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The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

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Jiawei “Jerry” Ren: All-School President

“Lights, camera, and action” is more than an introduction, but a motto for All-School President Jiawei Ren. Known as Jerry by the LFA community, Ren wears a checkered button-up and khakis, complemented with a pair of tinted trapezoid frames that warms his radiant smile. Before becoming All-School President, Ren served as the Junior Class President in the student council. Excluding the title, Ren’s vivacious character made him the magnet of spotlights, and not too long after, a cornerstone of LFA. 

But Ren’s character is the product of his international background. Born in Ningbo, China, Ren grew up in the world of high rises, 100-men dormitories, and public showers. In middle school, Ren studied at a boarding Chinese public school that shared a building with an international high school. To Ren, the main theme of the day then was to “grind through tons of homework nonstop” before ending the day catching up with friends. 

“I used to tell my friends that I will always be a  Chinese public school kid,” said Ren. “When I initially came to America, I thought I was just going to be someone who grind down homework all day long. But I had no idea that I would go this deep or to be ‘affiliated’ with American society.”

To Ren, an affiliation with American society isn’t turning a blind eye to his past, but rather an openness to new ways of life. Ren is present at every fire pit at Warner House. He sits in the front rows of every bus heading to each new Brunch on Us spot, dominated the recent quidditch game, and supported solo concerts performed by fellow peers. 

As one of the finishers of the entire ALEKS pie, and the pioneer who led LFA’s math team to 1st place at the 2023 ICTM State Math Contest, you may be surprised that studying “only takes 20% of Ren’s time.” Needless to say, that 20% surely got us a bigger trophy than Fenwick High School.  

But beyond trophies, Ren’s charisma holds greater merit than any won commodity. “Being charismatic is a byproduct of me being kind,” Ren said. As a prolific traveler and hiker, Ren and his parents encountered several instances of kindness. 

“There was one time when me and my family needed to get onto this rock cliff,” recounted Ren, “My mom wasn’t tall enough to reach at that time, and I was at the bottom watching my mom while my dad was uphill scouting the terrain. Then, there was this one hiker who held his hand, let my mom step on it, and lifted her up,” Ren said. 

Between Ren’s kindness and charisma also lies a pride towards intersectionality. The act of connecting with people has always been in Ren’s blood. Traveling for the past 10 years, Ren and his parents stayed in Airbnbs so they could talk to the host, and learn about their backgrounds and cultures. 

“As Chinese, we like to learn from the beauty of other cultures and leave the pernicious behind,” Ren stated. “Therefore, I’m an embodiment of the different cultures I have encountered.” 

For international students, the journey to America may be temporary, yet it opens eyes and hearts. For Ren, every challenge meant a creative risk, and every risk taken unfolds in an adventure. 

“It took me two months to be able to kind of speak English fluently so that my tongue doesn’t stagger,” said Ren. “But this is just like something you have to fight through just like a cramp while you’re doing cross country. I tried to talk to as many local kids as possible, and asked my friends to correct me if I make any pronunciation or grammar mistakes.”

Whether it’s learning English, or tying strings to both ends of a kayak to load it into a stream 10 ft below a colonial bridge, there are no correct answers. To Ren, a spirit of adventure should not be framed by normality, but by creative notions that makes things happen. 

In the end, there is no mountain high enough, only the size of the heart.


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