Winners of FFRF’s 2020 high school essay contest!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the winners of the 2020 William Schulz High School Essay Contest. FFRF is awarding an unprecedented $26,100 in scholarship money for this year’s contest!

College-bound high school seniors were asked to write a personal persuasive essay based on this prompt: “Write a persuasive, personal essay about why you reject religion and think others would be better off doing so, too. You may wish to include experiences or challenges you have faced as a young freethinker.”

After reviewing 491 essays (a record!), FFRF awarded 15 top prizes and 16 honorable mentions.

Winners are listed below and include the college or university they will be attending and the award amount.

First Place

Arianna Kassatly, 18, Florida State University, $3,500

Second Place (tie)

Liliana Austin, 18, Brampton University of Ottawa, $3,000

Jonah Mathisson, 18, University of Michigan, $3,000

Third Place (tie)

Kara Curtis, 18, University of Texas at Dallas, $2,500

Jana Kelly, 18, Brown University, $2,500

Fourth Place

Katherine Gerhardt, 17, University of California-Berkley, $2,000

Fifth Place

James Tripp Conway, 18, University of Kentucky, $1,500

Sixth Place

Paris Huckaby, 18, University of Colorado-Boulder, $1,000

Seventh Place (tie)

Kaitlin Eblen, 18, University of California-Los Angeles, $750

Arielle Fentress, 18, Cleveland Institute of Music, $750

Eighth Place

Anderson Lynch, 18, Oglethorpe University, $500.

Ninth Place (tie)

Ahndiya Kiburi, 18, University of California-Davis, $400

Isaiah Welch-Novels, 18, University of New Haven, $400

Tenth Place (tie)

Asia Felton, 189, Loyola Marymount University, $300

Samantha Schwarz, University of California-Los Angeles, $300

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

Yiping An, 18, Carnegie Mellon University

Soji Bedsole, 18, Auburn University

Hailey Cheng, 18, Columbia University

Julia Dimov, 18, Appalachian State

Alan Dupre, 18, Arizona State University

Brina Howell, 18, Kutztown University

Adam Johnson, 18, Duke University

Sofia Jorgensen, 18, University of Washington

Sierra Kolodjski, 18, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Daisy Martinez, 18, Blinn College

Harikeshav Narayan, 18, Indiana University-Bloomington

Alvaro Ortiz, 18, University of California-Berkley

Allen Papp, 18, University of Texas at Austin

Ashleigh Price, 18, Eastern Illinois University

Anastazia Rudolph, 18, University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Melinda Zou, 18, University of California-Berkley

“The number of compassionate and passionate essays we received from a record number of graduating seniors who reject religion gives great cause for optimism for the future of freethought,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Every single essay entry had value and worth.” Those who are not named winners receive a complimentary digital FFRF membership for a year and are offered a book or freethought product as a thank-you for entering.

The high school contest is named for the late William J. Schulz, a Wisconsin member and life-long learner who died at 57 and left a generous bequest to FFRF.

FFRF 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 $26,100 reflects these bonuses.

FFRF also warmly thanks FFRF “Director of First Impressions” Lisa Treu for managing the infinite details of this and FFRF’s four other annual student competitions, and the challenges of doing it remotely. And we couldn’t judge these contests without our “faithful faithless” readers and judges, including: Linda Aten, Dan Barker, Darrell Barker, Kristina Daleiden, Bill Dunn, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Judi Jacobs, Linda Josheff, Dan Kettner, Kathy Kunz, Gloria Marquardt, Katya Maes, Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey, Amit Pal, Sue Schuetz, Lauryn Seering, PJ Slinger, Katrina Treu, Lisa Treu and Karen Lee Weidig.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad students since 2010 and one dedicated to students of color since 2016. A fifth contest, open to law students, began in 2019.

Essay contests