Interview with Bill Finch.
[MP3, 12.2 MB]
Connecticut State Senator Bill Finch has helped students get excited about civic involvement through his "Who Wants to Change the World?" contest for high-schoolers. Each October, Finch visits participating high school classrooms to talk with students about state government and invite them to enter the contest. Interested students write a 1,000-word essay about a state law they believe should be changed or about a new law they believe should be implemented. Teachers, along with Finch, form a committee to select the best essay advocating the best idea. Finch writes and submits a piece of legislation that takes the student's idea and transforms it into legislative action. Writers of the winning essays (and some of their classmates) come to the Capitol in Hartford, and with the Senator at their side, present their proposed bill and testify before the appropriate committee. The students' parents, teachers, and local elected officials are invited to accompany them, have lunch with Finch, and sit in on the committee hearing. In addition to experiencing the legislative process first-hand and having the opportunity to have their ideas heard and enacted into law, the winning students receive a cash award of $500. Now in its fifth year, the contest has received more than 200 student essays and under Finch's leadership, has expanded, with four state senators and one representative initiating the contest in their districts. Over the years, legislative suggestions have covered a range of issues and ideas, such as teaching veteran's history on Veteran's Day in public schools, banning the use of cell phones while driving, providing paid leave for advanced firefighting training, and mandating a drug and alcohol course for teens prior to issuance of a driver's license. One proposal that was ultimately enacted into law was to designate September 11th as "Remembrance Day" in Connecticut.