FFRF awards $12,550 in college essay scholarships

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has awarded and congratulates the 21 currently enrolled college student winners of its annual essay competition. Entrants were asked to write about “My atheist/unbeliever ‘coming out’ story” in 700 to 900 words. Read the top-placing essays on pages 11-15. Winners are:

• First place, Michael Hakeem Memorial Prize ($3,000): Bijan Parandeh, University of Illinois-Chicago.

• Second place ($2,000): David Andexler, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.

• Third place ($1,000): Reem Abdel-Razek, Onondaga Community College, N.Y.

• Fourth place ($750): Audrey Gunn, Concordia College, Minn.

• Fifth place (tie, $500 each): Marcus Andrews, Ohio State University; Keith Greer Milburn, University of Memphis.

• Sixth place (tie, $400 each): Aaron McLaughlin, University of Iowa; Anvita Patwardhan, University of California-Berkeley. FFRF also awarded 13 “honorable mentions,” with each receiving $200:

• Nathan Hume Stevens, University of Oregon.

• Chris Holder, University of Montevallo, Ala.

• Joe Magestro, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

• Marina Esposito, Grand Canyon University, Phoenix.

• Jennifer Wilson, St. Olaf College, Minn. • Eric Duran, University of North Texas.

• Jessie Warme, University of California-San Diego.

• Harrison Slater, Pennsylvania State University.

• Benjamin Carton, Lesley University, Mass.

• Jenny Cox, California Polytechnic State University.

• Alexander Andruzzi, University of British Columbia.

• Blake Allen, Louisiana State University.

• Anna Bridge, South Dakota State University.

FFRF extends special thanks to Dorea and Dean Schramm in Florida for providing each student who is a member of a secular campus group with a $100 bonus. The award total of $12,550 reflects the additional $100 bonuses.

“Our student scholarships are among FFRF’s most important endeavors and outreach to the next generation of freethinkers,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “All too many scholarship programs reward orthodoxy, but FFRF rewards students for critical thinking and for being willing to make known their dissent from religion.”

The late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor whose bequest endows the competition, was an FFRF officer and atheist known to generations of UW-Madison students.

Freedom From Religion Foundation