• Home
  • Donate
  • Contact
  • Log In

Our $2,500 Scholarship 2015 Recipients!


Throughout the month of September, secular student activists shared their stories with us in hopes of winning one of the SSA’s second annual 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.

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our $2,500 scholarships! A big congratulations to Amber Barnhill, Matt Enloe, Buxi Iacobone, and Amanda Scott

Amber Barnhill is the winner of our former fundamentalist prize. She is a student at Lamar University in Texas and a former Independent Fundamental Baptist. She graduated from seminary and then tutored inner-city Chicago youth for five years, went on missions trips, and lived in Mexico where she taught missionary children. She was taught that God despises education and women who work outside the church or home, but after becoming a mother, her beliefs and priorities changed. Following the birth of her second child, Amber wrote down a plan to end her abusive marriage, get real job until her kids were in school, and then take on college. She is currently in her second semester at Lamar University. She is pursuing a degree in Sociology and Mathematics. 

Amber identifies as an atheist even though she feels like labels don't really define who a person is. Last semester, Amber organized an Ask an Atheist day at her campus with the Lamar University Secular Student Alliance and came out publicly as an atheist for the first time. The local reporter covering their event ended up running a story focusing on Amber and how religious bullying led her to be more open about atheism. 

Before Amber was involved with the Secular Student Alliance, she spoke out about separation of church and state when her four-year-old son's public school teacher had a 'repeat after me' prayer and and tried to convert him to Christianity behind her back. Amber was still a Christian at that point. She had never heard of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but was directed to them and had them send a letter. She had no idea what she was getting into by speaking out publicly. Amber was ostracized, bullied, threatened, and even lost her job.

Going back to school last semester has helped Amber regain some normalcy and her activism lead her to find the secular community which helped her process what she was going through, evaluate her values and ideologies, and understand why religious equality is so important. Last year, she ended up reporting her child's school for a long list of church-state violations. Even though she did so anonymously, they figured out who reported them, and started treating Amber like an enemy. Amber was even verbally accosted in the school library and in front of her children. At the end of the year, she wrote an open letter to the district and read it at the school board meeting. The religious bullying in this district is almost unbelievable, but the battle isn't over yet.

Congratulations, Amber! We are so proud of the work you have done, and we wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors! 

Alumni Spotlight: Danielle Muscato


In our Alumni Spotlight series, we highlight alumni of our affiliate groups and the awesome things they have been doing since they graduated. Are you a Secular Student Alliance alum? Tell us how you've been doing! We'd love to spotlight you!

This month's featured alumna is Danielle Muscato. Danielle is an alumna of the University of Missouri-Columbia, class of 2013, where she was a member of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics (MU SASHA). When she started college at 25, she learned about an atheist group on campus but at that time it only had five people in the group. However, she quickly felt welcome and, for the first time, at home. At first she just attended meetings, then she started giving presentations about topics that had led to her "de-conversion" to atheism until she eventually became the Vice President.

She spent a summer as one of the interns for the national SSA office in Ohio. The next year, she left school without graduating because she was offered a full-time position as the PR Director for American Atheists, and relocated to New Jersey to take that job. She’s currently a freelance activist, writer, public speaker, and pundit, and looking for another full-time opportunity as an activist in the secular community. 

When asked what she remembered most fondly about her SSA experience, she said that her first SSA Annual Conference in 2011 was one of the best experiences of her life.

"It is incredibly important for student leaders to attend the national conference. I simply can't overstate this. The conference is where you learn how to be an effective leader, grow your group, and accomplish activism goals, not to mention that it's the best place to meet other student leaders and professional activists in the secular community."

MU SASHA is Outstanding!


Every year, the National Secular Student Alliance hears about amazing things that our students, affiliate groups, Secular Safe Zone Allies, and advisors are doing. When we hear of an individual or group doing something especially awesome, we present them with an Award for Outstanding Activism for their exemplary work. 

Students are some of the most powerful voices for social and political change, and the University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, and Agnostics (MU SASHA) are an outstanding reflection of that!

The University of Missouri is located in Boone County, and the Boone County Commission took comments from the community on August 6, 2015 on whether or not to relocate a Desert Storm (Gulf War) monument. The Desert Storm monument was installed bearing an ichthus, or "Jesus Fish," symbol.

MU SASHA asserted that the enshrinement of the "Jesus Fish" on state property violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, and that the Desert Storm monument should be moved off the Boone County Courthouse lawn. To combat this violation, members of MU SASHA spoke at the event and encouraged the public to help raise awareness and participate in the process. Their participation in this event earned them coverage in the Columbia Tribune, as well as coverage and a letter to the editor in the Missourian


"This sealed the case about what to do with the monument and showed grassroots support for the secular cause that was severely lacking before (very few, if any, people spoke in favor of removing it before)," said Mark Schierbecker, Director of Public Relations for MU SASHA. "Our group countered the one-sided depiction of the issue that the media portrayed prior to our involvement."

The Boone County Commission did vote to move the monument from the Boone County Courthouse lawn, largely thanks to the awesome presence from MU SASHA! We are exceptionally proud to present you with an Award for Outstanding Activism!

RELEASE: Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation


For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelley Freeman, (614) 441-9588 x101

Atheist student questions presidential candidate about church-state separation

LAS VEGAS and COLUMBUS, Ohio - Student Daniel Little from the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Southern Nevada confronted presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 20, 2015, asking her current opinion on the separation of church and state. 

“We love to see our students involved in the political process,” said August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. “It’s great that they are raising awareness of the issues that are important to them and we’re extremely proud of Daniel for doing so.”

Little’s question referenced the seven states whose constitutions still bar atheists from holding public office, an issue that has been raised by Openly Secular, a coalition of which the Secular Student Alliance is a partner.

“I was really nervous about asking my question, but none of the political candidates really talk about us [atheists, agnostics, secular Americans]. I don’t really hear any representation or coverage that pertains to issues we care about, which is why I wanted to ask that to a potential president,” said Little. 

According to a recent Pew Study, 53% of the country would be less likely to vote for a candidate if the candidate was an open atheist.

“It’s important for non-religious Americans to be out and visible. We live in a religious and socially pluralistic nation. Politicians have to pay attention to secular Americans as much as anyone else,” Brunsman continued.

The Secular Student Alliance is an organization that empowers secular students to proudly express their identity, build welcoming communities, promote secular values, and set a course for lifelong activism. Its support for grassroots organizing enables students to shape a future in which they thrive as valued members of society and provide visionary leadership committed to humanistic ideals and critical inquiry. The Secular Student Alliance is a 501(c)(3) and does not support or oppose candidates for public office. More information can be found at http://secularstudents.org and @SecularStudents on Twitter and Facebook.com/SecularStudents. 

The clip in question can be listened to at http://bit.ly/ClintonSOCAS.


For more information contact:

Kelley Freeman
Communications Associate, Secular Student Alliance
(614) 441-9588 x101


Subscribe to Secular Student Alliance RSS
Powered by Drupal