For Brother Rice senior, getting involved isn’t just an act
Some believe that as people get older, they use their imaginations less and less.
Nick Chiocca found that it already was happening to him as a teenager, and he didn’t like it.
“As a kid I was always very imaginative. Nowadays I don’t have a lot of time to play around or just goof off since I’m growing up so fast,” said Chiocca, 17, a senior at Brother Rice High School.
Fortunately for Chiocca, he found a solution. He joined the drama club at Brother Rice as a freshman, and it gives him the creative outlet that he was missing.
“Being in a play helps me go to a whole another world again. A lot of my imagination comes out while I’m acting,” he said. “I cannot say how much I have loved it. It has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at this school.
“I came to this school not knowing what I would do,” Chiocca said. “I knew I’d try hockey, but drama never occurred to me. Then in the eighth grade, we went to Mother McAuley High School to see a production of ‘Oklahoma.’ I saw how much fun they had and it made me want to get into drama.”
He was surprised when, as a freshman, he got a decent role in the winter variety show. Then he was awarded the lead role in “Harvey,” the school’s spring production. The rest, as they say, is history.
Chiocca already is looking forward to Brother Rice’s Christmas production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and in the spring, the school will stage “Amadeus.”
When he isn’t on stage, he’s giving his time to Special Olympics, tutoring classmates or working with his youth group at the First Church of God in Oak Lawn.
At church, he regularly attends the International Youth Convention, which occurs in a different U.S. city every two years.
“It’s a four-day trip for high school-aged students, and next year it is in Nashville. It is a spiritual-strengthening experience,” Chiocca said.
In addition to hearing from speakers and listening to inspirational music, the teens also take part in service projects near the convention center.
“We paint houses or renovate a home. Each year we also bring food to the local food pantries, and last time, we helped serve the food to the people in the nearby shelter. That was awesome,” he said.
He played hockey for awhile at Brother Rice, too, but the schedule soon overwhelmed him, particularly since he works part time job as a bagger at Pete’s Fresh Market in Evergreen Park.
Chiocca, who lives in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community, is the son of Michael and Stephanie Chiocca. His parents, he said, are his biggest mentors. But he has other role models as well.
“A lot of people throughout my life have put me on the right path. My mother got me into church at a young age, and raising me up in the church has put me on the right path in life,” he said. “Many people at church are like a second family to me.
“At school, there are teachers that I can’t say enough about. This school has been amazing to me and I wouldn’t trade a second of it.”
When he has to leave Brother Rice upon graduating, he is contemplating a career in psychology.
“I love helping people. If I can make somebody happy, I’ll try. A lot of times I go back to God and listen to what he is going to tell me,” Chiocca said.
His plans presently right now include working and counseling teens.
“I’d talk to them about divorcing or divorced parents, trouble in school, you know, all the drama every kid deals with in high school,” Chiocca said. “Sometimes you just can’t talk to your parents or a friend; it has to be a doctor.”
Encouragement comes from his friends and family, who spur him on.
“I get a lot of encouragement from almost everyone,” he said. “God is calling me to take this path and help others.”