A Mount Airy High School senior, Anna Andreevna Ilyasova, has been named a Morehead-Cain Scholar.
Originally known as the Morehead Scholarship, the award covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The scholarship program also includes enrichment experiences during the course of four summers which offer opportunities to complete an outdoor leadership course, perform public service in the U.S. or abroad, conduct research at sites worldwide and gain experience in private enterprise.
“I feel really blessed to have this opportunity,” Ilyasova said Thursday.
The Morehead-Cain Scholarship program dates to 1951 and is modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship.
Ilyasova recently was selected as one of 66 Morehead-Cain Scholars for 2017, the only recipient from Surry County.
Born in Russia
The scholarship winner is the daughter of Andrey and Irina Ilyasova. The family moved here around 12 years ago, when she was in first grade.
“I was actually born in Moscow, Russia,” Ilyasova said. “My parents are both from Ukraine.”
After leaving that part of the world, the family lived in New York before coming here.
“My parents are both doctors,” Ilyasova said, explaining that the move to Mount Airy occurred after her father learned about a position at Northern Hospital of Surry County.
“It has been a bit of a culture shock to come from Moscow to New York and then to Mount Airy,” she added, “but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
During her time here, Ilyasova not only became acclimated to “Mayberry,” but has excelled academically and distinguished herself as a leader.
She is the president of the Health Occupations Students of America chapter at Mount Airy High, is president of the school’s Interact Club and is student body vice president. In addition, Ilyasova is an accomplished piano player.
The scholarship winner also is part of the Middle School Mentorship Program at the high school, tutoring and supporting younger students.
Ilyasova doesn’t believe the Morehead-Cain Scholarship would have been possible had she not attended Mount Airy High School, crediting the support she received from local educators. “I really couldn’t tell you specific people,” she said, “there’s so many.”
“I have to say that the Mount Airy Rotary Club has been a huge influence on me,” the student continued, citing its members for their support and basically serving as people “I aspire to be like.”
After winning a Rotary-sponsored essay contest at her school, Ilyasova was able to visit New York City and tour the United Nations complex earlier this year as part of a regional Rotary delegation. She also has participated in a foreign-exchange program of the club.
Ilyasova’s selection for the UNC scholarship did not come easy.
“The application itself was very lengthy,” Ilyasova said, which required her to write essays, among other tasks.
That led to her and other students undergoing semifinalist interviews in Winston-Salem. “Those were actually a lot of fun,” the Mount Airy student said. “We got to work on a group project.”
Then there was a Finalist Weekend at Chapel Hill, which Ilyasova admits caused her some stress beforehand. “Even though it was lengthy, it was a lot of fun,” she said, “and I met a lot of great people.”
Ilyasova then had to play a waiting game while the Morehead-Cain Foundation chose its scholarship winners from among a tremendously qualified field
When she was notified of her selection by email, the local student said she was “shocked,” and expected to get another message saying it was a mistake.
After it finally sunk in that her selection was real, “on the drive home I just started crying,” Ilyasova said, recalling the countless long hours of study and working on projects. “It all led up to this.”
Dr. Kim Morrison, superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools, commented Thursday on the distinction of having a student from the city high school selected for the scholarship:
“It is truly an honor that Mount Airy City Schools would be the home of a Morehead-Cain Scholar this year,” Morrison added.
“This elite scholarship program looks for students who are more than a test score, they must exhibit true character and traits of service that reach beyond the classroom.”
The superintendent believes Ilyasova certainly meets that criteria.
“Anna Ilyasova is a model student who exemplifies everything the Morehead-Cain Scholarship represents and we are proud to have her as one of our own,” Morrison remarked.
“This scholarship announcement represents the great work Anna and her family has done over the years and all of the staff that helped her grow to reach her full potential.”
After graduating from high school this spring, Ilyasova is interested in biology and international relations as fields of study and is considering a career in medicine.
The student plans to minor in business and is eyeing a pre-medicine program as part of plans to get on a “medical track,” she said.
“It’s not set in stone my any means, that’s just what I hope to get into,” Ilyasova said.
She is looking toward a possible career in some non-profit medical capacity, and believes opportunities to travel abroad that the Morehead-Cain Scholarship provides will lay a good foundation for such endeavors. “I would like to study in London.”
Before entering the University of North Carolina, however, Ilyasova will be participating in an Outward Bound program designed to push students physically and mentally through a number of grueling challenges in keeping with Morehead-Cain Scholarship goals:
“This summer I’m going to go backpacking in the High Sierra Mountains for three weeks.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.