Selection Process

Expanding Morehead-Cain’s Reach

Scholarship recipients at the 2023 Discovery Weekend.

Over almost eight decades, Morehead-Cain has built a strong legacy of attracting emerging young leaders of exceptional talent with diverse interests throughout the state of North Carolina, the nation, and the world.

And while this foundation is a solid one to launch from, it does not stop the Foundation’s Recruitment and Selections team from coming up with thoughtful plans to more effectively identify and secure a class of scholars each year.

We know that to fulfill Morehead-Cain’s mission of identifying dynamic, purpose-driven leaders, we must ensure that students throughout North Carolina can fully engage in our process. We also know that many applicants begin the process but do not complete it.

Thus, one of the challenges faced by Recruitment and Selections was to understand why some applicants from North Carolina were beginning applications but not completing them.

Hitting the road

To better understand this situation, the team embarked on a listening campaign, traveling to dozens of high schools throughout the state. The road trip concentrated on eastern and western North Carolina in predominantly rural counties.*

Recruitment and Selections met with high school principals, counselors, and other staff members, and they attended award ceremonies for scholarship recipients.

Ann Smith, assistant director of recruitment and selection, highlighted a frequently mentioned issue, which revolves around the insufficient allocation of resources and staff in many schools.

It is evident that high school counselors often have a broad array of responsibilities to manage as they strive to support their students interested in attending college, according to Smith.

“Despite tremendous workloads, these counselors exhibit unwavering dedication to their students. Seeing them pour their time and energy into supporting these young people was truly inspiring,” the assistant director said. Smith visited thirteen schools in five days.

Additional outreach efforts have helped establish pathways for Recruitment and Selections to attend regional counselor meetings throughout the state, providing greater access and opportunity to strengthen relationships with important school partners.

Another commonly cited challenge at the schools was staff churn, resulting in a lack of awareness about the Program, Smith said.

North Carolina public schools began 2023 with more than 5,500 vacancies, or around six percent of all funded positions, according to the latest data available from the State Board of Education’s Department of Public Instruction.**

The team visited with long-time partners that have not had a Morehead-Cain Scholar in a substantial amount of time, such as Kinston High School in Lenoir County.

Derrian Wilson ’27 is the first Morehead-Cain Scholar from Kinston High School since 2000. Wilson is also just the third recipient from Lenoir County Public Schools since 2017.

Another of the visited schools, Jones Senior High School in Jones County, celebrated its first Morehead-Cain Scholar this year. Diamond Te’aunah Moore ’27 of Trenton became the school’s inaugural scholar in April. (Ja’Khari Tajee Bryant ’27 also attended Jones Senior High School before transferring to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.)

Introducing the class of 2027

In April 2023, Morehead-Cain introduced the 60 members of its class of 2027, representing twenty-four North Carolina counties, with sixteen scholars from rural areas.

Although it’s challenging to draw a direct line between outreach and application data, a goal of the visits was to establish and deepen relationships with high schools in a tangible way, said Tim Cheney, director of recruitment and selection.

“We know that there’s talent and potential to be found in all corners in our state, and it’s our hope to strengthen the bridges that connect promising young leaders to the transformative opportunities available through Morehead-Cain,” he said.

Recruitment and Selections also hosted a series of informational webinars ahead of the next selection cycle, and the team set the groundwork for the first Open House event for North Carolina students and their families. The event took place in fall 2023 and provided an opportunity for 155 students to learn more about the scholar experience.

Impact Educators Initiative

As an extension of its school engagement efforts, Morehead-Cain launched the Impact Educators Initiative in May, which celebrates educators whose care, attention, and challenge shape tomorrow’s leaders, said Chris Bradford, president of Morehead-Cain.

The honorees were recognized by Morehead-Cain Scholars and high school students who were semifinalists for the scholarship.

“Through the Impact Educator Initiative, we want to show our gratitude for educators whose work has a transformative impact on our society,” Bradford said.

Of course, Morehead-Cain Alumni are at the center of the success of Recruitment and Selections, with more than 434 serving on the selection committee and many others supporting these efforts.

As with everything at Morehead-Cain, we are stronger together. Thank you for supporting the next generation of leaders!

*A county is classified as “rural” if the population density comprises 250 people per square mile or less, according to the NC Rural Center’s 2023 report.
**Data according to the “2021–2022 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina” report by the State Board of Education’s Department of Public Instruction.

Facts and Stats

North Carolina counties represented in the incoming class
nominating schools and affiliates

Scholar Journeys

The path to becoming a Morehead-Cain is as unique as each scholar. The path beyond is one’s own to chart. Learn more about the senior class of 2023 and their plans. Read more >