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Meet Our Student Activist Scholarship Recipients

We are pleased to introduce more of our 2022 secular student activist scholarship recipients.  

We couldn't be more proud of the secular and intersectional activism of our student leaders. What happens on high school and university campuses today is a glimpse into what will be happening in our country in the future.
 

Kazi | Minnesota State University, Mankato

Kazi’s goals include graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Minnesota State University at Mankato, joining a graduate program offering a degree in quantum computing, and advocating for social justice.
 
As an ex-Muslim atheist, Kazi’s greatest influences leading to his secularism was listening to George Carlin (outspoken about the oppression and suffering caused by the antics of religion in our political system) and the rampant corruption and normalized inhumanity in his home country of Bangladesh. Being bisexual and ex-Muslim, Kazi has been a target for conservative religious majorities.

Kazi is an officer of the SSA chapter at MSU Mankato, a former events coordinator of the International Student Association, and a member of the Bangladesh Student Organization. On campus, he helped prepare tie blankets for the impoverished during Martin Luther King Jr. Day, made peace cranes with special adults under the tutelage of the Community Engagement Office, raked the town near the Skyline Residence community, and volunteered to help the Caledonia Community Center.  

Kazi’s scholarship is sponsored by HumanistsMN in Minneapolis.

Kourtney | Spelman College

A junior at Spelman College, Kourtney will pursue a Ph.D. for a career as a college professor, in part, to advocate for the ideas and experiences of all Black people and address how systemic racism and sexism in the US are harmful to marginalized communities. She says, “my dedication to secularism and the social promotion of Black and Brown people influences me to learn more profoundly about myself. Being a Black woman in America is inherently political.”

Kourtney’s secular activism rests upon the practice of keeping morality and political activism separate from religious influence. Basing a political identity on non-secularism, specifically far-right Christianity, strives for conformity and obedience through fear, which disallows the open-mindedness and compassion that is needed in America. To advocate against the policies of far-right Christian politics, Kourtney is involved with Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE) chapter, advocating for free and safe abortions and advocating for trans and LGBT+ civil rights. As Pad Project Coordinator within the URGE chapter, she counteracts menstrual cycle miseducation through educational workshops. In volunteering at Planned Parenthood WestEnd, she will engage in Black birthing advocacy and Black bodily autonomy. Through her UNCF/Mellon Mays Fellowship, she will research how Spelman College’s Black, queer, femme women use sex as a form of radical resistance to counteract respectable femininity.  

Kourtney is the recipient of the FFRF Cliff Richards Scholarship.

Lindsay | University of Colorado

A junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Lindsay is earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, with an emphasis on forensic science, and a certificate in Homeland Security. She plans on interning in the coroner’s office and a career as a death investigator, to solve crimes and be able to bring peace to families.

Lindsay’s beliefs do not align with biblical or religious beliefs and she continues to be an advocate of the separation of church and state. Secularism is important and personal for her because religion is being used to take away the rights of women and the LGBT+ community. She has participated in protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBT+ civil rights, and women’s rights with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Lindsay’s scholarship is sponsored by the Jefferson Humanists.

Lishore | Tomball Memorial High School

When he attends college, Lishore plans on earning a double major in political science and biomedical engineering to break down the barriers that limit the rate of scientific innovation due to government bias. With Lishore’s family growing up in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, they frequently faced discrimination because they were Hindu. In the Christian-rich town of Tomball, with a 92% white population, Lishore says “Through my experiences as a South Asian, I’ve learned of the potentially demoralizing nature of race normalization,” which fuels him to be a secularist.

Through years of speech and debate, Lishore developed a deep passion for activism on issues like equal rights and secularism. In March of 2020, he started a nonprofit organization, the Voice of Debaters, hosting dozens of free Speech and Debate tournaments. While public school Speech and Debate teams have their funding completely taken away, the Voice of Debaters is able to provide funding to underserved student activism groups.

Lishore says one of his proudest moments is marching with the Stop Asian Hate movement in Houston, Texas. He is also an advisor for his school’s LGBT+ alliance. He says, “the SSA is important to me because it prides itself in having a welcoming community; one that’s open to differing mindsets, and aims to educate.”

Lishore’s scholarship is sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance.

Luke | Colorado College

An international political economy major with a minor in global health at Colorado College, Luke plans a career focused on LGBTQ+ or Latinx advocacy and activism.  As a queer Latinx child growing up in an extremely white conservative community in Colorado, Luke never felt like he fit in and many people used their religious identity as an excuse for hatred and bigotry. Being religious was “a way to make myself ‘normal’ and to lessen the weight of loneliness and isolation.” 

