FFRF announces 2023 BIPOC student essay winners

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 11 winners and 11 honorable mentions of the 2023 David Hudak Memorial Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color Student Essay Competition.

FFRF has paid more than $17,000 in award money for the contest this year.

BIPOC students were asked to write on the topic of “Glad to be godless,” in which they were to compose a personal essay explaining their journey to becoming a nonbeliever (or experiences as a lifelong nonbeliever), including any challenges they’ve faced.

Winners, their ages, the colleges or universities they are attending and the award amounts are listed below.
Baozhai Mai, 19, Williams College, $3,500.
Esteban Jimenez, 19, Arizona State University, $3,000.
Rae Davis, 19, Hamline University, $2,500.
Luci Green, 18, University of South Carolina, $2,000.
Vivien Talon, 20, Boston University, $1,500.
Eden Oboro, 18, University of Texas-San Antonio, $1,000.
Ashley Jimmerson, 19, Loyola University, $750.
Thomas Black, 20, University of Illinois, $500.
Anita Dinakar, 18, Purdue University, $400.
Ashley Brumfield, 19, Louisiana Tech University, $300.
Deejuanae Lewis, 18 New York University, $300.
Paolo Bonarriva, 18, Frederick Community College.
Arianna Cuevas-Galarza, 18, University of North Carolina.
Kayla Garcia, 18, University of California-Irvine.
Aija Keyes, 19, University of North Florida.
William McPhail Jr., 19, Prairie View A&M University.
Aditya Mehta, 18, University of California-Berkeley.
Jastell Puente, 18, University of Oklahoma.
Kathryn Robinson, 18, Harvard University.
Mariana Vaca, 21, Lake Forest College.
Andy Yao, 18, University of Michigan.

FFRF thanks Lisa Treu for managing the details of this (and FFRF’s other essay competitions). FFRF would also like to thank our volunteer and staff readers and judges, including Don Ardell, Paul Baker, Dan Barker, David Chivers, Patrick Duff, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Kate Garmise, Richard Grimes, Ricki Grunberg, Stephen Hirtle, Linda Josheff, Dan Kettner, David Malcolm, Gloria Marquardt, Brent Messner, Chris O’Connell, George Pevarnik, Rose Mary Sheldon, Sue Schuetz, PJ Slinger and Karen Lee Weidig.

This contest is named for the late David Hudak, an FFRF member who left a bequest to generously fund a student essay contest, which had as many as 171 entrants this year.

“We are proud to carry on the freethinking legacy of David Hudak through this essay competition geared to encourage a minority within a minority,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “May skepticism blossom in the younger generation through initiatives such as these.”

FFRF has offered essay competitions to students of color since 2016. It has also offered essay contests to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad students since 2010 and one for law students since 2019.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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