FFRF announces trio of student essay contests

FFRF announces its 2015 high school, college and graduate/mature student essay scholarship competitions, which offer more than $23,000 in total cash prizes.

FFRF offered its first student competition in 1979 and added a separate contest for college-bound high school seniors in 1994 and one geared to graduate/”older” students (ages 25-30) in 2010.

The awards are $3,000 first place, $2,000 second place, $1,000 third place, $750 fourth place, $500 fifth place and $400 for sixth place. Several $200 “honorable mentions” may be awarded at judges’ discretion.

A bonus of $50 from FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm will be given to any winner who is also a member of a secular student club (or who joins Secular Student Alliance online, which is free).

Thousands of scholarship programs reward students for blind faith and orthodoxy, but hardly any reward students for using reason. Please publicize FFRF’s important outreach to the next generation at your local high schools, colleges and universities, and to the students in your life.

William J. Schulz High School Senior Essay Competition

“Why I’m Good Without God: Challenges of being a young nonbeliever” or “Young, bold and nonbelieving: Challenges of being a nonbeliever of color”

Choose one of the topics below:

Atheist/nonbeliever of color: Write from personal perspective about experiences or challenges you face, as a nonbeliever in a religious family or community, and minority within the freethought community. Are there obstacles discouraging diversity within the movement? What do you think could be done to make freethought and nonbelief more attractive to America’s nonwhite communities? Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.

Why I’m good without God: Write from personal perspective about your experiences or challenges in the face of persistent stereotypes that atheists and other nonbelievers are not moral. Explain how you’re “good without God,” why religion is not necessary for morality and may even be counterproductive. What can be done by you or others to counter negative stereotypes about nonbelievers? Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.

Eligibility: North American high school senior who graduates in spring 2015, going on to college in fall 2015.
Word length: 500 to 700 words.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to be postmarked no later than June 1 to [email protected] with subject heading “Essay [and Your Full Name],” e.g., Essay (Your Name Here). Follow other requirements listed at end of this article.

This competition is endowed by William J. Schultz, a member of FFRF who died at 57, was a farm boy who became a chemical engineer and built paper-producing mills around the world, and cared deeply about FFRF’s purposes.

Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition

“Proud to be an atheist: Challenging stigmas against nonbelievers”

Topic: Atheists are one of the most despised minorities, yet statistically are among the most moral segments in the U.S. population. Write a persuasive essay about why nonbelievers should be respected, not stigmatized. Include personal perspective or experiences with religious family, schoolmates or community. Provide supporting arguments (e.g., recent studies, philosophical or historic perspectives) about how freethinkers contribute to society despite widespread vilification. Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.

Word length: 700 to 900 words

Eligibility: Currently enrolled undergraduate college student through age 24, including but not limited to college seniors graduating in spring/summer 2015, attending North American college or university.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to be postmarked no later than June 15 to [email protected] with subject heading “Essay [and Your Full Name],” e.g., Essay (Your Name Here). Follow other requirements listed at the end of article. Click here to view a printable PDF.

The late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor, was an FFRF officer and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning abilities.

Brian Bolton Graduate/ “Older” Student Essay Competition

“Religion and violence: What is to blame for religious terrorism?”

Topic: Write a persuasive analysis dissecting the common claim that religion cannot be held responsible for violence in its name. For example, President Obama has said of the Islamic State: “They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.” He also said “no god condones the killing of innocents.” Analyze the claim that it’s only a handful of extremists who are “perverting” religion who are to blame for the violence, and not religion itself. Provide supporting arguments to back up your position (religious pronouncements such as biblical or Quranic verses, historic or contemporary violence, underlying factors, etc.). Are there solutions to religious terrorism?

Eligibility: Currently enrolled graduate student including up to age 30, or undergrads ages 25-30, attending North American college or university, including but not limited to someone graduating or earning degree in spring or summer 2015.

Word limit: 750 to 950 words.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to be postmarked no later than July 1 to [email protected] with subject heading “Essay [and Your Full Name],” e.g., Essay (Your Name Here). Follow other requirements listed at the end. Click here to view a printable PDF.

The competition is generously endowed by Brian Bolton, a Lifetime Member who is a retired psychologist, humanist minister and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas.

Rules applying to all contests

Submit essay both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Essay must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title. Attach one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay including name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, major or intended major, degree being earned and interests. (High school students should include high school’s name, city, state and date of graduation as well as intended college.) Do not include a résumé.

For chance at additional $50 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to or join Secular Student Alliance (free at secularstudents.org/studentmember and mention it in bio). Provide both summer and fall 2015 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment.

Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. Do not write under or over word minimums and maximums. By entering, students agree to permit winning essays to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, and posted online at FFRF’s website. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible entrants will be offered a subscription to Freethought Today or a freethought book or product.

Email essay as indicated above; also mail by required deadline to:

FFRF
______ Essay Contest
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

Freedom From Religion Foundation