Gracie Schram, 13, of Leawood, Kan., was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers in a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, winning a national Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her outstanding volunteer service. Selected from a field of more than 26,000 youth volunteers across the country, Gracie received a personal award of $5,000, and engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy for her school, and a $5,000 grant from The Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of her choice.
Gracie, an eighth-grader at Leawood Middle School, recorded and sold copies of a CD that raised more than $20,000 to build two fish ponds in Africa and a home for 12 orphaned boys in Haiti. When she was 10 years old, the pastor of Gracie’s church returned from a mission trip to Africa with videos and pictures of children who had lost their parents to AIDS.
“These kids had no food, no clean water, no parents,” she said. “They had nothing. I knew when I left that Sunday that I had to do something to help them.” Since Gracie had been singing and writing music since early childhood, she decided to make a CD of original songs and sell them to family members and friends.
Her goal was to raise $1,000 – enough to build a fish pond in Africa. She searched the Internet for information on how to make a CD, and then, with the help of family and friends, found a recording studio that would give her a discount on studio time.
Six months later, her finished product, Showers from God, was released. She then began singing at churches and community events to sell her CD and publicize her cause. Today, thanks to Gracie’s efforts, two villages in South Africa and Malawi now have a sustainable food and revenue source, and orphans in a small Haitian town near Port au Prince have a roof over their heads. Gracie hopes to build another home for orphans with the proceeds from a second CD she has just released.
“Through their extraordinary acts of volunteerism, these students are powerful examples of the way one young person can make a big impact,” said John R. Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “We are proud to honor them for their achievements, and hope their stories inspire others to consider how they, too, can make a difference.”