In this ever-changing world, responsible citizenship is more important than ever. This world needs people who have an awareness that expands beyond their own microsystem and can make a difference not only in their community but on a global scale. We need individuals who raise their voice when it comes to important social, economic, and environmental issues.
To ensure a globally bright future, we need to mould our next generation and instill within them values that will allow them to be independent, curious, and innovative leaders. Schools that consider it an honour to play a role in developing such individuals are crucial to this goal. Leysin American School (LAS) is one such institution that embodies the above attributes and has been helping to raise the next generation of world leaders.
History Worth Remembering
LAS is a renowned school with an interesting story. Seventy years ago, in 1949, Sigrid and Fred Ott pursued their dream of starting a summer camp in Switzerland, resulting in the creation of the International Ranger Camps. The success of their summer camps began to feed a desire to take on a new challenge: opening an international boarding school.
Nearly a decade later, the Otts’ vision became reality. LAS was founded in 1961, serving as a school where kids from around the world could come together, gain a global perspective, and receive a world-class education.
Since its founding, LAS has grown to host 300 students in its state-of-the-art facilities, including its Magic Mountain Athletic Centre, 2 libraries, 2 campuses, 5 dormitories, and more.
A New Generation of Leaders
LAS’s approach to education has always been guided by its mission statement of “developing innovative, compassionate, and responsible citizens of the world.” These values were established back in 1949 upon the founding of the International Ranger Camps, with the intention of making the world a more open, friendly, and tolerant place in the wake of the Second World War.
LAS instills in its students a global perspective and international understanding. One of their alumni said it best: “Being part of a student body as diverse as LAS’s definitely makes learning about the things you don’t know a priority, rather than arguing with others about why your worldview, inherently based on incomplete information, is the correct one.” Living, learning, and playing alongside peers from every corner of the globe helps LAS students expand their horizons, explore new cultures, and gain a more complete view of global, social, and political dynamics.
LAS believes in helping students follow the paths curiosity leads them down. From projects to field trips to cultural travel, their students understand that there is always more to learn. Furthermore, the school provides their students with the tools and resources they need to investigate topics that pique their interest.
LAS’s location in the Alps has been advantageous. It helps them communicate the value of environmentalism to their students. Their young scholars are always in touch with the mountains, whether that is through skiing, hiking, gardening, or recording environmental data. Many of the school’s staff are long-time inhabitants of Leysin who have been able to witness first-hand the effects of climate change in the Alps. They stress the consequences of these changes to their students, and in doing so they raise a new generation of environmental caretakers.
The Driving Force
To fulfil the needs of these progressive times, leaders who can think outside the box are vital. These individuals are driven to make a difference not for recognition but for the advancement of the educational sphere.
Sabina Schwedtmann-Lynch, Dean of LAS, is one such inventive leader who has brought a number of valuable changes that played a key role in LAS’s success. Most recently, Dean Schwedtmann-Lynch has implemented the LAS Continuum of Education. The Continuum treats every aspect of education, from grade 7 to 12, as part of a continuous pathway contributing to the development of students. Additionally, she helped to introduce a number of new programs including LAS edge® and ALPS (Accelerated Learning Program in Switzerland).
Much of LAS’s success is due to the extensive array of programs they offer that allow students to enhance and personalize the education they receive. The school offers the IB Programme, ALPS, and LAS edge®—a program where students can pursue one of four concentrations: innovation, entrepreneurship, alpinism, or the arts. The LAS edge® curriculum has been designed like a university degree, allowing students to select and pursue subjects that keenly interest them, while still meeting all the standard academic requirements for their grade level.
ALPS, another innovative program by LAS, offers students a blended discipline that plays to their strengths and needs. In the words of Dean Schwedtmann-Lynch, ALPS is a program that would let, “a student who excels in mathematics or the sciences [for example] . . . be placed in a class well above their traditional grade level, meaning that they can access classes with more challenging content to help drive forward their learning, abilities, and natural talents.”
Alongside these, LAS immerses its students in extracurricular activities. They provide their young scholars with over 40 different activities and teams to choose from, with options to appeal to every interest including student council, theatre, climbing, dance, horseback riding, soccer, choir, Model United Nations, coding, environmental club, and more.
Top Facilities for Top Students
LAS ceaselessly strives to improve, expand, and develop their facilities, and to equip their students with access to the latest technology and resources. Some of their latest projects have included the opening of a new teaching kitchen and the renovation of their gym (the Magic Mountain Athletic Centre), which is now complete with a climbing wall, running track, fully-equipped gym, dance room, classrooms, and much more. Looking to the future, LAS is planning to develop its dormitories and Middle School facilities.
Pushing the Boundaries of Education
Switzerland is one of the world’s most renowned locations for prestigious boarding schools. By acting as a leading force in the Swiss educational landscape, LAS continually challenges and learns from other boarding schools. Ultimately this dialogue allows LAS to push the boundaries of education, discover strategies to enhance their students’ learning, and develop new means for their graduates to reach further and climb higher.
Here is what a few of LAS alumni had to say about the value of the education they received:
“Only looking back now do I truly comprehend the significance of what I witnessed and was a part of at LAS. I never would have been able to experience many of these things at a school in the United States.”
“LAS prepared me for a life of working with diverse and international people. The acceptance I learned while in Leysin is invaluable. It is also why I’ve been back to work at LAS as a summer teacher for the past 3 years. Leysin will always be home to me.”
“The friendships I made at LAS are now almost half a century old. Many of us are still in touch, and in some cases are in business together. At a recent reunion, I think we all realized once again that we weren’t just friends, we were family.”