Nine Maine middle schools and more than 400 Maine middle school students have spent the last several months working to solve pressing issues in their communities and the world through the second annual Samantha Smith Challenge, according to a news release from Thomas College.

They will convene Monday, June 6, at the college in Waterville to share their community service work and ideas for positive change. Invited speakers, including, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, Thomas College President Laurie Lachance, and AWTT portrait subjects and young, Maine activists for transgender rights and awareness, Nicole and Jonas Maines.

Named after the Maine middle school student who inspired a dialogue about peace between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War, the challenge was created by the Americans Who Tell the Truth organization in collaboration with the Maine Association for Middle Level Education to promote civic engagement and strengthen community. By building bridges between the classroom and the world the challenge aims to teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.

Working closely with their teachers, students from Gorham Middle School, Massabesic Middle School, Leonard Middle School, Mount Merici Academy, Maranacook Middle School, Penobscot Community School, Waynflete School, Windham Middle School and the Bruce M. Whittier Middle School identified issues that concern them. Students then worked to make their voices heard by contacting adult stakeholders, writing op-eds, giving talks, and making videos that will be posted on the AWTT website and Youtube.

Issues addressed by this year’s SSC participants range from addressing poverty and child abuse in Maine to tackling problems stemming from the introduction of invasive species into the environment.

Students will present their work between 10 a.m. and noon. For more information about the challenge or to set up times to interview the organizers or teachers and students from specific schools, contact Connie Carter at [email protected] or 576-8000.

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