It’s not every day that a graduating high school senior is left stunned by their commencement speaker, but that is exactly how William Smith felt as he listened to Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia address Brookwood High School’s Class of 2022 on Wednesday night.

Gebbia, who himself graduated from Brookwood in 2000, was invited to speak at the school’s graduation ceremony. During his speech, he announced a big surprise for the graduating class: He was giving 22 shares of Airbnb stock to every member of Brookwood’s Class of 2022 to help them get their future off to a solid start.

“We were listening to his speech and I was like, ‘He’s a good speaker, he’s a funny guy, he really seems to get us,’ and then he announced that and I was in shock,” said Smith, 18, who will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point in the fall. “To come back to his hometown high school and just be so generous.

“It’s not the generosity that shocked me, but it shocked me that he was giving so much back to us, to every single one of us.”

Gebbia’s donation of the stock, worth millions of dollars collectively, to the students has generated a lot of attention for the school. The announcement actually came at the end of his speech, where he recounted his efforts in 2000 to pull off what he felt would be the ultimate senior prank on Brookwood.

He told the graduates that he wanted the stock to serve as investment in their futures and their dreams.

“I definitely don’t remember the advice that I was given at my graduation and I don’t expect you to either,” Gebbia told the graduates. “So, I thought of a way to help you remember. I would like to give you a piece of my dream to help inspire yours and let you know that it is possible.

“I’m giving each of you a few of my shares in Airbnb stock. It’s just a handful of shares, 22 seems appropriate. Everyone will get the same amount.”

The stock adds up to a lot of money for the graduating students — each share was worth $110.40 at the end of trading on Wednesday, according to Google.

In other words, Gebbia is gifting each graduate with about $2,428.80 worth of stock.

There were about 890 seniors graduating from the school this spring. That means Gebbia donated about $2.16 million in Airbnb stock to the Class of 2022.

Smith, who was the senior class secretary for Brookwood’s Class of 2022, said he is still trying to figure out what he will do with his stock. He said his grandfather is big on the stock market so he may turn to him for some advice on the investment.

“Everybody right now is still amazed and in shock that he gave such a generous gift to us,” Smith said. “People haven’t really thought long term. People are just like, ‘Wow, he came back and was just so generous.’ Talk about not forgetting your roots.”

This isn’t the first time Gebbia has given something back to his alma mater during the 2021-2022 school year.

This past November, he donated $700,000 to the school to not only create, but also fund, the Joe Gebbia Visual Arts Endowment. That money will also help provide immersive resources to the school’s athletes (Gebbia, himself, ran cross country and was a visual arts student when he attended Brookwood).

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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