The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce that it has awarded three $1,000 scholarships to nonreligious students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The scholarships are part of FFRF’s Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships and are in partnership with Secular Student Alliance.
FFRF is providing the scholarship funds and chose the students from a pool of applicants; the Secular Student Alliance has done the legwork and vetting. Two recipients chose not to identify their last names for privacy reasons.
Marie Chantal is a junior at Howard University, majoring in chemical engineering with a concentration in biotechnology and biomedicine. She plans to attend medical school to become a doctor specializing in contagious diseases. She hopes to provide aid in the refugee crisis and build Africa’s medical infrastructure. Marie was born in a Rwandese refugee camp, so she and her family know the impact of war. “I do not have a name for my secular identity,” Marie says. “I just know that I have seen Catholicism imported by colonizers stop my people from seeking justice for themselves because they believed in a savior falling from the sky. I have seen religion hurt my people.” Marie is a member of the Youth United Nations Association, Black Action Movement and Planned Parenthood. She has organized fundraisers and panel discussions for Freedom House Detroit, which helps asylum seekers. She has presented at conferences on cultural competency and preventative methods against sexual harassment in higher education and has produced a documentary promoting Black mental health.
Kourtney is a health sciences major at Spelman College. Her desire to learn more about herself through education led her to pursue a career as a medical examiner. During her sophomore year, Kourtney chose to further her education in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which lacks representation of Black students. She also joined the Student Organization for Anti-Racism to advocate increased representation of African-American students in international classes. This year, she has been focused on increasing turnout of young voters. Kourtney feels that Secular Student Alliance provides a safe space for nonreligious and religious students to connect with each other and discuss differing viewpoints with civility and respect.
Timothy is a first-year student at Tuskegee University majoring in aerospace engineering. Raised in an Independent Fundamental Baptist home, Timothy attended a private Christian school until eighth grade, then attended public school due to issues with bullying. As the first in his family to go to college, Timothy is a role model for his younger brothers. His secular identity is relatively new and started when his interest in science began to challenge his religious beliefs. At age 17, he left the church, which disappointed his parents, who then disabled his phone, tried to take his car and threatened to kick him out of the house. Timothy is involved in the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged voting on campus. He also works with local organizations to combat institutionalized racism. As someone who had his thoughts and ideas hijacked from an early age, Timothy says: “It is very important to me that I do my best to encourage freethought among my peers. For when we have the ability to truly express our thoughts, then we may know who we really are and what we want.”
FFRF’s Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships are funded by a bequest.
“We’re delighted to be helping these young freethinkers and HBCU students and are grateful to be partnering with the Secular Student Alliance,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
The Secular Student Alliance empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values and set a course for lifelong activism.
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.