ENFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Gov. Ned Lamont and CT Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced the launch of Voice4Chnge, a first-of-its-kind campaign.

A total of 43 districts encompassing 77 high schools throughout Connecticut are participating, representing over 55,000 students.

“We are creating Voice4Change as a tool to give Connecticut high school students a voice in how these important relief dollars are spent,” Lamont said. “We want to hear from all voices when it comes to how these funds should be allocated, and that must include students. This is their opportunity to help make a change in their schools, and I hope they take advantage.”

Lamont explained that the goal is to increase student engagement while fulfilling the Connecticut State Board of Education’s vision of ensuring students thrive in a global economy, and civic life by challenging students to think critically and solve real-world problems.

A first-in-the-nation statewide student civic engagement initiative, Voice4Change will help students to propose and vote on how more than $1.5 million of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) will be spent.

Jibreel Akbar is president of the class of 2022 at the Civic Leadership High School in Enfield and describes the chance as being, “…a big stress, but also an honor to have this opportunity.”

She and her classmates know this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

“I think fostering this bridge between different sides, students, families, teachers, staff, administration, and government, it’s really going to help us create a learning environment that benefits everybody,” Akbar said.

They were part of a panel discussion announcing the competition.

“Students have shown that promoting civic engagement in students can improve academic performance and social-emotional well-being,” Russell-Tucker. “We look forward to seeing student proposals to reimagine their schools and to bringing some of those to life, empowering students to be changemakers in their school communities.”

Students from participating schools will submit proposals to the Connecticut State Department of Education, outlining how they will spend $20,000 in their school. That proposal will then be voted on March 11, 2022.

“I feel like a lot of times, people think high schoolers shouldn’t be trusted with anything, but I think it’s good they’re valuing our opinion, which is refreshing,” Agnes Abraham said.

The Connecticut State Department of Education, students, and the school district will then work together to carry out the winning proposals from each school.

Russell-Trucker says 77 high schools have signed up for a total of 55,000 students.

“Voice4Change will inspire creative thinking and empower us students to create a better learning environment for ourselves,” Rishabh Bhandari, a student member of the CT State Board of Education and senior at Wilton High School, said. “Voice4Change gives us the opportunities and resources to make a lasting and meaningful impact on our school.”

For more information on the initiative, head to portal.ct.gov.