With nine schools and 250 students participating in this year’s Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC), Robert Shetterly and Connie Carter have gained an inspirational window into the thinking and amazing work of middle and high school students. Beginning with Troy Howard Middle School (Maine), they heard about the students’ research on the Declaration of Human Rights and the art they will create to make us aware of the need for these rights to be accessed by all people. Their art and artist statements will be on display at the SSC Celebration and then at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast, Maine.
Students at Hampden Academy (Maine) shared their portraits complete with powerful quotations of people who have inspired and supported them – their Americans Who Tell the Truth! At Waterville Junior High School students discussed issues that concern them from income inequities to opportunities for differently abled individuals. While Lamoine Consolidated School students discussed research and their creation of art that makes people aware of the endangered monarch butterflies and the need to protect a variety of bird species, they also shared their reasons for doing art – therapy, allowing the expression of feelings, showing skills in a way that brings attention to issues.
During a zoom meeting Radnor Middle School (Pennsylvania) students shared their bulletin board projects inspired by Truth Tellers from Portraits of Earth Justice. Orono High School (Maine) art students also shared the AWTT portraits that inspired them as they began to explore issues of climate change, homelessness, capitalism, and environmental racism and create art that brings attention to these concerns.
Most recently, students at Central High School Law Magnet in Louisville, Kentucky, talked about some root causes of violence and discussed how the last three years are the highest on record for homicides in Louisville. They shared powerful art work they have created to draw awareness to this issue.
Several more school visits will happen before the Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration at Thomas College in Waterville on May 24, when students will come together to display their creative ways of addressing critical issues in the world and discuss how to encourage activism in their communities. These students seek and find the truth and use their voices and talents to create hope and inspire a world to follow their lead.