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Face Time | Aiglon Magazine

Face Time | Aiglon Magazine
Face Time | Aiglon Magazine

Developing leadership skills. Helping with prep. Or just a good chat. Aiglon's Academic Peer Mentor programme connects students from across the school –with a positive impact on everyone.

Over at the Junior School Year 13 Rachel is known simply as ‘the Wednesday girl’ – the senior who comes over to help the juniors with their prep. Juniors don’t care that Rachel is part of Aiglon’s Academic Peer Mentor (APM) programme. They are not even that interested in why she always comes on a Wednesday. But they value her friendship. And they love that she’s a part of their world at school – a reliable kind older sister figure who can play her part in their Aiglon family.

The brainchild of Director of University Advising Mrs Patience Fanella-Koch the APM programme invites students across the school to offer support to each other. “Patience’s idea was to find a way to help students find community and support among each other” says Associate Director of University Advising Ms Elizabeth Downing. It’s partly about developing leadership skills in the older students – working together leading meetings having challenging conversations – but also creating a “bastion of creativity” where the seniors need to think about how to establish relationships with the Junior School.

Now in its sixth year the programme has a core team of six student leaders supported by Ms Downing managing around 30 senior mentors usually nominated by their Houseparent. One part of the programme sees senior students – in Years 12 and 13 – offer support to the younger ones. Their core activity is to go into La Casa and La Baita and help the juniors with their prep but they also might read to them or help them with language skills.

“We are looking for students who are very strong academically either across the curriculum or in a particular area” says Ms Downing. “But we’re also looking for those who want to give back – to mentor teach and guide other students. The ones who can be found in the common areas of their House who have their doors open who we know won’t mind giving up their own prep to go and help others with theirs.”

If it sounds like a win-win situation that’s because it is. We asked members of the programme to explain why.


“I used to go into La Baita on a Wednesday to supervise prep and because the boys didn’t know my name I soon became ‘the Wednesday Girl!’” says Rachel Erhag (Clairmont 2024). “I thought it was such a cool opportunity – the Senior and Junior Schools don’t always overlap and I really wanted to be involved in breaking down some of those barriers.” Over in La Casa junior Sayako Terada (current Year 9) was not feeling quite so positive about it. “My Houseparent Ms Luco told me I was going to have a conversation with a Senior School girl to help my English and I didn’t want to do it!” she remembers. “I was scared to talk to a senior girl.” Sayako had joined Aiglon from Japan at the end of Year 7 and was struggling with the language. “

“I wasn’t comfortable speaking in English,” she says, “so I spent all my time hanging out with Japanese friends.” But Rachel – now School Guardian in Round Square student ambassador sports player and happy smiling face around school – is quick to jump to her defense. “Your English is so good now,” she says, although she admits it wasn’t straightforward at first. “It was like when your parents force you to make friends with someone and it’s so awkward! But I didn’t have an agenda. I asked her about Japan and her family and after a while it started flowing.”

Sayako agrees. “I can remember at first I was so nervous,” she says. “I was just answering the questions she asked me. But Rachel was so friendly and so nice that I could talk to her straight away. By our third session, it was relaxing. I could talk about what was happening in Junior School in Year 8, about the gossip.” Rachel lights up. “Yes! There was so much drama I loved it!” she laughs. “We became much less formal and could just joke about things and feel comfortable.”

“By the time I went to Senior School I wasn’t scared about it anymore,” says Sayako. “Rachel had given me so much knowledge. I was so happy to be put in Clairmont because Clairmont had Rachel! Now I feel so nice when I see her around the school.” Rachel couldn’t agree more: “We know we’ve got each other!”


Hiroshi Tokunaga (Belvedere 2024), co-leader with Elin Turner of this year’s APM programme, was asked to help Taiki Lee (Year 9) with his studies but ended up being helped with his own efforts to learn Japanese. “I grew up in China so I speak Chinese, but my Japanese is not fluent. Taiki was very patient with me and corrected me nicely; he never made me feel embarrassed about my Japanese. I helped him with maths and science, I told him about my friends and my teachers. He taught me Japanese words and told a lot of jokes.”

Working with Taiki wasn’t a chore, says Hiroshi, it was really natural. “Every time I went we became better friends. Taiki is a really positive person; he brings me joy and makes me laugh. It really made me happy. It was time off from the real world of Senior School where there’s a lot of work. It was like going back to a more fun carefree time. And even though Taiki is a senior himself now, we still see each other a lot and stop and chat.” 

The admiration goes both ways. “Hiroshi is very friendly and kind,” says Taiki. “He chats about everything and I like his hairstyle! He has so many friends and he’s talked about me to other seniors, so more people are friendly with me. Without this programme, I would never have been friends with someone in Year 12. Now that I’m a senior, I want to be nice to the Year 8s and 9s. I try to talk to the younger ones.”

“It’s really rare and really nice to have

friends outside of your year group and your house,” continues Hiroshi. “When I was a junior, I really looked up to the seniors. Now I’m a senior, I remember that feeling and I want to help create proper relationships with the juniors.”


Elin Turner (Le Cerf 2024) remembers just how nerve-racking it was the first few times she went into La Baita to “help a load of boys not wanting to do prep.” “Finding that balance between creating good relationships while getting them to do work was difficult at first. But with Alexander, we found a niche.”

“I was very behind on my prep,” remembers Alexander Freidheim (Year 8). “The school I was at before was very different and we didn’t really have homework. But Elin helped me to understand the task and the work became easier. She wasn’t strict, she just helped me see it in a different way. I’m more confident now when I come across challenges.”

“It wasn’t bribery exactly,” smiles Elin, “but he couldn’t ask me about my favorite horror film or about my pets or show me the thing he’d brought to show me until we’d got the prep done. Alexander has a great imagination and he’s very energetic and motivated, but there are some things he’s not passionate about like prep!”

“I’d start talking about something else and slowly try to move my chair away,” Alexander says. “And she’d say: ‘Hmm, there is still one bit we haven’t done.’ So I learnt that if you actually put your mind to it, then prep can be pretty easy.”

“And I learnt patience!” says Elin. “I really honed that. I soon realized that it’s not just about academics, it’s about understanding that people are unique and finding the best way to teach them. I want to be a doctor and I know that it won’t just be about medicine but also getting the patient into the right space, making sure they’re OK. This programme has helped massively. I really love the idea of creating a web of students across the school trying to help each other.”

This article first appeared in Issue 21 of the Aiglon Magazine
Written by Megan Welford



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