Return to Headlines

Hillside High School Senior Named District’s Morehead-Cain Scholar

Author Matshona Dhliwayo once said, “What you pour out into the world is poured right back into you.” Hillside High School Senior Scarlett Bermudez may need a larger cup to receive what is in store for her. The founder of an aspirational organization called Mariposa that aims to sow inspiration and confidence into young Latina girls to support the Latinx community, she has been named the district’s only Morehead-Cain Scholar this year. The achievement provides her a four-year, fully funded academic experience at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

The Morehead-Cain is a competitive scholarship extended to exceptional student leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is the most prestigious scholarship offered by the university. The merit based scholarship recognizes students demonstrating excellence in the areas of leadership, character, scholarship, and/or physical vigor. Recipients of the scholarship receive a full-ride, summer enrichment opportunities, and extra-curricular learning activities.

“As I embark on my journey into college, my aspirations are rooted in creating supportive environments where Latinx individuals can flourish, alongside a steadfast commitment to serving my community through initiatives like Morehead Cain,” says Scarlett.

She envisions earning her Bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a Master’s, and establishing a career as a child psychologist.

“I aim to utilize my education and experiences to make meaningful contributions, particularly in supporting the mental well-being of young people,” she says.

Scarlett’s selflessness is the reason she hadn’t even thought of applying for the coveted award, but her counselor encouraged her to do so. The rest, as they say, is history. Scarlett says she will continue to pursue her dreams.

“What makes me the proudest is the opportunity to represent Latinos, particularly Honduran Americans, on a larger platform as I pursue my college education. Knowing that my family couldn't attend college, I carry their dreams and aspirations with great honor,” she says.


Representing Durham is just as important to her as representing her culture. 


“I take pride in representing the resilience and greatness of the Durham community, showcasing the potential and talent that thrives within it. It's a privilege to carry these identities forward and to contribute positively to the narrative of achievement and success,” she says. 


Mariposa provides a safe place to get nurturing support for academics. Scarlett started Mariposa because she noted the lack of programs available outside of school for Latinx youth.


Scarlett moved to Durham from Chicago, where she experienced living in a tight-knit community and had her first salsa classes at school. She notes that the environment was different here.


“There was a gap,” she says, considering the large number of Hispanic citizens in North Carolina. So she began her work at Hillside.


She volunteers with two clubs there: the Latinx Dance Team and the Latinx Theatre Club.


She also takes the girls to a butterfly atrium to show how caterpillars transform into butterflies, and how that mimics life for them. She said one student told her she was interested in becoming a botanical scientist and wanted to learn more about the discipline. Scarlett has started a Go Fund Me to help expand resources for Mariposa.


Mariposa fosters their growth and development, she says.


She knew that her vision of developing strong leaders was becoming reality when one of her girls, a Honduran native and single mother of a five-year-old, stepped out of her shell to perform a song for the others.


“My life’s journey and who I am now has turned me into a butterfly,” says Scarlett. “I definitely did not start out as a butterfly. As a kid, I suffered from mental illness. I think of myself as a caterpillar when I was younger.”


Scarlett’s work is community driven and spirit-filled, she says. Her aim is to make Mariposa a non-profit organization that centers mental health and youth development.


She says there are three teachers and her college advisor who have been very helpful in her journey to becoming a butterfly: Angelica Guerra and Tara Delgado, both Spanish teachers, and, Christian Carrera, her College Advisor.

Carrera agrees that Bermudez will need a larger cup to enjoy the reciprocity she will earn as she continues her upward trajectory and servant leadership.

“Scarlett has shown impressive initiative and dedication to bettering her community and it has been an honor to see her hard work pay off!  I have no doubt she will continue to do amazing things at UNC!" he said.

Scarlett reiterates that she attributes her success to those who have believed in her.


“Shout-out to my rock Ms. Joanna Ali. who gave me the idea to start Mariposa,” says Scarlett. She says of her Mariposa girls: “I like to tell them that the world is their playground.  They’re butterflies, and they can soar as high as they want. Your wings are big. They have the potential, and they can do it.”