“After I researched and compared all the engineering programs in the state I knew that I was going to ECU because of their unique learning experience and opportunities.”
Winterville, North Carolina
South Central High School
Biomedical or mechanical engineering
Engineering the future
Like his fellow EC Scholars 2017 award winners, Jiahao Li found out he was a winner after walking to the mailbox.
"Right before I opened the mail, I hesitated because I was afraid of what it could hold," said Li. "I took a deep breath and opened the mail, and it said 'congratulations' on top. I was so happy and, more so, relieved that I cried out in joy."
EC Scholars is the most prestigious undergraduate award program offered at East Carolina University. The four-year merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive an Honors College scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of almost $62,000.
Li said one of the reasons he chose ECU, other than the education he would receive, was the opportunities that come with being accepted into the Honors College.
Li, 17, is from Winterville but spent the majority of his life in China. While attending South Central High School, he participated in a number of activities that positioned him not only for the Honors College but also for the EC Scholars scholarship.
In high school, he was a drum major, volunteer, National Honor Society member and participated in the Science Olympiad, engineering, programming, innovation and robotics. It's the latter this prospective engineering major wants to continue when attending ECU.
"I look forward to being engaged in club activities that fit my interest, such as robotics," said Li.
While at ECU, he's also looking forward to getting involved with individual projects and, he hopes, engineering a product that will inspire others. Li says he plans to get involved in community services that promote STEM education in eastern North Carolina.
And he's looking forward to his study-abroad trip to Japan. Being of Chinese descent, his choice might not be obvious because, as he puts it, "the general hostility toward Japan due to Japan's actions in WWII." It's no surprise that Li at one point had this same hostility, but as he matured, he's become more introspective in how he sees the world.
"I asked myself how can we hate an entire culture that we never took the time to understand," said Li. "Having that thought in mind, I dreamed of a chance to see the real Japan."
He has a trip planned for this summer, since his coursework will most likely keep him busy and limit his ability to travel.
"Before I fully devote myself to being an EC Scholar, I plan to return to China this summer and tell them the good news myself," Li said.
He is the son of Fanrong Yao and Gregory Pieck of Winterville.