FFRF honors students of color essayists with over $10,000

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proudly awarding more than $10,000 to the winners of its 2017 annual essay contest for minority high school students.

The nation's premier freethinkers' organization has announced the 14 winners of the 2017 David Hudak Memorial High School Essay Contest for Students of Color. High school seniors of color were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about what they would like to tell a believer in their life about why they chose the path of freethought, with reference to challenges they've faced as a freethinker of color.

The winners are listed below, with their age, the college or university they will be attending, the award amount and the title of their essay. A couple has generously added a $100 bonus to any winner who is a member of a secular club, which is reflected in the total. FFRF has paid out $10,050 in award money for the contest this year.

First place
Lydia Mason, 18, New York University ($3,000), "Breaking the Chains"

Second place
Uma Kokilepersaud, 17, University of Maryland ($2,000), "We Are Enough"

Third place
Lauren Greenlee, 18, University of San Francisco ($1,000), "I'm Alone in the Universe and That's Okay"

Fourth place
Lizeth Ortega-Luna, 18, Pomona College ($750), "In Whom Do I Trust?"

Fifth place
Celestina Garcia, 18, Indiana University ($500), "The Other Side of Morality"

Sixth place (tie)
Sarah Espada, 18, Cedar Crest College ($400), "What I'd Like Believers to Know"

Sixth place (tie)
Evann Bailey, 18, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga ($400), "Rejecting Generational Illusions"

Honorable mentions ($200 each)
Aven Turner, University of Illinois
Dominic Ryan Vince Cruz, Washington College
Shejan Heaven, University of Georgia
Miaun McCloud, Grand Valley State University
Erin O'Malley, University of Rochester
Dylan Palmer, New York University

"We congratulate our winners, whose essays are particularly memorable," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "But we were impressed by the moxie, humanity and thoughtfulness of all the entries."

Essays will be reprinted or excerpted in the August issue of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper. All students who entered will receive a student membership

FFRF has offered essay competitions since 1979. This contest is named for the late David Hudak, an FFRF member who left a bequest to generously fund a student essay contest. FFRF will soon be announcing winners of its other high school essay contest, open to all, its college contest and its graduate student competition.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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