“Today, we celebrate our 154 senior students who have reached this momentous milestone in their lives and are soon to become ISKL graduates and alumni. Class of 2023, we have had the great privilege and honor of watching you learn and grow during your time with us. Today we celebrate your achievements and aspirations. And even more importantly, we are here to celebrate you. In particular, we celebrate every way that each of you is different and unique and the richness this brings to all our lives. We learn so much from our diversity and culture of inclusion as a school, and I want you to hold on to this as you step into the next phase of your learning journey.”
These were the resounding words of Rami Madani, Head of School at The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), in his inspirational address at the 2023 Graduation Ceremony held at ISKL’s campus in Ampang Hilir.
ISKL’s community, comprised of families, faculty, staff, friends and the Administration and Board of Directors gathered at The Jungle, the venue for the 2023 ISKL Graduation Ceremony, where they had the pleasure of witnessing heartwarming and emotional moments.
Held on June 3, the Graduation Ceremony was live-streamed around the world at 2:00pm Malaysian time. As part of the ISKL tradition, the seniors wore a blue and white batik graduation sash around their shoulders, which they got to keep after the ceremony. The design was created by ISKL students to honor Malaysia and showcase the diversity and history of the school, symbolizing what makes ISKL so unique and special.
High School (HS) Principal Jeff Farrington, in his speech, shared how the students had stayed resilient throughout their HS school lives despite having to go through times of uncertainty during the pandemic: “We are euphoric about this year that we have experienced, our first full year on campus since 2018-2019 and it is incredible. Your senior year is your only HS year void of Covid 19 SoPs. Imagine, your last full year at ISKL without pandemic disruptions was your Grade 8 year. A little over half of this graduating class, 87 of you, were with us at that time for Mr. Casey’s Middle School (MS) Moving On Ceremony to HS.”
Jeff Farrington also reminisced about how the seniors, when they first entered HS in Grade 9, were challenged to create their own pathways and make ISKL even better than before they entered. He celebrated their numerous accomplishments, including many firsts, saying “You are the first group of students to sit for the full scale (all components) of IB examination after the pandemic, you led the rejuvenation of the SEA Forensics, at 43 years, the longest standing event at ISKL, and you are the inaugural group to have Senior Sunrise.”
After Jeff Farrington finished speaking, senior Georgia Lagerweij took to the floor as the elected speaker for the Class of 2023. Georgia has been part of the Student Leadership Team (SLT) and has been with ISKL since the school’s first year at the Ampang Hilir campus. Head of the Spirit Committee, Georgia, helped start the House system and organized IASAS send-offs and spirit events while representing the Class of 2023 as a member of SLT for all four years of HS.
In her speech, Georgia shared, “The three words that come to mind when I think of this class are tenacious, talented, and passionate. In other words, I’ve never been part of a class with such a wide range of personalities and big hearts. Every individual here is on the path to making a positive impact in this world.”
She continued, “Here at ISKL, we’ve been given distinct tools to help us overcomet any challenges we may face on starting this new chapter in our lives. We are so fortunate to get the opportunity to pursue our passions and academic interests. An experience we athletes and club members will never forget was the opportunity to travel to astounding IASAS conferences around Southeast Asia, kindling new friendships and reconnecting with old friends. IASAS was a personal favorite for many of the graduating class, especially after Covid hit.”
Georgia highlighted the importance of acknowledging the privilege of studying at ISKL, as many individuals and students of the same age worldwide do not have the same access to education. She says, “Having this spectacular yet simple privilege, we often forget to appreciate the freedom we have to express ourselves through modes of creativity alongside our abilities to use our voices for the greater good. These privileges should be cherished for the rest of our lives.”
Drew Davis, an HS Science and IB Physics teacher chosen by the Class of 2023 to deliver a speech, was next in the program. Introduced to the audience by Jeff Farrington, he remarked how Drew leads his students with care, empathy, and heart. “He takes time to actively listen to students providing undivided attention, and demonstrates genuine interest in their concerns. Most notably, he creates a safe space for students to express themselves, providing encouragement, guidance, and reassurance.” Jeff Farrington also mentions that Drew’s idea eight years ago for a class where students can choose to focus on their passions has blossomed into the comprehensive Pursuits Program, a distinction that eight graduates today have earned with their ISKL diploma.
In a thought-provoking story that mentions the birth of his son, Drew talked about his theory about the unexpected likeness between HS students and stem cells. “If stem cells are placed with muscle cells, they will grow to become muscle cells. If placed with nerve cells, they grow to become nerve cells – like HS students. At the time, they are qualified for almost nothing but can grow into pretty much anything. And environment plays an enormous role in how the growth progresses. HS students are like society’s stem cells. But I wonder what would happen if a stem cell or societal stem cell could control the environment they are growing into.”
Drew went on to elaborate with examples of how the Class of 2023 spent many of their HS years online and how they gradually were able to return to campus and settle into the new SOPs and changes with unwavering determination and passion. One example he shared was when “Slowly things reappeared in Grade 11. Socially distanced lunches, performers in RBG wearing masks while we watch in an advisory on Zoom.”
He closed his address with the final statement, saying, “I’ve tried to reach many of you with the examples today. If I didn’t reach you, I’m sorry. Much material was shared with me, but we’re to see you, not listen to me – even I can’t wait until I sit down. But whether you feel a connection to the examples I’ve given or not, the reality is that all of you stepped into a void and took control of it, and that experience will make you stronger in the future. You will face tragedies and challenges – some of you already have. But you have shown you have what it takes to step toward that challenge or tragedy and work through it and heal. You have already done that when you put this jacket on.”
The Ceremony finally ended with the exciting moment the students had been eagerly anticipating all day. After moving their graduation cap tassels from the right side to the left, the Class of 2023 heard the announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you the ISKL graduating class of 2023!” and joyfully tossed their caps in celebration!
ISKL is proud of our newest alums and wishes them success as they embark on their journey to universities worldwide. By navigating unprecedented challenges and demonstrating resilience and adaptability in every stride, our graduates are symbols of hope, courage, and the promise of a brighter future. Congratulations, Class of 2023. We celebrate your graduation and the commencement of a new chapter full of limitless possibilities. May your paths be filled with curiosity, learning, and continued growth.