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Congratulations to the 2009 SSA Best Award Winners!


Congratulations to the winners of the Secular Student Alliance 2009 Best Awards!

Best Award

We had several competitors in each category, and making the final decisions was a tough call. Our affiliates have done great work, put on awesome projects, had significant impact in their communities, been all over the media, and more. But when push comes to shove, we could only pick one from each category.

Winners of the Best Awards will receive a handsomely engraved plaque, as well as a cash award to fund future projects for their group. In addition, winners will be invited to receive their awards in person at the 2009 SSA Conference, and will be invited to speak on how they have led their groups to excel.

Without further ado, we present the Best!

2009 Best Affiliate: Secular Alliance of Indiana University

The Secular Alliance at Indiana University started just over a year ago, but you'd never guess it from their numbers. They started their semester with a visit from atheist author John Loftus. They then organized a group field trip to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, and collaborated to make a video of their trip, which you can see on Vimeo. This semester they met with other freethought groups in Indiana and have spearheaded the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign, which already has "You can be good without God" ads on buses in several cities across the state. They have garnered 200 members in just one school year, have built an effective and eye-catching website, and have applied for office space for their group in the fall! We'd like to congratulate the Secular Alliance for their accomplishments this far and hope to see more great work from them in the years to come!

2009 Best New Affiliate: American University Rationalists & Atheists

The American University Rationalists & Atheists (AURA) kicked off its first year with a call-out meeting with over 30 students in attendance. They've taken a field trip to see Bill Maher's Religulous, hosted a well-attended dialogue with a christian student organization, welcomed speakers Dan Barker and Ellery Schempp, fed students at a Flying Spaghetti Monster Dinner and hosted a free comedy show on their campus. They were featured in their school's student newspaper when they challenged their university's commencement invocation. These activities, combined with student-led presentations and discussion meetings, are the components of a great year for AURA! Our congratulations go out to this new group - we're excited to see them grow!

2009 Best Media Coverage/Letter to the Editor: Pastafarians at the University of South Carolina

The Pastafarians @ USC have received a wide range of media attention this year. They began with their school newspaper, which covered president Andrew Cederdahl's Founder's Scholarship from American Atheists, covered and praised the group's Darwin Day debate (Dan Barker v. Kyle Butt), and included several opinion pieces regarding the group, its message and tactics, both supportive and critical. Their media attention spread beyond campus when local news station WISTV featured the group's sold-out Darwin Day debate. Another local channel featured the group while discussing the recent ARIS survey results. ABC Columbia focused on the group in a series called "Hidden Columbia," and group leader Andrew Cederdahl was interviewed on Freethought Radio. Last - but certainly not least - the group was featured in a front page story in the New York Times, "More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops." Three cheers for the Pastafarians at USC - we're sure we're going to be seeing more of you in the headlines to come!

2009 Best Website: Students for A Nonreligious Ethos (SANE) at Berkeley University

SANE at Berkeley has a clean, easy to read website that's chock full of information about their group. The overall design is simple and uncluttered, making it easy to zero in on the information you need and navigate the site at a glance. The blog-style main feed features upcoming events and reviews of recent activities, updated almost once a week. From the front page, it's easy to find upcoming events, get information about meeting times and locations, and quickly navigate to other areas of the site. Contacting the group is handled by a spam-filtering webform, and there's an easy link to subscribe to their mailing list. The FAQ handles common questions in a light-hearted, fun manner. The site features pictures of the group's recent activities and links to other organizations, information about the group and more - all while maintaining organization and ease of use. We're proud to present this 2009 Best Website award to SANE. Congratulations!

2009 Best Service Project: Students for Freethought at the Ohio State University

At the 2008 SSA conference leaders from Students for Freethought watched a presentation from University of Illinois students about their spring break service trip, wondering why on earth they hadn't thought of something like this themselves. They took the idea to their own group and immediately started planning a similar, week-long trip to help rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. But they weren't content to stop there! They organized their trip to line up with the U of I's trip in the spring of 2009, and the groups met up in New Orleans! Inspired by the success of their spring break trip, SFF leaders then organized a second service project: a three-day camping trip to help improve and maintain the Pine Mountain Trail: putting up trail markers, installing bear poles (to keep bears from eating campers' food!), and generally cleaning and maintaining the trail through the Appalachians. We're excited to see one group taking on multiple large-scale service projects, and so we are pleased to be able to present Students for Freethought with the 2009 Best Service Project award.

Your SSA affiliate group is eligible for the Best Awards, too! Get your eye on an award, and include activities as you plan your year to work toward that award. Don't forget to apply in the spring! While an application is not necessary to win an award, it does put your group's accomplishments right in front of us so we can see what you've done! Check out past events that have won Best Awards at www.secularstudents.org/best!
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