Illinois Wesleyan senior, Kayley Rettberg, was recently named 2019 Student Laureate by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. According to Illinois Wesleyan University’s website, the Lincoln Academy Student Laureate Awards are presented to one senior from each of Illinois’ four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities and community colleges, who demonstrate excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.

When I asked Kayley what this honor meant to her she said, “I feel extremely proud and grateful to have been chosen and to be an IWU Student Laureate. Additionally, think that it comes with the responsibility to continually live out my life and career with integrity, compassion, and dignity.”

In addition to all of her academic achievements, Kayley has been the president of her Secular Student Alliance chapter this year. She discovered the chapter in her Junior year and said it quickly became very important to her.

“I’ve identified as secular since I was in eighth grade, but never really had a community of secular people to talk to. Finding SSA helped me gain that community, share my story, and hear the stories of other secular people. It was really empowering for me to see how SSA can build that community, and that’s one of the main reasons I’m so proud to be our campus chapter’s president.”

Kayley is also involved with the Interfaith group on her campus, which brings together people of all faiths and worldviews to engage in discussion and learn about one another. “It has been really exciting to engage SSA and other secular students in these conversations,” she told me.

Like many SSA leaders, they are drawn to their campus chapter for the opportunity to be in community with likeminded individuals. SSA chapters also provide a space for students to develop and express their values in the world, in the context of a supportive secular community. Kayley’s experience reflects this as well. She told me that SSA’s commitment to social justice is extremely important to her. “I think that the secular movement is the perfect place for this commitment [to social justice],” she said, “and I try to live it out both with my school’s chapter, and in other areas of my life as well.”

Kayley is also the Senior Class President, President of the Hiking Club, a captain of the Ethics Bowl Team, and a student leader for Alternative Spring Break. After graduation, Kayley plans to attend law school, with a long-term goal of earning her Ph.D. in Philosophy and becoming a professor.

 

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