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Opening doors – how scholarships benefit everyone

Opening doors – how scholarships benefit everyone
Opening doors – how scholarships benefit everyone

Scholarships change lives: of the scholars themselves, their families – and their wider communities. In return, scholars help shape what it means to be an Aiglonian.

Growing up in Albania, Enes Kirsto (Delaware, 2017) knew he wanted to study overseas. So when he heard that the Crown Prince of Albania had attended Aiglon, he was intrigued. “I discovered you could actually get scholarships to this great school,” he says. “So I sent Aiglon an email, applied to the Scholarship Programme, went through the process – and was accepted. In fact, I was only the second Albanian person to attend Aiglon, after the Crown Prince!”

Aiglon changed his life. “It was unforgettable. Canoeing, climbing mountains, skiing, all in this beautiful place. I had the opportunity to interact with children who grew up very differently to me. Your character grows when you’re in strange circumstances. You have to manage yourself and your relationships with an entire dorm of people. I found that an incredibly valuable skill, particularly at university.”

Enes is just one of the Scholarship Programme’s many success stories. A longstanding scheme that has been considerably revamped over the past few years, it offers a small and select number of full scholarships reserved for families who cannot afford the costs associated with an Aiglon education. “For me, the programme is one of the key things that defines Aiglon and makes our culture so special,” says Mr. Tomas Duckling, Deputy School Director and Head of the Scholarship Programme. “It helps us ensure a true diversity of students. And it is beneficial not just for the scholars but also for the school. We take as much from them as they take from us.”

What marks out an Aiglon scholar? Academic achievement, a desire to get involved in all areas of school life, and a willingness to be part of the community, says Mr. Duckling. “In the first place, we are interested in developing people. They need to be academic, so they can move on from Aiglon. But we are also committed to those students from a holistic point of view.”

Scholars are selected via a rigorous process – which begins with a review of their academic reports. Applicants must write a letter of motivation, and successful candidates then undergo a short interview, either in person or online, with a member of the Scholarship Committee. Those who pass will take Aiglon’s admission and entrance exams and participate in a final interview. The Committee then makes their recommendations to the School Director Mrs. Nicola Sparrow, and the COO/CFO, Mrs. Patricia Bremner, who make the final decision.

Aiglon has also strengthened its relationships with a hand-picked roster of schools, whose specific expertise and knowledge can assist in selecting the most suitable students for consideration – though spontaneous applications are also considered. The school now has partnerships with the Starehe Boys’ Centre and School and the Starehe Girls’ Centre in Kenya; the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap, Cambodia; the Abaarso School in Somaliland; and Horizons Academy in Palestine. Donors funding full scholarships may also specify that scholars must come from a particular country.

Previously, the programme was entirely funded from the school’s budget – Aiglon’s not-for-profit status ensures every centime goes towards improving the student experience. Now, however, a significant proportion of scholarships are funded through the generosity of donors, boosting the long-term sustainability of the programme.

Ramsay Nafa (Alpina, 1992) is a regular monthly donor to the Scholarship Programme. “I believe that Aiglon is a wonderful melting pot of culture, creeds, and backgrounds,” he says. “It gives kids a perspective that they will take with them into adult life. Bringing students from many different backgrounds together benefits the whole of society. It’s incredibly important that the school continues to get a diverse bunch of students coming through the doors who represent multiple backgrounds and not just those coming from a privileged position.

“For me, donating is a great way to give back to the school. It’s about thinking of others and thinking about what the school means to you – and what it did for you when you were there. I want scholars to get the same things out of Aiglon that everyone wants: to go on to higher education, achieve their full potential, follow their path, and have that network of friends and the school to draw upon in future years.”

And it is a virtuous circle. After he graduated from Aiglon, scholar Enes Kristo went on to study at Amherst College, Massachusetts, where he lives today. He is now a data engineer with Wealthfront, a fintech company – and, of course, a Scholarship Programme supporter himself. “By donating, I feel I am contributing to the school in a way that goes beyond just being nice to a scholarship student. It’s a way of saying that Aiglon mattered to me far beyond my two years of schooling. Aiglon stays with you.”

Read the full 2023 Annual Review



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