The following was ready by SI Principal Patrick Ruff at the graduation ceremony:
The Ignatian Award is the highest award our school offers. It is conferred upon the graduating senior who has consistently put the welfare of students above his or her own interests. This award winner is chosen from the graduating class for generous service on their behalf, dedication to the Gospel message, and devotion to the Christian ideals enunciated by the patron of our school, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
This year's recipient is a humble leader and genuine role model for classmates and teammates. An honors student who consistently strives to do his personal best to develop intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually; this student has been a retreat leader, a leader on Student Council and an Eagle Scout. What sets him a part are his distinct passions which he has managed to develop and share these past four years. He has been on SITV, served as a Big Cat, and as a Kairos Retreat leader; he ran Cross Country, performed in the musical, and was in Speech and Debate. This young man's talents are many and varied because of his insatiable quest to discover and master new opportunities. He was a founding member and leader of our Robotics Team, a member of the California Scholarship Federation, and a regular at daily Mass in Jensen Chapel and still found time to complete over 897 hours of community service.
He is a young man blessed with many gifts – he is intelligent, morally upright, and full of integrity; he is a leader and has touched our hearts and challenged our minds the past four years. His good-natured, outgoing, and winning personality, positive approach to life and learning, and genuine concern for those around him have earned him the respect, trust, and admiration of both his teachers and peers.
Fr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present the 2017 Ignatian Award to Nathaniel Dejan.
The story, below, will appear in the summer Genesis:
Nathan Dejan '17 sees his separate passions as part of a much larger picture, one that has come to define this outstanding Ignatian.
He loves technology and his president of SI's Robotics Club.
He loves nature, and helped create a 90-foot trail at the San Francisco Botanical Garden for his Eagle Scout service project.
He is passionate about service, both at the San Francisco Food Bank, where he has logged more than 400 hours, and at SI, where he serves on the Arrupe Council, helping to coordinate SI's many service clubs and efforts.
All of these passions will come together in college, as he plans to major in mechanical engineering and focus on projects that will create clean water or zero-emission cars.
For Dejan, all of this success has a touch of irony to it. "I never imagined that I'd be at SI. My older sister went to Westmoor, where I thought I would go. The first time I thought otherwise was when I received my acceptance letter from SI. That one letter set my path. Going to a school with the reputation of SI was something I never imagined possible."
Dejan's peers most likely thought otherwise. He had already served as seventh grade treasurer and student body president during his eighth grade year. In his freshman year at SI, Dejan earned the Wildcat Award in cross country and received the Fox Religion Award for his class. He performed in a one-act play, competed in the Frosh Elocution Contest, and served as class council president, as he did for each of his four years at SI.
Over the years, he acted in the fall play, the spring musical, Cabaret and the Playwright Festival; he managed the field hockey team and worked on SITV; he competed in the Sophore Oratorical Contest; and je joined the Robotics Club in its inaugural year last year as its head of outreach, designing media packets and safety manuals and reaching out to clubs at other schools.
This year, he led the Robotics Club as its president and became a master of the 3D printer, making parts for the club's robot. He also served as one of the key organizers in March when SI hosted a regional competition that drew teams from as far away as Turkey.
Inspired in part by SI's Stewardship Week, Dejan ventured outside the robotics workshop to manufacture something of a different sort when he managed a team of 35 scouts to construct a 90-foot nature trail in the San Francisco Botanical Garden for his Eagle Scout service project. "The supervisors there were surprised what my team could do," said Dejan, who convinced Bay Area nurseries to donate 35 native plants for the project. His team then weeded the area, laid cardboard to suppress more weeds and placed woodchips around the plants. "The place a was a jungle before we started."
As co-president of the Arrupe Council along with Connor Clark and Lauren Cueto, Dejan gathered together the presidents of SI's many social justice clubs to coordinate their efforts and to help organize the school's Solidarity Dinners. He did his own share of service work at San Francisco's Food Bank thanks, he says, to SI's religious studies courses "which taught me to have a faith that does justice." After a friend invited him to volunteer at the Food Bank, he put in a few hours. Then, during his sophomore retreat, he went to the kitchen at St. Anthony's Foundation and saw some of the food he had helped to package. "That's when I had my mind-blowing moment and saw how my work could directly affect people who were hungry. I was moved by this and motivated to continue."
Dejan continues to volunteer at the Food Bank, putting rice into 1-pound bags, sorting 200-pound boxes of fruit and organizing the myriad cans donated to the center. This work led him to focus on the homeless for an ethics project in his junior-year religious studies class, "and that led me to a study of the environment, because environmental conditions affect people on the margins."
These experiences motivated Dejan to attend the Ignatian Family Teach-In in Washington, D.C., where he met famed Jesuit author and commentator James Martin, S.J., who also showed him how effective people could be when driven by their passions and convictions. "I love working on projects for the common good with others who share my interests. That's how I live out my faith, by finding God in all things, especially as we work for justice."