Written by Avery Parkinson ‘22. Avery and Sophia have been friends since 2012 and they have written about each other to encourage others to apply for North American scholarships.

It was 7:00 pm and I was sitting in my basement watching Modern Family when a text message lit up my phone. “GUYS,” it said. I clicked into the notification to a group chat I was a part of with one of my best friends Sophia Moloo. “I GOT THE MOREHEAD-CAIN”.

When I read this message typed all in caps, I may have freaked out a little bit. The Morehead-Cain scholarship is the first merit-based scholarship program established in the United States at the first public university founded in the United States, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It covers four years of undergraduate expenses as well as four unique summer experiences and the potential for an international gap year.

Students awarded the scholarship are driven, courageous and inquisitive leaders eager to embrace new and unknown experiences. It is a program “proven to develop leaders within a structure that is intentionally nimble. [They] provide a net, then let scholars go, giving them the trust and freedom to pursue their own interests, mine their own potential, determine their own sphere of influence, and make their own impact”. 

Typically about 75 Grade 12 students are chosen from the program from North Carolina and internationally, putting the acceptance rate at about 3%. This year, only four Canadian students were selected, with Sophia being one of them.

When I read this text message, I recalled a few moments from the selection process that had started at the beginning of our Grade 12 year. In the fall, we sat in the library as Sophia put the finishing touches on her written application. By December, she found out that she was a semi-finalist and during many homeroom periods, squeezed in interviews in the guidance office between classes. In mid-January, when we were briefly doing remote learning, she found out she made it as a finalist, and at the beginning of February, had her final selections weekend. Typically an in-person event, this weekend is dedicated to learning about the Morehead-Cain, meeting other candidates, seeing the Chapel Hill Campus, and listening to presentations from alum. 

It was the alum presentations, Sophia said, that were the most interesting. All of them were doing such high-level things. There were congresspeople and Rhodes scholars to startup founders and CEOs. They weren’t just careers that seem impressive but are critically thought out and intrinsically motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, and that came through in the interviews. Even Sophia’s dad Hussein, who can be notoriously difficult to impress (in the best possible way of course), agreed that they all just seemed like really good people.

So I was super excited for Sophia. Since I became friends with her when we started Grade three in 2012, I have come to appreciate just how well-rounded of a person she is. Yes, she excels academically, but more importantly, her intelligence extends to an ability to critically think, consider different perspectives when they are put forth, and appreciate the implications of a situation many wouldn’t at first glance. Paired with this thoroughness is an exceptional friendliness that has made her a great leader as Head Student. Sophia has always been one to talk to people and make them feel comfortable in a new environment. Of course, she doesn’t have it all figured out, but she makes the process of attempting to learn endearing. After hearing about her selection weekend, I was optimistic that she would join a community of people who were engaged and intrinsically motivated, just like her.

After Sophia found out that she won the scholarship, she went down to UNC to meet the other scholars. They watched one of the famously competitive basketball games between UNC and neighbouring Duke University. When Sophia’s return home was delayed beyond the allotted week, she and a couple of other students stayed in a Morehead-Cain alum’s guesthouse for another 10 days. When I facetimed her, she showed me around and told me about how the alum brought them pastries every morning and board games to keep them occupied. The intellectual and material generosity of the community she would be joining became apparent.

Sophia has always been one to apply herself to learning and causes she finds important. Throughout high school, Sophia has been a student at TKS and a consulting intern at the Catherine Wheel. At Elmwood, she has been a part of the rowing team, started Youth4Youth Club, and organized a UN SDG speaker series and the Future Leaders Conference. The new people and experiences Sophia will encounter as part of this program will be an exciting step in her journey as a continuous learner and contributor to our community.

The deadline for next year’s Morehead-Cain scholarship application is October 1, 2022. Elmwood is a nominating school, so if you are interested in applying, be sure to talk to your guidance counsellor!