Affiliate Group of the Week

Affiliate Group of the Week #18: Secular Students Alliance at Orange Coast College

May 2, 2013

Kandice Knopp contacted CFI On Campus earlier this year about starting a group on her campus. We sent a starting box of resources that we send to new and reaffiliating groups, and their group took off, joining in a community service effort to help paint a middle school and houses in Compton. 

Kandice and friends from OCC SSAFirst, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What’s your “atheist/secular conversion story,” if you have one?
Hello! My name is Kandice Knopp. I attend Orange Coast College. I am tranferring this fall (fall 2013) for psychobiology to San Francisco State University. I will graduate in spring 2015. I hadn't even heard about this thing called "God" or "religion" until middle school. I attended church a year or two. I quickly realized religion offered nothing for me. I began educating myself in science and concluded there is no evidence that supports theology and religion seems to hurt more than it helps people and societies around the world throughout history.

What is your group’s name? How did you decide on that name?
Secular Students Alliance became the name of our organization because we wanted to be open to the religious students as well. We figured that the way to better educate religious people about the significance of secular values is to make them feel more comfortable in a "secular" group rather than an "atheist" group.

How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you to create the organization? (One of the club's founders, Anthony Marsh, chimed in to answer this question!)
In fall 2012, my professor, Jennifer Koontz, told me that she tried to establish an atheist science club, but was unable to overcome various obstacles in the OCC bureaucracy. I attended one of the local meetings at the Costa Mesa Community Center and immediately knew this was something with which I wanted to be involved. With my previous knowledge from other honor societies and clubs, I set the plan in motion to establish Secular Students Alliance at Orange Coast College for spring 2013. 

How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
We have about eight to ten very active members. We hold recycling programs, community service events, "Ask an Atheist Day," organize panels to discuss world values, beliefs, and ideas, and we are developing more ideas every week.

How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
I heard about CFI On Campus from my professor—now advisor—Jennifer Koontz. We have attended the local meetings in Costa Mesa, but hope to attend the leadership conferences if given the opportunity. I also hope to establish or join the CFI organizations when I move up north to go to school.

What is your vision for the secular movement?
I hope to see that members of all religious backgrounds eventually see that a secular government is beneficial for all. Secular doesn't mean atheist, but I think the more open our nation is to science and education, the less religious our country may become.

As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you're most proud of in the past year?
We are a small but dedicated group. Our most recent event—and most successful so far—was the Compton Initiative on Saturday, April 20th, 2013. We gathered together with other groups in the community to paint Whaley Middle School and a few houses in Compton, California. It was a very successful first event that allowed our group to build a better sense of comradery and develop their community service skills. (See more photos of the OCC SSA participating in the Compton Initiative.)

Members of OCC SSA

Members of SSA at Orange Coast College smile after participating in the Compton service initiative. 

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
It's not as easy as one might think for atheists and secularists in Orange County to congregate and talk about their values, beliefs and opinions. Although California is extremely liberal, places like Orange County can be judgmental and, frankly, dismissive of non-Christians. I think the members of our group are extremely courageous and will succeed long after I leave. They have the power and imagination that will make this club successful for many years to come.   

Members of OCC SSA painting.

Members of SSA at OCC help paint houses and a middle school in Compton. 
 

About the Author: Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser's photo

Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.

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