Equestrian, artist and writer Li Keira Yin is finding her footing in Boston after graduating from News Decoder partner school The Thacher School.
When a student has four stories published on News Decoder while in high school, you can bet that writing and publishing will continue at the university level. And that’s what we found when we sat down with Li Keira Yin, a recent graduate of News Decoder partner institution The Thacher School.
Li is currently a first-year student at Wellesley College in the United States where she has been writing columns for the Wellesley News. Li was a prolific News Decoder Student Ambassador, repeat Storytelling Contest winner and member of ND’s 12th Storytelling Contest jury. Since graduating from Thacher, Li has been settling into her life in Boston and continues to pursue her passion for art, writing and horseback riding.
We caught up with her at home in Boston.
[Transcript edited for length and clarity].
ND: What have you been up to since graduating high school?
Yin: Right now, I’m still exploring my interests. I’m hoping to study architecture, as well as cognitive and computer science. At Wellesley College, I’m interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary minor, like Peace and Justice Studies. I’m also taking an architecture studio design class at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], because we’re allowed to cross-register.
Outside of school, I’m still writing for Wellesley’s newspaper and still submitting my writing to the school magazine for creative and nonfiction writing. I have been keeping that side of things up, because writing was a big part of my high school career, and I do not want to lose the opportunity to keep doing that.
I also ride on the equestrian team, continuing my high school love for horses, and sing in an acapella group. I also work in a lab at MIT a couple hours a week, which I’m really enjoying as well. Finally, I volunteer in Chinatown with educational work, tutoring kindergarten to 2nd graders.
Acknowledging diverse youth voices
ND: Now that you’ve graduated, what aspects of your News Decoder experience stand out to you the most?
Yin: One thing that I really loved about News Decoder was the process of writing and publishing. I was really able to communicate directly with mentors in the organization and they always got back to me very quickly with concrete feedback. They were also super supportive in terms of pursuing whatever leads I had and writing whatever kind of article I was interested in writing. There were no strict confines in terms of creativity, but there were concrete guidelines and feedback once I produced my pieces, which really helped me improve my writing. Being able to structure my reporting in a way that is informative and exciting is something I learned through News Decoder.
I also love how student pieces are given a platform on News Decoder, which is really encouraging for students to continue writing because I feel like my voice is being recognized. Not a lot of platforms put student voices at the forefront.
ND: As a News Decoder student ambassador, you helped organize a cross-border webinar between students in California and Romania. What were your main takeaways from that experience?
Yin: I thought it was interesting to see different countries’ take on the same issue. My main takeaway was that topics deserve discourse from different voices. It’s important for global perspectives to enter our school and educational spheres. What struck me was, whether we were talking about nationalism or climate change, students from different schools talked about similar concepts, but approached the discussion from a very local, student perspective.
It’s easy for some schools to be in a little bubble, and the webinars were a really good way to break out of it and to leave our comfort zone.
Michelangelo meets Jeff Koons.
ND: How do you spend your spare time?
Yin: I like to spend time with people — good people make me very happy. I also like traveling and doing art of all kinds. In college, I’m getting better at making time for my friends where I don’t look at my phone and don’t think about work. It’s also very grounding for me to be able to cook and share food with my friends. I’ve also learned to be comfortable with being alone. I have scheduled time for me to be alone, whether that’s for sleeping or reading or journaling or walking around Boston. These are things that I very much need because it can be easy to be overstimulated in college, especially coming out of a boarding school.
ND: If you could invite three public figures, alive or dead, to dinner, who would you choose?
Yin: I would pull in artists from different time periods. A contemporary artist like Takashi Murakami or Jeff Koons, who do a lot of commercial art, versus Michelangelo or Picasso. I’d want to put these people in a room and see what they say about each others’ art because the public perception of good art has changed a lot over the past couple hundred years. I’d want to know if they think of each others’ art as “good” art. I would want to have this historical conversation and witness what they say. This is something that’s intriguing me now — thinking about how art has changed, different styles and the quality of what we think is beautiful.
Joyce Yang is News Decoder’s Programs & Communications Intern. She is a former classroom teacher passionate about equitable education access, intentional pedagogy and inclusive policy-making.