College Essay Winners Chosen

$4,400 in Cash Prizes Awarded

An essay called “Hide the Bacon and the Wine: From Islam to Agnosticism” by Sakina Walsh was the top-placing essay in this year’s essay competition for currently-enrolled college students sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Shakina at Johnson School of Business at Cornell, received the Michael Hakeem Memorial Award of $2,000. Sakina majored in psychology at Florida State University before entering Cornell.

Placing second was Stanford University student Nicole Pepperl, who received $1,000 for her essay, “Of Gods and Glasses.” Nicole, a Nebraska native, is focusing on agriculture and conservation in her studies, and plans to pursue environmental law.

The Foundation awarded two third-place prizes of $500 to: Andrea Nostramo, an English student at Queens, for her essay, “It Began With a Question (or, Why I Reject Religion),” and to Stephen Utschig-Samuels, a junior and chemical engineering major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for his essay, “Taking the Road Less Traveled–An Atheist Among Catholics.”

The four top-placing prizes are reprinted in this issue on pages 10-13.

Honorable mentions of $200 each have been awarded to:

  • Mark Collins, from Rhode Island, attending Cornell University, for his essay: “The Ride of a Lifetime.”
  • Ashley Demney, of Kansas, who is attending Kansas State University, for her essay, “Taking the Road Less Traveled.”
  • Dahlia Rizk, an international student studying at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, for her essay: “What the Bible Doesn’t Tell You About the Good News.”
  • Alex Schroller, of Texas, an economics major at Hendrix College, Arkansas, for his essay: “Midnight in the Garden of Faith and Reason.”

Those essays will appear in future issues.

The guidelines for the Foundation’s two essay competitions–one for new high school graduates who are college-bound in the fall, the other catering to currently-enrolled college students–are announced in February of each year.

Freedom From Religion Foundation