Recently, an MVM alumni, Joe Grochmal, from Great Barrington, came back to visit with teachers at MVRMS.
He spent time in Mrs. Astion's room, as he had been a student of hers since way back in elementary school.
When asked if there was any advice he wanted to share with current middle school students now that he was finishing his first year at Harvard, this is what he wrote.
Eye-to-eye with Governor Deval Patrick. This was the position I found myself in on January 15, 2011 as the 8th grade Great Barrington representative to Project 351, a gathering of youth from each of the 351 towns and cities that comprise our Commonwealth. I knew nothing about Governor Patrick project at this time except that Principal Furey had notified me a week earlier that I would be traveling to Boston with several of my peers to participate in a day of volunteer work with other young people. That day I remember watching Governor Patrick as he addressed our group, tightly packed into the warehouse space of Cradles to Crayons, telling us that through hard work, ingenuity, and compassion, we could write our own futures and, ultimately, better the world in the process. At the time I did not understand the weight of what I had just heard. After all, as an eighth-grader I seemed to have little control over my own life, let alone the lives of others. Yet, as the day progressed and I was brought to the State House to pack backpacks full of supplies for economically disadvantaged youth in the Boston area, I began to understand the message to which the Governor was alluding. I vividly remember looking up and down the long table of supplies, to my left and right, and seeing a mountain of bags, books, crayons, and pencils that needed to be packed. At first glance, the task seemed daunting. However, I looked above this mountain of supplies to see fifty other youth, many of them looking as lost as I was, and realized that through our hard-work, ingenuity, and compassion we could bring about a positive lasting change. I am proud to say that we packed every bag that went down our assembly line, did so with gusto, and hopefully changed a student’s life or at the very least gave them something to smile about.
As the months went by, the memory of Project 351 remained with me and drew me towards public service. In the spring of my Freshman year at Monument Mountain I applied for and was chosen to be a member of Governor Patrick’s State Youth Council. I have never felt so welcomed by a group than I did on my first day with this advisory board. As I introduced myself to others I learned that many of the 28 representatives had participated in either the inaugural or the second Project 351. The bond we shared and the strategies and approach that 351 had taught us allowed our group to work together in a constructive, efficient, and enjoyable manner to tackle issues of youth violence, homelessness, drug use and abuse, and a multitude of other issues facing our peers, the youth and future of the Commonwealth. How fortuitous that I was chosen back in eighth grade to participate in such a life-changing experience.
A week ago I finished my first year at Harvard and am pursuing a career in government. I look back fondly on my time at Monument Valley for many reasons, and certainly for helping set me on a trajectory that is allowing me to pursue my dreams and at the same time teaching me more about myself and the world every day.
One piece of advice that I would like to offer to you, the reader, is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether or not it seems interesting or not. You may not like everything you try, but it is a way to help you begin to identify what interests you and what you may choose to pursue.
My second piece of advice is that once you have identified your interest, do your research and find members of the community who can help you learn more about your passion and help you identify a path forward. The middle school is a great place to start. Talk to your teachers, administrators, friends, family, and neighbors. You’ll never know what opportunities you may have left on the table if you do not ask or accept. Never forget that you miss 100% of the shots you do not take.
April and May updates: