2012 Student Leadership Conference - Donate

Support the Student Movement

Help CFI bring more students to the Leadership Conference!

Dear Friend,

We at the Center for Inquiry believe it’s important for young activists to learn from experienced leaders who have been involved in grassroots outreach and organizing for decades. We have the chance to shape passionate students into life-long leaders by bringing them together and teaching them the skills they need to make an impact. The students who walk out of our doors each summer develop into some of the most influential and effective leaders of tomorrow, and you can help make that happen.

Please make a donation today to help us bring these students to the Leadership Conference!

Every summer, CFI staff works hard to bring in the most dedicated and promising student leaders to train them in outreach, advocacy, and activism. With more and more young people becoming involved in the movement, however, we risk coming up short on travel grants that can help them attend. This is why we need your help.

Even $50 can make a difference to a student who can’t afford a bus ticket. $100 can help provide a plane ticket to a leader from a campus that’s isolated and out of reach of one of our Centers. If you are able to give it, $500 can bring a whole caravan of students to this year’s Leadership Conference.

2009 community outreach panel Dren
Me (left) on a panel in 2009, sharing my experiences with other students

Center for Inquiry–Michigan helped send me to the CFI Leadership Conference in 2009. Two years later, I began working at CFI’s headquarters in Amherst, NY. Now, my daily life includes giving back what CFI gave to me as a student who aspired to be a secular activist.

Last year, I met Caitlyn Cecchetto at the Leadership Conference. Since then, her group has reached out to many new people in their community as a bastion of reason. Read Caitlyn’s letter below to learn how the conference inspired and equipped her to make a difference on campus. Then please give what you can so that more student leaders like Caitlyn can attend the conference this year.

Thank you for investing in the future of our movement.

Dren Asselmeier
Dren Asselmeier
Campus Organizer
Center for Inquiry

Caitlyn Cecchetto Caitlyn Cecchetto
President, Freethinkers of Western Washington University

The 2011 CFI Leadership Conference was my first experience meeting the greater secular community. I had been attending my university’s relatively small secular club’s meetings for a year and had pretty much been biding my time like some scheming supervillain until I could usurp power. Which I did (not in an evil way though; the old facilitators were graduating and everyone was eager for me to take over), but then had almost no idea what to do next. I had the summer to prepare. Our club was affiliated with CFI, and when I saw that they had a leadership conference coming up I registered immediately. The main hurdle I had was the location; it was on the other side of the country, and I was a broke college student. CFI was able to help me get there with a travel grant. As a confused but eager newbie, few things are more encouraging than having an organization ready to invest in helping me succeed.

The conference was pleasantly not what I expected. For simplicity, I’ll break my experience down into two main components: education and community. The days were packed with workshops that got me up to speed on the current climate of secularism, skepticism, secular humanism, and all the other –isms we label ourselves with. I learned how to run a group, how to delegate, how to present myself, how to deal with good behavior and bad behavior, how to do things I didn’t know I’d have to know how to do. That was what I expected; I learned what I was getting myself into and what my responsibilities would be. I ended the conference with over twenty pages worth of notes.

CFI SLC 2011 Caitlyn Cecchetto
Caitlyn in a workshop discussion at the 2011 conference

The thing that threw me for a loop was the community I found. This was an entire group of fun-loving students who enjoyed videogames and bar-hopping as much as I did, but were also incredibly passionate about their education, both in and out of the classroom. I made friends from all over the country who I still talk to weekly and can’t wait to see again. I was able to meet the people running the organization that, previous to this, I hadn’t identified as much more than a swag repository. Not only did I meet these people, I befriended them. This conference was the difference between emailing oncampus@centerforinquiry.net, and sending Dren, Campus Organizer for CFI, a message on Facebook when I have a question about speakers or am having trouble organizing an event.

Thank you very much for making it possible for students out there like me to attend this life-changing conference.


Stef McGraw

Stef McGraw
University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers & Inquirers

Two years ago, I received an email from CFI On Campus announcing their annual summer leadership conference. At first, I was hesitant about going because I was the only officer from my campus group, the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI), who would be able to attend. After getting over my fear of going to the conference by myself, I still wasn’t sure if my college budget could handle the cost of getting from Iowa to Amherst. Luckily, travel grants were available and I was able to take advantage of that opportunity.

SLC 2008 workshop

The conference itself was an incredible experience. Having only been involved in the freethought movement for under a year, I had no idea that there were so many other campus groups and students who shared my passion for advancing secular values and rational inquiry. Sparked by the various talks, I quickly found myself in intellectually stimulating conversations with other students about how best to interact with religious campus groups, how to put on successful events, and how to best promote our message in a productive, yet thought-provoking manner.

Since that conference, UNIFI has become one of the most successful campus groups in the freethought movement, as well as on our campus. While we have excellent leadership all around, I know that much of what I have been able to contribute to the group has been shaped by my participation in the Leadership Conference the past two years. Last year, James Croft’s talk on secular service inspired our first ever Out Week, where we gained several new members and raised over $700 for a local food bank. In addition, conversations with other student leaders contributed to the success of our Darwin Week 2012, where we filled over 1200 seats for fifteen on-campus and big-name speakers, including Jamila Bey and Lawrence Krauss.

SLC 2008 workshop

Looking back, I can’t say for sure what UNIFI would be like had I not attended that first CFI Student Leadership Conference. While I think we would still be a pretty good group, I don’t think we would have raised $700 for charity or brought in Lawrence Krauss to a crowd so large that we needed an overflow room. Receiving a travel grant was absolutely crucial in allowing me to attend the conference that ignited my ability to be a strong leader and help guide UNIFI to becoming one of the best groups in the country.

Help Donate Now!

Donate today to help us provide travel grants to the many student group leaders who are eager to attend but who cannot afford the full cost of travel. If you’re interested in sponsoring students from a specific school or region, please contact Debbie Goddard by e-mail or at (716) 636-4869 ext. 421.

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