Samantha Smith Challenge

2019-20 Teacher Guidelines

Part 1: SSC Mission, Partners and Background

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

Americans Who Tell the Truth relies on partnerships with MAMLE (The Maine Association for Middle Level Education) and the Center for Innovation in Education at Thomas College to bring the SSC to Maine schools and to honor Samantha Smith by encouraging students to act in her spirit.

“SSC provides students opportunities to participate in genuine learning and create authentic products. It provides them with real reasons to participate in their schooling.” - Teacher from SSC 2018-19

"Hope is power, power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped me feel powerful and hopeful." - Carson Brown (SSC 2019)

"The Samantha Smith Challenge inspired us to take action on these issues that have been going on for decades and inspired us to not be couch potatoes." – Tristan Green (SSC 2019)

Watch Senator Angus King’s comments at the first Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration.


AWTT portrait of Samantha SmithIn 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 nearly 40 years ago.

Find out more about the 2019 Samantha Smith Challenge - includes videos of keynote speakers Chloe Maxmin and Maulian Dana

NEXT: Go to Guidelines, Part 2 (Important Dates and Requirements)