The Freedom From Religion Foundation congratulates the 16 college-bound high school seniors who won this year's essay competition.
FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994 and graduate students since 2010.
Seniors were asked to pick from two topics: "The challenges of growing up a freethinker," or "Why Boy Scouts of America should welcome atheists and nonbelievers."
After carefully reviewing 140 submissions, FFRF awarded seven top prizes (including a tie for sixth place) and nine honorable mentions.
"FFRF is proud to offer these scholarships to deserving freethinking students," FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said. "We are glad to support them as they head off to college and begin this new chapter in their lives."
Winners are listed below and include the award amount and the college or university they will be attending this fall.
Avery Boltwood, Duke University ($3,000)
Mahad Olad, Ithaca College ($2,000)
Mary Breeden, Illinois Wesleyan University ($1,000)
Kaylor MacLaughlin, Oregon State University Honors College ($750)
Bethany Wasilik, College of William and Mary ($500)
Sixth place (tie)
Erin McCoskey, Wichita State University ($400)
Sixth place (tie)
Elizabeth Robbins, Tisch School of Arts ($400)
Honorable mentions ($200 each)
Niha Ahmad, University of Illinois-Chicago
Christian Beveridge, University of Pittsburgh
Kristian Harrell, Missouri Southern State University
Matthew Joy, Chapman University
Alexandra Lauria-Daley, Northeastern University
Brody McNutt, Dartmouth College
Noelle Shaw, San Diego State University
Kayla Spitzer, Northwest Arkansas Community College
Conrad Wright, California Polytechnic State University
The high school contest is named for William J. Schulz, a Wisconsin member who died at 57. He was a mechanical engineer and cared deeply about FFRF's work, leaving a bequest that funds the awards.
FFRF also thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance. The total of $9,950 reflects bonuses.
The college student essay winners will be announced in the September issue and the grad student essay winners will be announced in the October issue.