Li recognized as salutatorian


Mehul Shrivastava, News Editor

As the class of 2017 prepares to graduate, multiple seniors are being recognized for the outstanding work they have done. One of these seniors is Amanda Li, who is salutatorian of her class.        By completing another major step in her academic career, Li feels accomplished and honored as she leaves a legacy at WA.

“I know there are a lot of other students who are really qualified and really hard workers, so I was definitely surprised to hear that,” Li said.

Since she was a freshman, Li always made a point of challenging herself as much as possible while sticking to her interests. By surrounding herself with smart, creative people, she made sure she always made the most out of her potential. To put this in perspective, as a sophomore, Li took AP Statistics, and following that she took AP US History, AP Biology and AP Chemistry as a junior. This year, she took AP Literature, AP French, BC Calculus, AP Physics and AP Psychology.

Of the classes she has taken, Li felt her most rewarding classes were AP Chemistry and AP Statistics, and she liked how they explained concepts to her.

“Those classes really focused on conceptual understanding, which I like better, than, you know, having information thrown at me and being asked to memorize it,” Li said.

Aside from academics, Li paid a lot of attention to extracurricular activities. She is one of the founders of the Westford Academy chapter of the Junior State of America, better known as JSA.        Described by Li as a mix of Speech and Debate and Model UN, the student-run club focuses on promoting political awareness in students through debate and discussion.

At first, Li was not sure about being involved since her political knowledge used to be limited. However, she has learned a lot through the club and the discussions also helped her better understand others’ opinions.

“I think it definitely opened me up to a lot of new perspectives, and I think being open-minded just helped me in general as a person,” Li said.

Li’s high school career has been successful, but she also faced her fair share of challenges throughout her years at WA. For example, she was on the math team for all four years of high school, and it proved to be difficult for her at first. She felt especially intimidated by the juniors and seniors and the level of the work they did.

“At the beginning, I felt really discouraged by the sort of things the upperclassmen were doing,” Li said.

Li eventually overcame her challenges, to which she gives credit to the people she talked to on the team.

As for classes, AP US History was hard for Li since history was not always her best subject and the class is set up so a lot of information is given to students at once. AP Literature also required a lot of writing and the ability to be creative and come up with ideas, which she initially struggled with but enjoys now.

Throughout her high school career, Li has her high and low moments, but continued to push herself nonetheless.

She is now taking her skills and experiences and putting them to use at the other side of the country, where she will be attending the California Institute of Technology, with a plan to major in chemical engineering.

Li believes that the California Institute of Technology provides a contrast from the competitive environment at WA. It is a smaller school without the option of an honors program, so students are often encouraged to interact.

“I really like the idea that it fosters an environment of collaboration over competition,” Li said.

Furthermore, Li is excited to see what college has in store for her.

“I like that college gives you a lot more opportunities to do stuff like research and things that we wouldn’t be able to do in high school,” Li said.

She is still figuring out what kinds of activities she wants to do outside of classes, but she is looking into joining a literary magazine too, since she enjoys creative writing.

As for WA, Li is happy to be graduating, but will miss the community at the school. She made a lot of friends and also appreciates everything the faculty did to help her.

In particular, Timothy Knittel, Li’s AP Chemistry teacher, had an impact on her and her learning habits. He was also her adviser for her capstone project, where she worked with her partner to test the voltage changes on electrochemical cells when the pH is affected.

“His class has really taught me about conceptual understanding and he has also pushed me a lot in terms of thinking creatively,” Li said.

She also included Lisa Gartner, her calculus teacher and math team adviser, as well as Libby Porter, who is the JSA adviser.

Li closed out with some advice for future graduating classes. She encouraged trying a wide variety of classes in both sciences and humanities, as well as focusing on learning rather than competing.

“I just tried to go along with my interest and take the hardest classes I could, along my interests, so that I kept making sure that I was interested in what I was doing and had a lot of fun learning,” Li said.