Despite any feelings you may have about last night's elections, I have an announcement we all can appreciate. The first batch of SSA scholarship winners!
But before I reveal them, thanks to everyone who has donated so far. We are off to a great start in funding next year's scholarships, but there is still a ways to go. Please make a donation now!
Now to the winners. Today I’ll be sharing our $1,000 winners.
Ariel is a student at Baylor University. Baylor is an extremely hostile environment for an SSA group. The school openly opposes having the group on campus and has refused to officially recognize the group. That hasn’t stopped Ariel from making an impact. Under her leadership, the SSA group protested Baylor's Title IX violations. They've partnered with the local NAACP to work on voter registration. They led interfaith events and have been active with Planned Parenthood. She helped bring 'controversial' secular speakers to her campus, including Matt Dillahunty and Russel Glasser. Finally, RAs at Baylor are now trained on how to help incoming secular and atheist freshmen, all because of the work of Ariel and the "unofficial" Baylor SSA.
Benjamin Mowbray helped form his second SSA group at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center after forming his first SSA group at the Oklahoma City Community College. Both experiences left him shocked to find people who had no idea that there were other non-believers around them. As an activist he helped organize an interfaith panel that included Muslim, Buddhist, and Pagan students. He’s also partnered with Nursing Students for Choice to host an event for the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. More than just an SSA leader, Benjamin is a board member of Oklahoma Atheists and the first atheist board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma!
Impressive so far, right? If you agree, stop reading right now, and go donate. Then come back and finish this article.
Amber Barnhill is a name you should already be familiar with, as this is her second SSA scholarship win! She previously won in part for her powerful story of perseverance, and her ability to harness personal struggles into public advocacy. Now a student at Lamar University, she has continued her impressive activism. She’s founded the local chapter of Atheists Helping the Homeless. She's hosted a Religious Freedom Panel at her local city hall, which caused three city councilors to quit in protest of the panel being allowed. Now she is working on creating a sex education program through the Unitarian Church, and has continued to share her story publicly, including on Darrel Ray's podcast and with a blog post on Patheos.
Morgan Stringer went to the French Camp Academy as a child, a fundamentalist boarding school where she was not allowed to expose her knees and was taught to submit to men. She was forced to participate in an after school work program, in order to instill "biblical work ethic." This work program including being forced to sew quilts that would sell for thousands of dollars at auction, while the students received nothing. Now she attends the University of Mississippi School of Law. She works at the MacArthur Justice Clinic, is active with the ACLU, and protested to change the Mississippi state flag. She is also the former cohost of No Religion Required and now hosts the Biskeptical podcast which discusses issues important to bisexual atheists.
Our final scholarship winner is Adam Manno who won the $1,000 scholarship provided by Humanists of Sarasota Bay. In addition to being a secular activist Adam is very active in the LGBTQ community. He recently won the Pride Gives Back award from Orlando PRIDE. Another of his passions is writing. He writes for his student newspaper as well as for Watermark, a local LGBTQ publication. He told us "The important thing for me is being able to use my background as a member of SSA to cover issues from a perspective not often seen in the media. That perspective is based on the crossroads of my existence. Between being a secular LGBTQ student and being a second generation Hispanic-American, a lot of hot-button issues in today's society impact me."
We're so proud of all our winners. Help us ensure we can do this again next year. We need to raise at least $5,000 in order to make that happen. To help us reach that goal, and to make your money go twice as far, one of our donors, Ron Verstappen, is matching all donations up to that $5,000 mark.
I started this with a small reference to the election. As a C3 non-profit organization we cannot become too deeply involved with politics. However it’s more important than ever that we continue our work, and give our students the power to continue to create a secular future. However you're feeling, channel that into something good, and if that means a donation to the SSA, we thank you.