PREFECT. HOUSE CAPTAIN. Winner of both the Victor Ludorum and a Virtus Award. Model pupil, right?
Sebastiano Arlotta Tarino (Belvedere, 2007) says it is not that simple.
“I don’t think I was a particularly bad child, but I was very energetic and found it difficult to channel all that energy into something productive,” he says. “I was all over the place, fooling around and distracting others, so I was always getting into trouble. I was suspended once, and when I was suspended a second time I was lucky not to be expelled.”
Instead, Sebastiano, then aged 15, spent a fortnight at a home for retired priests near Bern. He realises now that the Head Master at the time, the Reverend Jonathan Long, and his Houseparents, the O’Connors, still believed in him. “If it wasn’t for the patience, passion and trust of the people around me, I might never have broken out of the vicious circle I was in,” he says.
“The days there were hard – I worked in the kitchen from six in the morning until after supper,” he says. “But I realised I didn’t want to disappoint my parents any more, and I didn’t want to let down the people who had given me a second, or even third, chance.”
When Sebastiano returned to Aiglon, he had changed so much that his friends “almost didn’t recognise me – the boy who was always up for breaking the rules wouldn’t fool around anymore. But, suddenly, instead of spiralling down, everything started to click into place.”
Soon, Sebastiano became a role model. “I was made a Prefect rather late, in the autumn of my last year. The Head Master felt that as the black sheep come good I would help represent the other students and they, in turn, would be able to relate to me.”
Nowadays, he has found another way to harness his energy – running desert marathons. In the elite top 50 finishers of the famously harsh Marathon des Sables two years ago, he was placed sixth in the 260km Atacama Crossing in 2015, and second in the Gobi March in 2014.
Now working in a high-pressured job in finance, Sebastiano relishes the chance to take on nature in the harshest of environments. “When I am running in the desert, I am trying to find out what is beyond the things you see,” he says. “I learned to do that at Aiglon. I realised I had to make the most of it and not to take anything for granted, but, instead, make the most of everything on offer in this unique and beautiful playground.”
For his next challenge, attempting to run the 900km length of the Pyrenees in just 10 days, Sebastiano has turned back to Aiglon for help: his former Houseparent, Bill O’Connor, a renowned mountain guide, will be there cheering him on. Just as he did when Sebastiano was that incorrigible young schoolboy.