Seniors Gwin and Schubert Selected as Gap Year Fellows at King’s Academy

Two Phillips Academy Seniors, John Gwin ’07 and Matthew Schubert ’07, will be spending the next year in the Middle East. They have recently been selected as Gap Year Fellows in the premier year of the King’s Academy Gap Year Program. The Gap Year Fellowship is an opportunity for recent independent high school graduates, preferably those of boarding schools, to learn through scholarship, internship and cultural immersion at King’s Academy in Jordan. The academy is located in Madaba-Manja, Jordan, approximately half an hour from Amman, the capital of Jordan. It is a private boarding high school that admits students of any race, color, creed, special needs or national origin. According to the program description, the Gap Year Fellowship is designed to “foster the boarding school ethos within all aspects of campus life including in the classroom, in the dormitory and during extracurricular activities and meals.” After the Phillips Academy College Counseling Office received information regarding the Gap Year Fellowship, they forwarded it to Instructor in Social Sciences Peter Drench, who had been teaching a course on the Middle East in the fall term. Mr. Drench told his Middle Eastern Social Science class about the Gap Year Fellowship. Both John Gwin and Matthew Schubert were present and decided to pursue the opportunity. “I decided to apply for this program because the Middle East is an influential part of the world that I—and it seems like many Americans—don’t know much about. Instead of continuing on probably inaccurate assumptions about the culture and people there, I wanted to learn about the region firsthand,” said Schubert. Gwin remarked, “I’m really excited to learn Arabic, because I think it’s the language that’s growing in stature on the world scene.” After undergoing an application process that consisted of two teacher recommendations, one non-academic recommendation, and a “letter of intent” describing what each applicant would bring to King’s Academy, Gwin and Schubert were notified of their acceptances in late March and early April. The Gap Year Fellowship will take place this year from August 18, 2007 to June 20, 2008. During this year abroad, Gwin and Schubert will assimilate into the King’s Academy environment by taking Arabic lessons and attending the Gap Year Seminar directed toward all participants. In addition to these lessons and seminars, Gap Year Fellows are responsible for assisting in co-curricular activities or sports at least three afternoons per week, as well as giving aid to house counselors in dormitories at least three nights per week. They must also partake in an academic or administrative internship involving admissions and college counseling. All Gap Year Fellows are given compensation for room and board, Arabic lessons, the option to take other courses offered at King’s Academy, the use of King’s Academy College Counseling services, a stipend, and one round-trip plane ticket to and from Jordan. “The Gap Year Program appeals to me because it will give me the opportunity to become more independent and learn through living outside my comfort zone. It will also give me a productive break from the typical educational cycle. This break will hopefully help me go into college refreshed and focused—and with a broader perspective,” said Schubert. He continued, “I also look forward to making personal connections with the [King’s Academy] students. I think small, personal steps are important to breaking down barriers of stereotype and cultural divide.” Gwin said, “I hope [the Gap Year] will give me an exposure to a world that I’ve really only read about.” Other recipients of this fellowship include: Seniors Katharine Hutchins of Deerfield Academy, Isabel Nassif of Deerfield Academy, Margaret Robinson of Deerfield Academy, Davis Shaver of the Lawrenceville School, Keith Tracy of St. Paul’s School, and Elena White of Deerfield Academy. King Abdullah II of Jordan is the founding father of King’s Academy. He was inspired by his formative high school experience at Deerfield Academy and dreamed of a similar boarding school for boys and girls in the Middle East. In a letter from the King’s Academy website, King Abdullah II wrote, “The opening of King’s Academy marks the realization of a long-held dream: to build a Jordanian boarding school that embraces the same academic rigor, breadth of extracurricular stimulation and respect for community ethics and values that I experienced as a high school student at Deerfield Academy in the United States.” Dr. Eric Widmer, former headmaster at Deerfield, will serve as King’s Academy new headmaster. King’s Academy is scheduled to open its doors in August of this year.