The state wants to see what high school kids do with $1.5 million in federal Covid-19 funds. More than 55,000 students will compete for $20,000 grants for programming for their schools.
“When I first heard about this I was like wow this is what students have been waiting for for so long and I hope this encourages more conversations,” Natalie Bandura, a senior at Staples High School, says.
Bandura has at least three ideas about how to spend the money by boosting existing programs and creating a new one.
“This is exciting because we are the future. Having a voice that impacts our communities not only does that help us determine the policies that ultimately impact us the most,” Bandura says.
The state will give out the $1.5 million in $20,000 increments to students whose ideas are supported by their peers. High school students will vote on the best ideas March 11, 2022, one year after the American Rescue Plan was passed.
“I'm a big fan of that afterschool program and creating that safe space. We have a lot of sports here but we don’t have a lot of clubs or extracurricular activities after school,” Agnes Abraham says.
Abraham who attends the CREC Civic Leadership High School in Enfield says the $20,000 could be spent on transportation to get students home following those afterschool programs.
“It is an honor but also it is stressful that is more money than I’ve ever seen in my life so it’s kind of a big responsibility,” Jibreel Akbar, another student at Civic Leadership High School, says.
“This is an incredibly unique time in education because we actually have additional resources, allows us to be a little more experimental, try some new ideas. We’re going to get the best ideas by listening to the people who are directly impacted,“ Gov. Ned Lamont says.
Connecticut is the first state in the nation to empower high school students in this way.
“A lot of great ideas, then you have to start building on them. Writing a really important grant, getting some advocates who stand up for what you believe,” Lamont says.
“It gives us that experience with civic engagement with...this is how democracy works. We think of an idea, we rally support behind it, we go out and vote for it and we can make change,” Bandura says.