It was a balmy Tuesday evening, and Refectory Square was decorated with a charming cascade of twinkling lights that lit up the joyful faces of the graduating seniors, along with their parents, faculty and staff, and juniors who were gathered for the Senior Parents Dinner, the penultimate celebration of the Class of 2023.
Taking place on the eve of Commencement, the dinner began with words of welcome from Head of School Penny Townsend, who greeted the 134 graduates and their parents, many of whom travelled from all over the world to celebrate their children’s graduation.
“I extend to you the warmest of welcomes on this beautiful night on this magnificent campus in magical Jordan,” said Townsend. “Please enjoy the company of the students, families and faculty who have accompanied you on this journey through King’s Academy. Before I go any further, we need to recognize all the parents who worked hard and made sacrifices in their own lives so that their children could benefit from a King’s education.”
A trio of talented seniors, Shihun Lee ’23, Jiaqi Xu ’23 and Yusif Shawish ’23, then took to the stage to provide the evening’s entertainment, playing the flute, cello and piano respectively in a delightful rendition of Louise Farrenc’s Op. 45. Liliana Abuzeid ’23 also joined them onstage where she sang "Slipping through My Fingers" from the film, Mamma Mia, a song about a mother’s regret at how quickly her daughter is growing up.
Following the performances, five seniors* delivered a multilingual welcome in the five languages taught at King’s: Arabic, Chinese, French, German and Spanish — a senior dinner tradition which Townsend noted “reminds us all of the power of this diverse community of learners.”
After enjoying a delicious dinner prepared by King’s chefs, which was served by 65 student waiters from the junior class, another senior dinner tradition, it was time for the valedictory address.
Each year the senior class selects a faculty member to deliver the valedictory address. This year, Head of the Department of History, Religion and Society Dr. Ethan Jerome was the seniors’ choice. In a speech full of his characteristic humor and passion for teaching and storytelling, Jerome started with a proverb in Arabic (تجري الرياح بما لا تشتهي السفن), meaning “winds blow counter to what ships desire.”
Acknowledging how difficult the past three years had been for the graduating class, a time in which the pandemic disrupted their lives and high school experience, Jerome said: “Many of you began 9th grade here at King’s Academy. Life was normal, and then, suddenly, it was turned upside down. and we had to figure out lock downs, quarantine, testing and vaccines. As the proverb says: Life doesn’t always pan out the way you’d like it.”
“My hope is that your experience here at King’s, whether in the classroom, in the dorm, during co-cos, or in the dining hall has given you experiences that you can reach for when the wind starts to blow in a direction that you had not planned.”
Going on to share his journey of when he moved to the Middle East in 1996 and lived, studied and worked in Egypt and Palestine, he went on to quote the proverb (انّ القوّةَ تكمُنُ في قلبٍ مَهْما تهشّمَ لا يزالُ يُعطي), meaning “strength lies in the heart, no matter how shattered it is.”
“I did not know in that moment that my life was to change dramatically,” said Jerome. “Halfway through the semester in Egypt I traveled to Palestine, not knowing in the moment the transformative impact it would have on my life. It was in those weeks in Palestine, and in the months and years to come, that my education became no longer about myself. It was about others. It was to see the world with a new set of lenses.”
Noting the connection between King’s Academy’s Guiding Principles and his own educational and life experiences, Jerome told the graduates that he hoped they would also “connect the dots” in their own lives, and “carry these principles wherever you go. The three things to take away: How will you respond when the wind blows in unexpected ways? When the moment comes to climb the mountain, will you take on the challenge? And, will you come to see that your education is a way to give to others?”
Next up was the presentation of the Commencement Awards**, an annual tradition recognizing excellence in learning and leadership among students of the graduating class.
A highlight of the senior dinner was the unveiling of the senior class gift, a large-scale replica of a mosaic depicting an eagle which has been laid on Commencement Walk, the pathway where faculty and students start the graduation procession.
Discovered in the Church of the Deacon Thomas at Mount Nebo, the eagle mosaic represents balance and centeredness, situated as it is in the center of a medallion surrounded by geometric motifs. The Greek letters alpha and omega on either side of the eagle’s head represent life and resurrection, and the eagle itself, according to Greek mythology, is the herald of victory — fitting symbolism for the Class of 2023 whose resilience has helped them to overcome many challenges.
With 81% class participation this year, seniors also contributed a total of 1,614 JD towards the senior class gift, which will be donated to the school’s General Student Scholarship Endowment Fund to help future students receive an education at King’s.
