The Samantha Smith Challenge

Samantha Smith Portrait by Robert Shetterly

Creating Curious, Courageous, and Engaged Citizens

Social Justice Through the Arts


The First and Second Annual SSC programs were Huge Successes!

Maine Teachers can register now for the 2016/17 edition (scroll down).


The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle school students designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects show students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.


Get Started with these Resources

Testimonial: Listen to teacher, Mary Ellen Tracy, describe her experience with the SSC at the Maranacook Middle School. 

In the News!: Watch WABI's Coverage of the 2nd Annual SSC

Teacher Guidelines: Includes resources, classroom activities, and a detailed step-by-step guide to participating in the SSC

Educational Standards: Many teachers want to know how the SSC fits with standards. Nancy Doda, PhD, has compiled a list of “Power Standards” addressed by SSC activities. DOWNLOAD SSC STANDARDS

engagEd: (A Beta version of a new project). Browse through these unique lessons and activities created by AWTT portrait subjects, designed to connect your students with the committed changemakers working for economic, social, and environmental fairness. 

Past Projects: Take a look at what students from Maine schools did for their past SSC projects.

Watch the video: Take a moment to watch Senator Angus King’s statement on the culminating SSC event.


SSC Background 

The SSC is a program created by AWTT and designed to honor Samantha Smith by encouraging students to act in her spirit.

In December 1982, Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, asked her mother “[Who] would start a war and why. She showed me a news magazine with a story about America and Russia, one that had a picture of the new Russian leader, Yuri Andropov, on the cover. We read it together. It seemed that the people in both Russia and America were worried that the other country would start a nuclear war. It all seemed so dumb to me. I had learned about the awful things that had happened during World War II, so I thought that nobody would ever want to have another war. I told Mom that she should write to Mr. Andropov to find out who was causing all the trouble. She said, ‘Why don't you write to him?’ So I did."

From that one question, a peace-making venture unfolded that brought Russian and American students together to build understanding and appreciation of one another and to focus on building connections instead of armies. Sadly, in August 1985, both Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash.

In 2003, Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) honored Samantha by painting her portrait. In 2014, AWTT partnered with the Maine Association of Middle Level Education (MAMLE) to continue to honor Samantha with the Samantha Smith Challenge.

The Samantha Smith Challenge encourages every Maine middle level student and classroom to start making a difference in the world today, just as Samantha Smith did 30 years ago when she wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov asking him, “Please tell me how you are going to help to not have war.”


A Quote from Howard Zinn

An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.


You do not have to be sure what your classroom issue or issues will be to register. You can let us know what they will be later. In the meantime, start helping your students discover their concerns and to begin their research!

If you are registering as an Individual Student, put your name in the name form. If you are registering as a group or classroom, put the team leader or teacher’s name in the name form.
If registering as a group or class the User Account name should be [Name’s] Group or [Name’s] Class.
e.g. 4th grade, 5th grade, etc.
i.e., How can our school/town reduce its carbon footprint?
Use comma for separation
Yes or No


  • OCTOBER 17, 2016:              3rd Annual SSC Registration Open

  • OCTOBER 20-21, 2016:        Launch 2nd Annual SSC at MAMLE Conference.

  • JANUARY 30, 2017:               School and class registration deadline for SSC.

  • FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017:      SSC workshops/school visits.

  • APRIL 3, 2017:                      Participating teachers submit issue & progress reports.

  • MAY 15, 2016:                     SSC project reports submitted to AWTT.

  • JUNE 5, 2017:                       Everyone attends the Samantha Smith Day celebration at Thomas College!