Freedom from religion foundation, Inc | Subscribe
Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Forward Freethought scholarship winners announced

Kaylin Nelson
Stephanie Avitia

FFRF has

Luz Santos
Behanka Adonis
Belen Padilla
Ashton Hall

-based organization. 

BSLA is the first secular humanist atheist organization to specifically address college pipelining for youth of color through its ongoing scholarship, college and K-12 youth leadership partnerships. FFRF has proudly partnered with BSLA for nine years to provide tuition grants, gradually increasing the funding and number of scholarships. The BSLA review committee is Imani Moses, Darrin Johnson, Deana Williams and Sikivu Hutchinson.

Here are the 2022 First in the Family Forward Freethought scholarship winners, underwritten by FFRF, thanks to the generosity of FFRF benefactor Lance Bredvold, conducted in partnership with Black Skeptics Los Angeles, which chooses the recipients. The first three are this year’s first-year college student awardees and the second three are now sophomores after receiving the scholarship last year. 

By Behanka Adonis

I come from a very religious family that believes mental health is nonexistent, and, if you’re struggling, it’s because you’re not putting in enough effort to worship God. I believe religion should not be used as a weapon or as a scare tactic to get children to follow God. It should not be used to teach them that if you don’t go to church that good things won’t happen to you. Despite my family’s belief, I choose to participate in organizations that help me make a real difference as a secular youth of color, rather than just praying to make things happen. 

Being a first-generation immigrant student, I know the idea of mental health is hardly acknowledged within our community, and that being part of the LGBTQ community is considered a “sin.” I attempt to eliminate such stigma, and as humanists we are providing resources to ensure that every student, despite their circumstances, is treated equally. That’s why I joined my city’s Mayoral Youth Leadership Council, where I can use my voice for those who are silent. 

By Ashton Hall 

Humans tend to use religion as an “excuse haven” for how we treat others. Being contained by the clutches of religion hinders our own decisions and lets outer sources control us. Loving thy neighbor shouldn’t be a religious test; it should apply to everyone and anyone. 

Being a homosexual man, I faced adversity, especially from my own mother, who is religious. That’s why I encourage people, specifically those in my African American community, to guide their decisions by humility, individualism, logic and reason. If we follow the ideal of humanism, we can all come to find the positive life we want to be in. All of us want to reach happiness, in whatever way that comes, but to do that you have to work towards that. Change doesn’t happen by miracles, it happens through self-actualization, finding your belonging, creating a positive esteem in one’s self, bodily needs and sense of security.

By Luz Santos

What I’ve learned through my experiences is that religion only restricts who you are. No religion was going to fully accept who I was in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation. No religion was there when my parents forced me to keep going to church. No religion has been there when I’ve had to cry myself to sleep every night, yearning to one day feel acceptance. Instead of following a religion, I would like to focus on the discrimination that LGBTQ+ youth face every day for being who they are. Humanism never judges people based off of their race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status or class. The only thing that matters with humanism is making a positive difference to the world. By creating social change in my community, many more LGBTQ+ youth would feel accepted by society. Depression and anxiety would decrease and there would be no people getting kicked out of their homes. From my perspective, humanism can create a more powerful impact than religion.

By Belen Padilla 

Two political/cultural issues that resonate with me as a secular woman of color are immigration and health care inequities. Currently, there is an intertwining of these two through the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. States that have already implemented abortion bans or restrictions are immigrant-heavy Southern states. Black women are more likely than white women to die from childbirth. This statistic goes hand in hand with Southern states tending to be predominantly BIPOC communities where abortion is not a right. Abortion rights being unprotected will only lead to further health disparities of more black and brown women dying during childbirth, affecting Midwestern and Southern BIPOC women the most. It pains me as a BIPOC secular woman to see my own immigrant family and culture tell me that I must vote against abortion rights. As an aspiring neurologist/healthcare provider at the U.S-Mexico border who aims to be as culturally sensitive as possible to combat health disparities, I must stand on the side of science and social justice.

By Kaylin Nelson

The most significant challenge that I encountered during my first year of college was in my discussion-based classes, such as “Sex and Gender in Society” or “Race and Ethnicity.” Because I attend a predominantly white institution, it is significantly more difficult to find people I can relate to. So many things that I took for granted attending a predominantly Black high school and surrounding myself mostly with Black women suddenly became glaringly obvious. There are many people out there who, despite being well-meaning, carry deeply ingrained prejudices that become apparent during politics-based discussions. It was very challenging to have to hear someone say something racist, homophobic or sexist, and then gently educate or correct them rather than being upset by the things that they said. 

Two salient political or cultural issues that resonate with me as a secular woman of color include Covid-19/monkeypox and abortion rights. Black women within the healthcare system have a track record of being ignored or not given the attention that they require. This makes health-related crises even more devastating. Covid-19 has ravaged underprivileged communities, and will continue to do so as the government continues to fail to intervene and put into place protective and preventative measures. Additionally, the concept of weathering (which explores the exaggerated impact of health-related issues on marginalized individuals when viewed in conjunction with the oppression that they experience within society) only works to further the susceptibility of people who exist at the intersection of several marginalized identities to illnesses like Covid-19 and Monkeypox.

The current issues with Roe v. Wade have perfectly highlighted the importance of intersectionality. The politicization of people with uteruses sets a dangerous and terrifying precedent, and works to effectively control and force underprivileged people into parenthood. 

Stephanie Avitia

During my first year at the University of California Berkeley, I faced various obstacles that contributed to a year full of uncertainties. From the hardships of academic rigor, failing my first class and having unique opportunities such as participating in a Meta Reality Labs research.

There are many salient political and cultural issues I resonate with as a Latina atheist.

One that I think many can relate to is that in June, the U.S Supreme Court took away the constitutional right to abortion. Their decision negatively affects people of color because institutional racism has long barred access to healthcare. Not to mention the ruling is another example of how the separation of church and state is further crumbling. As a person with reproductive organs, I should have the right to choose. This is also frustrating because I know their decision was heavily influenced by their religious beliefs