The gift of transforming a life

Family with graduating son smiling

Lara and Michael Fares are parents of new ACS Cobham alumnus, Issam, who joined the school in 2016. This autumn, Issam Fares was among the legions of young adults around the world taking the step into university life. Starting his business degree at Hult International Business School in London has been a seamless transition for Issam, but for Lara, it is a day that would not have been possible without ACS Cobham.

Issam had started his education in a mainstream school and, as one of several children with learning challenges, Lara remarks that there was always something at the school that reminded the children they were different.

“As a mum, having experience with four children in school, the ultimate success of the school is to make the child feel part of the community and feel that he or she has something to contribute to society,” Lara explains. “Their role in the school is to help the child discover this in himself.”

Inclusive community

Out of curiosity, when a friend said her son was about to join ACS Cobham, she did some research. Conscious that her son was not academic and had learning challenges, she took the first step and got in touch.

“What really stayed with me is the human side initially that I haven’t seen in any other schools. They were very interested in this human being, that was Issam. They considered my story, they listened to what would happen to him if he couldn’t join ACS, they considered his other options and they just gave him a chance.”

Lara describes the opportunity as “priceless” which could definitely shape Issam’s future.  “If he hadn’t gone to ACS Cobham, he wouldn’t have got into any university - which would have really adversely affect his confidence - and he would have fewer friends. Now he feels he’s integrated into society. Yes, maybe he is different, but ACS Cobham made him realise that being different can actually be a plus.

“After all those years of him gradually developing into such a mature, confident young man, at ease with his qualities and the things that are not considered qualities in the school system. It was the first time in my life that I saw a school that focuses on your strengths rather than focusing on what you can’t do, which, for me, is the major problem with the education system. It made me realise that what ACS was doing, every school should be doing.”

Ready for what comes next

Lara explains that her son is very respectful, “because when you’re respected you don’t even need to learn to respect people. As human beings, we mirror each other.” He joined Hult with the ease of knowing that he did not need to be good at all of his subjects, but that he would give it a good go and see.

“With ACS’ support, Issam understood that you need all types of people in this world to succeed. You can achieve so much in life, but in your own time, and at such an important age at ACS, they taught him to be patient both with himself and with developing his interpersonal, creative as well as academic skills. ACS really nurtured him during his time at the school. You don’t always know in the moment what you’re going to do in your future, but this doesn’t mean you’ll never know and developing the confidence and patience to trust in the process. What is important is to keep trying your best in everything you do and one day you’ll know what you’re made for. I can honestly say Issam is confident about where he is in his life right now and he would not have been without the support of his teachers at ACS Cobham.”

Why we are ready to give back

Lara and Michael decided they would like to make a gift to the school to support other young people like Issam who could benefit from an ACS education.

“I feel it’s my duty to give back and I want to inspire parents and former parents to join us to help other deserving young people get ready for a rapidly changing world. Through fundraising, I can help someone who may not be able to pay the school fees. I was lucky, but other people don’t have this chance,” she says.      

“Through our gift to ACS Cobham, if in our lifetime only one child has a similar story and the same fantastic educational and personal opportunities that Issam was given, then I would be delighted. When you start out in life, like Issam did, feeling like you’re not enough, and you’re lacking, it can have a negative impact the rest of your life. It is an understatement to say how important our gift is to give an ACS education that can transform a young life.   

“We hope our contribution will support another child’s fees to experience an environment where he’s respected, valued, not pressured but pushed when he needs to be, that’s a wonderful thing.”