At Convocation, students vow to be tenacious

Resuming school after a short break to celebrate Eid Al Adha, King’s Academy dove right back into its eleventh year on Wednesday as students, faculty and staff gathered in the Abdul Majeed Shoman Auditorium for the school’s annual Convocation ceremony.

Delivering the Convocation address this year was Headmaster John Austin, who asked students to embrace practice and hard work, and the discomfort and sacrifices that sometimes come with it.

“When you practice something, really apply yourself to something, you will unlock within yourself hidden stores of creativity and pleasure,” said Austin. “As you think about your education, which is the very purpose of Convocation this morning, I would ask that you make a conscious decision to fast from the easier, passive pleasures of our entertainment, consumer and social media cultures, and instead embrace the more enduring pleasures of authentic learning, study and scholarship.”

“There are some that would suggest your generation is not up to this challenge,” Austin continued. “But I don’t agree. As young people, the students of this school have never failed to astound me with what you are capable of. You give us all hope and optimism. This faculty will never doubt you, even as they challenge and push you to be the best you can be.”

Natalie Masannat ’18 and Ferdinand AlHourani ’19 then took the stage to discuss the honor code that the King’s community lives by.

“Being part of the King’s Academy community requires you to act and to live honorably, and to show respect to everyone,” said AlHourani, referring to the principles upon which His Majesty King Abdullah II founded the school. “In order to respect everyone, you should respect yourself first, because everything starts from you.”

Masannat noted how far the school has come in the 10 years since it was established, and asked her fellow students to be mindful of the fact that attending King’s is never a right, but rather a privilege.

“King’s is teaching us to live by a moral code, to push the envelope and think creatively. It teaches each and every one of us how to be better global citizens and ultimately better human beings,” said Masannat. 

Next to speak was Jan Flaska, a visiting faculty member from Deerfield Academy. Flaska’s observations about the differences between Deerfield and King’s were both thoughtful and amusing. He noted, however, that where the two schools completely align was in their commitment to champion their students.

“You matter to us, and we aspire to champion your ambitions,” said Flaska. “Here at King’s, you can find your best and true self. Our King Abdullah did so at Deerfield Academy, and his legacy to you, so you can do the same, is this great place. See the mentors that surround you, that admire you, that mold you, that love you. Immerse yourself in this sea of community, which offers so many things to so many of us, and be grateful to be here, now, together.”

A long-standing tradition at King’s Academy, that celebrates the school’s diversity and inclusivity, is the display of flags in the Hess Family Dining Hall to represent the wide array of countries from which students come. This year at Convocation, Qynaana Maurcot ’21 and Alicja Borzyszkowska ’18 presented two new flags – of Belgium and Poland respectively –  to the headmaster, bringing the total number of flags on display to 53.

Bringing Convocation to a close was the presentation of this year’s school theme “tenacious”, led by Proctors Anais Amer ’18 and Rafe Zoubi ’18 with the assistance of Deputy Headmaster and Dean of Students Julianne Puente. According to the seniors, “TENacious” is a play on words that evokes the school’s 10th anniversary, while the theme – selected by seniors and juniors – aims to capture the essence of the school community.

“We view ourselves as persistent, determined and unyielding,” said Amer. “We adhere to our school’s mission closely, and don’t easily relinquish the principles we hold most dear. So King’s Academy 2017-2018, let’s be tenacious in everything we do. Tenacious in effort, in kindness, in empathy, and in resolve.”

Reflecting on the school’s past as a way to celebrate its present and future, Puente described the school themes chosen in previous years and the ways in which they guided students to improve and grow both as individuals and as a group.

Those themes, according to Puente, helped students learn a number of important lessons: that leadership comes from all directions; that the distance between good and great is not as far as we think; how to become more resilient as a community; how the power of the individual is a means of propelling change; how to become more empathetic human beings by listening to one another; and how to become agents of change and stewards of our communities.

“We all have a place, and we are all a part of something great,” said Puente, when asked what next year’s theme will be. “And here’s what’s so special about this. I don’t know what the future themes or mosaics will be, but I know simply that they will be.”