Morehead-Cain Scholar: Layan Q.

With the year’s end looming, many upperclassmen anxiously await scholarship results. Layan Q. was one of these stressed students until Wednesday, February 16, when she was announced as a winner of the University of North Carolina’s Morehead-Cain Scholarship.

The Morehead-Cain Scholarship is awarded to a select group of academically prestigious applicants who demonstrate leadership, character, and physical vigor. The scholarship includes full tuition and fees, as well as funding for summer enrichment programs and extracurricular activities. 

After hearing about the scholarship through Apex staff, Layan did some surface-level research before deciding to apply. She claims, initially, she did not grasp the magnitude of what she was applying for or the lengthy application process. A few weeks later, she was elated to receive an email informing her that she was a school nominee, a feeling which only grew in the coming weeks when she was notified that she was a candidate. As she continued through the ranks, the tensions grew, until finally, the decision came out on Wednesday. “I was able to find peace before the scholarship came out through my faith. I knew that no matter what happened, it was what was best for me. I remember truly connecting with my faith and myself ten minutes before the results came out. But the feeling I got when I found out I had received the scholarship is indescribable.” Even after her success, Layan remained humble and appreciative, hardly believing the moment to be real. “I made my mother read it over and over to make sure I was reading right… I received immense support and happiness from my family, friends, and teachers.”

Layan describes the process as rigorous. “The first part of the application process was receiving the nomination through an application and interview…The next step was writing my application consisting of three long essays, three short essays, a portfolio, describing my extracurriculars, a ‘beyond the labels’ section describing other projects…After submitting the application, the next step was becoming a semi-finalist and completing an asynchronous interview.” 

Throughout the process, the applicant strived to describe her background as a Muslim woman and a Palestinian. Layan is passionate about her people and their fight for freedom, stating, “They smile even through the greatest hardships. They fight when hope has been almost lost. And they tell the world that they still exist. The Middle East is full of strong people and people I want to be like and give back to. I am passionate about my identity and who I am through my ethnicity and religion and I always want to give back to the people in war-torn areas, in my war-torn area, that inspires me.” The scholar’s connection to her home country also plays a key role in her future. With the assistance of the scholarship, Layan hopes to give back to this crucial pillar in her identity. “Ever since moving to the United States, I knew I wanted to do one thing. And that is to give back to my community in Palestine. To be able to use the opportunities I was given to give back to those that don’t have the same opportunities. My goals as of now are to work towards providing Palestinians with human rights in my home city of Jerusalem, in the West Bank and Gaza, refugees outside, and in the Middle East as a whole. Not only do I want to work towards Palestinian rights, but other minorities in solidarity through connecting our struggles. As of now, my goal is to become a human rights activist and work to create change in the bigger sense. As I am still deciding what path to take either through law, journalism, medicine, etc. I want to keep my goals and values straight.”

Layan hopes that her actions will leave lasting positive impressions as she fights for change in her community. With the heights that she hopes to reach, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship will provide the assistance needed to make change. Her message to future applicants is, “It is not about what you do, but about the impact you leave and the impact you are going to make.”

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