Samantha Smith Challenge

A perfect combination of project-based learning and service-learning because AWTT knows that engaged and passionate students learn more!

In 2014 AWTT honored Samantha Smith with the Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) – a compelling project-based educational program for middle and high school students designed as a dynamic service-learning project that builds a bridge between the classroom and the world. Issues come alive when students are able to connect with AWTT portrait subjects who have actually fought for the same causes students identify.

As one teacher describes the experience, “My students were inspired by art and by Samantha Smith herself to become change-makers. They have practiced the important skills they will need to carry this forward into their adult lives….”

Connect with AWTT experts and activists today and bring the SSC to your students. The Samantha Smith Challenge encourages every student and classroom to take the journey of truth and hope and begin building bridges of understanding right now.

Samantha Smith Challenge Highlights 2022-23

Be inspired by our short video of 2023 SSC Celebration, held at Thomas College on May 24 – featuring middle and high school students from Kentucky, Maine, and Pennsylvania. So much energy, commitment and creativity!   

2023-24 Registration Form

SSC Registration

Samantha Smith's Story

In December 1982, ten year old Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, asked her mother if there was going to be a war. She said, “I asked my 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 building a bridge of understanding and appreciation of one another. Learning the truth, they built connections instead of armies. Sadly, in August 1985, both Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash. But Samantha’s memory lives on in her courageous example.

Following this example of seeking truth and hope by listening, learning, and building connections, the Samantha Smith Challenge shows students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see and create the world the world we all deserve. 

Samantha’s journey began 41 years ago when she wrote a letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov asking him to, “Please tell me how you are going to help to not have war.” Just a year later she was an eleven-year-old teaching adults and children how seeking truth and taking a first step can lead to hope for peace and understanding. Her progress from concern to seeking truth, building connections, and finding hope began with courageous engagement and  a series of small steps and decisions—something each of us can do!

SSC Standards

Each SSC model is listed with a brief explanation and standards from Common Core State Standards, CASEL’s social and emotional literacy standards, and 21st Century Learning Standards.

“Hope is power. Power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped me feel powerful and hopeful.”

Carson Brown

Student from the 2019 SSC

Case Study

Samantha Smith Challenge

The project for King Middle School was Arts for Activism. They participated in a series of learnings and then put their knowledge into action by creating art about their chosen issue.
Minimal Square Photo Collage Photography Instagram Post

Bring Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) original portraits to your community.