The Freedom From Religion Foundation has awarded and sincerely congratulates the 20 college-bound high school seniors in this year's essay competitions. Seniors were asked to write about the topic, "Challenges of being a young freethinker" in 500-700 words. There were ten winners in the top five, with two ties for second third and fifth place, and a three-way tie for fourth place. There was also ten honorable mentions this year.
William J. Schultz, a member who left a major bequest to FFRF, generously endows the high school essay competition. FFRF would also like to extend a special thanks to Dorea and Dean Schramm in Florida for providing each student with a $50 bonus.
- First place ($3,000): Emily Stephens, Georgetown University
- Second place tie ($2,000): Alexis Thomas, Ohio State University
- Second place tie ($2,000): Emma Conover-Crockett, Kenyon College
- Third place tie ($1,000): Alex Kendig, University of California
- Third place tie ($1,000): Anna Cain, Colorado College
- Fourth place three-way tie ($500): Colin A. Muller, Columbia University
- Fourth place three-way tie ($500): Sara Sheppard, Lone Star College
- Fourth place three-way tie ($500): Taysie Savage, Oregon State University
- Fifth place tie ($350): James Kerry Foerst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Fifth place tie ($350): Kamila Buscavage, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Aaron Robert McLaughlin, University of Iowa
- Honorable Mention ($250): Ayla Yener, McGill University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Darby (Darbus) Oldham, Swarthmore College
- Honorable Mention ($250): Gabriella Johnson, Stanford University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Lindsey Foster, Georgia State University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Marianne Fuentes, University of Massachusetts
- Honorable Mention ($250): Meshulum Ort, Rutgers University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Nathan Hume Stevens, University of Oregon
- Honorable Mention ($250): Sarah Sprenger, Michigan State University
- Honorable Mention ($250): Zofia Warpeha , The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts
"We consider our scholarships for freethinking students to be among FFRF's most important contributions," said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "There are so many scholarships for religious students, and hardly any rewarding critical thinking and the use of reason in forming an opinion about religion."
Gaylor said it was "hard to choose" the winners because there were so many impressive entries this year, accounting for the ties from second through fifth place and a three-way tie for fourth place, and the many honorable mentions.
The top winning essays will appear in the upcoming August issue of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, and honorable mentions will run in future issues. Soon to be announced: FFRF's selection of winners of its college essay competition and its new graduate student essay competition.
FFRF is also announcing that it will be underwriting a $1,000 scholarship through Black Skeptics Los Angeles, to be awarded in 2014. BKLA this year awarded scholarships to "five brilliant youths of color who are first generation college students," announced Sikivu Hutchinson of BKLA in July.
The 2013 college essay and graduate/mature student essay winners will be announced in the near future.