School is back in session and the Secular Student Alliance is busy revving up for a big year!
Before the school year gets too ridiculous we wanted to take a moment to showcase what we’re already up to. Here is just a sampling of what has kept us busy over the past year and what we want to keep doing during the school year.
Every September, secular student activists share their stories with us in hopes of winning one of our Scholarships for Student Activists.
A former Baptist and seminary school graduate, Amber Barnhill, was the winner of our 2015 ‘former fundamentalist’ scholarship. Amber’s upbringing and studies included some of the most repressive religious doctrines. Having heard for so long that God despises education, women who work outside the home and that “the wife has no authority over her own body but yields it to her husband…”, she eventually found herself in an abusive relationship.
Amber struggled to understand and break free of the abuse. That meant resolving conflicting emotions that come with abuse; such as shame, fear, loyalty, love, and lust. That meant struggling to overcome parts of her upbringing to rediscover healthy sexuality, wifeliness, and motherhood. Eventually, she set herself on a new path.
She became an advocate for science-based sexual education and consent. She went go back to school and has since come out publically as an atheist. She even helped organized an Ask an Atheist Day event at her campus (one of 156 events hosted by SSA groups across the country).
She also started telling her own story as a victim of domestic violence, hoping to shed the light on societal problems that foment abuse and to empower others to seek support.
"Domestic violence isn’t a personal problem, it’s a social problem. Nothing is going to change until we stop focusing on the victims and start focusing on the perpetrators, the culture that creates them, and the systems that keep it in place." – Amber Barnhill, SSA Scholarship Winner
Our student groups are as awesome as ever; all 275 of them! Many of our groups continue to face adversity on campus. Take the example of the SSA at Baylor University. Baylor is a private Baptist university with a telling motto: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana (For Church, For Texas). Baylor has long refused to recognize the SSA group on campus. Through underground organizing, willpower, and the guidance of SSA National, they’ve run regular events, hosted secular speakers, and kept their group thriving for over ten years!
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have not been home to many secular organizations. We believe that every campus should have a safe and welcoming community for secular students! This fall, using our campus organizing knowledge and network of HBCU alumni, we are leading an initiative to increase the number of secular student groups at Historically Black Colleges and Universities! Contact us and learn how to get involved with this organizing drive!
“Religion, in the essence of its practice, is very prevalent at HBCUs. Religion is steeped in the Black community, and that culture and tradition carries over into the colleges.” –Donald Wright, alum of the HBCU Tennessee State University
Our shared secular values drive many students to be active change-makers, on their campuses and in their communities. The SSA group at the University of Missouri was honored by their university with an honorable mention for Most Outstanding Large Organization.
“We see ourselves as being one small part of a greater collective voice advocating for secular values in our country, and the SSA is an incredible resource for us to look to for direction in its advancement!” – Matt Burch Vice President MU Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics
Finally, does garbage on the site of the road make you furious? To the students at the SSA at Frostburg State University, their secular values move them to take care of the environment, and to leave the world better then than found it. So they decided to do something about litter by adopting a highway. They even got one of those cool signs with their name on it!
This is only a small portion of what the Secular Student Alliance is making happen. We have great students, groups, and run vitally important programs.
We are very thankful for all of you that support us so we can do this work. We can’t wait to show you what else is going on this year!