The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with the financial backing of the individual donors, has collaborated with the Secular Student Alliance to select, announce and distribute these student awards. (As per SSA policy to help protect the students’ identities, only the students’ first names are used.)
This year’s winners are:
Sami — Al Luneman Student Activist Award ($1,000)
Amuri — Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation Student Scholarship ($1,000)
Angelina — Phoenix Fund ($1,500)
Jordan — Phoenix Fund ($2,000)
Egan — Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Award ($1,000)
Mirona — Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Award ($1,000)
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 contact Freethought Today Editor PJ Slinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
$1,000 FFRF Cliff Richards Memorial Scholarship
Winston-Salem State University
Mirona is a music education major at Winston-Salem State University. Music is her passion and she plans to tutor kids in music after college and become a music teacher and college band director.
Mirona was forced to go to church when she was young and she realized religion was being used as a mechanism to control her and other African-American people. But Mirona was rebellious. Because of the negative religious views of her bisexuality and being called a “devil,” Mirona quickly realized “religion wasn’t for me.” Even though she has openly identified as an atheist for four years, her family still says she is going through a “phase.”
Mirona is the recipient of the FFRF Cliff Richards Memorial Scholarship dedicated to a student attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU).
$1,000 FFRF Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation Scholarship
Virginia Commonwealth University
As a child, Amuri experienced periods of adversity, and art was a form of escapism. At Virginia Commonwealth University, she is passionate about art and wants to be a studio artist and art teacher. As the deprioritization of creativity in the classroom in favor of rehashed lesson plans stunts the development of a visionary lens, Amuri wants to ensure future generations are presented with artistic nurturing to maximize their potential.
Amuri wants to promote community engagement in the arts. She volunteers as an art studio assistant at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, helping children create art and greatly further their social-emotional development. She has also created several murals in the city of Richmond.
As an African-American, Amuri felt her racial identity led her to secularism, because religion was historically used as a tool of oppression for black communities within America. By promoting freethought within the black community, Amuri hopes this will help shape future leaders that are free from previous biases and unjust religious grounds for governing our society. Amuri is a continuous participant in activism that points out that there is no justification for prejudice against nonbelievers as well as activism against the use of people forcing their beliefs on others.
A studio artist, Amuri’s work focuses on the manifestation of identity — particularly Black identity — and consistently features the powerful presence of the Black figure as a way to rewrite the narratives Western visual media historically assign Black figures.
This scholarship is made possible by the generous Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation and FFRF Member Ernie Harburg, the son of the famous lyricist of “Over the Rainbow.”
$2,000 FFRF Phoenix Fund
Jordan is a senior at Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y., aspiring to go to law school with the goal of becoming a criminal prosecutor of sex crimes. Raised in a secular family, Jordan was informed by a Christian friend that she “would be going to hell,” since she was never baptized. By high school, Jordan’s secular identity was not just shaped by a secular upbringing and lack of belief in God, but by a passion for human rights and separation of church and state. As a queer woman, Jordan has seen firsthand how religion encourages sexism and homophobia.
She is on the Fordham Secular Student Alliance Executive Board and member of the Student Government’s Committee on Sexual Misconduct. Even though Fordham is a Catholic institution, Jordan says the secular population is bigger than it might seem — but it is hiding. The SSA at Fordham challenged the school’s health center policies, which do not offer any contraception. They created a petition to change the policies, allowing the school could keep its Catholic identity and plenty of loopholes to allow more access to sex-related health care for students.
Jordan’s scholarship is sponsored by the FFRF Phoenix Fund.
$1,500 FFRF Phoenix Fund
South Texas College of Law
Finding it increasingly more difficult to be a teacher, Angelina is pursuing a degree in paralegal studies at Lone Star College to be able to help children in a different way and give a voice to the injustices of harassment. Growing up in a Mexican-American family, Angelina was raised Catholic but had doubts about the credibility of God, Jesus and the bible. She has “seen and experienced the wrath, hatred, bigotry, and racism that came with people who were devout Christians.”
Now agnostic, her secularism is the basis of her fight for women’s rights, LGBT+ civil rights, racial justice, immigration reform, and Native American rights. Angelina is the vice president of the Criminal Law Society and will use the position to enhance her classmates’ knowledge and understanding of criminal justice reform.
The Phoenix Fund is an FFRF member-endowed scholarship fund.
$1,000 FFRF Cliff Richards Memorial Scholarship
University of Texas at Tyler
Egan is pursuing a Master of Science in health care administration at Texas Tech University and an MBA in cyber security at The University of Texas at Tyler. She was raised in a highly conservative Christian household and community. Egan’s progression to secularism started during adolescence with conflicting values of the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine and the medical and mental health community. Egan was removed from fellowship and the congregation was mandated to shun her.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion was my entire identity apart from being an African American woman,” said Egan, who now identifies as an atheist and humanist. She is involved with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Recovering from Religion, The Dallas-Plano Atheists, Metroplex Atheists, Freethinkers of Fort Worth, and Black Nonbelievers. Egan says the Secular Student Alliance is essential to helping nonreligious youth gain the comprehension and willpower to question the foundations of their upbringing and develop a humanist future.