Ellen Surprises Black Teen Who Was Told To Cut Dreadlocks With $20,000 Scholarship

Ellen DeGeneres surprised DeAndre Arnold, a black Texas high school student who was told he won’t be allowed to return to school or attend his graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks, with a $20,000 scholarship during his appearance on “Ellen” this week.

During Wednesday’s episode, Arnold said that he had been suspended from school by the Barbers Hill Independent School District (ISD) in Mont Belvieu, Texas, for refusing to cut his hair in compliance with the district’s hair length policy.

“Let’s say you want to go back to school tomorrow. What happens?” DeGeneres asked him.

“So, if I go back to school tomorrow, my only options are in school suspension or alternative school,” the 18-year-old responded, adding: “Alternative school is where all the kids that have behavioral issues, sell drugs, fight all the time.”

“Like I wish the best for them and I know they have good qualities in them,” he continued. “But I don’t deserve to be grouped with them.”

“No,” DeGeneres agreed. “You have good grades. You don’t do drugs. You don’t do any of that.”

“And they won’t allow you to walk in graduation, which is the biggest – you get that far through school, and you want to walk graduation,” she continued.

“Like, I’ve worked for this all my life. I’ve strived for this. I deserve this moment, to walk across stage and enter into life. My parents deserve this. Like, they’re the ones who, you know, they got me through anything. And you know, they just taught me everything. They deserve to see me walk across the stage,” Arnold said.

DeGeneres made an on-camera plea to the Texas school district, urging them to “do the right thing,” before surprising Arnold with a $20,000 scholarship from Shutterfly that was presented to him by Alicia Keys.

“I want to tell you that, I couldn’t believe the story when I heard it,” the singer told Arnold. “And I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing.”

During his interview with DeGeneres on Wednesday, Arnold said his hair is “really important” to him because his father is from Trinidad.

“It’s part of our culture and our heritage,” he said. “And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures, and just at least let us try to tell you some things. Don’t just shut us out.”