HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new program in Hartford Public Schools hopes to build on the success of the Paso a Paso initiative, which brought in more than a dozen teachers when it was launched two years ago.

Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said the Caribbean Connection will help with recruitment and retention to fight the nationwide teacher shortage.

“We know that not as many people are entering the teaching workforce, and we know that others are also leaving the workforce,” Torres-Rodriguez said.

So far, interest has been high. About 150 people attended the first information session, and the district has received more than 140 applications. There are only 15 available visas, but the district is working to get more.

The city has the third-largest West Indian community in the country, according to Mayor Luke Bronin, who said the program will boost cultural connections in schools.

“We get teachers into classrooms who reflect the diversity of our students and our community, teachers who can relate to the experiences of many of our students who have, similarly, come from Puerto Rico or the islands and made Hartford their home,” he said.

The teachers will focus on science, music, and math classes. They must be certified to teach in the state and pass a background check.

The educators will spend three years in Hartford with the option to extend it to five years.

The plan has the support of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, according to its president, Carol Gale.

“Anything that we can do to help fill vacancies is certainly seen as a good thing, so it’s a win for us all,” she said.