O'Neal's Gregory Wins Morehead
Nine months ago, Jessica Gregory didn't know what being a Morehead-Cain Scholar meant. Now she will find out firsthand.
Gregory, a senior at The O'Neal School, has accepted a Morehead-Cain Schol-arship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is one of 79 U.S. high school students -- including 42 from North Carolina -- who have been awarded this honor.
The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dan Gregory of Rockingham, she is an accomplished soccer player and active member of her church. She is also a Duke TIP student, Headmaster's Achievement Award winner, Advanced Placement Scholar, and is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Key Club and O'Neal Volunteers. She even started a school newspaper at O'Neal.
But nothing compares to the rigors of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship selection process.
"That is a whole other level of stress," she said.
One of two nominees from O'Neal for the scholarship, Gregory went through six different interviews during the selection process. During the final round of interviews, which were held on the UNC campus, she got a crash course in being a Morehead-Cain scholar.
"It was four days of, 'This is what your life will be like if you get this,'" she said. "This is what you will do, this is what you won't do.'"
O'Neal Headmaster John Neiswander said Gregory is a deserving recipient.
"She demonstrates every aspect of a well-rounded young adult with high goals for achievement and the willingness to make a difference in the world," he said. "Our O'Neal School family is very proud of Jessica."
Gregory is the second Morehead Scholar from The O'Neal School, and the second from a Moore County school in as many years. Helen Pringle Holmberg, a 1997 graduate, was the first recipient from O'Neal. Union Pines graduate Stampley Walden was a Morehead Scholar in 2007.
Among the largest and most competitive scholarship programs in the United States, the Morehead-Cain pays all expenses for four years of undergraduate study, including the cost of a laptop computer and four summer enrichment experiences.
The value of the scholarship is about $80,000 for in-state students and $140,000 for out-of-state students.
Gregory said seeing the looks on her parents' faces when she told them she had been offered the scholarship was the best part of the whole process.
"Part of going to O'Neal was to get a (college) scholarship," she said. "Now it was like I could go to my dad and say, 'Here's $104,000.'"
She credits her parents, her brother, Ryan, 14, and her friends, along with the headmaster, teachers and staff at O'Neal for pushing her.
"O'Neal is big on keeping you focused and organized, and keeping you under a certain amount of pressure," Gregory said.
Gregory, who has also been accepted into the Honors Program at UNC, plans to major in economics and aspires to be a corporate attorney.
The Morehead Scholarship and Morehead Foundation were renamed in February 2007 after the foundation received a $100 million grant from the Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation of Houston.
This year's winners, announc-ed last month by the Morehead-Cain Foundation trustees, were selected through a nomination and interview process that began last fall. More than 1,500 high school seniors were nominated by their high schools or applied for the Morehead-Cain.
"This year's applicant pool was one of the strongest ever," said Charles E. Lovelace Jr., executive director of the foundation. "We are very pleased to select the 2008 scholars from such an accomplished and inspiring group of high school seniors."
Selection is based on leadership, academic achievement, moral force of character and physical vigor. Morehead-Cain recipients are chosen based on merit and accomplishments, not financial need. Winners have until April 14 to accept the scholarship.
Instituted as the first nonathletic merit scholarship program in the country, the Morehead-Cain has evolved into an experiential learning program with lifelong expectations, Lovelace said. The distinguishing feature of the scholarship is its summer enrichment programs, which provide global hands-on leadership and problem-solving experiences in four areas: outdoor leadership, public service, private enterprise and international research.
"Morehead-Cain Scholars are challenged to make a perpetual commitment to lifelong personal growth through hard work, discipline, humility and compassion," Lovelace said. "We expect scholars to be leaders and agents of change, both on campus and in their local and global communities."
Currently, 187 Morehead-Cain Scholars study on campus, making contributions in many areas of university life. Among them are the executive director of Students for Students Inter-national and the membership and outreach coordinators for the Campus Y social justice organization.
In the past six years, six Morehead Scholars have won Rhodes Scholarships to England's Oxford University, one of the world's most competitive and prestigious awards for graduate study.
Of 26 Rhodes recipients from UNC since the first Morehead Scholars graduated from Carolina in 1957, 23 have been Morehead scholars.
When asked about possible advice for rising seniors, Gregory said it is important to work hard, prioritize and take time to relax whenever possible.
"You will get it all done," Jessica said. "Try to find some time in there to relax. If you don't, you'll have a migraine for four months. Don't try to get in the best school, but rather the one that fits you best."
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2473 or by e-mail at tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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