Saturday, February 21, 2015

Getting Ready for Leap for Ghana

On February 26th, we have our big concert of the year, Leap for Ghana!  We are so excited for this event!  Shine A Light will be performed for the first time LIVE!  I know I can't wait for everyone to hear it!

On Friday, the 20th, we had our last meeting before the big event.  At this meeting, we had to finish posters, video announcements, movies and speeches!  It was a high energy meeting where everyone had a job to do!  Check out our final meeting before the big event!  Join us on Thursday to see how all of it comes together!

Video Announcement:

Poster, speech and video making:

Final T-Shirt Design (on sale at Leap for Ghana for $8):

Shine A Light Flashlights!

Student Leadership Day

On February 19, seven ACT members had a wonderful opportunity to go to the Illinois Holocaust Museum for Student Leadership Day.  Even in the bitter cold, when many schools were cancelled, eleven middle schools from around Chicago came together for an inspirational day.

The day began with an introspection of ourselves and then defining what leadership means.  These activities helped to put all of us in the right state of mind to hear from Janine Oberottman, a survivor of the Holocaust.  Her message was one of hope and how leadership comes in all different forms.  She talked about the leadership roles that she and others took during the Holocaust to survive.  When asked how she survived, Janine said, "They wanted me dead and I wanted to live."  Wow.

After a tour of the museum, we then discussed the leadership that we saw in the exhibits.  We talked about good and bad leaders, and the difference between leaders, upstanders and heroes.

Finally, it was time for our keynote speaker, Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance.  He was a dynamic speaker who not only made us laugh, but also made us think.  He talked about how the power of story can change the world.  He told us to "take what's right and make it popular".  Andrew reminded us, "Don't use words to silence someone else's words."  He wants us to imagine better and find a purpose with patience, persistence and pizzazz.  He finally reminded us DFTBA (Don't Forget to Be Awesome)!

Here are some examples of how the Harry Potter Alliance has used the power of story to make a difference:

The Hunger Games are Real:
Harry Potter Fans Win Against Child Slavery:

Simple steps can make a difference!  What will your rap be?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Leap for Ghana!

On February 26, 2015, McCracken choir students will be performing in an ACT fundraising event to benefit A Better Life for Kids!  I am so excited for this event, as so much work has gone into making it a success!  Here's the flyer for the event.  Join us and help Shine A Light for a child in Ghana!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The winners have been chosen for the 2015 ACT Logo Design Contest. This year's contest was an extremely close race with the winning design only getting two more votes than the second place design. Congratulations to Shannon, for coming in first place, with her design appearing on the back of the shirt. Thanks to the Abraham family for their generous donation of the printing these shirts. Congratulations is also extended to Grace for coming in second place. Her design will appear on a notepad generously donated by the Klein family The color that was chosen for the t-shirts this year is purple.

The t-shirts will only be on sale at the Leap for Ghana concert; February 26th at 7 pm. More information to come on the concert. Please contact Mrs. Ciok with any questions (

1st Place by Shannon:

2nd Place by Grace:

Thank you to everyone for your fantastic designs this year!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shine A Light

Shine A Light download cards will be delivered to Mrs. Ciok this week!  We are so excited to have our own song representing the work that we have done to make life better for children in Ghana!  Thanks to Make It Better for telling our story in their publication.

Check it out here:

Well done to everyone who worked on this project and continues to work on it as we get ready for the Leap for Ghana concert on February 26th!  Stay tuned for more information on that, along with the winning design of the t-shirt design contest for this year!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Shine A Light" Recording

On Tuesday, December 9th, eighteen students had the chance of a lifetime!  They were able to go and record a song at the Mayne Stage in Chicago created in honor of the work that McCracken has been doing for the past five years to help A Better Life for Kids.

When Wendy Morgan heard Ms. Ciok talking about A.C.T. and A Better Life for Kids last spring on NPR's Worldview, she was inspired by what she heard.  She emailed Ms. Ciok and asked how she could help.  Upon hearing that Wendy was a musician and a part of a popular singing duo called Wendy & DB, Ms. Ciok asked if they would be interested in writing a song for A.C.T.  Wendy jumped at the chance to be a part of it and asked for the students to brainstorm words that they would use to describe the work being done at McCracken and in Ghana.  From there, "Shine A Light" was born.  This song is a great reflection of all that is being done to make the world a better place.

In November, the task of raising money for the actual recording was underway!  Through Donor's Choose, many people gave money to this project, as they saw what an impact it could make.  From local community members to people in Spain, 37 different donors came together to make this project happen.  Paige from Georgia said, "I gave to this project to contribute to a cause greater than myself.  I wish you all the best of luck!"  The Lu Family, who are community members, said, "Thank you for providing our children with opportunities to help children around the world hav ea better life.  The stories you share about the children in Ghana have made my own children feel like they are not just helping a face, but now rather helping a friend.  You are teaching empathy and compassion to us all.  It was amazing and so touching to watch this project get funded.

Then rehearsals began.  Wendy and Dean Rolando, her pianist, came two times to rehearse with the kids.  Amy Keipert, the McCracken music director, gave up countless lunches to help the kids get ready.  Here are some pictures from the after school rehearsals.

And then came the big day!  Upon arrival at Mayne Stage on December 9th, everyone realized that this was different than just being at school.  It was a real stage with real sound equipment.  Many people were running around doing sound checks, videotaping and making sure things were ready to go!  Then the recording began.  For two hours, the students sang Shine A Light over and over again.  They took different parts, sang lines again and again.  Everyone learned a little bit that day about what going into making a song perfect for a record!  

And then, suddenly, the recording was finished!  A celebration of pizza and cake was had by all, and at the celebration, Wendy & DB made the announcement that 5% of their next album sales will go to A Better Life for Kids!  All in all, it was a wonderful day!  Look for the release of the single very soon!

Here's a sneak peak of the song:  

Thanks to Mike Isaacs for another wonderful story in the Skokie Review!  We so appreciate your support!