FFRF’s college student essay winners announced

The winners of FFRF’s 2010 Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Competition for college students have been selected from a pool of exceptional applicants. The Foundation has awarded $5,850 in cash scholarships to 12 recipients who are undergraduate students under age 25.

Winners of the Harry Bushong Competition for high school seniors were announced in August. Winners of the Brian Bolton Competition for graduate/mature students were announced in September.

College students wrote this year on “Why I reject religion,” “Why I am an atheist/agnostic” or “Growing up a freethinker.” Winners are:
• Kaizad V. Raimalwala, 20, originally from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, received the Michael Hakeem Memorial Award of $2,000 for his first-place essay “Baby steps outside religion’s cradle.” Kaizad is pursuing a bachelor’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering as a sophomore at Purdue University in Indiana. His interests include music, cinema, photography, astronomy and world affairs. His essay is on page 11.
• Lauren Keil, 18, Summerville, S.C., received $1,000 for her second-place essay “My rejection of religious dogma.” Lauren majors in English and creative writing at the University of Maine at Farmington. She enjoys reading, writing and music. Her essay is on pages 11-12.
• Nick Parrott, 21, Vienna, Va., won third and $500 for “Atheism in the face of beauty.” Nick is a junior at Georgetown University where he majors in psychology. Nick studied piano for two years at the Berklee College of Music and enjoys playing piano, listening to music and blogging about atheism, religion, politics and music. His essay appears on page 13.
• Carly Pedersen, 21, Shoreline, Wash., tied for fourth place and a prize of $300 for “Why I am agnostic.” Carly is pursuing a bachelor’s in social justice studies at Antioch University in Seattle. She is interested in the role religion has played in creating social inequality and the growing acceptance of atheism and agnosticism throughout the world. Her essay appears on page 13.
• Sam Barr, 21, Metuchen, N.J., received the other fourth-place prize of $300 for “A secular to atheist conversion story.” Sam is a senior at Harvard College studying government. Sam’s interests include baseball, history, politics and journalism. His essay is on page 14.

FFRF judges awarded seven discretionary honorable mention awards of $200 each. Generous Foundation members Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida contributed an additional $50 each to the honorable mentions, bringing the scholarship amount to $250.

This year’s honorable mentions:
• Ayoola White, 19, Southfield, Mich., is a sophomore majoring in anthropology with a music minor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.
• Suzanna Beckett Weeks, 20, Dallas, Texas, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a photography minor, at the University of North Texas.
• Ben Kegerise, 19, Wilmington, Del., is pursuing a bachelor of fine arts in interactive media and game design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. 
• Maria Castex, 19, Miami, Fla., majors in art history at Barnard College in New York City.
• Sarab Sodhi, 21, Chandigarh, India, is a student of biochemistry and philosophy at Albright College in Reading, Pa.
• Annika Doner, 19, Dearborn, Mich., is a sophomore majoring in German and the “program in the environment” at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
• Helen Katherine Ryan, 18, Orefield, Pa., is pursuing a bachelor’s in sociology.

Excerpts of honorable mention essays are included in this issue and will be published in future issues.

Freedom From Religion Foundation