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Secular Service


What good is being right if it doesn’t change anything? Does being secular matter if it doesn’t move you to act?

Many of our students have decided to put their beliefs into action. To these students, having secular values means being for something. It means doing something to impact their community and make our world a better place.

Let’s look at an example from UNIFI, the SSA affiliate at the University of Northern Iowa. They got active when the possibility of flooding threatened Cedar Rapids. More than a dozen of their members spent a Saturday sandbagging and helping the city prepare for flooding.

the Big EventFor another example, take a look at the University of Montevallo Secular Student Alliance. In April they participated in “The Big Event,” a community-service program put on by the university. This was their third year participating. They helped a senior citizen with landscaping and brush removal. The Montevallo SSA’s service was greatly appreciated, and they became a more cohesive group in the process.

Yet another example is the UTSA, the SSA affiliate at the University of Texas-San Antonio, who partnered with other secular community groups to build ramps with the Texas Ramp Project. Or the SSA group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who joined with Project Linus to make blankets for seriously ill children. On another occasion, they sold baked goods to raise money for the Women's Medical Fund.

We’ve got tons of examples! Our students have done many different community projects, but what ties it all together is the belief that being secular calls them to action and service.

We’ve shared some of our student’s stories and now we want to know yours. How have you used secular values to make our world a better place?

Let us know and maybe we’ll share your example in a future!

Class is in session and SSA is in high gear


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!

Having An Event? Read This First! :: This Week

We hope your group is planning at least one awesome event this year, whether that be a conference, hosting a speaker, or collaborating with another group to host an event. After the event, however, is a very important time. It’s greatly beneficial to have your members reflect on the event to build meaning and learn about the needs of individuals to better host future events. There are both pre and post-event exercises you can host for your group. Download the event reflection guide here.
Halloween is only four weeks away! This is a fantastic opportunity to get creative about promoting your secular group. Our Graveyard of the God packet is a way to show how many deities have ‘existed’ over time but cease to be worshiped. Some student groups like to do Graveyard of Great Minds instead, to focus on individuals throughout history who have contributed greatly to intellect. To ensure that you get your Graveyard of the Gods/Great Minds kit in time, you’ll want to order it now!
To keep getting access to things like tabling supplies and project grants, you will need to fill out an affiliation renewal twice a year. You’ll want to make sure you have things ready such as a roster of all members as well as any leadership updates documented. Start preparing now by reviewing the Affiliation Renewals FAQ.

Secular Student Alliance at Pasadena Community College!

"This is our second semester and we learned quite a few things from last semester about being open and present. Many students are aware that we exist and quite a few of them expressed gratitude that we have a group on campus."

Terri Smith

Pasadena City College held a tabling event during Clubs Week on their campus. They had many great conversations with believers and non-believers and made plans to collaborate with other campus groups. Terri stated that it was "very rewarding to receive positive feedback from almost everyone that approached the table". With hecklers, Terri said that the group handled them "calmly and with good humor". Great job SSA at PCC!

Last Call for Scholarship Applicants! :: This Week

Last call to apply for our Student Activist Scholarships! We're giving away $15,000 to students like yourself for their outstanding activism and leadership. Tell us about your plans and what you've accomplished so far! Apply on or by September 30 to be considered!
We want to make sure your student members don't miss important information from us! In order to best promote your events, and for them to get word from SSA National, collect their name and e-mail address and send them to us! Members will receive a discount for our annual conference, eligibility for scholarships, project grants, and more! Submit your 2016-2017 roster here!
Ever see preachers on campus but are unsure what to do? One fun and creative thing to do is hold a Counter Protest! Your packet will include things like street preacher bingo sheets, stickers, and non-confrontational placards. Having a street preacher on campus is also a great way to reach out to other groups to co-host this, such as a women's rights or LGBT group. Request a Counter Protest Packet here for your group!

Secular Student Alliance at Jacksonville State University!

"SSA Con gave us great insight into using our campus to its fullest. Our confidence level is five notches higher because of SSA Con. The more activities we do, the more familiar people are with us. They won't be able to forget that secular individuals exist on campus."

Ben Williams

Secular Student Alliance at Jacksonville State University held a "Stone A Heathen" day. Unbeknown to them, a street preacher was already there when they went to set up! The preacher had signs depicting anti-pride with a list of sins, which in turn caused many Christian students to donate to SSA at JSU, saying that the preacher did not represent their version of Christianity. Ben Williams states that Stone A Heathen was a great opportunity to start productive controversial conversation. Fantastic job, SSA at Jacksonville State University!


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