Leap of faith

Aman Ali

Kent State alumnus is on the road building a roof for the needy in every state

Seth Kujat founded Leap of Faith, a national organization that builds homes for the needy. Kujat is photographed here on his parents’ Medina County home. PAT JARRETT | SPECIAL TO THE DAILY KENT STATER VIA THE MEDINA GAZETTE

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Kent State alumnus is on the road building a roof for the needy in every state

Unlike some Kent State students, life after graduation for Seth Kujat didn’t involve filling out job applications and watching cartoons all day.

“I owned a roofing business all through college,” Kujat said. “So I thought about roofing a house in every state and doing it for free.”

And Kujat is doing just that. Yesterday, he left Hawaii, completing the 43rd state on his trip. At times, he can’t believe he had made it this far and the name of his project reflects just that.

“I had no idea if it was going to work when I went to the first state,” Kujat said. “So I used the title ‘Leap of Faith’ to explain my project.”

A leap of faith is what he ended up taking. After coming up with the idea in January 2005, Kujat pitched the Leap of Faith project to Habitat for Humanity, a national organization that builds homes for the needy. The group was impressed with his proposal and agreed to sponsor.

Kujat grew up in Litchfield, a rural Ohio town, where he began roofing at a young age.

“I was raised always working with my hands,” Kujat said. “So when I turned 16, I got a summer job with a roofer down the street from me.”

After his senior year in high school, Kujat formed KUJO Roofing, his own roofing company that he worked for all throughout college.

Kujat’s roofing experience helped convince people to help finance the trip. He wanted to do all the fundraising himself but needed help scheduling the trips. On his third stop in Medina County, he hooked up with Dan Shumaker from the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Immediately, the two became partners.

“He’s kind of like my agent,” Kujat said. “He does the behind-the-scenes stuff that I don’t have time to do. I owe a lot of people on this trip and he’s definitely at the top of my list.”

Shumaker helps Kujat arrange the stops in each state and maintains the Leap of Faith Web site, LeapofFaithRoofing.com.

Kujat graduated from Kent State in December 2004 with a degree in communications. While in school, he served as co-chair of the May 4th Task Force in his last year of school and helped create the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity his sophomore year. But many people remember him as the 2002 to 2003 undergraduate student senator for business and finance.

“He had such a high energy level,” said Donna Carlton, USS adviser and assistant director for the Center for Student Involvement. “His mind would go 1,000 mph with 12 different projects he wanted to work on.”

One of the largest initiatives that Kujat executed as a USS member was creating block funding for the May 4th Task Force, an initiative USS is currently debating about overturning.

Because of Kujat’s work as a senator, Carlton said she could see why Kujat started Leap of Faith.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he did this,” Carlton said. “It’s because of the person he is and that energy he brings.”

Kujat needed that energy to pull of this trip. As a start, he began by getting donations from close friends and relatives and selling his personal possessions.

“I started off by selling my truck,” Kujat said. “I basically liquidated everything I owned. I had no idea how this was going to work but I had ideas and started working toward them.”

Raising money was difficult at first, but it poured in quickly.

“The money came in as naturally as it could from a 24-year-old asking for money,” Kujat said. “But passion should just sell itself. Anyone that sees your passion just wants to get involved with what you’re doing.”

Most states did. After learning about Leap of Faith, many volunteers were eager to host him.

“When I show up to a state, 95 percent of the time I have no idea where I’m going to stay,” Kujat said. “But some family usually gives me shelter and a bite to eat when I come in.”

Kujat added one of the highlights of his trip is meeting new people in each state.

“People want to talk to me and hear why I’m doing it,” Kujat said. “I get to enjoy life, meet great people and build a huge positive support group.”

A devout Christian, Kujat has spent much of his time on the road reflecting.

“This trip has made me realize when we have nothing left, we always have our faith,” Kujat said. “God is always there communicating to me and it’s just a matter of me opening my ears.”

Kujat may get lonely after driving for long hours between states, but prayer has gotten him through it. He studies the Bible and takes time to meditate every day.

“As far as loneliness goes, I still struggle with that sometimes,” Kujat said. “But I believe that I’m not in control of this trip, ultimately.”

He also gets homesick but keeps in constant touch with his mother Carol. Kujat and his mother have a “48-hour rule,” where he has to call home every two days.

“At times, we’ll talk on the phone and I’ll say ‘Come home, come home!'” Carol Kujat said. “As a mom, we just worry. Even if your son is 80-years-old, you still worry.”

But with seven states to go, Kujat will soon be able to reunite with his family. Although the exact date has not been set, Kujat plans on finishing up in late April or early May.

“I’m curious to see what he does when he comes back,” Carol said. “He’s a hyper kid, and I don’t see him sitting still for very long. He’s got a lot of energy.”

Once he returns, Kujat plans on writing a book and speaking about the trip.

“This year I have seen the good parts of America, the reasons why it’s loved by so many and hated by many, too,” Kujat said. “I hope people want to hear about it and what it’s like to follow your heart.”

If he were to give advice to others, Kujat stressed the importance of following your heart.

“If someone comes up with an idea, there’s a lot of truth in those phrases,” Kujat said. “You need to take tiny steps towards that goal. If it’s right, those tiny steps will turn into giant leaps.”

For now, Kujat is focused on finishing the last few stops of his trip. He is scheduled to join Kent State students and faculty on the Hurricane Katrina relief trip during spring break in Biloxi, Miss.

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected].