Ellen screenshot

Darius Smith (left) and Jaheim President leapt up out of their seats after finding out that Jaheim had been accepted to the College of Charleston. The two seniors at Ashley Ridge High also accepted $20,000 checks to help pay for their education. Jaheim will be a first-generation college student. Screenshot

Two high school seniors from Summerville were greeted with huge applause and more than a few tears from the crowd on Tuesday's episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" as they found out they were getting a full ride — and then some — to attend the College of Charleston this fall.

Jaheim President and Darius Smith told DeGeneres they want to be educators. Both students have participated in Ashley Ridge High School's teacher cadet program, which is recruiting future teachers during a statewide educator shortage.

Their first surprise came when DeGeneres opened Jaheim's college acceptance letter on the air.

Darius had already been accepted, but Jaheim was waiting in suspense.

"My mom, she went to tech school and she couldn't finish because she had me and she had my sister, so this would mean a lot for me to show her that 'Hey, Mom, I've got it,'" Jaheim said.

"For me, it would just mean beating the odds. My whole life, it would have been easy to take the other route, you know, but it shows me it's not what you go through in life, it's how you react to what you go through," Darius said.

Darius told DeGeneres he would be the first person in his family to attend college; Jaheim said he would be the first man in his family to attend without playing football.

The surprises kept coming as DeGeneres told the two students that the College of Charleston was going to cover the full cost of their tuition. "Ellen" and Cheerios, a corporate sponsor, also handed each student a check for $20,000 and another check to their high school for $10,000.

Darius said he wanted to teach partly because his father was absent while he was growing up.

"For the kids, I want to be what I didn't see when I was growing up," Darius said.

Victoria Merritt, the teacher cadet instructor at Ashley Ridge, was in the audience during the show's taping in Los Angeles. The students gave a shout-out to their teacher, who returned the credit when the camera turned to her.

"They make it easy because they are awesome young men," Merritt said, "and they're going to do great things in the classroom for our future students."

"Ellen" airs daily at 4 p.m. on WCIV ABC television. 

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Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546. Follow him on Twitter @paul_bowers.

Paul Bowers is an education reporter and father of three living in North Charleston. He previously worked at the Charleston City Paper, where he was twice named South Carolina Journalist of the Year in the weekly category.