Catholic education and faith help Bolchoz toward career goal

COLUMBIA — John Bolchoz knows what it means to remain committed to a goal.

The 17-year-old senior at Cardinal Newman School first decided to seek an appointment to a U.S. military academy when he was a freshman.  

Four years later, he has been accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He will report there July 1 to begin the program known as plebe summer, which gives first-year midshipmen a crash course in the change from civilian to military life.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but if I didn’t want to be challenged I wouldn’t be going to Annapolis,” he said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “I’ve always wanted to make something better of my life, and wanted more than what I could get from a regular college. This is a chance to do something different, to make the best of myself and to serve my country.”

Columbia residents Robert and Cheryl Bolchoz are proud of their son’s accomplishment. They attribute his success not only to his intelligence and commitment, but to the fact he has attended Catholic schools for 12 years.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to send all of our children to Catholic school, and we feel that’s made a big difference,” said Mrs. Bolchoz. “Cath olic education builds up their sense of responsibility and wanting to succeed. The teachers and administration at Catholic school don’t let up on the students. They drive these kids to complete these goals, and don’t let them take the easy way out.”

Catholic education is a Bolchoz family tradition. Both Robert and Cheryl are Charleston natives who attended Catholic elementary and middle schools there and graduated from Bishop England High School. Mr. Bolchoz is a Citadel graduate and an attorney, and Mrs. Bolchoz, who previously worked in biostatistics, is a stay-at-home mother and substitute teacher at Cardinal Newman.

Their oldest daughter Morgan is a junior at the University of South Carolina; daughter Angela is a seventh-grader at Cardinal Newman; and Paul, the youngest, attends fourth grade at St. Joseph.

“I’m very proud of John and a little scared, but that’s part of it,” Mrs. Bolchoz said. “Everybody wants to see their children succeed, and I think this is a huge honor. He has wanted this for a long time.”

Bolchoz said his interest in the military goes back several years, and was nourished by his father’s stories of life at The Citadel.

Once he decided to try for the Naval Academy, Bolchoz committed himself to getting good grades, becoming physically fit and pursuing varsity athletics and extracurricular activities.

He currently has a 4.5 grade average and is ranked 10th in his class.

He has lettered in football and baseball and recently won the S.C. Independent Schools Athletic Assoc iation individual wrestling championship in the 171-pound class. He is captain of the wrestling team, and helped lead his school to the team championship.

 “When I decided I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, I realized you have to dedicate everything to reaching that goal,” he said.

Bolchoz also made his faith a central element in his life. He has been an altar server at St. Joseph Church for 10 years, and is now a master server who assists Father Richard Harris, pastor, at weekly Mass. Master servers are young men 16 and older who are selected to monitor and direct other altar servers during Mass.

“John has demonstrated not only a respect for the sacredness of the liturgy, but also the qualities and abilities of a leader,” Father Harris said. “He has a calm presence and a genuinely good personality.”

He is passing on his commitment to service in the church to younger brother Paul. The two recently served Mass together for the first time.

He said his faith has been strengthened by a special weekly seminar offered each Friday at Cardinal Newman by Father Jeffrey Kirby, who comes from Aiken to celebrate Mass and lead seniors in discussions on topics such as the ethics of caring for the poor and the nature of sin.

“I’m happy to have a strong Catholic family background. My faith is the way I was raised,” he said. “We go to Mass every Sunday, and I try to go to confession as much as possible. I know students at school who don’t think twice about not going to Mass on Sunday, and that’s something I just can’t understand.”

When he’s not involved in academics, church or sports, Bolchoz said he simply likes to relax by reading, and watching TV and movies.  He jokingly calls a comfortable couch in the family den his second home. It is not a home that the busy senior visits very often.

At the academy, Bolchoz said he would like to study engineering and learn to fly jets. Science, especially physics, is one of his main interests.

Bolchoz advises other young people who want to attend a military academy, or pursue any other achievement, to set priorities in their lives.

“I got to this point through my faith and through the way I’ve been raised,” he said. “Knowing right from wrong and making the right choices all through high school was an important part of it. You have to know what things are most important in order to reach your goals.”