give $500 to the dance program she runs and use the rest to pay her bills and “put food on the table.”

“I was shell-shocked,” she said. “I’m speechless.”

Warren, 35, of Roxbury, said she fled her abusive partner and came to Boston in 2014 from Virginia, with nothing more than $200 on her at the time along with a 1-year-old daughter, her 4-year-old son, a stroller and one suitcase.

She plans to continue her education and become a lawyer one day, she said. For now, she’s working as a home health aide.

Christina Samedi, 25, of Roxbury, also said she was “shocked” by Hale’s gift and plans to save it so that she can get her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Olusegun Aedeyemo, 53, of Randolph, said the donation lifted his spirits, and he plans to use it to “put a smile on some people’s faces.”

Sitarah Clark said she felt “overwhelmed” by the gift and planned to put it toward family expenses, including a car.

Marcia Sharpe was so moved by what Hale had done that it brought tears to her eyes

“How did I feel? Excited, unbelievable, grateful,” said Sharpe, 55, of Framingham.

She said she hadn’t made up her mind yet what she was going to do with the money.

BOSTON, MA.- Wiley Cole-Shipman, 7, reacts after commencement speaker Robert Hale, co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and co-owner and director of the Boston Celtics, presents him with a $100 bill, as he accompanies his mom Tiara Dunbar across the stage during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduates react as commencement speaker Robert Hale, co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and co-owner and director of the Boston Celtics, presenting them each with $1000 during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Class of 2022 graduates react as ballots drop signifying their graduation during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduates react as commencement speaker Robert Hale, co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and co-owner and director of the Boston Celtics, presenting them each with $1000 during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduates listen to speakers during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Commencement speaker Robert Hale, co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and co-owner and director of the Boston Celtics, speaks to graduates, before presenting them each with $1000, during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Commencement speaker Robert Hale, co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and co-owner and director of the Boston Celtics, speaks to graduates, before presenting them each with $1000, during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Valedictorian Shadia Singo speaks during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduate Natalie Sequea becomes emotional during a performance of “Rise Up” during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduate Audrey Thomas raises her fist and looks up during a performance of “Rise Up” during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Valedictorian Shadia Singo reacts as she speaks during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Roxbury Community College’s Interim President Jackie Jenkins-Scott speaks during the school’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduate Javeriya Ahmed listens to speakers during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduates listen to speakers during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduate Dolores Michel holds her daughter Elvi, 2, as she listens to speakers during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- Graduate Ruth Mbambali cheers and gestures during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA.- City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson speaks during Roxbury Community College’s 46th commencement ceremonies at the Reggie Lewis Track and Field Center on May 13, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Photo by Amanda Sabga/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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