Spotlight on… Student Secular Alliance

Dallastown junior starts humanist club to bring together various groups of people.


Gia Elliot

SSA takes their first club picture together for their first Instagram post.

In times like today, expression and diversity are two words that often come to mind when thinking of high school students.

At Dallastown High School, the Student Secular Alliance (SSA) has found its way as a club.

SSA is a national nonprofit organization that’s goal is to educate students about scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.

Also known as humanism, SSA has impacted 202,784 students nationwide. To these students, their identities and communities are very significant to them.

Overall, 4,997 schools have the alliance program at their school. They promote activism in communities and build supportive foundations for students to express themselves.

Sage Bathgate, the founder of SSA here at DHS, was inspired to bring the club to light.

Philosophy touches on spiritualism, religion, and many other things, but Bathgate wanted to go more into depth.

“Our goal is to promote humanist values, engage in secular activism, and learn from our peers. We also aim to create more empathy, respect, and knowledgeability within our school,” Bathgate says.

To Bathgate, being oneself and feeling welcomed is the most valuable.

“During the discussion, members are encouraged to ask any and all questions they may have. ” Bathgate states.

All members are encouraged to join in on conversations and ask questions.

While in SSA, it’s important to know there are no judgments or ‘stupid questions’, the club is meant to be a growing experience.

Our discussions are much more insightful when we include perspectives from members of all walks of life. It is not meant to be a place where any way of life, any religion, or any philosophical worldview is looked down upon or judged; we believe knowledge is power and we believe we learn the best from our peer’s first-hand experiences.

— Sage Bathgate

Frequently meetings will be member-led; before the next meeting, topic discussions will be suggested and opened up to anyone for research.

The majority of the topics that peak interest come from current events going on globally and historical events that they feel were impactful.

The club aims to share knowledge and explore ideas that you don’t have the opportunity to discuss frequently.

Members of the club would like everyone outside to know that they’re welcome to join, there are no requirements.

You do not have to be atheist or agnostic to join, the more perspectives provided to shed light on issues, the better.

This club is precious to Bathgate. Getting it started was quite the challenge for them, explicitly finding an advisor.



After asking approximately ten teachers, Mr. Gottloeb came forward and now advises each meeting in room 404.

“I stumbled upon Humanism in high school and feel it is a great way to connect all of us, despite our various (and sometimes conflicting) beliefs. When I learned of the Student Secular Alliance looking for an advisor, I felt like it would be a great fit and offered to help,” says Gottloeb.

SSA is always looking for new members, whether it’s to just observe conversation or to carry it, everyone is welcomed.