Pittsfield High School sophomore Xinhui Li is the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership’s February 2013 S.A.Y. It Proud Award winner.
Pittsfield High School sophomore Xinhui Li is the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership’s February 2013 S.A.Y. It Proud Award winner. (Jenn Smith/Berkshire Eagle Staff)

PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield High School sophomore Xinhui Li has a vision to be her own leader, but she knows she must work hard to achieve her American dream.

Li was honored Monday as the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership's February 2013 S.A.Y. It Proud Award recipient, sponsored this month by Multicultural BRIDGE.

"We know it's important to recognize young people doing great things and making positive contributions to the community," said Pittsfield Prevention Partnership coordinator Karen Cole.

Li was nominated by Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant, BRIDGE co-founder and executive director with support from her English language teacher, Louise Celebi. Hampton VanSant described the student as a "nice, quiet, strong leader" who has participated in BRIDGE's Youth Diversity Leadership Training Program. Li is also a member of the PHS chapter of Real Talk, a 21st Century Learning after school program with a 35-hour curriculum that fosters student leaders and ambassadors for topics of diversity.

During a program conclusion ceremony, Hampton VanSant said Li delivered an "eloquent speech capturing her experience and learning from the BRIDGE programs, as well as her experience as an immigrant student," charging school leaders and Mayor Daniel Bianchi to raise the bar on supporting multicultural education and students.

Li moved from China to the United States in 2010 and began studying at PHS in 2011.

"When I was in school in China, I knew I wanted to be a leader. I joined the BRIDGE program because I thought it would be helpful and make me strong," Li said.


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She said she's struggled with English and with finding friends. She credits her friend, and former PHS student, Shelby Sebring, and her family for helping her learn a new language and helping her family adjust to a new culture. The Sebring family since moved to Virginia.

In addition to school and Real Talk, Li regularly works at her family's restaurant, Little Tokyo, at the Berkshire Mall, and helps care for her two younger siblings.

She said her personal goal is "getting into a top college so I will have a good future, and so my parents won't have to work at a restaurant anymore."

This spring, Li will continue her studies, her job and her work with Real Talk.

"Life is not easy. Sometimes it can be lonely and sometimes you have to try harder," she said. "Still, everyone should believe in themselves and be positive."