Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Johnston is 48th Morehead Scholar
May 3, 2018

For Helen Johnston ’18 (Park City, Utah), accepting the Morehead-Cain Scholarship from the University of North Carolina was an easy decision.

But it wasn’t because her mother, Sarah Urban Johnston ’81, was a Morehead Scholar. Or Culver’s long history of sending graduates to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill as part of the scholarship program.

What attracted Johnston to the Morehead and Chapel Hill was how she felt valued while going through the scholarship process. From the time she applied in early October to the announcement on April 27, Johnston believed in two things: the values of North Carolina and the Morehead-Cain program and that she would be valued as a contributing member of that community.

She becomes the 48th Morehead-Cain Scholar since Jack Mitzell ’12 and Caleb Jadrich ’13 attended UNC in back-to-back years. The Morehead Class of 2022 totals 79 students. Only 29 are from out-of-state and six are international students. She is undecided on a major at this time, saying she will take a variety of classes and “see what resonates with me.”

Johnston said her mother suggested she apply to UNC and the Morehead, but did not push it. She liked what the Morehead program offered, but added that she really didn’t think she would be selected. The process starts with the application in early October and ends with the announcement in late April. Johnston was informed earlier and had to let the committee know she would accept the scholarship in mid-April.

I felt like they would value me based on what I could become.

She is looking forward to living in Chapel Hill. It is the farthest south she has ever been. “I had never been any farther south than southern Illinois before,” she laughed. If everything goes as well as her personal interview trip, she said, it should be a great experience.

Whatever she decides to major in, Johnston believes she will be supported in her decision. She has talked with Mitzell about his experience and he confirmed that. She added that being supported based on her potential and not what she has already done was another important factor in her decision to accept the scholarship. “I felt like they would value me based on what I could become,” Johnston said.

And what is Johnston taking away from Culver?

“Culver taught me not to be afraid to stand up for what I believe in and how to cultivate a passion for something,” she said. “Culver showed me that although there will always be people who criticize you, there will also always be many others who have your back, and their encouragement is a thousand times louder than the criticism.”

That belief “made me stand out in the (Morehead) interviews, because I was able to show the committee how I succeeded, but more importantly, how I had failed and what I had learned.”

Johnston’s impact at Culver will be felt for some time. She founded the Women’s Rights Awareness Program (WARP), which meets semi-monthly and also volunteers at local domestic abuse shelters. She also organized Culver’s first TEDx program this winter and was president of the Model UN.

Since its founding in 1945, the Morehead-Cain has been a model for countless merit scholarships throughout the United States. The scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study at UNC, and features a distinctive program of summer enrichment experiences. Over four summers, scholars have the opportunity to complete an outdoor leadership course, carry out public service in the United States or abroad, conduct research at sites across the world, and gain experience in private enterprise.

The summer enrichment program, designed to broaden each scholar’s experience and worldview, is complemented during the academic year by a Discovery Fund that encourages deeper exploration of a particular interest. From attending development conferences in Geneva to shadowing emergency room doctors in Boston, Morehead-Cain Scholars are given the resources to pursue educational opportunities wherever they find them.

As set out in the program’s founding documents, selection criteria for the Morehead-Cain are leadership, academic achievement, moral force of character, and physical vigor. Morehead-Cain recipients are chosen solely on the basis of merit and accomplishment, not financial need.

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