As a queer man, Luke experienced harassment from religious groups in high school. As a Mexican-American, his secularism has allowed him to see the damage that religion has caused communities of color. The struggle between his identity and religious community led him to embrace humanism.

In high school, Luke founded the club ActNow, which offered monthly community engagement opportunities and a gathering space for students without the guise of religion. In college, he led the K-12 Education and Youth Organizing Coalition and worked with the Pikes Peak LGBTQ+ Health Equity Project. Over the summer, he completed a fellowship at One Colorado, the leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in the state. This year, Luke will work with the Anti-racism Implementation Plan Oversight Committee and continue his efforts with the LGBTQ+ Health Equity Project.  

Luke’s scholarship is sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation Metro Denver Chapter.

Sign up to receive information about our 2023 scholarships.

Madison | University of South Florida

Earning her B.S. in environmental science and policy at the University of South Florida. Madison will pursue a career in conservation or climate research to work toward reducing the negative impacts of anthropogenic climate change on the environment. Raised in a household with very strong Christian values, Madison realized religious beliefs, such as demonizing LGBT+ people and believing women are inferior to men, directly harmed her. At the age of 10, she started to identify as agnostic. 

As a lesbian woman, religious teachings lowered her self-esteem and fueled her self-hatred. She says, “Christianity made me feel exceptionally ostracized while being part of secular communities made me feel empowered and comfortable in my own skin.”

Madison was a summer intern for the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida, working against discriminatory legislation like the Don’t Say Gay Bill and informing Florida voters on how legislation like this is incredibly harmful to students. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she works with an activism group that promotes empowering the voices of people of color on important political and legislative issues.  

Madison’s scholarship is sponsored by the Humanists of Sarasota Bay.
 

Nathan | University of Central Oklahoma

A senior psychology major at the University of Central Oklahoma, Nathan is involved in multiple organizations on campus, including being president of the Peer Health Leadership and staff and faculty outreach chair for Big Event (a campus-wide volunteer organization). He restarted and was president of the SSA chapter. Nathan also volunteers with Oklahoma Atheists. Recognized as one of the top five juniors, Nathan received an Outstanding Junior Leader award. 
 
Nathan was very active in a fundamental Wesleyan Church and was told he should be a pastor. Now identifying as an agnostic atheist, his deconversion started in high school because of the church’s views on homosexuality and after deep philosophical discussions with his parents, pastors, and missionaries about Christianity.

Nathan says, “I am absolutely in love with the values of SSA! Deconverting from Christianity was not easy and SSA welcomed me with open arms. I wanted a local chapter so people like me could safely deconvert and SSA helps make that happen.”  

Nathan’s scholarship is sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance.

Octavius | Carnegie Mellon University

As an architecture major at Carnegie Mellon University, Octavius’ career goal is to create solutions for marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by substandard facilities and infrastructure, including creating sustainable and affordable vernacular buildings like schools, homes, and medical centers or communal entertainment areas like parks while encompassing local materials.

Octavius identifies as an atheist and has continuously believed in the separation between civic affairs and religion, born of his background in STEM and negative experiences with racialization.

In high school, Octavius wrote a proposal to solve the Malaysian elderly housing crisis and examined the perceptions of Rohingya refugees and their correlation to social institutions. He volunteered at old folk homes, Kechara Soup Kitchen, Chin Refugee Programs, Environmental Clean-up initiatives, and Sabah’s dilapidated schools. Octavius plans to establish an SSA chapter with fellow secularists at Carnegie Mellon University.  

Octavius’ scholarship is sponsored by The Freethought Society.

Rachel | University of Michigan

Majoring in biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience, and minoring in social class and inequality from the University of Michigan, Rachel plans to be a child psychiatrist and help reduce the barriers to accessing quality healthcare in order to help identify problems and solutions to mental illness in lower-income pediatric populations.  While Rachel thought her parents were Jewish, her mother was actually Christian. She begged her father to enroll her in Sunday school at the Birmingham Temple. After many years of questioning, Rachel identifies as a Secular Humanistic Jew. 

The homophobia and sexism correlated politically with organized religion steered Rachel to secularism. The dichotomy of God’s love for everyone and the treatment of LGBT+ people, the misogyny within the church, and white evangelical support for the overturning of Roe v. Wade discredited the idea of a God for Rachel. In high school, she participated in numerous charity events, including sending 1000 donated items to First Step and raising $10,000 for the Charity ShelterBox program. Rachel has also participated in social justice efforts through the Congregation of Secular Humanistic Judaism.

