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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Students earn FFRF cash awards through SSA

FFRF, 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: 

Isaiah — Al Luneman Student Activist Award ($2,000).

Courtney — Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation Student Scholarship ($1,000).

Sage — FFRF’s Strong Backbone Student Activist Award ($1,000).

Daniel — Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Award ($1,000). 

Kourtney — 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 editor@ffrf.org.


Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation Scholarship

Courtney

Smithfield-Selma High School

After Courtney graduates Smithfield-Selma High School, she plans to pursue an arts degree from a university to become a gallery artist. In comparing religion and God to Santa, the Easter Bunny and other implausible characters, Courtney realized in elementary school that she was an agnostic atheist. Growing up in a small religious town and being non-Christian, she felt personally targeted by many in her community. She says, “I believe that my secularism has influenced my life by allowing me more freedom and a more open worldview.”

Courtney expresses her secular activism through art, highlighting the importance of the separation of church and state. Her most recent art piece, “June 24,” highlights the terror of living in a post-Roe v. Wade America in which women’s rights can be dictated by a majority religion. She has completed five public murals, including one at a middle school and two murals in the town of Selma, N.C., highlighting the racial diversity of that town. Courtney founded and currently runs a youth arts program, Youth In Art Initiative, advocating for the inclusion of youth in the arts. She is currently organizing a youth arts exhibition for ages 13-21 titled “Pieces of Us: An Exhibition Celebrating the Diversity of American Identity.” 

FFRF thanks the Yip Harburg Lyric Foundation for this scholarship.


Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Award

Kourtney

Smithfield-Selma High School

Kourtney wants to pursue a Ph.D. for a career as a college professor to advocate for the ideas and experiences of all Black people and address how systemic racism and sexism are harmful to marginalized communities. She says, “my dedication to secularism and the social promotion of Black and Brown people influences me to learn more profoundly about myself. Being a Black woman in America is inherently political.”

Kourtney’s secular activism rests upon the practice of keeping morality and political activism separate from religious influence. To advocate against the policies of far-right Christian politics, Kourtney is involved with Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) chapter, advocating for free and safe abortions and advocating for trans and LGBTQ civil rights. As Pad Project coordinator within the URGE chapter, she counteracts menstrual cycle miseducation through educational workshops. In volunteering at Planned Parenthood WestEnd, she will engage in Black birthing advocacy and Black bodily autonomy. Through her UNCF/Mellon Mays Fellowship, she will research how Spelman College’s Black, queer, femme women use sex as a form of radical resistance to counteract respectable femininity.

FFRF thanks the estate of Cliff Richards for this scholarship for HBCU students.


Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Award

Daniel

Moorehouse College

A junior communications major at Morehouse College, Daniel wants to become a sports broadcaster. When Daniel was 9, his grandfather shed light on the idea that there was no higher power after Daniel’s mother was unable to answer some of his questions about Christianity. Growing up, he did not tell others that he was a nonbeliever.

Daniel says being a Black atheist is almost unheard of in his community. Today, Daniel often mentors young Black men who question religion and encourages them to be freethinkers. This semester, Daniel plans to find more Black men who have a similar mindset and create a Black secular club. Starting a nonreligious student club at a Historically Black College or University is difficult. He says it would allow more Black men and women to view life from a different spectrum and not be bound by the shackles of religion.

FFRF thanks the estate of Cliff Richards for this scholarship for HBCU students.


Al Luneman Student Activist Award ($2,000)

Isaiah

Austin Community College

At Austin Community College, Isaiah served as the student body president, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and a commissioner with the city of Austin on the College Student Commission, as well as the Human Rights Commission. Isaiah served as a legislative intern and as a congressional intern at the U.S. House of Representatives. Isaiah will graduate with an associate of arts in government and plans to go to law school. Isaiah is currently working on starting a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to the unhoused population, LGBTQ youth, and all others that are in need of humanitarian services and support. In his spare time, Isaiah volunteers for poverty alleviation and engages in public service to help be the change that he wishes to see.

During high school, Isaiah successfully challenged Birdville Independent School District and Lake Dallas Independent School Districts’ unconstitutional announcements of church activities during their football games with help from the American Humanist Association. He also successfully challenged Birdville Independent School District for allowing school administrators to participate in baccalaureate ceremonies, having its retreats in church, and having cross displays in the classroom. Isaiah is an advocate for the separation of the church and the state and religious freedom and believes that the government should always remain neutral when it comes to religion.  

FFRF thanks FFRF Member Al Luneman for making possible this scholarship.


FFRF’s Strong Backbone Student Activist Award

Sage

Dallastown Area High School

Sage looks forward to studying forensic psychology at George Washington University for a career as a criminal psychiatrist or a forensic social worker. At 15, Sage studied The Satanic Temple and Humanism, both with similar tenets. Sage identifies as a secular satanist and humanist. Sage is also “a loud and proud member of the LGBT+ community.”

Last year, Sage started an SSA chapter at their school because there were so many students questioning their identities and needing a safe place to learn and be surrounded by respectful peers. SSA members made homemade bracelets to sell during lunch, raising over $250 for Ukraine. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Sage protested at numerous events. As someone who was assigned female at birth, Sage found it difficult to hear that the right to an abortion, menstrual products, equal wage or bodily autonomy were “women’s rights.” Reminding people of their existence, Sage says these are HUMAN rights.

FFRF thanks an octogenarian member, who wishes to remain anonymous, for funding FFRF’s Strong Backbone Student Activist Award.