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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

2018 College Students Essay Contest winners

College students essay contest

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 17 winners of the 2018 Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest.

College students were asked to write a personal persuasive essay on the topic of “Why I’m an unabashed nontheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”

Winners are listed below and include the award amount and the college or university they will be attending. FFRF has paid out a total of $12,550 in award money for this contest this year. 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 reflects those bonuses.

First place

Matthew McFadden, UCLA ($3,000)

Second place (tie)

Alex Kellogg, University of North
Carolina ($2,000)

Second place (tie)

Mike Meo, Portland State University ($2,000)

Third place

Emily Mickel, Cornell University ($1,000)

Fourth place

Rachel Bellflowers, Appalachian State University ($750)

Fifth place

Samuel Hagen,  Harvard University ($600)

Sixth place

Niamh Falter, Savannah College of Art and Design ($500)

Seventh place (tie)

Emma Rosen, LIU Global ($400)

Seventh place (tie)

Truth Muller, College of the Atlantic ($400)

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

Edon Ademaj, Texas Wesleyan

Samantha Jones, University of

Ashley Levy, Oglethorpe University

Blake T. Miller, IUPUI

William Napp, Grand Valley State

Julianna Schoenwald, Grand Rapids Community College

Lydia Taylor, University of Denver

Cameron Zahner, Harvard University

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979. 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.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, and graduate students since 2010 and since 2017 a contest geared directly specifically to students of color.

The graduate student essay winners will be announced in the November issue.