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Westport students think up ways to spend some of Connecticut’s federal coronavirus money

Alan Levine

Connecticut officials visited Staples High School in Westport on Monday to hear students discuss how federal COVID-19 reliefs funds should be spent in schools.

It’s part of a statewide program announced last month called Voice4Change. Governor Ned Lamont said it’s a first-of-its-kind effort to empower high school students to reimagine the state education system.

“You’re never too young to be involved and we always value what you have to say. And governments are a little old — a lot of old guys up there — so we need your involvement,” said Lamont.

Over 60,000 students in 80 Connecticut schools are participating in the program. In Westport, it encourages students to submit proposals to the state to recommend how $20,000 should be spent in their school district.

Staples High School student Spencer Yim believes the money should pay for therapy dogs to help with student mental health.

“Let’s have a therapy dog at school every single day,” said Yim. “How would that work? Well, $20,000 isn’t enough to hire another worker; however it is enough to support teachers who already own dogs and help them train them so that they can become registered therapy dogs.”

U.S Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut said students' opinions matter as future leaders of tomorrow.

“All of you are going to control something you don’t often get to do, other than maybe through me or the two senators, you don’t get a lot to say on say the defense budget, but here you get to decide how a certain portion of how these COVID relief funds are going to be used,” said Himes. “You’ll make the decision and I’m really going to enjoy watching you guys do it.”

Students will submit their proposals to suggest how the federal coronavirus relief funds should be used at their schools. Proposals deemed eligible by the state and district will be voted on by high school students in March.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.