Letter to recipients from Laurelle Maubert ’25 on ‘choosing joy’ by accepting the Morehead-Cain

Blog | February 16, 2022

Dear Morehead-Cain Recipients,

First, let me start by saying something I’m sure you’ve heard a lot in recent days: Congratulations! You have put in an incredible amount of work, and your dedication has paid off. You should be proud of yourself. I’m certainly proud of you.

I’m not sure where you are in your decision process. Considering your talents, you likely have other offers from schools begging to have you. Regardless of where you are, I’d like to share some of my experiences as a member of the Morehead-Cain Class of 2025. I hope this letter can provide you with some clarity in what is likely one of the most significant decisions of your life thus far.

While everyone has a different reason for why they decided to take the scholarship, I knew that if I received the Morehead-Cain, I would take it—no questions asked.

I remember the rush of excitement as I threw open my laptop to see the “Congratulations!” on the status update. I remember screaming so loud that my dad, who had just gotten home from work, could hear me from the first floor of our house (for reference, my family lives in a townhouse with four floors).

I remember thinking to myself, “This is it. This is the happiest moment of my life.” I received the paperwork four days later and sent it back in the mail that same evening.

Part of committing to the Morehead-Cain Scholarship means choosing where you would like to go for Outdoor Leadership, the first of your four Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) experiences. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices.

I decided to take the Morehead-Cain NOLS Alaska course, a 25-day backpacking trip throughout the state. I figured this would be an opportunity to meet some new friends and get to know some of the people I’d be in school with for the next four years.

I heard back about a week later, letting me know that the trip was a go. I couldn’t have been more excited. It felt like everything was falling perfectly into place–a much-needed change after a difficult four years of high school.

I had hoped that after this fantastic news, it would be smooth sailing to graduation. Well, my ship got caught in a violent storm. In the last month of my senior year, I was hit with a health scare. Although there ended up being nothing wrong with my physical health, the situation sent my mental health spiraling.

I spent my last days of high school facing crippling anxiety instead of the High School Musical-like joy I had expected to feel. This forced me to miss some of the fun events I had looked forward to for years.

These challenges had my family and I wondering if I would be able to go to Alaska or even start school in the fall. At one point, I considered taking a gap year to allow myself time to recover. (Side note: Even if you aren’t struggling mentally, I am BEGGING you to consider taking a gap year. If you don’t, you will have to watch your friends post all the cool things they do during their gap year on Instagram. Trust me, it’s not fun.)

Thankfully, I was able to get the help I needed and began to heal from the pain. I finally felt like myself again and was in the right headspace to go to Alaska. I remember not being able to sleep the night before I left for the airport because of how excited I was. The trip not only symbolized a new wilderness adventure, something I had never done before, but also that I was finally in a mentally healthy place.

Trust me when I say that trip was the most incredible 25 days of my life. I learned so much about the planet we call home through the beautiful scenery, overcoming the physical challenge of hiking with a 50-pound backpack, and summoning inner strength during challenging moments.

But what made that trip special was the people. There were 15 of us total, and by the time we finished that trip, we had bonded on such an intimate level. I had never grown so close to a group of people in such a short time. Funny how living in tents together can speed up that process!

NOLS has a tradition called hot seats, where at every nightly meeting at the campsite, someone shares their life story. On the very last night of our trip, it was time for my hot seat. Our camp had the most beautiful view of Denali mountain glowing in the sunset.

Throughout the weeks, I watched my friends share their stories and talk openly about some of their most vulnerable and trying times. It inspired me to open up about the challenges I had faced throughout my life and become vulnerable in a way I never had before.

After sharing my story, including the health challenge I had just overcome, all 15 of my friends came up to me and gave me the biggest, warmest hugs I’ve ever received. And then, I realized something. Although I thought the moment I got the Morehead-Cain would be the happiest moment of my life, I was wrong. Because that moment in Alaska, where I felt entirely accepted and loved in the arms of my new friends, was the most happiness I have felt, even with all my bug bites and sunburns.

The best part is that our group’s connections didn’t just end after the course. We got to carry them with us to Chapel Hill, where we get to spend four years together. We still meet up with each other all the time and continue to maintain incredible, close friendships. We have continued making beautiful memories together.

It goes without saying that the Morehead-Cain Scholarship offers world-class opportunities that are nearly impossible to find anywhere else. But beyond the scholarship, the network, and the summer experiences, what truly makes this Program special is the people.

Should you decide to take the Morehead-Cain, you will join a community of people that will make you feel joy that is 1,000 times greater than the moment you got your acceptance letter.

As I said earlier, you are probably weighing offers from other universities and programs. When making your decisions, I hope you consider not just the opportunities provided—and the Foundation offers many—but the community you will join. I promise you that by choosing Morehead-Cain, you are choosing something special. You are choosing joy.

Once again, congratulations, and I hope to welcome you to the Morehead-Cain community soon.

Your friend,

More about the author

Laurelle Maubert ’25 of Frederick, Maryland, covers the alumni beat for the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team, with a focus on law and politics.

The first-year scholar graduated in spring 2021 from Saint James School in Hagerstown. In high school, she served as the policy coordinator for March For Our Lives Maryland, where she led the organization in advocating for gun reform and legislation. In 2020, she participated in the Democracy Summer Fellowship for Congressman Jamie Raskin, learning about political organizing and campaigning.

Laurelle plans to pursue a double major in business and French and minor in philosophy, politics, & economics (PPE) at Carolina.