The 2012 Best Awards
We are thrilled to announce the winners for the Secular Student Alliance 2012 Best Awards. We have an exciting group of individuals and affiliate groups who have done outstanding work in our four focus areas and beyond. Join us in congratulating this year's winners!
Collegiate Affiliate of the Year: The Secular Student Alliance at the University of Nevada—Las Vegas
For Collegiate Affiliate of the Year, the award goes to the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Nevada—Las Vegas. Especially noteworthy was UNLV's work bringing in speakers, running a lending library, and hosting discussions. They are very focused on activism to avoid conflict, for example their work with the Westboro Baptist Church. UNLV has also done an impressive amount of charity work, from fundraising, to a book repair & book drive, to sponsoring a local family for the holidays. They have also cooperated with the Young Democrats group and Spectrum, plus two off-campus groups. SSA at UNLV is a very sizable community of over 100 members. They have weekly meetings with various formats and lots of fun stuff.
High-School Affiliate of the Year: The Secular Student Alliance at Smithson Valley
Facing repeated administrative resistance, the SSA at Smithson Valley not only got permission to form, but has thrived by responding with training members to respond diplomatically. They held a successful bake sale, donated $300 in materials to Goodwill, and are focusing on changing perceptions and erasing stigmas of atheists through leading by example, and they are doing a stellar job.
Best Educator: Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics (AHA!) at University of Wisconsin—Madison
AHA! wins Best Educator for their great work bringing in speakers, running panels, discussions, and more. They have also participated in a State Street Clean-up, a service fundraiser which raised over $2000—especially impressive considering that religious groups—combined—raised only $250. They have a focus on great meetings, after-meeting social events, trivia competitions, and run a Facebook group. They also work closely with religious groups and on interfaith projects, with the Madison-Area Coalition of Reason, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in addition to using mass emails to the student body, flying, and tabling to spread the word about their group.
Best Service: Illini SSA
Illini SSA is receiving special recognition this year for Best Service for their support of a secular adoption agency following the Catholic adoption debacle. They participated in an interfaith program to bring holiday gifts to children, a blood drive to raise awareness about the MSM-ban which resulted in a donation of 33 units. They also helped to clean up a homeless housing & meal center alongside a Catholic center, and helped set up a Service Project Network on their campus.
Best Activist: Atheist Agenda
Atheist Agenda is being recognized as Best Activist for their Smut for Smut exchange and their impressive collaboration efforts. Atheist Agenda takes the position that atheism is inherently disliked by many people and rather than spending our time getting people to like us and think of us as good people, we should focus on raising questions and discussing issues many people consider rude, at which they have particularly excelled.
Best Community: Alabama Atheists and Agnostics
Our Best Community Award goes to Alabama Atheists and Agnostics. AAA is located in an area hostile to atheist groups and focuses on providing a community of support and safety while integrating into the greater local community. They are part of a coalition of progressive campus groups and involved in fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the Light The Night Walk. Among other activities, they have shown movies, hosted dinners and potlucks, participated in tornado relief, and a Send an Atheist to Church event. One of their active members was elected to their school's Student Government Association, and they also attended the Reason Rally in February in Washington, DC.
Best Active Alumni: Joshua Deaton, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Joshua Deaton was the UNCG group president from 2011-2012, where he acted as a public debater, planned speakers and events, moderated, tabled, and was supporting with funding and transportation. Joshua helped get the city of Greensboro to turn a public prayer back to a moment of silence. According to group member Daniel Foster, "Even Christians comment on his modesty and ninja intellectualism."
Best Advisor: Amy Young, SSA at Central College
Amy Young, despite not having tenure at a religious college, was willing to help the SSA at Central College as it was forming, and has been an active and supportive advisor, going so far as to invite the group to her home and attend meetings regularly. She is this year's pick for Best Advisor.
Best Individual Activist (Collegiate): Amanda Brown
Receiving the award for Best Individual Activist at the college level is Amanda Brown. Amanda participated in research with Dr. Darrel Ray for his Sex & Secularism survey and "Sex and God" book. She also is a volunteer educator for Planned Parenthood and has participated in raising funds for a homeless charity with the Kansas City Atheist Coalition. She was instrumental in helping to organize Reasonfest at the University of Kansas in 2011 and 2012, is the founder of WeAreAtheism.com (the "It Gets Better" website for atheists), and is an avid supporter and advocate for women's rights.
Best Individual Activist (High School): Max Nielsen
Max learned from an active SSA member that his school prayer was unconstitutional, and reached out to the Freedom from Religion Foundation for help to fight the prayer. He has received lots of backlash from his community in Columbia, South Carolina. He has also been involved in Camp Quest South Carolina and reaching out to restart the SSA affiliate group at the College of Charleston.