Nonreligious students earn FFRF cash awards through Secular Student Alliance

With the backing of donors, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has collaborated with the Secular Student Alliance to select, announce and distribute several worthy 2023 student scholarships.

This year’s scholarships and winners are listed below (as per Secular Student Alliance policy to help protect identities, only first names are used):

Al Luneman Student Activist Award

Tatiana is receiving the Al Luneman Student Activist Award ($2,000) for helping to establish the group “Fangs Out Reproductive Rights In” at St. Mary’s University last fall, challenging the status quo at one of the oldest Catholic college campuses in America

The club educates students about their innate rights to reproductive and sexual health, emphasizing love, education and science over fear, hatred and hypocrisy. Tatiana encountered opposition, even from the university’s president, who sent a mass email defaming the club’s name. Undeterred, the club partnered with nonprofits to distribute sexual health resources to students and addressed issues such as the lack of free menstrual products, high rape cases on campus, and overall shaming of freedom of speech on sexual health topics on campus.

Tatiana, an agnostic, explains that her upbringing in a private Christian school led her to question the existence of God, given the cruelty she witnessed in the world. She also recognized the presence of patriarchy in religious institutions, particularly in Christianity and Catholicism.

She’s an English literature major at St. Mary’s University and wants to become a teacher. Being a child of an immigrant herself, Tatiana understands the challenges communities can face and aims to provide them with opportunities for a better future.
FFRF thanks FFRF Member Al Luneman for making this scholarship possible.


Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation Student Scholarship

Katherine, who is majoring in design at the University of Pennsylvania, is receiving this $1,000 scholarship reserved for students in the arts, memorializing the lyricist Yip Harburg, an irreverent atheist who wrote so many classics, including “Over the Rainbow.” Her artistic exploration has evolved to encompass real-world issues. She aspires to use her creative talents to address contemporary concerns, such as environmental and cultural issues.

Growing up exposed to diverse religious beliefs, she discovered a more human-centered worldview that prioritizes reason, compassion and the value of every individual. Her journey led her to join the Camden County Humanists, where she found a sense of belonging and empowerment among like-minded individuals dedicated to creating a more compassionate and rational world. As a woman of Chinese descent from a working-class background, Katherine faced discrimination across various dimensions of her identity. Her secular humanism became a wellspring of strength and resilience, reinforcing her belief in the inherent worth of every individual.

She’s co-published and illustrated children’s books addressing critical issues and organized events promoting interculturality. In the UNICEF Club, she advocates for children’s initiatives and extends kindness to the less fortunate through blanket-making events and card-writing for hospitalized children. She provides academic support through school-wide peer tutoring and fosters kindness through the Random Acts of Kindness Club. She also plans to establish a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance, fostering critical thinking and open dialogue.
FFRF thanks the Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation for this scholarship.


Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships
Three students attending Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) were selected for the Cliff Richards Memorial Student Scholarships of $1,000 each.

• DaMarion, attending Morehouse College, aspires to be a world-renowned artist and performer, DaMarion specializes in painting, ceramics and collage work. His artistic influences include renowned figures like Aaron Douglas, Augusta Savage and Mickalene Thomas, reflecting his ambition to leave a lasting impact through his creative expressions. DaMarion’s secular identity is rooted in open-mindedness and non-judgmental acceptance of how others live their lives. Having grown up in a church environment, he made the decision to become more “secular” as a gay man due to the discrimination he observed within religious institutions.

As the president of the Morehouse LGBTQ-plus club, DaMarion plays a crucial role in planning events, fostering connections with students, alumni and potential sponsors. His leadership within the LGBTQ-plus community, collaborating with organizations like the Mocha Center and the Shade Project, showcases his dedication to advocating for the rights and well-being of marginalized groups.

• Kourtney attends Spelman College, and is majoring in sociology and anthropology with a minor in public health. Kourtney is committed to the social well-being of Black communities through secularism. Her mission revolves around reproductive justice, menstrual equity, and healing for the Black community. Her thirst for knowledge drives her ambition to pursue a Ph.D. in African American and Women & Gender Studies, aiming to become a college professor.

Kourtney’s secular identity is deeply rooted in the separation of morality and political activism from religious influence. She emphasizes the importance of secularism in navigating inherently political aspects of her identity as a Black woman in the United States. Her involvement in Spelman College’s Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) chapter reflects her commitment to advocating against abortion bans and restrictions on women’s rights.

She actively participates in Spelman College’s Social Justice Program and the UNCF/Mellon Mays Fellowship. She also creates spaces for healing and creative liberation through initiatives such as URGE and Knittens, the first yarn-working club on campus. Her dedication extends to community building and space-holding efforts, including partnering with Seed Life Foundation to address teen dating violence and sex trafficking within academic settings. Kourtney’s involvement with B.L.I.S.S. (Beauty, Light, Inspiration, Self Love, & Self Care) emphasizes the importance of accurate Black girlhood representations and mindfulness activities, empowering young Black girls.

• Ve, attending Howard University and majoring in journalism, wants to use their education as a powerful tool to advocate for marginalized and oppressed groups. Through their writing and investigative skills, Ve aims to shed light on everyday issues that impact minority and oppressed communities, striving to shape a better world through awareness and solutions to global and national social injustices.

Their secular identity is deeply intertwined with their racial, gender and sexual identity. As a Black, South-Asian-American, nonbinary, lesbian individual, they have witnessed the use of religious beliefs to justify oppression against people like them. Ve sees secularism as a means to combat this oppression by advocating for the separation of church and state, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their beliefs or identities.

Ve’s activism is particularly focused on reproductive rights. They actively spoke out and participated in protests when Roe v. Wade was overturned, using their voice to raise awareness about the importance of bodily autonomy as a fundamental human right. Their podcast serves as a platform to uplift and empower queer, Black womxn while addressing critical issues impacting their community. Their activism aims to enlighten people about the challenges their community faces, fostering awareness and driving change to secure equal rights and privileges.

In addition to their advocacy work, Ve volunteers with various non-profit organizations, including the Social Impact Movement, Stonewall National Museum and Archives, and the Voter Empowerment Project, to directly contribute to positive change in her areas of focus. Their dream is to work for organizations like the ACLU and NAACP, where they can further their mission of social justice and equality.
FFRF thanks the estate of Cliff Richards for the scholarships for HBCU students.

FFRF has a variety of scholarships available to give directly for exceptional student activism, as well. If you know of any student who is actively helping to uphold state/church separation or fighting for the rights of nonbelievers, please fill out the nomination form found under “Student Resources” at FFRF’s website at this link:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members across the country. FFRF protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.

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