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News > Profiles > Embracing Cultural Diversity

Embracing Cultural Diversity

“Find opportunity in crisis and proceed with grace under pressure.” Hezril Asyraaf ('13), recipient of the Robert B. Gaw Award for Citizenship 2013.

15 May 2020
Profiles
Hezril Asyraaf ('13), Robert B. Gaw Award 2013
Hezril Asyraaf ('13), Robert B. Gaw Award 2013

“Find opportunity in crisis and proceed with grace under pressure.” Hezril Asyraaf (‘13), recipient of the Robert B. Gaw Award for Citizenship 2013, with some sage advice for the 2020 recipient.

Reflecting on his own experience, Hezril says, “...receiving the award was definitely a special occasion for me - not because I needed something to validate my love for other cultures. Rather, I took it as an important milestone that I was stepping in the right direction in terms of how I wanted to shape myself as a young adult.”

Now a Presenter/Producer on the Evening Edition at Kuala Lumpur’s business radio station, BFM89.9, Hezril says the Robert B. Gaw Award for Citizenship, named for ISKL’s third Head of School from 1970-1978, was the Senior Award with most significance for him. He explains, “When I was six years old, I moved to Houston, Texas and the rest of my life was basically me growing up in a few different countries as my dad had to move around due to his work. I learned new languages, ate new foods, met new peoples, and lived new cultures. Being a third culture kid is part and parcel of who I am and actively searching out and understanding different ways of life and outlooks is an important part of growing up. I think it's key to a kinder world.”

The Robert B. Gaw Award for Citizenship is sponsored by the ISKL PTA which is made up of parents from around the globe who work tirelessly to promote ISKL’s cultural diversity and support its mission to develop students to become “highly successful, spirited, socially responsible global citizens. 

After years spent abroad, Hezril says returning to Malaysia and studying at ISKL gave him an opportunity to reacquaint himself with his home culture, and it was his positive attitude towards his fellow students from different cultures, as well as his love and respect for his own Malaysian culture, for which he was recognized in the award. Among other leadership roles, Hezril was President of MYClub (Malaysian Club) and also of the National Honor Society in his Senior year. The award was presented at his graduation ceremony by the late Mr. Alan McLean. Hezril remembers, “It was a special moment and he was so eloquent, gentle, and touching. May you rest in peace, you sweet man.”

Since completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic and minoring in Political Science at New York University, Hezril has continued to pursue his interest in Malaysian culture and regional affairs firstly with the KRA Group, an ASEAN-focused public affairs and political risk consultancy led by Karim Aslan and now at BFM89.9 where he is immersed in Malaysian politics and socio-economic issues, including, right now, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. He says, “(These roles have)...enriched my understanding of people's wants and needs, the importance of cultural differences and how that can strengthen society, the relationship between the government and its people - and where the media fits into this unique dynamic.”

Recognizing that the 2020 recipient of the Robert B. Gaw Award for Citizenship has experienced a far-from-traditional graduation and end to their high school years, Hezril’s message is one of optimism: “Stay strong and don't stop fostering your curiosity of the world and interacting with other people, cultures, cuisines, and languages. Find opportunity in crisis and proceed with grace under pressure. Don't rest on your laurels and take this as a mark that you're in the right step - and that you have a way to go. Go forth and prosper.”

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