Submitted by Our American Voice
When the bells rings at 3:38 p.m. Friday, most students at Clearview Elementary in Waukegan pile supplies into their backpacks and head home for the weekend. One group of students, however, eagerly streams into the classroom of Rosanna Cardenas Ortiz for their weekly Our American Voice meeting, where they work together on a meaningful school project while learning about civics.
Our American Voice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to teach youth about democracy, civic engagement and the democratic process through community problem solving. Students meet to identify an issue in their school or community to which they would like to bring about positive change. With the guidance of their teacher, they research the issue, determine a solution, fundraise and meet with local experts and decision-makers in order to bring the project to reality.
The OAV students at Clearview Elementary decided that they wanted to improve the school restrooms.
"They began by charting a plan, interviewing teachers and presenting ideas to administrators," Ortiz said. "The students knew that a bit of hard work could make a big difference."
Their work led to improved restroom locks, but the students ultimately settled on a larger scale project that would leave a more permanent impact on the school.
The OAV students agreed that restroom users would show more respect if they led an effort to paint artistic murals on the walls. They chose the two restrooms most commonly used by guests and received permission from the administration to move forward.
Students measured the walls and took a trip to a local store where they learned both how to calculate the amount of paint needed and put together a supply budget. A representative from Behr also visited the school and generously decided to donate paint for the project.
After much deliberation, it was agreed that the murals would depict nature scenes, like the ones they'd seen at Rainforest Café. Students are now finalizing logistics and painting will begin soon.
The Clearview Elementary traveled to Springfield on May 2 for the OAV Summit, where they joined with more than 15 OAV groups from across the state to discuss their projects, meet legislators and tour the Capitol.
Students hope to bring back a few tools and resources that will not only enhance their project this year, but generate ideas for future OAV projects.
"Talking about change is one thing, but learning how to bring about change is another," Ortiz said. "I am so proud of our students who embraced Our American Voice and know that this project has helped to shape our future leaders."
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