Leawood, Kan.-- A Leawood teenager this month begins work on a national TV series, iShine Knect, a faith-based entertainment program of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. This comes as Gracie Schram moves forward in a professional career as a singer-songwriter. It's the opening of a whole new exciting chapter in the already fascinating life of making a difference in the world for this week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever.
She pours her heart and soul into every word she sings, every song she creates. 14-year-old Gracie Schram has been writing songs since she was in early grade school, working up melodies on piano and guitar and filling notebooks with lyrics. They are songs about faith, family, inspiring one another and doing good for others.
"And I tell every person, it doesn't matter who you are or how old you are or anything, you can make a difference in the world," says Gracie.
Gracie certainly has made a difference. Motivated by a sermon she heard in church, Gracie launched a personal campaign when she was just 10 years old to raise $1,000 to establish fish ponds in Africa as food sources for poor children there.
"I just knew that Sunday when I left I needed to do something to help those kids and God had put it on my heart to help them," says Gracie.
To do that, Gracie recorded a simple CD of several of her songs, Showers From God. Her parents bankrolled the recording and she sang and spoke everywhere she could, selling the CDs for 10 dollars each.
"It's been amazing to watch that ambition," said her church's music worship leader, Nathan Johnson, who has become Gracie's performing and songwriting mentor. Johnson played piano for Gracie's CD.
"I'd not had that experience of being around a lot of kids that just had that initiative on their own," says Johnson. "She'd been given that voice her whole life with the way she was brought up and believed she could do it and she did it."
"I knew it was going to be big because I could just feel it from the beginning that something was going to come out of this," says Gracie.
Gracie's project grew to include building and operating an orphanage in Haiti, too, and she recorded another CD of her songs, Different, to sell. Now she has generated nearly $30,000 for her philanthropy, a total that includes a $5,000 grant she won as a national winner of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, one of the world's top honors for community service by young people.
"I think the reason it's gone so big is because it came from the right place," says Gracie. "It came straight from my heart. So many people just got on board and were so willing to help."
Gracie says she never set out to be a singer songwriter star when she started her philanthropy but things are certainly heading in that direction for her. She's making trips back and forth to Nashville now working with experts there on a professional career and starting on TV show appearances. But she says no matter how big her career gets, the heart of it will always be using her talents to do good.
"I think it will," says Gracie. "I feel like it's such an important part of who I am and what I want to do with my life. I've learned more and more how my music can have an effect on people. Everyone has something they're good at and it's just really cool I've figured out a way to use that to help people."
Straight from her heart.
Gracie will start raising money soon to build and operate a second orphanage for children in Haiti. And she's looking forward to the time soon when she can make a personal trip there and to Africa to see the results of her work first hand.
You can support Gracie's philanthropy for orphans in Africa and Haiti. Go to her website, http://www.gracieschram.com/. There's information there about Gracie and how to make a donation to her charitable fund, Showers from God.
FOX4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.
Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.