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Aspiring businessman builds strong resume

By John Published: June 5, 2011
Walsh Jesuit student Derek Switaj, 18, at his home in Kent, Ohio. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

When the cold temperatures and bursts of exertion proved too much for Derek Switaj's asthma, he had to give up hockey before his junior year no easy thing considering his dad, Bill Switaj, is Walsh Jesuit's hockey coach.

But Derek Switaj (pronounced SWEE-Tie) found another way to contribute by analyzing video to coach the team. One of the coaches asked him if he could stream the hockey games live over the Internet.

After consulting with school officials, securing $2,600 from the student government for equipment and gaining the support of some Walsh alumni, Switaj created the website (http://www.wjconnect.com) to stream live athletic events.

This past year, the Broadcast Club that Switaj founded filmed a few football and hockey games.

''Next year they're going to really run with it and try to do football, hockey, basketball, baseball for sure, and then slowly add in sports as there is need and as there is interest,'' Switaj said.

Switaj, a 2011 Akron Beacon Journal Star Student, has left his mark at Walsh in other ways, too.

When he was a junior, he co-founded Project Speak Out to bring Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, to campus for a talk. Over the summer, Switaj persuaded the administration to allow Project Speak Out to coordinate all the speakers who come to campus.

This year, he was CEO of Project Speak Out, which brought U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten to Walsh in September.

Switaj even got on stage himself over the past few years.

He had a small role in the spring musical last year, The Wizard of Oz.

''I had Uncle Henry, which was perfect. No singing or dancing, just speaking,'' Switaj said.

This spring, he landed the part of Don Lockwood in Singing in the Rain, a role made famous by Gene Kelly, even though Switaj had no experience singing or dancing.

''I had some friends give me a little help,'' Switaj said. ''They gave me a little bit of singing instruction and they taught me a few tap dancing moves for our tryout.''

He got the part, then he had to take dance and singing lessons.

''It was basically two years of tap dancing crash-coursed into about two months,'' he said. ''And I had to learn to sing on top of that. Honestly, it was probably the most stressful, painful experience of my life, but the most phenomenally fun experience ever.''

He means no disrespect to his old hockey buddies, but the musical was a tougher challenge.

''Putting on that show was more intense than hockey ever was,'' Switaj said.

He plans to attend Boston College's business school this fall to work on a degree in management and marketing with a possible minor in computer science.

He imagines the day when he's on stage again as a CEO like Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.

''I'd love to be a CEO some day and give those keynote speeches and introduce new products and be at company events and get up on stage,'' Switaj said. ''I know I've got to do some work first before I get to that point.''


John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

 

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