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Samantha Smith Challenge countdown – and more!

This has been and continues to be a busy spring for AWTT’s education programs.  As part of the Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC), founding artist Robert Shetterly and education director Connie Carter have visited participating schools in person and on zoom.  

On March 7, they had a conversation on zoom with students at Hazelwood Elementary School in Edmonds, WA.  Students there shared the work they are doing to educate people in their area about the vulnerability of sea creatures that inhabit the Salish Sea. View their beautiful informational video, Safe Keeping the Salish Sea, on Vimeo.

On March 11, Robert and Connie visited George Stevens Academy (GSA) and saw powerful student-created art illustrating concerns GSA students have about this world, including mental health, war, and body image.

Amara Ifeji Awtt Portrait
AWTT portrait of young environmental and racial justice activist, Amara Ifeji

On March 18, the AWTT team visited Troy Howard Middle School where 107 of Caitlin Hutt’s students are participating in the Samantha Smith Challenge. Students shared research they have done about the UN’s Sustainable Development goals.  After that visit, Connie connected them on zoom with AWTT portrait subjects Diane Wilson, Bill Bigelow, LeAlan Jones, and Amara Ifeji to explore specific goals in more detail.  

On April 10, Connie and Robert had a zoom conversation with students at Central High School Law Magnet in Louisville, KY, and learned about AWTT portrait subjects they have used to inspire their projects on school busing, inequality faced by black women, homelessness, and other important concerns.

On April 11, Leonard Middle School’s (LMS) sixth graders shared their Samantha Smith Challenge projects while LMS eighth graders gave Robert letters recommending young activists they want him to consider painting. 

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AWTT education director, Connie Carter, meeting with students.

Once again reaching beyond Maine, on April 15, Watershed students from Radnor Middle School in Wayne, Pennsylvania, shared how they have acquainted their school and community with AWTT portrait subjects and their narratives.

On April 24, AWTT traveled to Waterville Junior High School and met with the alternative education students to learn about their Samantha Smith Challenge projects. In early May, Hampden Academy students will share how they have explored Wabanaki history and current concerns as part of their SSC. 

In addition to the Samantha Smith Challenge school visits, Robert Shetterly will spend the day at Brewer Community School (BCS) on April 29. BCS teachers are currently creating projects using the exhibit of ten portraits on display at the school. 

AWTT will launch a new education project, Show US Who You Are, later this spring.  This will include a video of Robert Shetterly giving a portrait drawing lesson, as well as an accompanying narrative writing lesson, that will guide students to draw self-portraits and share stories that highlight parts of their identities or moments or people that have shaped their lives. Students at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland, ME, and at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, ME, participated in the filming of this pilot project. 

Pihcintu Multinational Girl’s Chorus

The culminating event for AWTT’s education program is the Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration on May 22 at Thomas College in Waterville, ME.  Over 275 Maine students and 100 out-of-state students participated in this year’s challenge.  The SSC Celebration will give students an opportunity to share their projects with each other and to hear a message from Con Fullam and two of his singers from Pihcintu—a wonderful way to end the school year!

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