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Seba’s name lives on with his scholars

Seba’s name lives on with his scholars
Seba’s name lives on with his scholars

The scholarship that honors Sebastiano Calleri Zavanelli is a testament to his philanthropic values – and his determination to live life to the full.

It has been 12 years since David Kimondiu (Belvedere, 2013) arrived as Aiglon’s first SebaScholar. But like all who have benefited from the program, the experience continues to resonate. “This wonderful gift opened up so many opportunities,” says David. “At Aiglon, holistic education is not a label – the equal focus on Mind, Body and Spirit is a special sort of learning. Coming from rural Kenya, I can’t imagine another education that would have got me where I am today.”

David was the first student on the program, set up in memory of Sebastiano Calleri Zavanelli (Belvedere, 1992). While at Aiglon, Seba had visited the Starehe Boys Centre in Nairobi and was inspired by its philanthropic values – and especially a sign in the school hall: “From those to whom much has been given, much will be required.” When Seba tragically passed away descending Mount Kenya in 2004, his mother Fiorina Zavanelli and sister Carlotta CZ Newbury (Exeter, 1994) were inspired by a substantial donation offered by JG, Seba’s boss at AEA, the private equity firm Seba worked for, with the suggestion that it should benefit Aiglon. “I wanted to make this not just about money, but also family,” says Fiorina. “I wished the boys to truly belong, so I invited each of them to live with us during the holidays.”

All the scholars have extremely fond memories of life as part of the Zavanelli family – including learning to ride bikes, going cross-country skiing and, in David’s case, acquiring a small but socially invaluable skill. “Mrs Zavanelli taught me which cutlery to use,” he laughs. “It sounds so minor but it’s one of those things that means you can go anywhere and naturally fit in.” The Seba CZ Scholarship has funded four students from Starehe to do the International Baccalaureate at Aiglon. “Obviously it’s a culture shock,” says Patrick Wachira (Delaware, 2019). “The way of living, the food – I hadn’t eaten cheese before – and the location. I’d never seen snow, so in the winter it was magical. “But Aiglon also helped me to instinctively see someone else’s point of view, to realize there’s a path that led them there. Being surrounded by people from different cultures makes you actively look for commonality between you. It has made me empathetic, which helped me throughout my life.” Dadley Ongori (Alpina, 2016) agrees. “Aiglon, like Starehe, is a Round Square school with emphasis on all-round learning. It was wonderful and gave me a global mindset. I joined clubs, volunteered, and I was on an expedition every weekend! But I gave as much to my studies, too, because I was keen to make the most of every opportunity. Aiglon is the only place I could experience all that, and it has helped shape who I am today, thanks to the Seba CZ family and friends.”

Carlotta says her family wanted to extend the special bonds unique to Aiglonians. “The combination of a culturally diverse group of people, in the stunning mountain location, with the underlying ‘whole person’ program created by John Corlette encourages you out of your comfort zone – it creates something special in us as individuals and as a group. You have different conversations, you see how people approach problems in a different way because of their backgrounds, and you bond in a unique way.” The Seba CZ Scholarship didn’t just benefit its own scholars, Carlotta adds. “Their impact on other students is palpable – they set an excellent example of good service and have a profound influence on the entire student body.”

The Aiglon experience and its network has helped all SebaScholars to move forward after leaving school: David went on to Stanford University and a successful career with American solar company Zola across Africa, before joining REACH; Patrick is Incoming Programs Fellow at the Business Council for International Understanding in Washington; and Dadley is a Prime Brokerage Associate at Morgan Stanley in New York. “It’s very hard to think of an alternative route that would have been as successful,” says David. “I can’t imagine not going to Aiglon.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, all the SebaScholars have since supported the fund to give other Starehe students the same opportunities. “I’m honored to have been part of Seba’s legacy,” says Dadley. “People speak of him with such warmth. He was a fun, happy and well-loved guy with a real sense of adventure. He was someone I’d want to be friends with. I’m so fortunate to be part of his legacy and his memory.” And although Seba’s Fund has now accomplished its mission, Dadley encourages anyone who can to support initiatives such as the Aiglon Scholarship Fund. “It’s vital these scholarships can continue to give opportunities to students for years to come.”

Read the full 2023 Annual Review



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