Li honored to be salutatorian

Hardin Valley Academy senior Iris Li will graduate Friday, May 27, as the school’s salutatorian.

“I was really surprised,” Li, daughter of Yuchen Chang and Jan-Mou Li, said about receiving the designation. “I was in my principal’s office with Emily (Haugh, the valedictorian) when they told me first.

“My first reaction, realizing that I was chosen for salutatorian, meant that Emily was valedictorian, and I was really happy for her. For myself, I was just surprised to have this honor because … I really wasn’t sure who would’ve been.

“I am grateful to be in a graduating class full of people who are extremely academically focused,” she said.

“I think HVA has a very unique blend of people,” Li said. “It has all your classic stereotypes, but it has so many opportunities for you to be whatever you want.

While at HVA, Li said she kept involved through a number of activities.

“I’ve participated in 13 clubs throughout my four years,” she said. “Currently, I serve as the founder and president of the aerospace engineering club, a co-executive captain on my robotics team, outgoing state treasurer of (Technology Student Association) and outgoing state vice president of Mu Alpha Theta. I also participated in ethics bowl and scholar’s bowl this year.”

About who inspired her the most, Li said, “Mrs. Wanda Walker has inspired me. [She] was the best advisor I have ever had because she knew when it was right to push me and when to pull me. Her influence still runs through my mind as I serve on the state level as a state officer, and I will continue to strive to be like her in the way she delegates tasks and is able to read a room.”

After graduating, Li hopes to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“While my original major in mind was aerospace engineering, I am leaning toward material science and engineering instead,” Li added.

“I hope to be an inventor one day,” she said. “I wanted to mess around in aerospace engineering, material science and engineering, AI, machine learning and neuroscience,” she said. “These were all things that I was interested in because I wanted to get into the fundamentals of how machines were made.

“I felt like the movie Big Hero 6 really inspired me with the possibilities of technology,” Li said. “The use of nanobots and microbots building structures from their simplicity feel like the next step in the evolution of technology.

“I believe that technology is the future, and it can make the lives of people I need to take care of one day better.”

This keeps me driven toward a cleaner and more efficient development.”