Ruddy Green is comfortable with cameras these days. He developed that familiarity over the summer, when a film crew from The Ellen DeGeneres Show followed him and his family as he prepared to enter college, documenting the heady swirl of feelings such as change brings. The crew visited SUNY Broome, too, accompanying Ruddy and his family during Move-In Day at the Student Village and also taking footage of him in class on campus.
Why all the attention?
Green and the entire senior class at Brooklyn’s Summit Academy received four-year scholarships from Walmart, which they learned about during an emotional visit to Ellen’s Los Angeles studio show. The interest doesn’t stop there: Ruddy and five other Summit graduates are the center of a documentary series called Summit that airs each Wednesday on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“When we got on top of the stage, we were so surprised. We didn’t know we would get scholarships,” Ruddy said.
At the moment of the reveal, all the students – Ruddy included – jumped up and down, with ecstatic expressions and tear-filled eyes. “Walking into the Ellen Show, it seemed like a dream,” he remembered. “We knew Ellen was going to introduce us. I was very emotional and nervous at the same time.”
Each week, viewers watch as the six students’ stories unfold. They include Ruddy, now at SUNY Broome; Keanna Pinckney at Corning Community College; Quincy Phillips at SUNY Purchase; and Nyasha Biggs, Sharinel Nunez and Melick Lubin at the University at Albany. All are from the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, a landscape of housing developments and high poverty where only 4 percent of students go on to attend college.
In his segments, Ruddy – the youngest in his family – talks about his special tie to his mom, who is both thrilled that he is pursuing his dreams and tearful to see him go.
Ruddy almost didn’t qualify for the Walmart scholarship. Going into his senior year, he was behind academically and school administrators weren’t sure he would graduate on time. But he pushed hard to bring up his GPA, and is continuing to strive for excellence in the classroom.
“Still to this day I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “It inspired me to work harder. This has just pushed me further to expand on my dreams.”
Green recently had the opportunity to fly back to LA with the other featured graduates and meet Ellen a second time. During the segment, he discussed some of the non-academic challenges of college life – such as learning to do his laundry and clean his room, away from the watchful eye of his mom.
And while there, he received another incredible gift from Walmart: $10,000 to pay for college expenses. During the segment, he gave Ellen a hug – after jumping up and down.
“The whole experience was fun. I honestly didn’t want to leave LA!” Ruddy said of his trips to the studio. “Ellen DeGeneres was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She’s so kind. Going on her talk show was one of the best moments I ever had.”
Coming to SUNY Broome
Ruddy first visited SUNY Broome back in high school, and it made an impression.
“I fell in love with the environment. I wanted to experience life by going to Upstate New York,” he said.
He also appreciated the strength of the college’s Criminal Justice program, and is majoring in that field. Long-term, he hopes to transfer to the University at Albany and become either a lawyer or a criminal investigator.
While he didn’t enroll in time to try out for the soccer team, Ruddy is thoroughly enjoying his time at SUNY Broome and the Student Village, which hosts a wide range of activities, from movies to game nights.
Along the way to college, he learned some important lessons – one of which is the importance of confidence and drive. Don’t be jealous of other’s successes; if you work hard, you can achieve the same, he counseled.
And it’s also important to pay it forward – to help others just like you have been helped.
“I come from a background where it’s not so great. I know kids like me struggle,” he said. “When I get older, I want to help kids like me.”