West Johnston High School senior Melanie Langness has been named a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Morehead-Cain is hard to win, with fewer than 3 percent of each year's nominees selected as Morehead-Cain Scholars. High school seniors demonstrating exceptional impact and academic achievement are eligible for the scholarship. Nominees come from North Carolina and schools across the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries
At the end of February, Langness competed against 126 other finalists on the UNC campus. Nominees attended classes, panels, a formal banquet and a final set of two 20-minute interviews with six judges.
The four-day weekend gave Langness the chance to get a glimpse into her future.
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“Finals weekend was amazing,” she said. “Meeting the other finalists gave me the opportunity to make new friends, talk about interesting subjects with some incredibly intelligent people. Attending classes and panels ... gave me a feel of what college is going to be like and a taste of the unbelievable opportunities the scholarship entails.”
Langness received notice March 6 that she won the scholarship.
“I was feeling unconfident about my chances of getting the scholarship, so when I clicked on the application and saw congratulations, I choked up and started crying hysterically,” she said. “Once I calmed down, I casually walked into my mom’s room and told her she didn’t have to pay for college. Then I cried some more.”
According to its website, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship looks for students for whom knowledge is about more than grades and test scores and for whom learning is an appetite rather than a means to an end.
Langness is currently second in her senior class at West Johnston, where she is vice president of the senior class and editor of the student newspaper. Her plans include majoring in journalism and global studies. She wants to correctly present the cultural implications behind current events.
Langness is most excited about the summer enrichment opportunities that the scholarship provides.
“My first summer is outdoor leadership,” she said. “Right now I am considering the option of backpacking in the Canadian Yukon for 30 days. It will be surreal to have all these opportunities for travel and personal growth. I have never been out of the country before.”
“It’s a dream come true,” she added.
Principal Paula Coates said she wasn’t surprised. “Melanie is a strong student with very high standards for academic success and, more importantly, personal integrity,” she said. “I am very proud of her and excited for her to have earned this opportunity that will continue to benefit her in life’s journey.”