Tuesday December 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Amy L. Castel lani, a junior at St. Joseph Central High School, daughter of Joe and Vicky Castellani, has been named this year’s Pittsfield first-place winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars "Voice of Democracy" essay contest, according to Arnold Perras, commander and contest chairman for the Lt. John N. Truden Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448.

This year’s essay theme was "Is Our Constitution Still Relevant?"

The intent of the contest is to foster patriotism, offer an opportunity for self-expression and increase self-confidence in students. The essay had to be presented in a three- to five-minute oral duration.

Castellani is a member of the high honors college preparatory program at St. Joseph Central High School, and has been on the high honor roll throughout her high school career. Her co-curricular activities include the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Ambassador program and the school spring musical.

She contributes countless hours of community service, among them the "Life is Good Concert" and the "Cradles to Crayons Project," both benefiting underprivileged children. Other activities include working at the St. Joseph Church Food Pantry, Eden Hill Sports Camp and at Pasta Pizazz. She has also worked as a waitress for a fundraiser "Dining in the Dark," is a volunteer crew worker for Pittsfield Community Television and spends time at the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

Amy is also an accomplished ballet dancer who has studied at the American Dance Institute for several years in ballet and jazz. She works at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket during
the summer.

The Voice of Democracy has been the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ premier scholarship program since 1947. Each year, more than 50,000 high school students compete nationwide for more than $2.3 million in scholarships and incentives.

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Jacob D. Flynn, an eighth-grade student at Reid Middle School, son of Dan and Melanie Flynn, has been named this year’s first-place winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ "Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest," for middle school students.

The theme of this year’s contest was "What I Would Tell America’s Founding Fathers." The length of the essay was limited to 300 to 400 typewritten words.

Flynn is a straight-A student and has attained high honors every year since the sixth grade. He plays baseball, golf, enjoys skiing and plays basketball at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pittsfield. He has participated in community work with his science teacher, and helped paint a fence in a restoration project of the gardens at Springside Park’s Hebert Arboretum.

Flynn was also nominated for a trip to Europe with the People to People Student Ambassador Program, and will visit France, England, Ireland and Wales in the summer of 2013. He will perform community service in one of the countries visited.

Arnold Perras, commander and contest chairman for VFW Post 448 said, "Jacob is working hard in preparation for this once in a lifetime opportunity by fundraising, applying for scholarships such as the Patriot’s Pen, and would welcome anyone willing to submit a donation toward his trip by mailing it to 50 Ridge Avenue, Pittsfield, MA 01201."