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Press Release: 1st Annual Samantha Smith Challenge Assembly, June 1, 2015

Press Release

1st Annual Samantha Smith Challenge To Convene June 1, 2015 at Hall of Flags, Augusta

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Ten Maine middle schools and nearly 700 Maine middle school students have spent the last several months working to solve pressing issues in their communities and the world as they participate in the first annual Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC). Named after the Maine middle school student who famously inspired a dialogue about peace between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War, the SSC was created by the Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) organization in collaboration with the Maine Association for Middle Level Education to promote civic engagement. By building bridges between the classroom and the world the SSC aims to teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.  

Participating students identified issues that concern them and questions that would help them engage in their chosen issues. Once they felt they understood the issue well enough to advocate for a solution, they found ways to make their voices heard by engaging adult stakeholders, writing op-eds, giving talks, and making videos that will be hosted on both the AWTT and Bangor Daily News websites.

Issues addressed by the Maine students range from What energy sources can most sustainably take us into the future? to What is the best thing we can do to address bullying? (See a complete list of projects below.)

Students will present their work at the Hall of Flags in the Maine State Capitol on June 1, 2015 from 10 am to 12 pm. There, they will have the chance to share their ideas for social change, build alliances with students from other schools, and listen to advice and ideas from a range of speakers. In addition to the students, speakers addressing the importance of engaged citizenship will include Maine Senator Angus King (by remote hookup), First Lady Ann Lepage, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Jane Smith, Samantha’s mother, social entrepreneur and  Sustainable Harvest International Founder Florence Reed, AWTT’s Director of Education Connie Carter, MAMLE representative Gert Nessin, and AWTT founder and artist Robert Shetterly.

Schools attending the June 1 event: King Middle School (Portland); Lyman Moore Moore School (Portland); Leonard Middle School (Old Town); Messalonskee Middle School (Oakland); Mt. Ararat Middle School (Topsham); Poland Community School (Poland); York Middle School (York).

For more information about the Samantha Smith Challenge or to set up times to interview the teachers and students from specific schools, please contact Connie Carter ([email protected]).

Student Projects (from schools attending the June 1, 2015 event in Augusta)

King Middle School (Portland)Catherine Paul8Energy & Climate Change
Leonard Middle School (Old Town)Adele Drake, Kate Bailey, Todd McKinley, Gert Nesin, Jay Meigs- McDonald7,8Health & Disease; Poverty, mental health awareness, substance abuse.
Lyman Moore Middle SchoolDavid Hilton, Jon Roderick7 
Messalonskee Middle SchoolLinda Haskell, Martha Farnham, Lindsay Mahoney, Erinn Michaud, Lisa Ravelo7,8Hunger; Child Abuse; Animal Hunger & Abuse; Poverty; Bullying; Abuse of People & the Earth
Mt. Ararat Middle SchoolAllison Barrett6 
Poland Community SchoolEli Fanus6Online etiquette & Cyber-Bullying
York Middle SchoolMelissa Fenelon, Britni Rowe, Liz Schambach, Beth Knight, Nancy Lindbom, Scott Dorr, Michelle York, Margo Simonds6-8How do we think globally and act locally? Food Revolution, Carbon Footprint, Water Usage, Healthy Emotional Living.

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