Opportunities seem to just keep coming for one Greenwood High School junior, and they are all well-deserved, according to his high school principal.
Christian Griffith, a junior at Greenwood High School, recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., representing Arkansas as the state winner of the 2014 Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Voice of Democracy Essay Contest.
"I’ve known Christian for a number of years," said Jerry Efurd, GHS principal. "I have always known him to be a very hardworking and generous young man. He is a very mature young man for his age; he has been involved in a number of activities."
For the past four years, Christian has written an essay and given the speech at the local — through Post 6527 — and state levels of the VOD competition. This year, he won the state contest, earning him a spot in Washington for the four-day, all-expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital to present his speech there. The essay, "Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future," included Christian’s thoughts on how his generation will some day lead the nation and his excitement about that prospect.
"The United States is currently in a bit of a bind. It seems as though no one can agree on any certain topic, and there is a lot of debating that goes on between political parties," Christian, 17, wrote in his winning essay. "Many people are bothered by this and are worried for the future of the country. I, however, know that there is nothing to fear. Countless times in our history we have been in troublesome situations, and countless times something or someone has risen to the forefront to guide our great nation back on track.
"The next great inventor or world leader is sitting in our schools. He or she is working on their first groundbreaking college thesis or leading their school government. He or she is in basic training or excelling in their very first algebra class," he wrote. "The future of our nation is all around us. It will soon be time for my generation to take the reins, and I am certain that the next Edison or the next Washington is right around the corner. It is this that gives me hope as our country moves forward."
Richard McKinney, commander of the Greenwood VFW Post 6527, said the local post and Ladies Auxiliary were thrilled to have representation at the state and national levels.
"When he did his presentation to the folks in Little Rock, even the state post leadership were really moved by his speech," said McKinney.
At the national competition, Griffith placed 19th, winning $2,000 in scholarship money, bringing his total career VFW scholarship winnings to near $7,000.
The son of Michelle and Gordon "Griff" Griffith of Greenwood, Christian has continued his involvement in the VOD essay competitions for several reasons. Not only does he have family members who have served in the military, but Christian said becoming acquainted with the area veterans through the process has been inspirational.
"Getting to know some of the veterans and their stories, that kind of inspired me to come back every year; I enjoy hearing their stories," Christian said as he took a break from pre-calculus homework earlier this week at his Greenwood home. "I’ve met a lot of veterans, and I want to think them for what they do. The essay topics kind of really touch home."
The scholarship opportunities are another plus for Christian, especially since he plans on attending Georgia Tech University and obtaining an aerospace engineering degree.
Chamber Choir, chess team, BETA Club, Quiz Bowl and the golf team keep Christian busy at school, while volunteer opportunities away from school include The First Tee of Fort Smith and Special Olympics.
He’s been a state BETA Club presidential candidate, and had the opportunity to tee it up with PGA Champions Tour professionals like former Oklahoma State University golfer Willie Wood during the Nature Valley First Tee Open in Pebble Beach, Fla., in September.
"One of the things I’ll remember best was the Dinner with the Champions," said Christian, who enjoys golf, playing guitar, banjo and piano in his spare time and probably has bluegrass music playing on his iPod. "There was a former Secretary of Defense there, a lady who ran the NBA program and the founder of Tom’s Shoes. There were so many inspiring people there. They all spoke and talked about some of the values — the nine core values (of The First Tee.)"
Efurd said for most kids, being a member of many organizations looks good on college applications and scholarship resumes, but Christian’s active involvement in the organizations goes beyond that.
"He is a participant in the ones he’s involved with," Efurd explained. "In his second semester of his junior year, he’s done a host of things it would take a lot of kids through high school and college to do.
"Everybody’s got a resume; everybody has volunteer activities and hours," he added. "But when you look at his, the worked hours and labor go with it."