Evan Lau Sarkis is part of the first CIS graduating cohort of 1994. Her daughter, Ella Sarkis, graduated in the summer of 2022, making her the first graduating second-generation alum of the school.
It’s safe to say that a lot has happened at CIS between the years that Evan and Ella studied here. We sit down with them as they reflect on their time at CIS – the transformations they have witnessed at the school over the years, and what the future might hold for CIS in the years to come.
Name: Evan Lau Sarkis and Ella Sarkis
Graduating Year: 1994 and 2022
Current place of residence: Hong Kong
Firstly, congratulations are in order for Ella for completing the IB diploma. How does it feel to be graduating from CIS?
Ella: A RELIEF! Not for leaving CIS, it’s been my home for the last 13 years, but a relief to have finally graduated… I truly never thought I would get to this point.
And congratulations to you for being our first graduating second-generation alum! How does it feel to hold that distinction?
Ella: When I say CIS is like family to me, I mean it in a literal sense. Having been able to walk the same path my mum did (with just a few new buildings added along the way!) has been a truly special experience for me and created many opportunities for mother-daughter bonding. However, it was sometimes annoying as it gave her plenty of reasons to make the comparison of “when I was your age… in CIS” (she never had much evidence to back these up though, as she’s conveniently lost all her grade reports from that time…).
Evan: I am first and foremost just so proud of CIS. When I first joined CIS it was not obvious that it could become so established as it has become today. How far CIS has come just reflects upon the tireless support and work put in from so many generations of teachers, headmasters, parents, and alumni.
What is one piece of advice your mother gave you that helped you through your IB years?
Ella: The great thing about the IB is that there is an end to it.
Evan, you have been a part of the CIS journey from almost the very beginning. What has been the most memorable change or transformation of the school that you have seen?
Evan: How much the campus has grown and changed. When I started at CIS, our campus was a dark and shabby hospital. It was very simple, with no facilities except a library and just 30 students. We used to get our lunches from a clunky delivery truck and had to eat it at our desks. Now, CIS has a modern cafeteria with a range of food options (Chartwells is a luxury compared to what we had!). It’s astounding to see how much of an impact the wider CIS community has had in transforming the campus.
CIS has evolved much over the years, and will no doubt continue to do so. What changes do you hope to see at CIS in the future?
Evan: I hope we can have a successful endowment fund from the alumni. Now that we have many second-generation students. This will help the school a lot, not just in terms of funding, but also in creating a sense of belonging.
Ella: I hope CIS continues its mission to “come from the east, and come from the west”, reinforcing its core identity as a bilingual school. Maybe integrating more Mandarin “pop culture” sessions and activities to root this identity in the younger years.
Any chance we’ll be seeing a third-generation alum from your family?
Evan: Absolutely. I look forward to picking up my grandchildren at the courtyard after school.
Ella: Hong Kong has always been my home. I recognise that in the years to come there will be ups and downs but I continue to think HK is the best possible environment to raise a family. My parents moved to HK to make sure we’d be educated at CIS and experience the HK life as children and I would do the same.
Have you ever hidden bad grades or teacher’s notes from your mum, that you can tell us about now?
Ella: Oooo this one’s tough. I remember I would ask my dad to sign my primary Chinese reading logs, knowing full well he didn’t understand what he was signing (he now thinks “1 hour” in English is “3 hours” in Chinese) – one of the gifts of being in a bilingual school 🙂
I can’t say I’ve been that dishonest with my parents other than that however. They didn’t ask to see my grades after middle school as overtime they’ve developed trust in me to manage my academics independently.
Quick-fire round – answer with the first thing that comes to mind.
Evan: (love is so important to me )
Ella: (this one’s thanks to the IB)
Favourite dish to cook:
Evan: Bolognese pasta (the girls always love that)
Ella: My 婆婆’s Thai steamed fish recipe
One song you know word for word:
Evan: Fly Me To The Moon
Ella: 那些年 from《那些年，我們一起追的女孩》- One of the first movies I remember watching when I was in primary with CIS classmates.
Biggest pet peeve:
Evan: Bad hygiene
Facebook, Twitter or Instagram:
Evan: Hard to figure that one out. Not very savvy with IG.
Ella: Instagram! It’s more popular with the younger crowd I think… (sorry mama!)
What is your favourite memory of CIS?
Evan: When school ends 🙂
Ella: So many. One of my first highlights was winning the Kids4Kids book writing contest with my best friend in Year 3. It was the first time where I properly created and put a lot of effort into something and was awarded for it… it was such a nice feeling. I remember my Y3 teacher at the time, Ms. Lapidge, gave me a Giraffe picture holder as a congratulating gift, that I still keep to this day on my desk as a reminder.
What were your best and worst subjects at CIS?
Evan: Wow, too long to count…
Ella: Mathematics was the worst for me… up until Year 12 surprisingly. I was that classic Enopi kid with math tutoring every week with parents who would force me to do maths daily for at least 2 hours during the holidays, all to no avail. But then in the IB I had the best mathematics teacher and textbook ever. I started to love maths and it quickly became one of my best subjects.
My favourite subject all throughout CIS I have to say however was English. I’ve always had a love for reading – back in Year 5, I would pride myself in finishing an average of three books a week. I had highs and lows grades-wise, but my passion for the English language and reading have always stayed, thanks to the incredible English teachers I had.
Who was your favourite teacher at CIS?
Evan: Sky Ip and Ngai Lao Shi from Dragon Boat
Ella: I have had so many wonderful teachers, from the motherly care I had from teachers in Primary, to the intellectual curiosity stimulated by my teachers in Secondary. I have to say that I was particularly marked by the passing of Dr. Hakim. She was my first Science teacher when I was in Year 7 and she would always say “common sense is the least common”. I still cherish that wisdom from her and carry it with me everywhere. The CIS experience is one that extends beyond the classroom, it is one that extends beyond 13 years, it is a community that extends to 30 years (and soon beyond). For me, CIS is not just a school, it’s also a family.