Michelle Dubert-Bellrichard, a high school student from Wisconsin, has an opinion piece in the Telegraph Herald newspaper (Iowa).
She’s an atheist and she wants a scholarship.
Students who are active in their church are greatly looked upon when it comes to applying for money. For some scholarships, the only people eligible must be members of a church and participate in its activities. Now, I believe I deserve a scholarship, because I am an activist in my beliefs, and I have struggled through the many consequences of being an atheist, but no such scholarships are offered locally for people like me.
I am a dedicated student who happens to be an atheist, but I get no acknowledgement for it, unlike my fellow religious peers. It takes more will to say I have no faith, and more effort to prove myself to be an upright citizen. I believe all schools should disband any scholarships that focus solely on religion, and they should award students who demonstrate their beliefs, no matter what they may be, more passionately.
She tells a touching story of coming out and being harassed as a result:
… My sister was the first to stray (to my knowledge) from the flock, and I was impressed by her bold move. She took a lot of flak for it, and once we started to bond, she really opened my mind to the world of atheism.
However, once school started, that was when I was tested. I am the minority at school, and I constantly have to defend myself. During the second semester of my freshman year, I was yelled at and humiliated by a teacher to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. When I refused, and the Pledge finished, the teacher took me into another room and questioned my Americanism. Then he concluded by saying whenever the Pledge would happen, I would have to go into another classroom, by myself, and wait. It took everything I had to stop crying and muster up enough courage to take this “meeting” down to the principal’s office.
I may have won that battle, but it had many repercussions.
It may be harsh to disband any religious scholarship (assuming they are being offered by churches and not the school), but Michelle is correct in saying students should be commended for reasons other than the religious label they (or their parents) place on themselves.
Thankfully, there are a couple scholarships for atheist high school students:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation offers a top prize of $2,000 for high school seniors in their annual essay contest.
American Atheists offers a top prize of $2,500 for high school seniors who can demonstrate their activism.
Hopefully, Michelle can apply for (and win) those contests. Looks like she already has the qualifications and writing ability.
[tags]atheist, atheism, scholarship[/tags]