One of the most prominent faces of the massive student protests that rocked Chile in 2011 has officially launched her bid for a seat in Congress.

Camila Vallejo, who is running on the Communist Party ticket in the Nov. 17 general elections, opened her campaign with an event in Santiago's La Florida neighborhood, where she grew up.

The 25-year-old was accompanied by two other former student activists, Karol Cariola and Camilo Ballesteros, who are likewise running for Congress on the Communist ticket.

Vallejo vaulted to international prominence in 2011, when Chilean students took to the streets in large numbers more than 40 times to denounce a highly stratified education system that funnels state subsidies to private institutions even as public schools in poor areas struggle.

The Communists are part of the center-left New Majority coalition, which is backing former head of state Michelle Bachelet for president.

Bachelet, who governed Chile from 2006-2010, won the coalition's June 30 presidential primary by a wide margin.

After a relatively subdued 2012, the Chilean student movement is hoping to exert influence on this year's presidential and congressional elections.

Chile's public schools and universities were neglected during the 1973-1990 rule of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Private schools mushroomed under the military regime and the trend continued after democracy was restored.

Students want the elimination of school fees, an end to for-profit universities - technically illegal but able to operate thanks to loopholes - and a reduction in the high cost of college, which forces many to take on crushing debt. EFE