Jessica Ahlquist, the student who is leading the charge to take down a religious banner hanging in her high school, has some inspirational words about how her life has changed over the past year:
When all of this started, everything changed. I went from being afraid to even tell people I was an atheist to saying it on national television. And, despite being incredibly shy, I find myself surrounded by attention at school… the negative kind. But most of the change is for the better. I’ve become more comfortable with myself as a result. I’ve met people more like me, with similar interests and ideals. I no longer have to hide my geekiness! (Doctor Who and superheroes <3) I’ve also discovered my voice and my passion.
Her advice to all of us regarding how we can help high school atheists is spot on — it’s also one of the main things I’ll be talking about the Secular Student Alliance conference next weekend:
I think that there are probably many, many, many more secular students, but they are too afraid to speak out. Specifically high school students…
… It seems like an impossible mission, but there are definitely things we can do to help and support them. We can start by telling the world we exist and making sure that we are easy to contact. We also need to be patient and understanding. Let’s not forget that most high school students are minors and risk losing everything they have.
It’s not just high school. A lot of college atheists are risking a lot by coming out, too. But the suggestion that Jessica offers — making ourselves publicly known — will benefit closeted atheists of any age. It’s arguably the most important bit of activism any of us can do.