Voice4Change finalists compete to win $20,000 funding


Graphic by Katie Simons '22

Connecticut’s Voice4Change program is the first of its kind. All participating high schools will be granted $20,000 and follow a similar process to that of Staples.

Six proposals have been selected as the finalists for the state-wide initiative, Voice4Change, which will grant $20,000 to an innovative student idea that will help better Staples High School. Voting will happen March 28-29. Below are the finalists.

Free Tutors for Those in Need

Ayaan Olaswere ‘24 has created a proposal that would allocate the funds for free tutors for students who cannot afford one.

“Each department in the school will receive a portion of the $20,000 and use it to hire free tutors for students who can’t afford to pay for tutors, those who qualify for free meals,” Olaswere said. “The tutors hired will be contacted when a student needs help.” 

She explains that even though Westport is an affluent town, we still need to make sure that everyone in the community is supported.

“Staples is lucky to be in a town where many families are economically well off,” she said. “However, not everyone is in a similar position. We have to ask ourselves: do we have a responsibility to help students in our school community who are struggling and can’t afford tutoring? It will give students who are struggling and can’t afford a tutor a chance to be tutored and to be able to do well on standardized tests, midterms and finals.”

Make Me Free 

Led by Camille Kolek ’23, Adelia Purcell ’23 and Miriam Hurley ’23, the Staples Feminists club has created a proposal to install free-of-charge feminine product dispensers in every school bathroom. 

 “Currently, the dispensers in the bathroom require quarters and they also don’t work,” Kolek said. “We believe that pads and tampons should be free and we shouldn’t have to pay for them because they’re a necessity in the same way that toilet paper and paper towels are.” 

Currently there is not easy access to pads and tampons at Staples.

We believe that pads and tampons should be free and we shouldn’t have to pay for them because they’re a necessity in the same way that toilet paper and paper towels are

— Cami Kolek '23

“The only free available ones are in the nurse’s office, which forces students to take time out of their education to walk down to the nurse’s office and get them, which is extremely unfair,” Kolek said. “I think people should vote for us not only for the increased convenience of access to pads and tampons, but because of the mental stressors that periods put on students, worrying about bleeding into your clothes, worrying about running out of pads and tampons, worrying about leaving something in for too long, or having to hide things when you bring them to the bathroom. This proposal would ease those stressors.”

Staples Student Government

Led by Ella Alpert ‘22, Lyah Muktavarm ‘22 and Tessa Moore ‘22, TEAM Westport has created a proposal to establish a student government at Staples. 

“The student government will consist of representatives elected by the entire student body and each grade will have a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer,” their statement said. “Members can also create committees based on their focus or needs. These committees could include social media, mental health, and diversity.”

The funds will be used for both office supplies and for government initiatives. 

“Office supplies for the student government classroom […] includes desktop computers, a printer, miscellaneous office supplies like printer ink and paper and furniture like couches, bean bags, and comfortable chairs because we want to the government room to be a place that students feel comfortable and empowered to make a difference in the Staples community,” TEAM Westport wrote. “The other $10,000 will be used for government initiatives.”

CEE You in the Lab: Bringing Community Engineering and Entrepreneurship to Staples

Logan Goodman ’24, ​​Rebecca Schussheim ’23 and Jeffrey Pogue ’23 have created a proposal to offer an engineering and entrepreneurship course at Staples, inspired by the model at Scarsdale High School. 

“Our proposal implements a new class that allows students to work in teams of five on a year-long project focused on sustainability, disability, equity and wellness,” Goodman said. “Each team will identify one issue within these four key areas and partner with a community organization that is directly affected by, or helps to mitigate, the problem.”

They are also proposing the creation of a STEM lab. 

“Secondly, we propose the creation of an Engineering and Design Lab which will be open to all high school students and staff,” Goodman said. “CEE equipment and software will be openly available, and students may pursue projects in areas such as mechanical, electrical, computer, or audio engineering, graphic design, animation, 3D- printing, architecture and more.”

Leaders of the CEE proposal feel that making an impact on the school will spark more change for the community. 

“High schoolers will have the unique experience of seeing their work yield substantive change, and once they understand that they can make change in their community, they become active participants in the world and bring this agency to bigger problems,” Goodman said. “If implemented, this proposal can set a new state-wide standard for STEM education. 

Tutoring Bus Service 

Henry Foege ’23 is hoping to use the funds to transport Staples tutors to low-income schools. 

“My proposal is to take the $20,000 and make it easier for students to get bussed to schools in Bridgeport. This is important because there is a huge gap in literacy because of Covid and they really need people to help.”

The proposal would benefit both the Staples tutors and the students. 

“I think it’s a great cause. It’s helping kids in need and I think it’s a great experience for people who want to be teachers in the future or mentors of any kind,” Foege said. “The only cost is the buses so this could go for at least 5 years.” 

Refillable Water Stations 

Led by Gaby Brinck ’22, the Zero Waste Committee has created a proposal to increase access to better filtered and more refillable water bottle stations. 

“We were hoping that the $20,000 would go to buying more filters. More often than not I see them red, but we would want more accessibility to clean water,” Brinck said. “We would also want to buy more refillable water stations so that we could reduce the number of plastic water bottles that we buy everyday in the cafeteria.”

The proposal serves as both a physical improvement to the school and a statement about sustainability. 

“People should vote for our proposal because not only would it impact Staples in the coming years but it would also improve awareness about sustainability and about how we can make Staples a better place for the environment in general,” Brinck said. “But it would also impact generations of kids that come here so it wouldn’t be short term.”