Michael DeJong is presented the Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award by Jason Lamping, director of the Character Counts Program at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University on Tuesday, Feb. 2. DeJong was one of 12 Iowa individuals and groups to be honored with 2020 Iowa Character Awards. When COVID-19 hit, DeJong and his sister, Elizabeth, set up a mini factory in their home basement and designed and made 2,153 face shields, all of which were donated to local and area emergency personal and those in the medical field.
Michael DeJong, a senior at Montezuma High School, was presented with the Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award during halftime of the basketball game against Lynnville-Sully on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Jason Lamping, director of the Character Counts Program at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, was on hand to present the honor to DeJong.
“It is such an honor to receive this award and, to be quiet fair, it would not have been possible without the encouragement and support from my community,” said DeJong.
DeJong, 18, was one of 12 Iowa individuals and groups to be honored with 2020 Iowa Character Awards.
He was originally recognized in a television ceremony on Aug. 4, 2020, which was aired on KDSM Fox 17.
“The organization wanted to also recognize me in person at a community event,” DeJong said of last week’s presentation.
DeJong received the honor for demonstrating good character by being a leader at school and in the Montezuma community. For example, when COVID-19 hit, DeJong went to work designing, making and donating face shields for local and area emergency personal and those in the medical field.
He came up the idea after seeing a similar project online and deciding that he could duplicate the process using his 3D printer. DeJong recruited his sister, Elizabeth, 13, an eighth grader at Montezuma, and her Cricut (a home controlled cutting machine for crafts) to make the project possible. Together, the brother and sister duo set up a mini factory in the basement of their family’s Lake Ponderosa home and began creating the face shields. They ended up making and donating 2,153 face shields.
Funds for the face shield project were donated by the Montezuma American Legion, community donors and through the sale of “United We Fight” T-shirts through Elite Sports, and many other organizations and outreaches.
In addition, DeJong remains very active in FFA, participating in band, trap shooting, serving as a basketball statistician, National Honor Society, and student council, all while balancing a job, volunteering, and participating in other out-of-school commitments.
During his junior year at Montezuma, DeJong spent his free period tutoring junior high students in math and doing graphic design work for the school’s technology department.
“As a teacher and coach, I know I can count on Michael to do the right thing and set a positive example. Michael is the ultimate role model of character that I have met,” said nominator Kevin Gartman.
The Ray Center annually recognizes Iowans who show the Six Pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS!: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. Since 2005, the organization has recognized more than 100 Iowans for showing good character. For a complete list of Iowa Character Award recipients, visit IowaCharacterAwards.org.
The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center, Iowa’s home for the CHARACTER COUNTS! and Excellence with Integrity programs, provides character and leadership development strategies to improve civility and develop ethical leaders throughout the world.
DeJong will be attending Iowa State University in the fall where he will be studying industrial engineering and business analytics.