Rachel’s scholarship is sponsored by the Secular Student Alliance. 

Sage | Dallastown Area High School

Sage looks forward to studying forensic psychology at George Washington University for a career as a criminal psychiatrist or a forensic social worker. Sage’s extended family is Christian, but their parents are agnostic. At the age of 13, Sage learned about LaVeyan satanism, intrigued by tenets that prioritize respect, individuality, and consent.  At 15, Sage studied The Satanic Temple and Humanism, both with similar tenets. Sage identifies as a secular satanist and humanist. Sage is also “a loud and proud member of the LGBT+ community.” 

Last year, Sage started an SSA chapter at their school because there were so many students questioning their identities and needing a safe place to learn and be surrounded by respectful peers.  At the end of the school year, SSA members made homemade bracelets to sell during lunch, raising over $250 for Ukraine.  Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Sage protested at numerous events. As someone who was assigned female at birth, Sage found it difficult to hear that the right to an abortion,  menstrual products, equal wage, or bodily autonomy were “women’s rights.” Reminding people of their existence, Sage says these are HUMAN rights.  

Sage is the recipient of FFRF’s Strong Backbone Student Activist award.

Samantha | University of California, Los Angeles

A sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, Samantha is completing her BA in public affairs and sociology and plans to attend law school to be a public defender or a labor and employment lawyer to help improve the lives of those who are systematically marginalized. After a long journey of challenging her religious beliefs and identifying the many contradictions carried out by the Catholic Church, Samantha identifies as agnostic and post-institutional. Raised in a Catholic household, Samantha was passively against gay marriage and supported traditional gender norms. Her transition to secularism opened her mind as she experienced issues of race, gender, and class from a new perspective.  

As a Hispanic female, Samantha actively fights beliefs promoted by the Christian right by fighting for abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the separation of church and state. She was involved with climate activism throughout high school and was the Head Organizer of the Miami chapter of Fridays for Future, organizing strikes with over 600 students. At UCLA, Samantha is involved with university workers’ unions and Green New Deal UCLA. She is also working with Sunrise LA and Street Watch LA to fight for climate justice and tenants’ and houseless peoples’ rights.  

Samantha’s scholarship is sponsored by Atheists United, Humanist Association of Orange County, Inland Empire Atheists Agnostics and Humanists, Americans United Orange County Chapter, and the Humanists of Santa Barbara. 

Sign up to receive information about our 2023 scholarships.

Serafina | Lafayette College

After two years at the University of San Francisco as an environmental science major, Serafina is a junior at Lafayette College, working on her engineering major with a concentration on environment and engineering to work in the renewable energy sector. 

Serafina participated in “Bans Off Our Bodies” rallies and volunteered with Planned Parenthood, Women’s March, MoveOn, and the Liberate Abortion Coalition. At the University of San Francisco, she interviewed Ramaytush Ohlone leaders and worked with the school’s administration to establish an integrated land acknowledgment at the university.  

Serafina is the recipient of the Dr. Hector Avalos Scholarship, jointly sponsored by Hispanic American Freethinkers and the Secular Student Alliance.

Yaunce | Daytona State College

After the recent experience of being unhoused for two years, Yaunce plans to earn a culinary arts degree from Daytona State College to open a food business and be able to provide meals for unhoused people. Her agnostic identity emanates from learning about slavery in school at the age of thirteen because Yaunce could not understand why anyone’s god would allow such horrible atrocities to happen to people who looked like she did. She could not reason how a god allowed the slave trade to happen.

As a woman of color raised in a lower-middle class family, Yaunce faced the fear of ridicule and violence growing up. Her secular activism leads her to participate in protests for the Black Lives Matter movement, reproductive health care, and LGBT+ civil rights.

Yaunce’s scholarship is sponsored by the Central Florida Freethought Community.

Please support the next generation of secular leaders. 

Thank you to all of our local atheist, humanist, and freethought groups that sponsor scholarships. This year, we continue to award the Hurston Scholarship, in partnership with Black Nonbelievers; the Dr. Hector Avalos Scholarship, in partnership with Hispanic American Freethinkers; and several scholarships in partnership with Freedom From Religion Foundation: the Yip Harburg Lyrics Foundation Student Awards and the Cliff Richards Memorial Student Activist Awards.
Copyright © 2022 Secular Student Alliance, All rights reserved.


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