The air was electric with anticipation on Wednesday as families and friends took their seats on Commencement Lawn, and faculty and students lined up along Commencement Walk, all eager to cheer on the graduating seniors of the Class of 2022 at the 13th King’s Academy Commencement, held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Ali bin Al Hussein.
The atmosphere was particularly joyful and celebratory — graduates, their families and teachers could finally celebrate as a community, face-to-face and in person.
The Class of 2022 numbers 138 graduates, representing 25 diverse nationalities and cultures. Students hail from near — Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey — and far: Canada, China, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Dominica, Germany, Greece, Italy, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Korea, Russia, Romania, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Head of School Peter Nilsson began his Commencement address with words of thanks to those assembled. He spoke of the time after graduation, comparing it to the moment a plane takes to the skies: “The plane rises, ascends out of the clouds… the horizon is limitless... It’s as if from out the trial of the wet, dark clouds, you have burst into a new beginning, a new commencement.”
“Opportunity is now in every direction,” he continued. “Go. Keep climbing upwards and outwards. Soar above the clouds. Seek your own distant horizon. And see what you learn when you get there. This is what we have prepared you to do.”
“And remember, too, to return to this ground that is now underneath you. Planes lift off, and they land. And staying grounded is both a literal and a figurative term,” he said. “Let this soil ground you. It awaits your return… Go fly to corners of Jordan and the world for the next stage in your journey of discovery. Keep learning, not just in school, but also in life, and when the time is right, return to this soil that has supported you — this fertile earth that awaits the water you bring, to help it grow.”
Welcoming guests to the “city of mosaics” — King’s home city of Madaba — Joud AlMbaidin ’22 in her Arabic oration reflected on the joys, challenges and memories of the last few years, and described the legacy that His Majesty King Abdullah II created upon founding King’s Academy sixteen years ago.
“None of us could have imagined that this place would become an oasis of education and knowledge,” said AlMbaidin. “We could not have imagined that on this land would rise a beacon, lighting the way for the whole world, a beacon that would instill in us the guiding principles upon which to build our future.”
“For at King’s, we learned responsibility, respect, love of learning and the need for an integrated life and to be citizens of the world,” she continued. “We chose our path based on our understanding of these terms and their implementation in our daily lives. At King’s, we learned to study the past, and to live the present to build a better future. Here, we read about history; at the same time, we prefer to make our own history. Yes, Your Majesty, that dream became a noble reality the moment you resolved to transform — for us — the sands of the desert into grains of lead for our pencils.”
In his English oration, Rashed Zou’bi ’22 noted how “despite being the 13th graduating class of King’s Academy, the Class of 2022 was the first of its kind.” In addition to surviving a global pandemic and the ups and downs of school life, 20 students of the class of 2022 were part of the school’s first ever cohort of seventh graders when the Middle School was established six years ago.
In a speech brimming with humor and heartwarming anecdotes about friends and teachers, Zou’bi also addressed his fellow graduates with uplifting words of encouragement: “Our time at King’s has come to an end, but our lives are really just beginning. Today is a commencement. And the word commencement does not mean a finishing, but a beginning, a start.”
“This entry into adulthood will come with unfamiliarity and transition,” he continued. “But the Class of 2022 is familiar with unfamiliarity and has become an expert on transitioning. Yes, difficulties in all shapes and sizes imaginable lie ahead, but if we have learnt anything from our time at King’s, we know how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, to thrive amidst uncertainty, and to harness the motivation to push through the darkness of the tunnel to reach the light at the end of it.”
Nilsson then presented the two most prestigious awards given during Commencement: The Academy Cup, which was awarded to Yousef Al Jazzazi ’22 for being a “leading scholar whose academic work has been characterized by deep scholarship, curiosity, and a love of learning,” and the King Abdullah II Award, which went to Mohammad Hameed ’22 for “fully embodying the ethos, spirit and guiding principles of the Academy.”
Next to take the floor to give the Commencement address was Ali Shajrawi ’11, a King’s Academy alumnus who currently works in New York City as manager of Environmental Markets Analysis and Trading at LS Power, one of the largest Independent Power Producer firms in the US.
Shajrawi delivered a moving and poignant speech to the Class of 2022, urging them to be “humble and shameless” when it comes to learning. He shared life lessons he has learned by relaying stories about two of the most important figures in his life. The first being his father, who, Shajrawi said “knew all too well how important getting an education was. So, he made it his mission that his children’s fate be different from his. When it came to education, he always delivered, no matter the cost.”
The second figure is HM King Abdullah, whose act of kindness to Shajrawi, he said “was so pure, so humbling... It pushes me to be kind and honest to the people around me no matter the material wealth and power one may accumulate. It teaches me to give back to those in need.”
“I can never be thankful enough to the two men that taught me everything and made me the man I am today,” Shajrawi said. “This is what keeps me going, this is what I want to share with you.”
Finally, Shajrawi advised the graduates to “be proud of your achievements, but never stop learning. Never stop asking questions. Don't forget those who supported you: your parents, your teachers, and your friends. Help those in need. Go out there and conquer your dreams. And remember, when it comes to learning, be shameless like my beloved father. When it comes to learning, be humble and kind like our beloved King.”
This year’s graduates are off to some of the world’s most reputable colleges and universities, including Stanford University, McGill University, King's College London, Yale University, Columbia University, NYU Abu Dhabi, University of British Columbia, Tufts University, all of the University of California campuses, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Toronto, Boston University, Brown University and Georgia Institute of Technology.
In addition to receiving a wide range of acceptances from top institutions, seniors also earned an impressive amount of financial aid awards and scholarships, totaling over US $2 million per year, with 25 scholarship offers totaling a generous 50% or more of the total cost of attendance.