A group of students surround an installation (four letters that read ”D-E-A-S”) on the grass. There are mountains and trees behind them. All of are smiling.

Bezos Scholars at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

The Morehead-Cain Foundation is partnering with the College Advising Corps (CAC) and the Bezos Scholars Program (BSP) to introduce more outstanding high school seniors into the Program’s selection process. Both nonprofits have nominated a cohort of eligible candidates to apply for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and, if selected, attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beginning next fall.

Each year 17 exceptional public high school juniors and an educator from each of their schools are selected as Bezos Scholars. Participants are chosen from across the United States and the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a year-long leadership development program. Those selected receive mentorship, college advising, and $1,000 in funding to launch a community change project that seeks to make a social impact in their hometowns.

The Bezos Scholars Program was founded in 2005 by Mike and Jackie Bezos to elevate youth voice and leadership. The organization, funded and operated by the Bezos Family Foundation, also partners with The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization whose mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values.

Chris Plutte, the managing director of Adolescent Programming at the Bezos Family Foundation, said serving as a nominating partner with Morehead-Cain will help “amplify diverse young learners” throughout the country.

“Generative leadership from young people will carry us all to a brighter, more equitable future, and we can always do more to support students when we partner together,” said Plutte, who oversees the BSP.

The BSP kicks off with an all-expenses-paid experience for students and educators at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The week-long event allows Bezos Scholars to engage in unique leadership training sessions, discuss critical issues with thought leaders from many sectors, and build connections with peers and participants from around the world.

A first-generation college graduate, Elizabeth Herrera (left) high fives her college-bound student, Leslie Arenas-Ramirez. Herrera, a College Advising Corps adviser at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, helps low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school seniors navigate the complex college application process.

Helping at-promise youth realize their potential through “near-peer” advisers

The College Advising Corps seeks to expand access to higher education for low-income, underrepresented high school students. With a focus on increasing the number of first-generation college students, the organization places recent college graduates from partnering universities as full-time college advisers in high schools throughout the country. (As many high schools and universities remain closed from COVID-19, CAC has transitioned to a fully online advising model).

High schools partnering with CAC increase college enrollment by an average of 10 percent and increase scholarship funding by $1 million within the first year of partnership, according to Gregory Nicholson, chief program officer for CAC.

“Our role is to help students gain access to the opportunities they have earned, and we are thrilled to join with Morehead-Cain as a nominating partner so that more students can experience the transformative power of higher education.”

In the 2019—2020 academic year, CAC assisted with 200,000 high school seniors nationwide with college enrollment applications and FAFSA submissions. The organization partnered with 30 higher education institutions in 17 states to help students secure more than $1.4 billion in financial aid to pursue higher education.

Morehead-Cain’s executive director, Chuck Lovelace ’77, said the partnerships with CAC and BSP will open more pathways for young leaders to receive an enriching college education and experience debt-free, as well as the full support of more than 3,200 living alumni to help them achieve their aspirations.

“Our nominating affiliates are key in our effort to continuously broaden access to our selection process and program,” Lovelace said. “Both the College Advising Corps and the Bezos Scholars Program are tireless advocates in supporting students of all backgrounds to pursue their dreams through educational opportunities, and we look forward to advancing our collective mission to develop the next generation of leaders together.”

Morehead-Cain, Carolina connections

Following a successful pilot project in 2005 at the University of Virginia, CAC moved its headquarters to UNC-Chapel Hill two years later to partner with the University and 10 other higher education partners.

With support from Carolina’s senior leadership, CAC launched the Carolina College Advising Corps to increase college-going rates for in-state, rural, and urban high schools. The Corps partner has close to 60 “near-peer” advisers who serve students in 78 schools in North Carolina.

Sophia Figueroa, the program coordinator for Scholar Advising at Morehead-Cain, is a former college advisor through the Carolina CAC. She worked at Manteo High School in Manteo and Cape Hatteras Secondary School in Buxton from 2017 through 2019. She joined Morehead-Cain’s team in August of 2019.

Matt Queen ’19, who graduated with degrees in economics and political science from Carolina, is a college adviser for J. M. Morehead High School. Originally known as the “Tri-City High School,” the public school in Eden, North Carolina, was renamed in 1958 in honor of philanthropist John Motley Morehead III, the founder of what would become the Morehead-Cain Scholarship.

At the Aspen Institute, Thomas Cluderay ’07 is the associate general counsel of the nonprofit.

The Foundation partners with 18 local, regional, national, and international programs. Learn more about nominating schools and programs.