By Jess O’Connor

Incoming international students at Sonoma Academy have been welcomed with open arms by the International Student Mentorship program, which began last year.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be able to help people who are coming into a very different situation,” said Izzy Nickel, ‘15, “and to help support them through the process.”

Izzy Nickel and Justin Nichols are the two head mentors, who serve as a front between the kids and the directors of the program, Suzanna Luttrell and Margie Pugh. Izzy and Justin replaced KT Buckler, who led the program during its pilot year.

“This program is a relatively new program,” Justin said, “So I figured right now is the time to try to improve it as much as possible.”

According to Margie, the program is designed to “get them (the international students) to feel comfortable asking for help.”

Each new international student is assigned a student mentor, whose job it is to help them feel comfortable in the SA environment. This is done by engaging their mentee in activities on- and off-campus.

“We have lunch together,” says Reilly Dwight, a sophomore student mentor. Doris Tang, Reilly’s mentee from the Anhui Province in China, says that having Reilly as her student mentor has really helped. “If I ask her questions about a problem, her answers are more specific,” Doris says.

Foreign interest in attending SA has increased, with eight new students joining at the beginning of the year, and Catherine Li joining on Monday, September 29.

The Wednesday-Friday exploratory for the program provides time for mentors and mentees to bond, during activities such as ping-pong tournaments. The program has also organized several social events for the exchange students. These include bowling, seeing the sights in San Francisco, and a trip to In-N-Out Burger.

“Our goal is to make sure the students have a good experience,” said Suzanna Luttrell, one of the directors of the program.

Many students who sign up to become student mentors show real engagement in international cultural exchange. Some students, such as Clay Howard, are currently taking Mandarin. Others have been to China for their Intersession.

“They have a real desire to reach out to an international student,” said Suzanna.