Samantha Smith Challenge

2020-21 Show US Who You Are!

Getting Started: SSC Mission and Background; How to Participate



The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle and high school students that uses art to to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create 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.

SSC FOCUS FOR 2020-2021:

As Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) reflects on the past year and looks forward to the months ahead, we are asking students this year to focus on one of three critical themes - racial equity, climate change, and health care. Given that each of these subjects influences all of our lives, directly or indirectly, we're calling on our youth to give voice to their findings, their ideas, and their actions as they help find creative and powerful ways to make our society stronger and more resilient. 

As we work to build unity, we also learn the importance of dissent and disagreement in a democracy and how, sometimes, what seems out of step with society in one moment can, with the concerted effort of changemakers, become the accepted norm. Examples of this phenomenon include the forty-hour work week; the end of legal segregation; the enfranchisement of women, Native Americans and African Americans; and laws preventing child labor.

Students may wish to work on projects that connect the three themes as they create hope for unity and shared humanity. We encourage this. AWTT's art-as-activism initiative gives students the chance to consider seemingly disparate issues and find commonalities. As we like to say: breaking down silos and building a big tent.

Show US Who You Are!


  • Journal of Maine Education (2018) features the SSC in "The Synergy of Change: Children and Adults Inspiring Each Other," by Beth Schultz. "Imagine a classroom where children are solving real world problems, including those that stump and defy policy makers, politicians, and adults. ... In classrooms throughout Maine, students are selecting issues that resonate with them, engaging in research, becoming experts, identifying reasonable and sustainable solutions, and finally sharing these solutions with others." 
  • A recent article in Edutopia provides a succinct recap of AWTT's belief in the value of arts education. The article highlights a failing school in Alameda, California that turned itself around by focusing on an arts-focused curriculum.  "The arts provide an access point for everyone," Caitlin Gordon, a third grade teacher reported. "It also gives students a way to think about the world differently, to make connections, and to contemplate their place with it ... habits that that they'll use no matter what they go on to do." (Read full Edutopia article here)


"We were able to connect with two truth tellers this year. These interviews really made a huge difference for the students who were able to participate in them."  (Teacher, 2019 SSC)

“This project changed our lives!” (Students, 2019 SSC)

"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, 2018-2019 SSC)

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

"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." (Tristen Green, SSC 2019 student). 


1. Learn Samantha's story

2. Explore identity

3. Complete "Connect with Changemakers" activity - getting to know AWTT portraits

4. Register for the SSC

5. Complete SSC activities

NEXT: Go to SSC, Step 1 (Learn Samantha's Story)