2008 High School Winning Essays Choosen

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has announced the winners of its annual essay competition for college-bound high-school graduates. Students this year were asked to write a timely 3 to 4 page essay about why there should be no religious test for public office.

The Blanche Fearn Memorial Award has gone to Alex Diedrich, for his essay, “The Freedom to Work for Others.” Alex is a graduate of Rochester Century High School in Minnesota, and will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall. He plans to major in computer science and biochemistry, obtain an advanced degree in bioinformatics and pursue a career in research.

Alex has received a $2,000 cash scholarship.

The second-place honor goes to Trey Jones, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, who will be attending George Washington University. Trey, whose essay is called “Machiavelli, Religion in Politics and Reflections on Hope,” plans to major in international relations.

Trey has received a $1,000 cash scholarship.

Kelly Bescherer, who won third-place honors, attended Old Rochester Regional High School in Massachusetts. She will be double-majoring in physics and philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Kelly was awarded $500 as a cash scholarship.

The winning essays can be found on pages 10—12 of this issue.

Five students also received “Honorable Mention” awards. Their essays are excerpted on pages 13 & 14.

Receiving “Honorable Mentions” are:

  • Jacob Bankhead, who graduated from Wellston High School in Oklahoma, and will be attending the University of Oklahoma at Norman. He plans on an engineering major. His essay is titled: “God Is Not the One Running for Office.”
  • Rose Bridges, who graduated from the International Academy High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will be attending the Peabody Institute (conservatory) of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She plans to study music composition. Rose wrote on “Testing Religion in 2008.”
  • Levi Alexander Ekanger, 18, a new graduate from Armada, Mich., will be attending Northern Michigan University to study pharmaceutical chemistry and other sciences in the honors program. Levi’s essay is “America, the So-called Nonaffiliated State.”
  • Kelsey Preston graduated from Huntsville High School, Huntsville, Ontario, Canada. An American citizen, she is enrolled at the University of Vermont, plans to study science and attend medical school as well as play goalie in women’s ice hockey. Kelsey’s essay is titled, “In Support of Free Religion.”
  • David Thorstad graduated this spring from Cary Academy, N.C., and will be a philosophy major at Haverford College, Penn. His essay is called “Religious Tests in Sheep’s Clothing.”

This year, the prize for “Honorable Mention” winners has doubled, from $100 to $200, thanks to the generosity of Foundation Lifetime Member John Moe. John has contributed the additional $100 per winner.

A teacher of special education for nearly 30 years, John is very active in disabled rights organizations and works with a group that grants scholarships to Long Beach students.

“We thank John for his generosity,” said Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-presidents.

All non-winning eligible entrants were offered the choice of a freethought book published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation as a thank you for participating.

Freedom From Religion Foundation