‘Religion Lost and Found’ Essay Competition

We’re thrilled to announce the winners of our 2021 ‘Religion Lost and Found’ college essay competition. For this inaugural competition, students across the country submitted essays on finding faith, struggling with doubt, encountering loss, and discovering new spiritual paths and traditions on campus. Check out the winning essays below!
Winning Entry

Nathan Rubene dos Santos, Stanford University, 2021
"Crucifix and Cowries”

The Afro-Afro-Brazilian tradition of his grandmother came to Santos through stories and rituals that he found hard to reconcile with his strict conception of Roman Catholic norms. As he begins to better understand his grandmother, he finds himself finally able to embrace the vibrant, moving religious tradition she can bequeath him.

Runners up

Naomi Kim, Brown University, 2021
"Confessions of a Non-Catholic"

As a committed Protestant, Kim wasn’t sure what kept drawing her to the Catholic mass on campus. This essay reflects on what it means to find a spiritual home, and the many paths a spiritual search can take.

Aissatou Touré, New York University, 2021
“Faith and Memories”

Growing up with her grandparents in Guinea, Toure learned how to pray as a communal act. This community changed dramatically when she moved back to the U.S. Years later, she revisits her childhood home, and reflects on her evolving relationship to faith, community, and prayer.

Honorable Mentions

  • Seyma Kaya, Yale University ’23, “May I Be Translated?”
    When Kaya discovered the Yale Buddhist community, she found a mantra whose message was the same as a comforting Turkish saying she knew from her mother back in Turkey. This essay reflects on what it means to live in spiritual and culture worlds that always need translation, yet hold meaning.

  • John Tuttle, Benedictine College, ’21, “Along The Way”
    After a home school education, Tuttle found himself out of place at his local community college. When he switched to Benedictine College, he found that even in a devout Catholic school, his faith was something that had to be sustained from within.

  • Vivek Tanna, Stanford University ’22, “Oh, Are You Religious?”
    When Tanna came out in college, he found the aesthetics of the queer community bump up against the Hindu principles of non-attachment and renouncement of ego that formed his religious worldview. This essay reflects on the various ways these two worlds can, in fact, inform and strengthen one another.

  • Dionna Dash, University of Pittsburgh, ‘22 “The Trees Screamed and the Mountains Wept and the Stars Raged Against the Dying of the Light”
    When Dash lost her beloved family dog, she found herself turning to traditional Jewish concepts of death and mourning to process the loss.

  • Carlye Goldenberg, University of Michigan, ’21 “The New Year”
    While hosting a Rosh Hashanah meal, Goldenberg found herself struggling with the impulse of her friends to apply theological meaning to current events. This essay reflects on the role of family, faith, and tradition when creating new traditions far from home.