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SSA Chair Wins Prestigious Scholarship


This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 10 - My Struggle with Disbelief, Part 2.
Hemant Mehta
This article is by Leslie A. Zukor the founder & signator of the Reed College Freethinkers

Hemant Mehta, internationally acclaimed for his role as the eBay Atheist, has been named the recipient of the 2006 American Atheists College Scholarship. A $2,000 prize, this honor is conferred annually to a student activist who demonstrates superior commitment to the atheist cause.

"I am humbled and honored to receive the 2006 American Atheists scholarship," Mehta pronounced on the group's website. "By working with so many leaders in this movement, I've come to know how large of an effect one person can have in society." And the SSA's own Hemant Mehta has had a remarkable impact for the secular cause; matter of fact, he is one of the movement's rising stars.

Mehta, who is studying to be a high school Math and Science teacher, is the Editor of the Secular Student Alliance's eNews, founder of the University of Illinois-Chicago's freethought club, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD), and Chair of the SSA's Board of Directors, the organization's official ruling body. He is also on the Board of the Secular Coalition for America, an umbrella group that fights for rights of nontheists in Washington, D.C. In short, where there is work to be done, Hemant has risen to the task.

During the past year, Mehta's accomplishments are numerous; he has penned Letters to the Editor promoting atheism and denouncing "intelligent design," two of which were published in the Chicago Sun-Times, a newspaper with a readership of well over 500,000. For his role in the "Send An Atheist To Church" eBay auction, major outlets have invited him on a number of media appearances, including interviews on the Alan Colmes Radio Show and Fox News's The Big Story Primetime with John Gibson. Furthermore, Hemant's creative fundraising techniques have received press in several publications, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Seattle Times, and The Village Voice. In all his work, Hemant has been an eloquent spokesperson for the secular cause, staying positive, even in the face of ideas with which he vehemently disagrees. For a schedule of Hemant's media apperances, check out his web site friendlyatheist.com.

In his winning essay, Hemant stressed the importance of attracting more students to the secular movement - and keeping them, once they jump aboard; "If other students could experience what I have during college," he explained, "meeting and talking with atheist superstars, such as Michael Newdow, being a voice for the large number of other students who think like I do, and actively promoting atheist beliefs in society-there is no doubt…that they would …take on the roles needed by the incredible secular organizations out there."

And Mehta recognizes that training the next generation of secular leaders is an ambitious endeavor; "There is a lot of work to be done, and I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to complete the task." A talented and creative young leader, Hemant is well on his way to accomplishing this goal. I hope you will join me in recognizing the contributions of this rising young star to the secular movement.

To find out more about the scholarship, visit American Atheists' website.

This article originally appeared as part of SSA eNews No. 10 - My Struggle with Disbelief, Part 2.

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