2019 Michael Hakeem Ongoing College Students Essay Contest winners

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 16 winners of the 2019 Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students. FFRF has paid out a total of $17,550 in award money to this year’s college contest winners.

Ongoing college students up to the age of 24 were asked to write a personal persuasive essay on the topic of why we’d be better off concentrating on the here and now rather than worrying about an unknown afterlife, and why they agree with John Lennon that there is “no hell below us, above us only sky.” FFRF thanks Professor Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College for the essay prompt.

This contest is named for the late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor who was an FFRF board chair and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning skills. His bequest has been used to fund college essays since his death in 2006.

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 $17,550 reflects those bonuses.

FFRF also thanks “Director of First Impressions” Lisa Treu for managing the details of this and the four other student essays competitions. And we couldn’t judge these contests without our “faithful faithless” volunteer and staff readers and judges, including: Don Ardell, Linda Aten, Dan Barker, Jeff Brinckman, Bill Dunn, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Judi Jacobs, Linda Josheff, Dan Kettner, Kathy Kunz, Katya Maes, Gloria Marquadt, Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey, Dave Petrashek, Sue Schuetz, Lauryn Seering and PJ Slinger.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad students since 2010 and one geared explicitly for students of color since 2016. A fifth contest for law students debuts this year.

Winners, their ages, the colleges or universities they are attending and the award amounts are listed below, and winning essays are reprinted or excerpted in this issue.

First place

Jack Buchanan, 20, University of Iowa, $3,600.

Second place

Blake Miller, 23, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, $3,100.

Third place

Alexis Gabbart, 22, Southeastern  Oklahoma State University, $2,500.

Fourth place

Kaitlyn Hunt, 24, Coastal Carolina, $2,100.

Fifth place

Danielle Kyle, 21, Western Illinois University, $1,600.

Sixth place

Isaac Jay Marcoux, 20, University of Tennessee, $1,100.

Seventh place

Dylan Mitchell, 20, Guilford College, $750.

Eighth place

Cora Womble-Miesner, 23, New York University, $500.

Ninth place

Hazel Peterson, 19, University of Wisconsin-Stout, $400.

Tenth place

Paige Nielsen, 19, Florida State University, $300.

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

Max Bisaha, 20, College of Charleston.

Alice Blesi, 22, University of Minnesota.

Devon Gable, 20, Front Range Community College.

Yaffa Gani, 19, University of Florida.

Youssef Maklad, 20, Southeastern

Michael Hakeem Essay Contest

Connecticut State University.

Kyle Morse, 22, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.