His Arabic declamation touched on a topic Hashem Yaish ’21 is all too familiar with: thriving in the face of whatever challenge life throws your way
When Hashem Yaish ’21 orated his Arabic declamation, its powerful message of perseverance in the face of adversity struck a chord in many throughout the King’s Academy community who found that they could relate to it in their own personal way.
What was particularly impressive about Yaish’s declamation was that the delivery of it, in classical or fusha Arabic, was in itself a manifestation of that message. When Yaish joined King’s in the eighth grade, coming from another English curriculum-based school, he could barely read or write in Arabic, let alone speak in fusha.
Five years later, with the support and encouragement of his teachers including Mu’nis Mhiedat, his Arabic teacher this year, Yaish was able to embrace the opportunity and push through one of his own personal adversities in order to deliver a message — in Arabic — that was in equal parts motivational and inspiring.
While advanced-level Arabic students must write their own declamations, intermediate-level students like Yaish can select a pre-written text to make their own; however, that comes with its own challenges.
“It was quite difficult to read and find an appropriate text, but I focused on finding a piece of writing that I could connect to and understand, so that I could clearly convey a strong positive message through my reading of it,” says Yaish. Although he admits the process of learning to pronounce every word correctly and to keep practicing it was “quite laborious and time consuming,” the effort was in keeping with his message.
“It is generally about trying things and excelling despite those difficulties, and how a person can rise above any obstacle he or she is presented with,” explains Yaish.
If overcoming language difficulties wasn’t reason enough, there was another reason why Yaish’s declamation resonated so deeply with his audience. His message was profoundly personal to him in another way.
“I am disabled and face challenges in my everyday life,” explains Yaish, who has cerebral palsy (CP). “Luckily, I have a very supportive family and people around me to help me deal with and overcome those challenges.”
Yaish credits his time at King’s for helping him to become far more independent than he had been at his previous school, where he had been assigned the assistance of a scribe to help him write assignments and during exams. At King’s he was encouraged not to use a scribe, instead receiving academic assistance through the Learning Center.
Being a student at King’s also helped Yaish develop his passion for diplomacy and international relations, which he was able to explore through his participation in the King’s Academy Model United Nations (KAMUN) conferences and co-curricular program.
“One of my brothers was really invested in MUN and I wanted to emulate him ever since I was a young child and one way to do that was through MUN,” says Yaish. “Although I was originally inspired by my brother to begin my MUN journey, I’ve had my own unique experience.”
Yaish started out as a delegate, and rose in the KAMUN ranks to become a chairperson, a president, and this year headed the Mini-KAMUN where he was responsible for teaching Middle School students all about the MUN, its values, principles, concepts and ideas they are unfamiliar with.
“I learned about a variety of global issues, but more importantly I learned values and principles like cooperation, teamwork, compromise and how to lead by example through KAMUN,” explains Yaish. “So, I’m passing on the knowledge and information I’ve learned to them.”
Teaching younger students is something Yaish has become invested in after spending his summer break engaged in a community service initiative that involved teaching English language and conversation skills and important life skills to disadvantaged children.
“I really wanted to connect with and help children who don’t have the opportunity or time to attend good schools,” says Yaish. “Although it was a difficult thing to do, teaching them, I really felt that they became more excited and enthusiastic to learn because of the time I spent with them.”
With his passion for social justice issues and for serving his community, Yaish has found a good fit in Georgetown University, which he will start attending in the fall. As part of the university application process, Yaish wrote a series of essays in which he discussed his disability, his involvement in MUN, and other community service initiatives.
“Writing the essays was a rather interesting opportunity for me to reflect on what I’ve done and the challenges that I’ve overcome,” says Yaish. “It also allowed me to share my voice on some important issues relating to people with disabilities and how I don’t necessarily believe that having a disability gives you a disadvantage. Rather, you should use your disability as a driving force to ensure that you excel and thrive in whatever you do.”
Yaish is excited to embark on his next chapter at university, where he wants to study subjects that will teach him more about politics and international relations, and help him find ways to work on resolving important global crises and issues. “I really want to find a way in which I can better the world,” he says.
In the meantime, reflecting on his final year at King’s that, due to the pandemic, has been a bittersweet experience for him and his fellow seniors, Yaish has some advice for younger students. “Appreciate and cherish each moment you spend with your friends and teachers, and really try to think positively and optimistically about your time at King’s and any experience or activity you are involved in.”