Weary after school and theater practice, Tommy Bilzco ’24 starts his commute home. He will grab some dinner and then dig into more schoolwork and practice. Meanwhile, classmate Samurai Chung ’24 stows his soccer gear in a locker already stuffed with detritus from track and basketball seasons. He patiently waits for his mom who juggles the schedules of his four active siblings—including a brother who also attends Saint Ignatius. His evening is much like Tommy’s: eat, study, relax a bit, and sleep to be ready to start again in the morning. Yes—both boys are tired, but they aren’t complaining. In fact, both would say that more is better. They, along with 28 of their Saint Ignatius brothers, are living the dream thanks to the Magis Scholars Program.
The brainchild of Peter Carfagna ’71, and his wife, Rita, the Magis Scholars Program launch was guided by Fr. Ray Guiao, Richard Klingshirn ’79, and Garen Distelhorst ’96. “Rita and I were moved to help fund the program after years of being inspired by the recipients of our Endowed Fund, the Carfagna Family Magis Scholarship, awarded annually to a student from either St. Dominic parish or St. Ann (now part of Communion of Saints) parish,” explains Peter. “We saw how ‘a little bit more’ (the Latin word “Magis” translates to “the more”) financial aid made it possible for these remarkable students to attend Saint Ignatius and decided that a multi-year Challenge Pledge would be the best way for the school to extend need-based tuition assistance to applicants whose admission would enrich, in unique ways, both the student and the school itself. We have seen the lasting impact that Saint Ignatius has had on them, and that they have had on our school. These students have been inspired by our Men for Others mission and will hopefully go beyond college to pursue a life of service—for the greater glory of God—A.M.D.G.”
The program identifies incoming freshmen who have already demonstrated the values of a Saint Ignatius student and have received tuition assistance from the school; but because the school cannot always meet 100 percent of a family’s need, the program helps to close the gap.
As a sixth-grader, Tommy knew about Saint Ignatius. When eighth grade began, he followed the school’s social media accounts, was inspired by the President’s videos, and thought “attendance would be life changing.” This was the moment his want became a need.
“The Magis Scholars Program is the reason I go to Saint Ignatius. What makes this so special is that it’s a great example of what alumni can do to pay it forward,” he says.
Tommy exemplifies a Magis Scholar. He’s active in performing arts groups, honors classes, and sports, is a Student Senate cabinet member, volunteers with Running with the Cats, and helped with the Ignatius Theatre WildCamp this past summer. He stays involved outside the school by serving on a youth advisory board for an Oberlin-based community theater group.
Samurai’s story begins with his parents, Tom and Jennifer Chung. “Samurai could attend any high school – the curriculum, words and numbers in textbooks are similar from one school to another. But the intangibles that Saint Ignatius presented to our family, such as the deep-rooted Catholic presence on campus, the constant display of faculty leadership, and the daily demonstration of integrity created the right environment in which he and his brother can thrive.”
He is, indeed, thriving. He enjoyed SEP the summer before eighth grade, and the Magis Scholars Program made attendance possible. Samurai says, “Saint Ignatius feels like a good balance of academics and other activities to help me become well-rounded. I feel empowered to make decisions about who I want to be when I grow up… As a student, my volunteer work, faith in God, and academic opportunities are helping me become the best version of myself.”
As president of Brother to Brother, Samurai led the collection and sale of dress code clothing, donating the proceeds for pediatric cancer research in memory of Kevin Healey ’07. In addition to honors classes, he looks forward to participating in the Christian Action Team and Sophomore Service next year.
Samurai appreciates his Magis Scholarship. “There are people who know I can be great and who believe I can do something good for the world. Having people support me in this way helps me see that I serve a purpose in God’s plan and challenges me to live up to that expectation.”
More is Better
Clearly, the Magis Scholars Program makes a big impact. The Chungs say, “With five children and a deep commitment to Catholic education, the generous support of the donors to the program makes a real and tangible impact on our family. The donors are demonstrating a commitment to providing promising students with opportunity and cultivating a spiritual and academic environment of possibility. We are very grateful.”
All gifts designated to the Magis Scholars Program, up to $50,000/year, are matched dollar for dollar by the Carfagnas, doubling the impact of every gift. Saint Ignatius will appeal to alumni in their anniversary years to contribute to this program, but anyone’s contribution will trigger the challenge set forth.
Peter and Rita hope other Saint Ignatius donors are inspired to match their annual pledge so that every deserving applicant can find his special place at the school. “We are confident that each donation will be used to change that student’s life forever, inspiring him to seek the Magis in all he does,” says Peter.