Students Win National First Freedom Competition

Four students were honored in the 2013-14 First Freedom Student Competition, a national contest for high school students sponsored by the First Freedom Center. Sophomores Eloise Gibbin, Remi Godinez and Jackson Stogel took first place for their video, “Should the U.S. Advance Religious Freedom?” Honorable Mention went to senior Anna Hess for her essay, “Skinned Palms and Blood-Red Weddings.”

Students were asked to tackle the difficult question of whether advancing religious freedom should be a part of U.S. foreign policy. They were also challenged to consider what impact young people can have on the advancement of religious freedom. Submissions were judged on criteria including historical accuracy, research and originality. Out of nearly a thousand entries from public, private, parochial, and home-schooled students nationwide, Crossroads was the only school whose students were honored in both the essay and video categories.

In their winning video, which earned them a $2,500 prize, Eloise, Remi and Jackson examine the subject of religious freedom from both an individual and global perspective. The video opens on a high school party, where a teen’s discomfort with an anti-Semitic joke leads to a broader exploration of religious freedom and persecution. Later in the video, history teacher Tom Laichas discusses the complex impact of religion on American society. He shares that both proponents and opponents of slavery used Christianity to support their views, noting that “religion is not able to transcend the fact that we are imperfect creatures.” Tom served as the teacher sponsor for Eloise, Remi, Jackson and Anna throughout the competition.

The First Freedom Center is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. The First Freedom Student Competition was established to encourage high school students to study and analyze issues surrounding religious freedom at home and abroad.
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