King’s Academy, June 1, 2015 — King’s Academy celebrated its sixth graduating class last Tuesday evening as 125 seniors were joined by their proud parents and teachers in Refectory Square for the school’s highly anticipated annual senior dinner.
A fusion of sentimental goodbyes and exciting accolades, the night kicked off with performances by the King’s Academy jazz band and glee club (under the direction of faculty members Wen Yu Ho and Ben Watsky respectively), and a multilingual welcome by seniors Abdulrahman Jamjoom (Chinese), Lara Lababdeh (French), Serene Akkawi (Spanish) and Amelia Kenna (Arabic).
Headmaster John Austin began the festivities with words of gratitude for King’s committed teachers, whose job requires “much more than simple expertise; it requires patience, humility, a sense of humor, stamina and a genuine love of young people; ultimately, teaching is a generous sharing of your own life.”
Austin also took a moment to thank Director of Admissions Joe Silvestri – who will be joining the Blake School in Minnesota next fall – for his “steady and wise leadership and his deep knowledge of schools” which has ultimately led King’s to become “stronger and more vibrant” than when Silvestri first joined the school six years ago.
Chosen by the graduating class as this year’s valedictory speaker was Faculty Member and Director of Extramural Programs Tessa Fairbairn. One of the earliest members to join the King’s community (and holder of the Weinberg Distinguished Chair in Peace and Prosperity), Fairbairn – whom Austin described as “a constant source of strength and wisdom” and who “has helped create this school and breathe life into its mission” – will be returning home to South Africa this summer after eight years of dedicated service at King’s.
“Tessa has encouraged all of us to think of others first,” Austin said. “One of [her] great gifts to King’s was helping to create an ethos and spirit of service where every student has the opportunity to become a teacher and mentor to other young people.”
Fairbairn’s heartfelt speech centered on the importance of human connectedness and maintaining a generosity of spirit – the “deep core of Arab society.”
She told graduates, “You have been shaping your future here in a timeless land and an extraordinary school . . . the vision of which will connect young leaders from the region and young leaders of the greater world . . . connecting the dots, the stories.”
These universal bonds, she explained, “celebrate our humanness” and connect humanity. “We are who we are through others. Whilst we are unique, we cannot stand alone.”
Analogizing the seniors to the “glorious mosaics of Madaba [that] epitomize connectedness,” Fairbairn urged them to “be ripples of hope, be the peacemakers of tomorrow,” and as they prepare to embark on the next chapter in life, to “represent Jordan and your home country with pride. For you will, each of you, make a significant difference in the world of tomorrow.”
Next in the evening’s festivities came the announcement of the commencement awards, which Austin explained celebrate graduates and honor their “leadership, engagement and distinctive contributions to the school.”
Sama Al Khreisha and Alia Samawi then presented the senior class gift, a tradition at King’s. The large scale replica of a mosaic discovered at Mount Nebo containing a tessellated pattern of asymmetrical interlocking rings “symbolizes the ripple effect of kindness and friendship” synonymous with the graduating class, explained Al Khreisha.
Ninety-nine percent of the class contributed towards the gift – the latest installment to the school’s symbolic pathway named “Commencement Walk” – raising a total of 2,635 JD.
“It was important to our class that our gift be synonymous with Jordanian artistry, be locally crafted and was something that would be permanently featured on the campus,” Samawi said.
The night wrapped with more words of appreciation from Austin, who acknowledged the parents of the Class of 2015 for their contributions to the Senior Parent Gift.
This year 86 percent of parents made a gift – the highest percentage of participation yet – with almost US $500,000 donated.
“This level of giving among parents stands as a tangible measure and visible symbol of your belief in the school,” Austin said. “We are deeply grateful to all of our parents and we are immensely proud of your leadership, your generosity, and your belief in our mission.”
The Arabic Award: Leena Al Nsour
The Arabic as a Foreign Language Award: Sun Woo Kim
The Chinese Award: Farah Samawi
The Choral Award: Leylandin El Kurdi
The Computer Science Award: James Smith
The Dance Award: Leen Madanat, Rami Hamati
The Ethics, Philosophy and Religion Award: Natasha Abaza
The French Award: Tyma Al Nimri
The History and Social Studies Award: Sammy Abdulrahim
The Instrumental Music Award: Seo Young Park, Seungjung Sohn
The Mathematics Award: Peilin Lai
The Peter Greer English Award: Mohammad Abu Hawash, Natascha Tahabsem
The Physical and Life Sciences Award: Rami Hamati, Tala Habbab
The Purchase Prize in the Fine Arts: Wendy Dudley
The Spanish Award: Xu ZhaoyingThe Theater Award: Ahmed Al Khalayleh
The Visual Arts Award: Natasha Abaza
The Writing Award: Amelia Kenna
The Asad Al-Malek Award: Fahed Al-Tamimi, Lara Lababdeh
The Founders’ Award: Jalil Khoury
The Hannay-Palmer Award: Serene Akkawi
His Majesty King Constantine Award: Ayah Baker, Rami Hamati
The Masri Award: Daniel Leal
The Perseverance Award: Waliulluh Hairan
The Samar Khader Award: Mohammad Abu Hawash, Peilin Lai
The Respect Award: Hatoon Mushasha, Sammy Abdelrahim
The Responsibility Award: Mehak Sachdeva, Seungjung Sohn
The Eric Widmer Award for An Integrated Life: Eun Sol Jun, Dong Jae Hong
The Global Citizenship Award: Ahmed Al Khalayleh, Aviselle Diaz
The Viswanathan Award for Love of Learning: Ji Yung Ahn, Qais Kawalit
Headmaster’s Awards: Haneen Tumeh, Marah Tarawneh, Sara Taha, Abdulrahman Jamjoom, Laila Mowafi, Sun Woo Kim, Sarah Azly, Xu Zhaoying