NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 12-8-04, By Julie A. Short
``Great Lakes Science Center names local student volunteer of the year
AVON -- She may only be 16-years-old, but Avon High School sophomore Nicki MacCracken is wise beyond her years when it comes to knowing the importance of giving back and helping others. MacCracken was recently named Student Volunteer of the Year at the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland.
"Nicki has volunteered over 300 hours at the center," Assistant Volunteer Coordinator Haji Murray said. "She is a volunteer with the public programs department. She assists guests by educating them about science in a fun way. Nicki is also a friendly face to our guests and is very knowledgeable with regards to science and the center."
It is that love for science that led MacCracken to volunteer at the center. Two years ago, she went to see a movie at the IMAX Theater, which is part of the Great Lakes Science Center. During the movie's opening credits an image was projected on the screen thanking all the volunteers at the Science Center. It was that day that MacCracken, then 14, filled out an application to become a volunteer.
"It's been a great experience," MacCracken said. "I love helping others. I help with demonstrations and shows at the center. My favorite is the Bridge of Fire. It features the Van De Graff, a machine that makes your hair stand up. The guests really seem to enjoy that demonstration. I also walk around and talk to guests at the center. I'm pretty knowledgeable about all the exhibits."
There are more than 400 hands-on, interactive displays at the Great Lakes Science Center. "Despite the literature that accompanies each display, people still have questions," Murray said. "Volunteers like Nicki bridge the gap and help people better enjoy their experience at the center."
MacCracken can be seen at the center on Saturdays in her lab coat, where she puts in a four hours of volunteer time. According to Murray, there are approximately 40 volunteers at the center who help each week, ranging from students to senior citizens.
"Nicki is truly an asset to the center," Murray said. "I was talking with one of her supervisors and they told me that they wish they could clone Nicki. She is a special young lady and we are happy to have her as part of our family."
In addition to volunteering at the Science Center, MacCracken also works for the American Red Cross as a volunteer on Tuesdays. "It gets challenging sometimes trying to budget my time," MacCracken said. "But I enjoy what I do and I work my other activities around my volunteering."
Those other activities include singing in the barbershop quartet at Avon High School and playing the violin. MacCracken is a violinist with the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra (NOYO) at the Oberlin Conservatory.
MacCracken's first volunteer experience came when she was in seventh grade. Her father is an FBI agent, and he volunteers his time playing basketball with other agents in under-privileged neighborhoods through an FBI outreach program. "The whole point of the program was to get kids off the streets for a few hours to watch the basketball games that were played against the Harlem Kings, who are much like the Harlem Globetrotters. I would assist during the games with whatever was needed."
After high school, MacCracken hopes to continue her education, possibly studying science. Her advice to others is to get out and get involved. "It was an honor to receive the award," she said. "My parents have always been very supportive of what I do, and I hope to continue volunteering. It's important."''