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Congratulations On Your Scholarship, Kendall!

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Kendall Lovely is a student at the University of New Mexico, pursuing an undergraduate degree in comparative literature, cultural studies, and anthropology. This time next year Kendall hopes to be enrolled in a graduate program for cultural studies with emphasis on either critical or literary and cultural theory. She was raised in a secular household that emphasized the importance of questioning institutional authorities and identifies as an Atheist Jew.

kendallShe began her activism the second week of her freshman year, when she was recruited by New Mexico’s Public Interest Research Group to help them register voters for 2012 election. With the New Voters Project, Kendall registered over 1,500 new voters on campus!

Her activism with NMPIRG led to her to happily discover the University of New Mexico Secular Student Alliance, and she is now the group's event coordinator. She has participated in many of their events including a Hug-An-Atheist Day fundraiser for their local Light the Night walk, community service events, and working on the Unholy Trinity tour in which they brought the speakers Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty, and Seth Andrews to UNM’s campus.

Kendall also helped found an affiliate of the women’s rights group, the Feminist Majority Foundation, on her campus and is their events chair. Last fall, she worked with FMF to counter a New Mexico state ban on abortions past twenty weeks, a ban that was proposed and pushed by non-secular groups from outside of the state. Due to her efforts to counter this ban, Kendall endured personal attacks.

Congratulations On Your Scholarship, Sam!

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Sam Erickson grew up in a very Christian household, but was never a true believer: he went to church to please his parents, but at age thirteen opened up about his non-belief to his family and friends. He now identifies as an Agnostic Atheist and a Secular Humanist. He is a Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying economics and political science, and is planning to either attend law school or further his study of economics in graduate school.

samLast December Sam was elected President of Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA!) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after serving as Outreach Chair since June of 2013. The work he has done as a part of this organization is his proudest activist accomplishment!

AHA! has the largest budget ever received by a secular student organization, clocking in at over $61,000 for the 2014-2015 school year. Sam was pivotal in the groups’ success securing funding this year, and is working to secure that level of funding for his group for the next two years.

This budget allows Sam and AHA! to create incredible events, such as peppering the center of their campus with supportive, positive messages, being one of the pioneers in running Graveyard of the Gods last year, and even putting up a Flying Spaghetti Monster display at the Wisconsin State Capitol to accompany religious displays. These events have given Sam and his group excellent media exposure, including being featured on a national radio show and quoted in a front page Huffington Post article!

Congratulations On Your Scholarship, Candace!

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Candace Banks is a graduate student at Louisiana State University in communication sciences and disorders. She is specifically interested in language acquisition and development in children with African American Vernacular English as their primary language, how it operates as a distinct language, and what methods can be used to identify whether true developmental deficits are present in a child or whether they are developing normally but differently due to their language, dialect, background, or socioeconomic standing.

CandaceCandace aims to work in the school system to prevent the misdiagnosis of speech disorders due to racial or ethnic background, and treat preschool and elementary school students with speech disorders, and plans to eventually establish a community outreach center that will provide mental health, speech disorder, literacy, and cultural enrichment services.

Candace comes from a fundamentalist Church of Christ background that was very strict and dogmatic. She says that she grew up an anxious person and was always on edge because any move she made would be in disobedience to her father and god. Every decision she made was one that had to be evaluated and reevaluated, then prayed upon by the entire family and sometimes the entire church.

Even when she moved four hours away to a special school, she could not escape the church; when she did not attend services, her family was called, and the consequences of her so-called delinquency would range from a verbal lashing to withdrawal of financial support, to threats of making her move back home. However, being at this school allowed her to meet students of different faith and non-faith backgrounds, including some atheists, who were not nearly as menacing as she had been taught to believe.

Our 2014 Scholarship Recipients!

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Throughout the month of September, secular student activists shared their stories with us in hopes of winning one of the SSA’s first ever Scholarships for Student Activists. We sorted through many fantastic stories of activism, with students sharing their stories of everything from interfaith and intersectional work to phenomenal stories of group running success.

Today, we are thrilled to announce our five recipients! A big congratulations to Candace Banks, Sam Erickson, Kendall Lovely, Jeremy Sanchez, and Frank Skiff on their awards! Below is a short summary of their stories: be on the lookout next week for more in-depth stories.

Thank you so much to all of the students who applied for this award: choosing only five winners was tough for everyone involved. We are excited to see this program grow in the future!

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