FFRF awards $10,550 in students of color 2018 essay contest

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 15 winners of the 2018 David Hudak Memorial Students of Color Essay Competition for College Students. FFRF has paid out a total of $10,550 in award money for this year’s contest.

College students of color were asked to write a personal, persuasive essay about the “Challenges of being a student of color who rejects religion.”

This is the third year FFRF has offered a contest geared specifically to acknowledge and reward freethinking students of color, and the challenges they face as a minority within the nonreligious minority.

FFRF’s three other contests — for college-bound high school seniors (announced last month), for ongoing college students (to be announced later in August) and for grad students (to be announced in September) — are open to any student. FFRF first started offering college essay competitions in 1979, adding high school senior contests in 1994 and graduate students in 2010.

“We feel that these scholarships encouraging young freethinkers to express themselves and rewarding their independent thinking is one of FFRF’s most important projects — an investment in the future,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Major winners (pictured above) are:

First place
MiKaelah Freeman, 18, New York University ($3,000), who wrote about “Black Plague: The Role of Christianity in Slavery and How it Plagues African Americans Today.”
Second place
Michael Brown, 24, Dartmouth College ($2,000), whose essay was titled, “Free of Thought, But Not Free of Color.”
Third place
Noemi Rosario, 18, University at Albany (SUNY) ($1,000), whose essay was titled “Place Your Bet.”
Fourth place
Johann Rucker, 22, University of Nevada-Las Vegas ($750), who wrote an essay called “Thank You, Tio Carlos.”
Fifth place
Alondra Vega Rivera, 18, Escuela de Artes Plasticas y Diseno de Puerto Rico ($600), who wrote as a “Spanish-Speaking Heathen.”
Sixth place
Azarius Williams, 20, Syracuse University ($500), who wrote on “My Journey to Secularism.”
Seventh place
Jesica Maldonado Matias, 18, San Francisco State University ($400), whose essay was called “The God That Failed Me.”

Honorable mentions ($200 each) are:

  • Joseph Florida, 21, Southern University A&M College, who wrote about “My Experience as a Skeptic of Color.”
  • Anissa Foster, 18, Stanford University, whose essay was titled, “Dangerous Woman.”
  • Kelvin Martinez Gomez, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ($100 bonus), who wrote on “How Do You Say Atheist in Spanish?”
  • Alexandra Harmon,19, Howard University, whose essay was called “A Wolf in Black Sheep’s Clothing.”
  • Shejan Heaven, 19, University of Georgia, who wrote about “Discovering the Unknown.”
  • Evan Malcolm, 21, University of South Florida, who wrote about “A Matter of Perception.”
  • Tatem Rios, 18, Inver Hills Community College, who wrote about “The Challenge of Being a Freethinker in This Society.”
  • Therrin Wilson, 21, University of Tennessee, who wrote about “False Prophets.”

The contest is named for the late David Hudak, an FFRF member who left a bequest designated to generously fund a student essay contest. The winning essays will be reprinted or excerpted in the upcoming September issue of Freethought Today, a periodical that is included with membership in FFRF.

FFRF thanks FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular student club or other freethinking group. The grand total reflects those bonuses.

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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