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Student Spotlight: Jacky Li '19 & Jessica Zhu '20

Alex Molloy
Here at Tilton School, we encourage students to take on leadership roles, and if they see a need for a certain organization on campus, to take the reins and fill that opening. Last year, international student Ziqi (Jacky) Li ‘19 (Guangzhou, China) developed the International Student Support Association (ISSA) with the help of his friend Xiaofeng (Jessica) Zhu ‘20 (Hangzhou, China). ISSA is a student-run support group on campus that focuses on helping international students acclimate to American boarding school culture. Jacky saw a need for this on campus when a previous support group was left without an advocate.
 
Both Jacky and Jessica realized that supporting international students in their transition to life abroad and continuing that support throughout their time at Tilton School was instrumental to the student success. The Tilton student body is made up of 25% international students. Read on to find out how two students successfully proposed, started, and are running a completely student-run club on campus.
 
Why Tilton?
Jacky Li: I used to go to a Catholic school in Connecticut and I did not like it, because I am not Catholic. I contacted my Chinese agency to look for high schools in New England and I found Tilton, Brewster, Vermont, Proctor and Putney, a lot of other schools. I paid my visits to all these schools but I was amazed by how beautiful Tilton was; the rink, the academic building, and also how large our dorm is. So, that is what made me decided to come to Tilton. Of course I am very happy I chose Tilton!
 
Jessica Zhu: I interviewed at a lot of schools on the West Coast and East Coast. I didn’t really like the schools on the West Coast, but I really like schools out here. My consultant helped me choose Tilton because this school has a lot of people from different countries and they are really nice. Also, there are a lot of AP classes for me to take. I really like sports and arts, which are two activities here that are a great experience. I’m happy I chose Tilton!
 
How did the International Student Support Association start and why is it important?
JL: I was very close to a former teacher here who was the director of a club called WCP, or World Community Program. The WCP was perfect because when I got to Tilton, I knew nothing about it. I was partnered with another student through WCP who taught me a lot about Tilton. I thought, “Wow, I need to do that” so I joined WCP. When I found out the director was leaving, I felt we needed to keep the tradition going. So, after talking to Jessica and a lot of other faculty members, I came up with the idea of creating the International Student Support Association (ISSA) to keep up with the tradition of helping our new international students get used to Tilton School life and American boarding school life.  The World Community Program (WCP) involved international and domestic students working together to build a stronger community at Tilton School and is continued through ISSA.
 
JZ: Different countries have different cultures, and it is very important to spread our own homeland cultures to other places. Especially here at Tilton where there are so many international students. It’s a great chance to help others know what our cultures have and what others don’t know about. For example, Chinese culture. Jacky and I had originally started a book club and then we invited an author from China who held a lecture which gave other students insight into Chinese culture. That’s how ISSA works, by spreading cultures and communicating with others; sharing ideas. It’s an open place where everyone is welcome to join and share anything they would like.
 
How has creating ISSA and being part of it helped you grow?
JL: Before ISSA, I was already in some leadership positions at Tilton School… but those positions were more like following in others footsteps. I was an Admissions Ambassador in the Admissions Office where I gave tours and talked to prospective students. I was a member of WCP where there was a faculty director. Being apart of ISSA, a student-run organization, I feel like I have actually developed leadership skills of my own and have the voice to unite members to do things together.
 
JZ: Because of ISSA, I know how important responsibility is in my life. When we have a guest lecture, there are so many tasks we have to think about. We always have to remember to prioritize. And try to help new members and new students who come to our school. I think ISSA made me become a more outgoing person. I get to meet so many people and it has helped me to become more welcoming and a more outgoing person.
 
What do you think the future holds for ISSA?
JL: We certainly want to do more events and lectures but we need to stick with what we’re already doing in helping international students feel comfortable here. Jessica and I are starting to recruit new members of ISSA because half of our members are graduating this year.
 
JZ: Mrs. Saunders (Assistant Head of School) suggested we have a small party in March, like a tea party. It would be a great opportunity to relax and for people to discover Chinese tea culture.
 
What is your favorite part of the Tilton Community?
JL: I love how Tilton School can follow its model of the “Power of Potential.” I feel like my power is to help others, especially international students. I also love how much support the community gave me to run this organization and to explore my potential. When I talk support, I mean physical support, financial support and mental support. Mrs. Saunders especially gave me a lot of encouragement. Tilton School really does give the students the opportunities and support to achieve their goals.
 
JZ: I really like the athletics options. I’ve joined a lot of sports like squash, cross country, lacrosse, and skiing. The sport I like most here is cross country. I really like my coach Mr. Redman (English faculty, Head Cross Country Coach). He encouraged me a lot and gave me a lot of positive power. Also, running makes me happier.
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