Tuesday January 15, 2013

PITTSFIELD - Joseph A. Grochmal, a sophomore and high honors student at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, has been named this year’s Berkshire County first-place winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars "Voice of Democracy" essay contest, for a second consecutive year, according to Arnold Perras, VFW District 9 contest chairman, and John Bubriski, VFW Post 8183 contest chairman.

Grochmal lives in Housatonic with his parents, Ann and Joe Grochmal, and a sister, Olivia, who placed fourth in Massachusetts in the 2010 Voice of Democracy Contest.

Joseph Grochmal enjoys running track and cross country, and swimming for his high school teams, and also enjoys bicycling, the outdoors and history. He plays tuba in the concert and marching bands, and participates in PathWays, a service-based organization dedicated to volunteerism in the community.

In 2010, Grochmal was also chosen to attend Gov. Deval Patrick’s Project 351 as a youth representative from Great Barrington. Outside of school, he is an altar server at Blessed Teresa Church in Housatonic.

Each year, the VFW presents this Voice of Democracy essay program to the English and Social Studies departments at several area high schools throughout Berkshire County. Through classroom study projects and special assignments, students are encouraged to express their opinion about their personal responsibilities and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of being an American, through writing and public speaking.

The NASSP, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has approved this program for its National Advisory List of Contests and Activities.

The Voice of Democracy program is a 65-year-old national event. It starts within a local community, and a winner can advance to county, state, and a national competitions, earning prizes and scholarship money along the way. The top national prize is worth $30,000.

"Is Our Constitution Still Relevant," was the theme of this year’s essay. The length of the essay was limited to a three- to five-minute oral duration.

This year’s VFW District 9 essay judges were Lewis Fortune of Lenox, and Jonathan Levine and Rose Ann Sturgeon of Pittsfield.