Noah Grothe offers this advice to his teenage peers: “Don't be afraid to take a step out of your comfort zone.”
The Orono High School senior has had a lot of experience venturing out of his comfort zone.
Grothe traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic this summer on a church mission trip. It was his first time out of the country.
“We spent two days at an orphanage doing general maintenance and a lot of painting, and taking the kids out on a day trip,” he said.
Grothe and his group also visited a home for people with leprosy.
“We talked with the patients, served them lunch and challenged them to some competitive games of dominoes, a local favorite,” he said.
As a junior, Grothe decided to step out of his comfort zone and join the Orono football team.
“This is my second year ever playing the sport,” said Grothe, a defensive end. “For someone who has never had a Friday night game under the lights, let me tell you, it’s something. Adrenaline flowing, energy surging and enough morale to lead an unarmed charge uphill.”
What persuaded him to give football a try?
“Positive peer pressure,” he said. “Team members and coaches approached me throughout my sophomore year. I decided to go for it. They’ve been really supportive of me, being new and all."
“I don’t believe in trying to not do stuff out of fear," he added. "Stepping out of my comfort zone, I’ve gotten good results.”
Although he’s new to football, sports have been a part of his life for a long time.
“I have been playing basketball since I was five, and have worked up to getting some varsity time last year, and hopefully a lot more this year,” Grothe said.
It helps that he stands six-feet-six-inches.
“Few are the days where someone doesn’t ask me a question pertaining to my height,” he said.
At the spring banquet, Grothe’s basketball teammates voted him Most Improved.
“It felt good that people notice hard work paying off,” he said.
Grothe is also captain of the Orono track team for the upcoming season. He views his role as captain as “mostly to help people get better at what they do through advice, encouragement, and lots of cheering,” he said. “I’ll make sure it’s a season to remember.”
Grothe’s main event is discus, and he has his sights set on breaking the school record this spring.
“Noah is dedicated, very coachable, and has a strong work ethic,” said head track coach Justin McCoy. “When he does something, he does it right the first time.”
Grothe had a busy summer, too. He landed his first job, overseeing 20-30 kids each day in the Orono Community Education park program. Days were spent “playing games, doing crafts, and having a blast,” he said.
This spring, Grothe will graduate, which will be bittersweet.
“I’m very close to quite a few people here at Orono. We’ve been through a lot together,” he said.
People like classmate Allison Cornelius.
Grothe asked Cornelius to Orono’s Homecoming dance. He created a Harry Potter-themed puzzle to ask for the date, reflecting Cornelius’s love of the fictional wizard. She said yes.
In addition to sports, music is Grothe’s other passion. He was selected to perform in the All-State Concert Band, which performed at the University of Minnesota Duluth this summer.
“We spent a week practicing, hanging out and getting to know the other band members,” he said. “I know I improved just by being in that high level atmosphere with other kids my age who really cared about music. “
Grothe’s musical accomplishments include participating in wind ensemble, jazz band, pit orchestra and concert choir. He started playing trombone in fifth grade. As a freshman, he switched to bass trombone.
“My dad did some research on it and got me one,” he said.
Grothe also plays piano, and dabbles in guitar and violin. His musical tastes range from classical to Beatles-era rock.
“Music has, is, and always will be one of the biggest pieces of my life,” he said.
Despite the time demands of sports and music, Grothe is an honor roll student and was named an AP Scholar with Distinction, an award recognizing a high school student who demonstrates college-level achievement.
His favorite high school class so far is AP World History.
“Ms. Neal is quite the character and the subject was interesting and engaging,” he said.
How does Grothe balance activities with school work?
“In the words of my mom, ‘Time management,'” he said.
“Most days I get up at roughly 6:30,” said Grothe.
A typical breakfast is six eggs with peanut butter toast.
“I go to school, go to practice, come home for a quick dinner, run off to my next event and get home at around 9-ish.”
Grothe is focusing on his college search this fall.
“It is thrilling to think that soon I get to go meet a whole new set of people, make new friends, and live in new surroundings,” he said.
He plans to stay in the Midwest.
“I love this area, and my family and friends are here,” he explained. “Some people can’t wait to get away, but I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else right now.”
He is undecided on a college major.
"I’m considering engineering and music,” he said. “Depending on where I go, I'll be involved in at least one band.”
High school has had its ups and downs for Grothe. During his freshman year, he experienced the death of his father.
“I had to grow up fast,” he said. “I gained wisdom and knowledge much faster than many of my peers.”
“This has for sure changed my perspective on life,” he added. “I have grown to value people more, I can more easily view people from all parts of their lives so as to not judge them but help them. I do my best to be a light and a friend when people are in need.”
Grothe said the experience has strengthened his faith, and credits some Christian mentors for helping him.
“My church high school leader Gregg Tisor, my Youth Alive leader Grant Hill and my spiritual warfare leader, Lowell Seashore have all helped me,” he said. “From life skills, to loving God, to teaching me what it takes to be a man, I owe a lot to these guys.”
Grothe also credits the encouragement and support of his family. His family includes mother Anne Klaers, a younger sister, three dogs and two cats named Calvin and Hobbes.
“I haven’t always been dealt a fair hand in life,” Grothe said. “But despite tragedy, I absolutely love life."