It was his sophomore year at South Carroll High School when now-graduating senior Nicholas Bloch burst onto the extracurricular scene. He played soccer, he played basketball and competed in power lifting.
A year later he would become both a board member of the National Honor Society and vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, but, “My biggest involvement was as class president,” Bloch said. “My sophomore year I was elected class press for the graduating 2020 class.”
There was no way when he began that journey that Bloch could have known he would be presiding over a class that would graduate in isolation, their personal history tied always to a world historic pandemic. But it’s not something he is going to let bring him down.
“It’s not like we’re not graduating, we’re just not doing it the traditional way,” Bloch said. “And that’s OK. It’s not our fault, we didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just how things have to be.”
But that equanimity in the face of what cannot be controlled should not be taken to mean Bloch is complacent in the face of what can.
According to Sarah Larson, faculty co-advisor to the Class of 2020 executive committee, Bloch took charge once elected class president as a sophomore and never after dropped the ball.
“He just really took over as a sophomore. I would tell him what we needed to get done and it would get done,” she said. “His reliability is probably the most impressive thing for me. He never let me down. He always made things happen. I would tell him once and it would be.”
That ran the gamut from spearheading fundraising for the class to planning the prom as a junior, according to Larson.
“He took it upon himself to show up early, an hour early for prom, dressed in his tuxedo,” she said. “And he was one of the last to leave prom as he helped to tear everything down.”
“I think that event really brought our class together junior year,” Bloch added. “Prom was a big milestone.”
It’s just a shame, Larson said, that Bloch wasn’t able to preside over many of the end of the year celebration and activities he would have class president.
“He really would have shined,” she said.
Bloch isn’t spending much time regretting what he won’t have as a graduate, but he is reflecting on all the good things was able to have over his four years at South Carroll High School."
“It was a tremendous experience at South Carroll. The people and the culture of the school really made me enjoy going to school every day,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I will miss, being on that daily schedule of seeing people I am comfortable with and teachers that really care about me.”
And considering his experience over the past four years, Bloch said his advice for incoming freshman is simple — put yourself out there.
“Freshman year is a time to open your mind and just see what you want to do,” he said. “A lot of kids in middle school, they tend to go with the group and do things the group wants them to do. I think with high school, there is an opportunity to find out who you are and a little bit more about what you actually enjoy.”
As for the future, Bloch’s plans have been modified, but hardly derailed. He will once again lifeguard at his neighborhood pool, Nottingham Swim Club, in Mount Airy, where he is the assistant manager, and will head to Carroll Community College in the fall. It’s just that he’ll be taking online classes rather than attending in person.
“I was planning on attending Carroll Community College for two years, get my associate’s degree, then move on to a four-year university to pursue a degree in business,” Bloch said. “The dream is investment banking.”
Larson has no doubt that if that’s what Bloch wants, he will succeed.
“I think Nick could do anything,” she said. “He could be a future president of the United States; that’s something we say often at South Carroll.”
But for all his attentive leadership and clear ambition, it’s not some external metric of success that drives Bloch, but gratitude.
When he was 13, Bloch underwent a seven-hour surgery on a tumor on his brainstem, which was successful in removing the cancer, but left a small, non-malignant growth on this brainstem that represents a threat to his life should it ever grow or move.
If he has found equanimity in graduating during a global pandemic, it may be due to the fact that he has learned to to be thankful for the life he as, rather than fearful over nearly losing it.
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“My gratitude comes from the fact that through all this stuff, I am still here, I am still breathing. If I can breath and I can walk, I can do anything,” Bloch said. “I am grateful to have a life, so why not?”