Americans United Youth Advisory Council

The Youth Advisory Council assists Americans United for Separation of Church and State in promotion of the organization's mission and goals to young people. Youth Advisory Council members:

  • Are familiar with and actively promote the cause of religious freedom and the separation of church and state

  • Keep the organization apprised of trends in outreach to youth

  • Work to increase membership and participation of young people in Americans United

2018 Youth Advisory Council

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Harshini Abbaraju is a student at Princeton University who was born and raised in Central Iowa. She has been involved with the YAC since her freshman year of high school and is deeply passionate about civil rights, reproductive justice and progressive politics.

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Danyal Ansari is a student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and is studying biomedical engineering with a focus in pre-dentistry. He is an immigrant from Pakistan and has lived in multiple states and countries. He believes in equality in all aspects of living and hopes to bring better smiles (literally and figuratively) to as many people as he can.



Claire Brainard is a 2015 graduate of The American University in Washington, D.C., where she earned her bachelor’s degree in comparative religious studies and a minor in history. While studying as an undergraduate, she focused her studies on the Abrahamic faiths, Buddhist religious practice and philosophy. She also holds extensive interest in early church, Holocaust, and World War II resistance history. During her time as a student at American University, Claire served as the President of the Episcopal Campus Ministries (ECM) and was an active member of American University’s Interfaith Council, United Methodist Student Association (UMSA) and Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF). After earning her degree, she worked at Americans United for Separation of Church and State as the Advocacy Intern from fall 2015 through spring 2016. Claire is working as a youth minister with the Edge ministry program at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Fayetteville, Ga., and is in charge of starting the young adult ministry program there.



Irissa Cisternino is a former Americans United intern who graduated from The George Washington University in 2018, with a BA in sociology and psychology. While at GW, Irissa was the president of the Secular Society, a student organization dedicated to church-state separation issues. Currently, Irissa is a graduate student at Stony Brook University where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology. Irissa is passionate about women's rights and civil rights issues.

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Evan Farrar is an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles where he is an Alumni Scholar studying political science and civic engagement. He is a secular activist focused on Establishment Clause jurisprudence and the destigmatization of atheism in America. He is also passionate about LGBTQ rights and progressive politics. Evan hopes to pursue a career as an academic or public interest lawyer and eventually end up in politics.



Noah Fitzgerel graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a degree in political science and religious studies with honors, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At Brown, Noah served as student president of Brown RISD Hillel and as content director of the Brown Political Review. He follows politics closely, having worked for MSNBC and ABC News, and is particularly passionate about religious freedom and the separation of church and state—causes for which he has worked and written in Washington. Noah serves as a founding member of the youth advisory council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.



Isabella Garcia is a high school senior from Flagstaff, Ariz. Her passion for church-state separation stems from her own faith and her passions for public policy and progressive activism. She is the State Chair of the High School Democrats of Arizona, and she eventually hopes to pursue a career in politics.



Gerardo Rivera is an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. He founded and was the president of Secular Humanist Association UPRM, which is the only secular student group on his campus and in all of the public university system in Puerto Rico. He serves on the board of directors of Secular Humanists of Puerto Rico, on the National Leadership Council of the Secular Student Alliance and as one of the representatives for Puerto Rico to the International Humanist & Ethical Union. His work focuses on promoting secular humanism as a progressive philosophy and educating the public on diverse topics, mainly the importance of separation between church and state, and fighting the social stigma faced by the secular community in Puerto Rico. Gerardo hopes to serve as an example for other Hispanic student activists and to voice Puerto Rico's contribution as part of the global secular movement.


Thomas Sheedy is a secular activist from East Setauket, N.Y., who focuses on secularism and the acceptance of atheists in America. When he was a senior at Ward Melville High School, he started the first Secular Student Alliance on campus, gaining attention from his local secular community as well as secular students across the country.


Amanda Scott is a government major at Georgetown University, where she is a recipient of the 1789 Scholarship and member of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. She graduated summa cum laude from Faulkner State Community College with an A.A.S. in paralegal studies and the Paralegal Award for outstanding scholarship. She aspires to become a public interest lawyer specializing in constitutional and civil rights law. Before joining the Americans United Youth Advisory Council, Amanda founded her own nonprofit organization, Mobile Equality, and served on the board of directors of the ACLU of Alabama.


Pete Zupan graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in philosophy of law, influenced by his passion for church-state separation. He then went on to become the vice president of the Secular Students and Skeptics Society and also the volunteer network coordinator for the Colorado Regional Secular Student Alliance. He worked as an intern for Americans United for Separation of Church and State before moving to Columbus, Ohio, to work for the Secular Student Alliance as a campus organizer.