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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

2022 college student essay contest winners

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 11 winners and 13 honorable mentions of the 2022 Kenneth L. Proulx Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students. FFRF has paid out a total of $18,350 in award money to this year’s college contest winners.

Currently enrolled college students (up to age 24) wrote on the topic of “In God I Trust — NOT!” They wrote personal essays about why they have faith not in a supernatural deity but in themselves. 

This contest is named for Kenneth L. Proulx, one of FFRF’s most generous benefactors, who died in 2019. The cupola at Freethought Hall, FFRF’s office in Madison, Wis., is called the “Above Us Only Sky Kenneth L. Proulx Cupola,” or “Ken’s Cupola” for short. 

The $1,000 prize for sixth place in the ongoing college competition is generously endowed by actor and FFRF Lifetime Member Mr. Madison Arnold. Madison, who is 91, has given a $30,000 endowment as a living bequest, what he calls a “pre-quest.”

Essay contest 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.


Caleb Buell, 19, University of Alabama, $3,500.


Maia Willis-Reddick, 20, University of Arizona, $3,000.


Ethan Haight, 21, Western Carolina University, $2,500.


Liliana Austin, 20, University of Ottawa, $2,000.


Ashley Huh, 22, University of Houston, $1,500.


Eleanor McHugh, 20, Long Island University, $1,000


Lydia Woolwine, 19, University of Houston, $750


Rio Velasco, 22, University of Louisville, $500.


Anjalay Nagarajan, 20, University of Pennsylvania, $400.


Andrea Gutierrez, 23, Texas A&M University, $300.

Aubrey Reese, 20, Western Oregon University, $300.


Kye Binik, 23, Rowan University.

Robert Ebersole, 22, University of Arizona.

Abigail Jablon, 21, Texas A&M University.

Jana Kimball, 19, University of Pittsburgh.

Jonghyuk Park, 20, University of Washington.

Shelby Rhoades, 19, Kennesaw State University.

Richard O., 19, University of Delaware.

Virginia Sands, 19, Belmont University. 

Xavier Thompson, 20, Governors State University. 

Lennon Turner, 20, Jones College.

Katie Aaluk Watts, 20, San Jose State University.

Kami Weinstein, 21, Rutgers University. 

R.W., 20, Western Governors University.

FFRF also thanks “Director of First Impressions” Lisa Treu for managing the details of this and FFRF’s other student essays competitions. And we couldn’t judge these contests without our volunteer and staff judges, including: Dan Barker, Jon S. Galehouse, Kate Garmise, Brian Gillaspie, Richard Grimes, Ricki Grunberg, Joe Hendrickson, Dan Kettner, Gloria Marquardt, Brent Messer, Dave Petrashek, Chris O’Connell, Rose Mary Sheldon, PJ Slinger, Karen Lee Weidig and Casandra Zimmerman.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, grad students since 2010, one for students of color since 2016 and a fifth contest for law students since 2019.