There’s something about the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) that keeps volunteers coming back year after year. The 14-year-old program has touched the hearts and souls of the teachers, counselors and organizers who volunteer their time, energy — and even money — into the one-of-a-kind educational program.
Launched by King’s Academy in 2006, a year before the school opened its doors, SEP is an annual two-week program for students in grades 6, 7 and 8 who attend for three consecutive summers to develop their skills in English and information technology, as well as to experience King’s residential life. In 2019, SEP welcomed its largest class yet: 195 of the most promising students from around the country.
Forty-seven teachers and counselors from Jordan and abroad came to teach and provide around-the-clock care to the students while they boarded at King’s for the duration of the program. Giving up two weeks of their summer break, 23 current King’s students were counselors, while nine King’s alumni returned to their alma mater as SEP teachers.
Many have volunteered with SEP before, so what is it about the program that keeps them coming back?
Beyond King’s sat down with King’s alumni to find out exactly what it is they love about the Summer Enrichment Program.
Currently studying industrial engineering at the German Jordan University, Rita Asfour ’16 jumped at the opportunity to be welcomed back into the fold of the school community she had missed. King’s has given her a lot over the years, she says, so she wanted to give back.
“I learned as much as I taught, I think,” says Asfour. “You don’t realize how much you’ve learned until the students leave. You have permanently invested in a child who will probably never forget you. I saw the happiness in their eyes when I complimented their work and encouraged them to do more. This made them believe they could do more, and they loved it.”
Giving back to King’s is also important to Kareem Al Wazir ’17, currently studying business law at Carlton University in Canada. “Looking back at the culture of King’s when I was student, and seeing what we’re doing here at SEP, you see how King’s is giving back to the community, and it’s even more amazing when you can be a part of that as an alumnus, “he says.”
“I love being around the kids,” says Balqees Al Shorman ’18 who has volunteered with SEP for three years and was herself a SEP student before enrolling at King’s in 2014. “They bring positivity to your day. Their eagerness and energy push you to work harder for them, because you know they want to learn more. They opened up to me, and to find myself worthy of their trust is what keeps bringing me back to SEP.”
The relationships formed with the children are also important to Asfour: “My favorite thing about SEP is the friendship you develop with the students. It’s a mixture of friendship and parenthood, both a huge responsibility.”
Learning more about what it means to be Jordanian
SEP is an experience you can’t find anywhere else, according to long-time volunteer Shahd Al Jawhari ’13 who works as a math teacher at King’s Academy. “I particularly enjoy getting to know the students at SEP because I get to know people from around the kingdom. I learned a lot about what it means to be Jordanian outside of my own experience.”
“A highlight for me as a Jordanian was being able to reach into their communities and being allowed to learn about their family and lives,” says Al Shorman, who is majoring in architecture at Jordan University of Science and Technology.
Providing a King’s- quality education
Having personally experienced both SEP and a King’s education, Al Shorman knows well the difference SEP can make to people’s perspectives and dreams. “SEP is about giving bright kids access to King’s-quality education. Boarding allows kids to construct their own individual thoughts and beliefs around simple matters. I believe that we alumni should be the first to present the new methods of thinking we learned to these kids.”
“What’s memorable to me about SEP is watching the students’ progression from 6th to 8th grade,” says Ahmed Khalayleh ’15 who has volunteered with SEP for three years. “In 6th grade they didn’t speak much, and by 8th grade they’re having debates and discussions, and being respectful of other opinions. Learning English is one thing but learning to communicate is really what I enjoy seeing while I’m here.”
Working as a team
Another thing that makes the program so special, according to Al Wazir, who is back for his third year of SEP, is its team of organizers, teachers and counselors who are all working from the heart to benefit the children. “SEP reminds you of what real teamwork is. You have 40 people working as one team, and you aren’t working here for you, you’re here for the kids. That’s the magic about it.”
Igniting a passion for teaching
“It started as a way to use my time productively during the summer break, and I have come back every summer since,” says Al Jawhari, back for the ninth time. “When I started volunteering as a SEP teacher, it became even more meaningful and rewarding. I was interested in teaching, and every year I came back, I found more meaning to teaching and it helped me seriously consider it as a career.”
“Being in SEP for so long, I see them come back to graduate, to see their siblings graduate. This year I saw one of my students from my first year at SEP walk across the stage and graduate from King’s! That was moving,” Al Jawhari adds.
“When I came to SEP I thought I’d do one year, but when it was done I felt guilty because I didn’t have any teaching experience and felt the kids deserved better,” says Ahmad Freihat ’16. “So, I told myself I’d come back next year and do a better job. I did, and every time I do it I get better. SEP is teaching, it’s communicating, working as a team; it’s all these things that are helping me grow, and I keep coming back to try and be even better for the kids. It’s almost addictive!”
Instilling a love of learning
“When I asked my students what their favorite part of class was, it wasn’t watching a movie or playing a game, it was doing poetry,” says Freihat. “On the last day of classes, I gave them the option to just sit and talk, or to do one last poem — they chose the poem. It made me feel I had done my job well.”
“SEP is special in that it doesn’t create a reliance on education, but in a sense an independence of it. At the start, I would give them a poem and ask them for a creative analysis, and they were unsure how to do that,” adds Freihat. “At the end, they were able to have a personal understanding of it and be creative, and to do that process for themselves.”
Fulfilling the King’s mission
“As King’s students, we received the best education and opportunities one could ask for,” says Al Wazir. “At school we learned about the vision of His
Majesty King Abdullah II, and by volunteering in programs like SEP, we work towards fulfilling that vision of a better Jordan. That’s another part of why I love SEP, it gives you the opportunity to impact people.”
“Another thing that’s different [about SEP] is the demographic in the room,” adds Khalayleh. “Programs with tuition are limited to those who can afford it. But these are kids who, if not for SEP, wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience this type of schooling or education. It gives them a different perspective on education: they see it can be collaborative, fun, inspiring. King’s is a gateway to all sorts of opportunities that SEP on a smaller scale has opened up a door to.”