Humans of Harker: The Good Host

Grace Hajjar (12) emphasizes community, spirit and care

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Humans of Harker: The Good Host

“I've definitely used [my different community perspective] in terms of my friends by exposing them to Lebanese culture. I always have them try my food, I have them come to the Lebanese festival I have every year, I teach them how to dance because a lot of what Lebanese people are known for is ‘Lebanese hospitality.’ I definitely think my family and my culture has introduced these values of generosity and compassion to me,” Grace Hajjar (12) said.

“I've definitely used [my different community perspective] in terms of my friends by exposing them to Lebanese culture. I always have them try my food, I have them come to the Lebanese festival I have every year, I teach them how to dance because a lot of what Lebanese people are known for is ‘Lebanese hospitality.’ I definitely think my family and my culture has introduced these values of generosity and compassion to me,” Grace Hajjar (12) said.

Alysa Suleiman

“I've definitely used [my different community perspective] in terms of my friends by exposing them to Lebanese culture. I always have them try my food, I have them come to the Lebanese festival I have every year, I teach them how to dance because a lot of what Lebanese people are known for is ‘Lebanese hospitality.’ I definitely think my family and my culture has introduced these values of generosity and compassion to me,” Grace Hajjar (12) said.

Alysa Suleiman

Alysa Suleiman

“I've definitely used [my different community perspective] in terms of my friends by exposing them to Lebanese culture. I always have them try my food, I have them come to the Lebanese festival I have every year, I teach them how to dance because a lot of what Lebanese people are known for is ‘Lebanese hospitality.’ I definitely think my family and my culture has introduced these values of generosity and compassion to me,” Grace Hajjar (12) said.

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Absentmindedly twisting the thin gold jewelry adorning her fingers and neck in delicate chains and swirling roses, Grace Hajjar (12) recalls the story behind each piece: the baptism necklace from her aunt and the simple thin ring from a close friend are all gifts from the loving Lebanese community that she herself blossomed from. Laughter and joy spill from the memories she shares, her hands weaving each one together while her face glows with the emotion she puts behind her every word. 

“Most of my jewelry is from Lebanon, and I never take them off,” Grace said. “They’re a really nice reminder of all the people close around me because they remind me of Lebanon, and I always want to go back and visit because I love all of them so much and they mean so much to me.”

Spending time around Grace reveals not only an easy-going and incredibly warm personality, but also unlocks the reason why she approaches the world with such exuberance. Grace credits her eagerness to care for and help others as a direct effect of growing up amongst her inseparable loving family and being surrounded by the Lebanese culture they all emphasize. 

Mother Jeanette Hajjar and older brother Matthew Hajjar (‘19), she claims, taught her the power of unconditional love and compassion. She in turn spreads these values to her school community in every possible way, such as becoming a Link Crew leader and serving the upper school as the Harker Spirit Leadership Team (HSLT) president.

“I definitely look up to both my mom and my brother,” Grace said. “My family and my culture have influenced me to be outgoing and the person I am today, and welcoming and including other people and just having an overall atmosphere of love and appreciation and care for others is so huge to me. All three of my family members, we all support each other, and I just love spending time with them.”

With her family, Grace learned the importance of compassion and hospitality, and she never hesitates to embrace other cultures while introducing her own. Her friends, teachers and Lebanese community are all her second family. Grace knows the beauty that comes from mixing the best of both worlds, and she makes sure to show everyone around her the “Lebanese hospitality” that her culture is so known for. 

“I’ve definitely used [my different community perspective] in terms of my friends by exposing them to Lebanese culture. I always have them try my food, I have them come to the Lebanese festival I have every year, I teach them how to dance because a lot of what Lebanese people are known for is ‘Lebanese hospitality.’ I definitely think my family and my culture has introduced these values of generosity and compassion to me.”

When it comes to the annual Lebanese festival that they host within their entire Lebanese community, Grace and her family go full out. In fact, Hajjar lovingly refers to her daughter as her “little sous chef” while preparing for these parties and is proud that Grace is so meticulous about always splitting her busy schedule evenly with her Lebanese friends and cousins and her school friends. 

“She knows how much they care about her and she reciprocates because wherever Grace is, people always care for her, and she cares back,” Hajjar said. “Since [Grace and Matthew] were kids, I put a lot of emphasis on them being close to each other and having unconditional love no matter what happens … That’s really all we can ask in life, to hold one another dear, because it’s so precious.”

As one of the driving forces behind her daily actions, Grace’s mother is also known to instill the tight bond that Grace and Matthew are known for as siblings. Ever since they were children, Matthew noticed Grace’s desire to connect to new people and explore the world in her own inquisitive way. Only 15 months apart, Matthew realizes that they lack the “generational distance between a lot of other siblings,” which makes them so in tune to each other’s emotions, thoughts and actions. 

“I think that we’re like yin and yang. We’re older and younger, brother and sister,” Matthew said. “We bring different aspects to everything, but Grace is my constant. Even though we’ve grown to become different people, we’ve grown together along the way.”

A prime example of a difference in their similarity is spirit leadership at school. When Matthew became ASB Spirit Coordinator, Grace instead chose to join the HSLT. Now, as president of the school club, she attends constant meetings, plans events such as Homecoming and Spirit Week and hypes up the crowd during school meetings, putting in her all to ensure the enjoyment of her peers.

“I approached it more as a job and a way of setting up a structure for everyone else to follow, but Grace really focuses on the fact of people having fun and her own team enjoying the process,” Matthew said. “I’m so excited to see how this year at Harker goes for her, and I will always appreciate having her in my life.” 

Whether it’s meticulously planning with her team for spirit nights or having an afternoon chat to learn about the intriguing life of one of her teachers, Grace holds just as much of a subtle, yet powerful impact on teachers as well as her peers. Gabrielle Stahl, upper school math teacher who taught Grace for her sophomore and junior year, appreciates Grace’s maturity and unique ability to seamlessly integrate the entire classroom’s conversations, making even the quietest student feel welcome.

“[Grace] is very sociable and intriguing; she would always ask about my tango and my family and my travels and everything,” Stahl said. “She has a presence but at the same time she is not overwhelming, nor does she weigh down people who are quieter. In fact, she lifts them up.”

Jin Tuan (12), a close friend of Grace’s since lower school, is precisely one of those people that benefited from Grace’s positive aura. From late night talks in Taiwan to a trip Grace took with Jin’s family to staying up past curfew to watch “Mulan” and simultaneously waking up to the fireworks at the end, Jin appreciates the precious memories of a lifelong friend and the reassurance of always having Grace to come back to.

“Over our entire friendship, Grace has always valued me and helped become someone who’s not afraid of being vulnerable and really taught me how to stay true to myself,” Jin said, proud to also see that Grace has evolved into her own person throughout their friendship, especially in Harker Spirit. “Grace isn’t just ‘Matthew’s little sister.’ Having known both of them for so long, I realize that they help and depend on each other, but she’s definitely her own person. Matthew is the face of spirit, and Grace is the heart.”

It’s safe to say that Grace is definitely a “people person.” Whether she’s having the time of her life dancing at a Lebanese festival with her friends, carefully writing out a spirit event agenda or meeting new people who are just as attracted to her passionate personality as she is to meet and learn about them, Grace will always be adding more pages to the legacy she’s created as a kind, warm hostess. 

“Not for an award, position, title, or any of that, but [I want to be remembered] for leaving an impression on people, teachers and peers, so they can say ‘Grace was really caring, Grace was really passionate, Grace was really devoted to helping others or connecting our community,’” she said.