Jeffrey Warren, 17, said he was left in an awkward position after the Martin Luther King Senior Citizens Club awarded him the scholarship not knowing he was not black. Warren was announced the winner at a school awards night last month, but a hush, followed by laughter came from the audience when Warren got up to receive the award.
"It was kind of funny at first, everyone was laughing. They announced it for an African American, they saw me walk up," Warren said.
Warren said that when he applied for the scholarship, it only stated that African-American students were encouraged to apply.
King High School Principal Darel Hansen said the organization's cover letter did state race was a factor, but that information had been left off the application and was not requested when he applied.
"A situation like this, the information where the scholarship was designated for an African-American student, that information was not online for him to see. So he wasn't aware of it until the night he won the award," Hansen said.
Warren said he could have used the scholarship but still returned it.
"I knew they were trying to do a good deed for the African-American community," Warren said. "I had no trouble giving it back to them at all."
Some Riverside residents say Warren should have kept the scholarship because of his academic achievements.
"It's like some form of racism, if you will," said Roland Banks of Riverside. "If your grades prove it and your credentials work out, then it shouldn't matter."