The 2018-19 Samantha Smith Challenge saw over 300 Maine middle level students become engaged and active citizens. The climate crisis, gun violence, racism, the impact of cancer on families, hate language, and many other concerns surfaced as important topics for this year’s SSC students. Their commitment to learning about these issues and taking action to make a difference is strong evidence that Samantha’s legacy lives on. These students give us hope for the future.
The Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration took place on June 3 at Thomas College. Students had the opportunity to showcase their projects and to discuss paths to activism with each other. A highlight of the celebration was the unveiling of two new portraits in the Americans Who Tell the Truth collection, Chloe Maxmin and Maulian Dana. Both shared inspirational messages with the SSC students about how they became activists.
Chloe, one of Maine’s youngest legislators, spoke with the students briefly about her life as a young activist and how it brought her to the legislature. "Everything's political," she has concluded. So she overcame her pre-conceived notions about politics ("disgusting") and ran for the state legislature. Now, she is directly engaged in the power struggles - to make the changes she has advocated for since she was quite young. Here is a brief excerpt from her comments:
Maulian, the Penobscot Nation Ambassador, spoke about her work to ban Native American mascots in Maine. She encouraged the students to keep following their interests and doing what needs to be done to make the world better.
Closing note: In 2016 York Middle School participated in the SSC. This year York High School students Connor D’Aquila, Cameron Dalton, and Matthew Leclerc won first place in Maine's National History Day competition with their film From Triumph to Tragedy: The Story of America's Youngest Ambassador, Samantha Smith. We're pleased to have played at least a small role in their early development as serious film-makers, and, obviously, Samantha played a major inspirational role. Her powerful legacy lives on. View the film (embedded from google drive):
The success of the SSC can be summed up in the words of one student participant "Hope is power, power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped me feel powerful and hopeful."