Two Ashley Ridge High School seniors received shocking news Tuesday during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Host Ellen DeGeneres surprised each of the Summerville teens, Jaheim President and Darius Smith, with full scholarships, and an additional $20,000 apiece through a Cheerios partnership, for each of them to attend College of Charleston, according to a press release.

“It was just like a burden off of my shoulders,” President said.

President also learned he’d been accepted to the college of his dreams, after receiving multiple deferments since December, including the most recent deferment earlier this month.

“I started to lose hope,” he said.

Ellen made the announcement on air by opening the acceptance letter with President. He said sharing the moment on TV “was a once (in) a lifetime thing.”

“I owe it all to my faith in God,” President said.

Smith, who will be a first-generation college student in his family, had already received word he’d been accepted to College of Charleston. The pair jumped for joy during the big reveal — the crowd cheering them on — and each held large mock checks showcasing the monetary gifts.

The teens, also both football players for the Swamp Foxes, were initially asked to come on the show to express why they wanted to become teachers and why college is a valuable part of their future paths, the release said. Smith was actually named to the All-State football team this past season and is a track-and-field athlete.

According to President, while he didn’t know what surprises awaited him and Smith, he had hope his Hollywood visit might have something exciting in store for them.

“So we’re flying out to (Los Angeles) so I was like, ‘Oh, maybe something good will happen from the trip,’” President said.

The pair were also told that Cheerios would be donating another $10,000 to Ashley Ridge High, thanks to the students’ inspirational example to desire to enter the education field and the company’s partnership “to encourage acts of good,” the release said.

‘Be the change’

The seniors, along with four other classmates, are also starting a movement to inspire minority students and give them “a sense of belonging,” according to President. He said while the initiative doesn’t yet have an official name, its leaders are spreading the question “What’s your passion?”

Whether students’ are pushing for a future that includes college, the military or some other successful path, President explained the group’s goal is to “inspire people to do beyond their circumstances.”

“We are starting this initiative for minorities in the education system of South Carolina to show representation for people of the same color — Hispanics and blacks,” President said.

President credited Ashley Ridge High teacher Victoria Merritt with serving as “a shining example” for the seniors, all of whom plan to major in education. Merritt teaches H{span}onors Economics and AP Microeconomics and is also a teacher cadet.

President revealed that it was a shocking study he heard from a College of Charleston professor that better opened his eyes to the public education system’s need for more minority teachers. He explained that according to the study, minority students are more likely to graduate if by third grade they’ve had at least one teacher of the same ethnicity.

For President, who’s black, his first black teacher was his sixth-grade writing teacher. Since then he said he’s only had one other black teacher, though many others have mentored him throughout his schooling without serving as one of his official teachers. It’s because of the positive influence of educators in his own life that’s prompted President to follow in their footsteps.

“I’ve always had a calling on my life to help people, and I believe teachers greatly impact people,” he said.

The study also showed him that students spend more time daily with their teachers than parents, offering teachers a critical opportunity to shape young minds. Because President said some teachers negatively affect youth, he and his teen counterparts seek to make a positive difference.

“We want to be the change,” President said. “Everybody’s always talking about the negative. ...We want to actually be the positive movement.”

The group plans to visit classrooms across the Lowcountry and state to meet and talk to students. They also hope to establish a special Tri-county conference for their effort.