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Humanists of Greater Portland (HGP) is pleased to sponsor an annual Humanist Essay Contest to encourage college-bound humanist students in their education and in their humanist philosophy. Thanks to the foresight and planning of Del Allen, a long-time member of HGP, a scholarship fund was begun a few years ago, with the first awards given out in 2012. HGP members continue to make donations to fund this important community outreach.

Humanists value education, logical thinking, and good communication skills, and HGP encourages these through its essay contest. We are heartened that each year the number of applicants has increased, which we believe shows a corresponding increase in the acceptance of humanism as a worldview by more young people in American society.

The scholarship contest is conducted by a committee of volunteers, and the scholarships are administered by that committee.

Students who identify themselves as secular humanists and meet specific criteria are invited to apply for scholarships by writing essays on a topic announced each year. First prize is now $3,000. Some runner up- and honorable mention-prizes have been given, depending on the number of worthy entries.

Public high school seniors who are going to attend college, and who meet the contest’s GPA, residence, and other criteria, are eligible to apply for HGP’s scholarships. In January of each year, the scholarship committee sends guidelines for applying, along with application forms, to metropolitan area public high schools. Interested students may pick up those applications at their schools or may download the form and guidelines from HGP’s website during the application window, which is January-April each year.

Past topics for the essays have been Why I am a Secular Humanist, The Challenges of Being a Secular Humanist and How I Formed My Moral Compass Without Religion or Dogma.  For 2016 applicants wrote on:  Is the concept of separation of church and state good for our country?  Why or why not?  How does it affect you personally?  This year (2017) the topic is "Many young people today are replying, “none,” when asked their religious preference. How does one develop a moral compass without religion or dogma?"

Essays are required to be 750-1,000 words. Students must submit mailed and emailed copies of their essays, photo IDs, short bios, school transcripts, and permission from parents. Winners are further required to submit proof of college enrollment prior to receiving their scholarship funds.

2012 winners: Julia Comnes, Gabe Fockler, and Deepak Warrier.

2013 winners: Zachary Stark, Alex Summers, Elise Brown, and Samantha Clute.

2014 winners: Nathan Potter, Samantha Voeller, Kelly Priest, and Bradley Lewis.

2015 winners: Danielle Sterba and Emily Sikora.

2016 winners: Guthrie Stafford and MarisYurdana with runners-up Ben Rutter and Georgia Welch receiving $1000 scholarships.

This year's application is here.

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