Townsend then welcomed King’s Academy Alumni Association (KAAA) President Hayat Abu Samra ’10 and Suhayb Al-Jawhari ’11, who both have siblings graduating this year, to share the mission and goals of the KAAA with the school’s newest alumni. They also introduced the newly appointed alumni class agents, or “keepers of the flame” as Townsend described them, for the Class of 2023.
“The keepers of the flame in an institution are the stewards of the mission and values of an institution,” said Townsend. “They also steward the hearts and minds of the members of an institution. They have the desire and the passion to keep us focused on our mission and purpose, no matter what happens.”
Alumni class agents are volunteers who act as ambassadors for King’s and alumni, by helping them to stay connected, keep them engaged in school and alumni events and activities around the world, and to serve as a point of contact for their class.
To conclude the evening, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Ali Kolaghassi thanked those present, particularly the parents of graduates for their generous participation in the 2023 Senior Parent Gift.
Also offering the graduates some sage words of advice, Kolaghassi said: “As you embark on the next step in your journey, I want to remind you that you are well-prepared for whatever lies ahead. While there will be bumps in the road, we hope that King’s Academy has prepared you to ride them out with the same grace and resilience that you have demonstrated during your time here.”
“Although you are graduating from King’s Academy, you will always remain an integral part of the King’s Academy family,” said Kolaghassi. “When we say that you are ambassadors of both King’s and Jordan, we don’t say that lightly. We know you will do us proud wherever you go and whatever you do.”
*Multilingual Welcome: German - Sama Al Issa, Spanish - Sasha Karzon, Chinese - Humayd Dada, Arabic for non-native speakers - Khadeejah Ali, French - Tia Al Sawalha
The Arabic Award: Sadeel Alhazim and Zade Shenaq
The Arabic as a Foreign Language Award: Brandon Winans
The Capstone Award: Farah Hasan
The Chinese Award: Hyeyoon Cho
The Computer Science Award: Malak Allawama and Mohammad Shaban
The Creative Writing in English Award: Tiara Wijanarko
The Dance Award: Ziqi Yu and Sara Abuhamra
The French Award: Mira Diab
The German Award: Faris Hmaid
The History and Social Studies Historian Award: Jiaqi Xu and Lina Obeidat
The History and Social Studies Social Scientist award: Yasmeen Abuelezam
and Tamer Tash
The Mathematics Award: Jiaqi Xu and Shihun Lee
The Music Award: Saif AlMadani, Cherif Hasna and Malak Allawama
The Peter Greer English Award: Tala Hammad and Dana Hammouri
The Physical and Life Sciences Award: Tamara Lutfi
The Purchase Prize in the Fine Arts Award: Alisha Abu Najem
The Spanish Award: Laith Tahboub
The Theater Award: Liliana Abu Zeid and Faris Kassisieh
The Technical Theater Award: Sama Alissa
The Visual Arts Award: Tia Sawalha and Aya Karaki
The Asad Al-Malek Award: Ahmed Omran and Sascha Karzon
His Majesty King Constantine Award: Malak Allawama and Mariam Almuzainy
The Middle School Leadership Award: Taher Vahanvaty and Sama Alissa
The Perseverance Award: Mariam Almuzainy
The Samar Khader Award: Monyati Sabbagh
The King’s Academy Award for Respect: Noor Shahinbanwi and Mohammad ElZefzafy
The King’s Academy Award for Responsibility: Mohammed Suwan and Zaliyna Hina
The Eric Widmer Award for an Integrated Life: Karim Nabulsi and Sama Alissa
The King’s Academy Award for Global Citizenship: Brandon Winans and Kenzy Aldaher
The Viswanathan Award for Love of Learning: Naser Alzuheir and Nadine Fanous
Head of School Award - Proudly Jordanian: Yousef Taha and Jalila bint Ali
Head of School Award - International Students: Rajaie Asbah and Shihun Lee
Head of School Award - Dedication to Residential Life: Humayd Dada and Yasmin Abuelezam
Head of School Award - Outstanding Scholarship and Intellectual Engagement: Abdullah Al Baghdadi and Nermeen Omari
Head of School Award - Outstanding Dedication to the Mission of the School: Jude Jaarah and Saif Madani
***Alumni Class Agents ’23: Alex Krawchuk, Brandon Winans, Hailey Cho, Humayd Dada, Jiaqi Xu, Jude Ghazaleh, Jude Jaarah, Karim Nabilsi, Lara Khashman, Sama Alissa, Zaid Kilani, Ziad Alhout
- Senior Parents Dinner