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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Winners of 2019 high school essay contest

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the winners of the 2019 William Schulz High School Essay Contest. FFRF is awarding an unprecedented $17,750 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: “Why we must rely on ourselves, not God, to solve the world’s problems.” To defend this thesis, they were encouraged to analyze one or two world or personal challenges.

After reviewing more than 200 essays, FFRF awarded 10 top prizes and nine honorable mentions.

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

First place

Aline Pham, 17, (UC-Irvine) $3,500.

Second place

Jacob McGee, 18, (Rollins College, Fla.) $3,000.

Third place

Shiv Shah, 18, (Arizona State University) $2,500.

Fourth place

Thomas Ballinger, 16, (Washington State University) $2,000.

Fifth placez

Milo Shields, 17, (Tufts University) $1,500.

Sixth place

Zoe Nussbaum, 17, (University of Southern California) $1,000.

Seventh place

Madison “Matt” Mastrolia, 18, 

(Rutgers University-New Brunswick) $750.

Eighth place

Samuel Talbott, 18, (Millsaps College, Miss.) $500.

Ninth place

Ethan Forde, 18, (Marquette University, Wis.) $400.

Tenth place

Katie Scroggs, 18, (University of Rhode Island) $400.

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

Angeline Ajit, 16, (University of North Texas)

Talia Bank, 18, (Macalester College)

Alyssa Boynton, 18, (New College of Florida)

Kaitlyn Cochenour, 18, (Youngstown State University)

Matt Giles, 18, (University of Rochester)

Natalyn Groke, 17, (University of Utah)

Sofie Iwamasa, 17, (Case Western Reserve University)

Ben Keane, 18, (Stanford University)

Anna Miller, 18, (Bryn Mawr College)

The high school contest is named for the late William J. Schulz, a Wisconsin member who died at 57.

FFRF thanks Professor Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College for the prompt.

FFRF also 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 $17,750 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 we couldn’t judge these contests without our “faithful faithless” readers and judges, including: Don Ardell, Linda Aten, Dan Barker, Jeff Brinckman, Bill Dunn, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Kettner, William Keys, Jerry Ryan, Bailey Nachreiner-Mackesey, Lauryn Seering, PJ Slinger, Karinthia Treu, Lisa Treu and Karen Lee Weidig.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994 and grad students since 2010.  A new fifth contest, open to law students, also debuts this year.

The college student essay winners will be announced in the September issue.


Essay contest