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Review: Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration

As we look back over another year of the Samantha Smith Challenge program, we are encouraged by the focus, talent and courage of these middle school and high school artist/activists.

Their topics are their own – always new and varied: architectural design in public places; addressing eating disorders; how to address depression and anxiety; many variations on the necessity of healthy oceans; addressing racism, police brutality, and bias against people who identify as LGBTQIA; becoming more aware of human trafficking, just to name a few. Connie Carter, AWTT Education Director, observed, “it’s been really exciting today to see the commitment and the curiosity and the engaged citizenship that these students have shown.”

This year’s celebration, held at Thomas College, on May 22, 2024, featured an inspiring video of Pihcintu, the Maine-based Multinational Girl’s Chorus, singing “Somewhere.” Chorus leader Con Fullam told the remarkable stories of chorus members, assuring students that no matter where you come from, you can find your place and become your best self.

Professor Richard Biffle, of Thomas College’s Department of Education, welcomed the students to the college and addressed similar themes of exclusion and aspirations.

AWTT artist Robert Shetterly told the attendees, “So you, as young people, become the teachers. . . . you can really make a difference. . . . The amount of energy, and the quality of the work you did; it’s truly inspiring.”

Hear from others, including the student artists (from Leighton Video):

Nine schools participated in the Challenge this year, including three schools outside of Maine:

  • Central High School Law Magnet (Louisville, KY)
  • Troy Howard Middle School (Belfast, ME)
  • Hazelwood Elementary School (Lynnwood, WA)
  • Orono High School (Orono, ME)
  • Hampden Academy (Hampden, ME)
  • Waterville Junior High School (Waterville, ME)
  • Leonard Middle School (Old Town, ME)
  • George Stevens Academy (Blue Hill, ME)
  • Radnor Middle School (Wayne, PA)

325 students participated in the Challenge this year, and almost 300 were able to join in the June 7 celebration event in Waterville.

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