It is a long way from urban China to rural Montana, literally and figuratively. Seventeen-year-old junior Jiyao Li made that journey this year and found a home at the heart of the Mount Ellis Academy family. He arrived with a huge smile and anticipation in his eyes. His adventures began almost immediately with a 50-mile canoe trip following the path of Lewis and Clark on the Upper Missouri River. Since his first day on campus, Li has thrown himself into all of the unique learning and recreational opportunities MEA offers, including a venture onto the school’s private ski area with some very slick boards on his feet.
While it was clear from his application that Li would be a strong student, nobody could have predicted what a treasure he would be to the school. He excels academically while taking a rigorous course load and is taking every music class the school offers. As it turns out, he is a world-class talent on the piano. He has committed himself to use that talent to bless others and benefit his school. He has performed full-length concerts in Montana and Washington, D.C., to raise money for various school projects. Other students are able to witness the hard work that leads to excellence as Li practices three hours every day in the school chapel.
For all the ways Li has benefited MEA, he sees himself as the one who is blessed to be able to study at a Seventh-day Adventist school in Montana. He says in his words: "Mount Ellis Academy is the open door for me to the whole Christian and Western world. At MEA, I am living and studying with real American Seventh-day Adventists, experiencing and learning their beliefs and lifestyle. Through this kind of experience, I improved my own understanding of Americans and Christians, especially Adventists. I am so glad that I have had the chance to come here. During this whole school year, not only did I study schoolwork and learn about this new world, but I also widened my heart and mind. 'A great person is not he who has a great knowledge but he who has an amount of knowledge and knows to use it wisely.' This is one of those many things that I have learned and discovered during this school year. I believe the Lord sent me here and I’m so glad He has opened the way for me to return next year. After all, I fell in love with MEA."