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The Final Reveal


It’s time to reveal the rest of our scholarship winners! Well... almost time. We still haven’t reached our fundraising goal for next year’s scholarships. Can you take a quick moment and donate $50 to fund our scholarships?

And now here they are: the remaining SSA 2016 scholarship winners!

MatthewMatthew Facciani is a Patheos blogger, social psychology PhD student, and member of the SSA at the University of South Carolina. His SSA group is incredibly active: from blood drives, raising money for cancer research, fundraising for the local rape crisis center, tackling issues of social justice and battling the stigma against atheists, they’ve done it all! In his application, Matthew discussed how his secular values are a key motivator to his activism:“I think as a humanist, that we should try to reduce as much suffering as possible. That is why I fight so hard for social justice.”

SeanSean Rivera is the president of the SSA at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Sean decided to become an activist after experiencing discrimination as a Black and Latino atheist. He’s active in Black Lives Matter and volunteered as an escort at Planned Parenthood. When one of his friends got kicked out of their home for coming out as an atheist, Sean organized an effort to raise funds to help his friend get to safety. He’s seen firsthand how the secular community can come together to help friends and the community at large. He hopes this scholarship will allow him to focus more of his time on activism and promoting secular values.

We are halfway to our scholarship fundraising goal, and the generous matching offer is still in place. Donate $50 and it will become $100, donate $100 and we’ll get $200!

ClaireDuring high school, Claire VanValkenburg was repeatedly bullied for being secular, but she didn’t let mean notes and hateful messages deter her. She joined the SSA affiliate at the University of Wisconsin‑Madison and got to work making change. Last year she organized a 500-person demonstration and march against sexual assault. She is planning a follow-up event this year to highlight the erasure of victims of sexual assault. She leads her group's efforts with Openly Secular Day and the upcoming Freethought Festival 6.

SamreenaAs an ex-Muslim, Samreena Farooqui faced isolation because of her atheism to a degree that even many other SSA students might not have. She had trouble finding people who could identify with her current experience and her past experiences. The SSA gave her a space to change that. As a former officer at the SSA at Florida State University, she worked with the national organization to find the tools and materials she needed to build the community she and others like her needed, like organizing the Southeast Regional Student conference. She is also active with the Planned Parenthood Generation Action group on her campus. Her activism includes testifying in front of the state senate to oppose a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, organizing a “Condom Crawl” to pass out condoms to tailgaters before a football game, and organizing the Take No More Fest, which helps fund local organizations like the Oasis Center for Women and Girls and the Trans Liberation Front.

AidanAidan Marshall-Court is our Historically Black Colleges and Universities Scholarship winner. He’s currently a sophomore at Bowie State University. In his application, he told us: “An atheist in a predominately black community is something that is not heard of often. Religion is seen as an essential part in the African American community....” During high school, Aidan faced significant discrimination for his non-belief. For a while he kept his non-belief close to his chest, but no longer. He attended and volunteered at the 2016 Reason Rally, and also participated in the lobby days. He is working on starting a chapter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists and an SSA group on his campus.

And there you have it: all the 2016 Scholarship winners! Congratulations to all of them! We are so impressed with their activism, as well as that of all our students. Commitment and activism like this will help create the secular future we envision.

We need to fund that future. We’re running out of time to meet our fundraising goal for next year’s scholarships. Donate now to fund our scholarship program and show solidarity with our amazing students!

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