FFRF awards $28,150 to 2020 Students of Color essay contest winners

Students of Color V. 2

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the awarding of a record total of $28,150 in prize money to the winners of its 2020 students of color essay contest.

Entrants were asked to write a personal persuasive essay for the 2020 David Hudak Memorial Students of Color Essay Competition for College Students about “Living and thriving without religion.” FFRF received 342 entries for this contest. Because of the many excellent entries, FFRF awarded a lot of “ties” this year.

The winners, their ages, the colleges or universities they are attending and the award amounts are listed below.

• Nidhi Nair, 19, University of Connecticut, $3,500.

• Gianna White, 20, New York University, $3,000.
• Taylor Fang, 17, Harvard University, $3,000.

• Justine Vega, 19, New York University, $2,500.
• Stephanie Black, 19, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, $2,500.

• Nickaela Steele, 18, Howard University, $2,000.
• Leila Okorie, 19, University of Washington, $2,000.

• Rojina Timsina, 18, Kalamazoo College, $1,500.
• Krunal Sampath, 18, University of California-Berkeley, $1,500.

• Mahum Haque, 19, University of Iowa, $1,000.
• Tina Wen, Rice University, $1,000

• Praneel Bonthala, 18, University of California-Los Angeles, $750.

• Akeima Gibbs, 18, Temple University, $500.
• Aaliyah Philippe-Auguste, 18, Towson University, $500.

• Idalina Du, 18, Rice University, $400.

• Manuela Cano, 19, University of South Carolina, $300.


• Claire Hill, 19, Drake University.
• Je-Woo Im, 18, Northwestern University.
• Nicole Kye, 19, Cornell University.
• Jonathan Le, 18, University of California, Irvine.
• Grace Okafor, 21, University of Maryland College Park.
• Anousha Peters, 20 Columbia University.
• Aline Pham, 19, University of California, Irvine.
• Bruno Rios De La Fuente, 21, CSU Channel Islands.
• Tamanna Sheikh, 20, Virginia Commonwealth University.

FFRF thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular group, student club or the Secular Student Alliance. The total of $28,150 reflects those bonuses.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad students since 2010, one geared explicitly for students of color since 2016 and a fifth contest for law students since 2019. All contests are open to any students attending a school in North America meeting the age/grade level eligibility, except the students of color contest, which is reserved for students of color to offer special support for a minority within a minority. FFRF will soon be announcing the graduate student winners in the final competition for the year. FFRF considers its student scholarship programs to be among its most important investments in the future.

“We’re always thrilled to nurture young talent,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Freethinking young people — including students of color — represent a significant and very welcome demographic shift in society.”

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.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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