OAV Schools and Communities

The Our American Voice® Schools Program (OAV) has operated in the State of Illinois since 2009. OAV is a one-of-a-kind civic learning and engagement program for elementary and middle school students. OAV is unique because of its action civics focus and the local community improvement projects initiated and implemented by students.  In 2021, there are plans to enhance and expand the OAV Schools Program to become the OAV Schools and Communities Program.

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OAV 2022 Student Summit

Watch the OAV 2022 Student Summit Replay and view all the projects from OAV Schools.

OAV Schools Program

Since its establishment, OAV has reached 175 teachers and over 6,000 students in 150 schools in socially and economically disadvantaged communities throughout the state of Illinois. Those students, with input and assistance from teachers and community members, have taken the lead in creating over 170 community improvement projects to strengthen their communities.

In this year of COVID-19, the OAV Schools Program is operating in grades 4 through 8 in 21 schools throughout Illinois. OAV is a two-part program conducted over 20-25 weeks.

Part I: Civic Learning centers on four core principles:

  • Citizenship is a way of life, not a singular event
  • With our rights and freedoms come responsibilities
  • The success of the individual and community are interdependent
  • The informed participation of the people shapes and sustains our democracy

Part II: Community Improvement Projects puts these principles into action.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation has been a major supporter of OAV Schools since 2015.

OAV Schools and Communities Program Development Plan

Because of the urgent need for better civic education, highlighted by the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and the devastating educational and economic impact of COVID-19 on low-income communities, the leadership of the Barat Education Foundation (BEF) has determined it is time to take the OAV program beyond the school and to involve the entire community.

BEF has put together a development plan to accomplish this by revamping the OAV Schools Program into the OAV Schools and Communities Program in this upcoming school year. This conversion will be implemented based upon the highly successful South Berwyn OAV Schools and Communities Model.

The Program will be implemented in two phases:

  • Phase I: Enhancement Year—7/1/21 to 6/30/22, present in 21-30 schools and communities in Illinois.
  • Phase II: Expansion Years—7/1/22 to 6/30/25, taking the program nationally, growing it from 50 to 100 schools.

The process for implementing this initiative is spelled out in detail in the Building OAV Schools and Communities Development Plan Prospectus. For an overview of the Development Plan, click here.  To secure a copy of the Prospectus or to ask questions regarding the proposed Program, contact BEF CEO/Chair Sheila Smith.