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Student Spotlights

Meet Li

Image of Li

Spotlight on Li

Li is a true inspiration who reminds us that learning and making new friends are lifelong activities.

Li is an intellectually curious, retired teacher who moved from China to live with her daughter and family in New Jersey. She joined an LVSC conversation group to improve her English and to connect with others. During the pandemic Li participated regularly in Zoom conversation groups, shared a message to new students in Mandarin on the LVSC website, and was a frequent contributor to LVSC’s student newsletter. 

English learning has kept her going. I believe that she feels more purpose in life if she can share her life experiences. I am grateful to have you and other friends {the LVSC conversation group} who have encouraged and provided mental support.

-Tracy, Li's daughter

Here are a few essays that Li wrote about her life.


Hi, I came from Shanghai in China. My name is Dezheng Li. People call me Li. I have been in the United States for more than two years. Now I live in New Jersey. When I just arrived here, I was worried how to greet some Americans in English. I know if I don’t say any words when we meet on the way, it is not polite but I don’t know what I should say properly.

When I knew there was an English conversation class in libraries, I joined the class. You know, I have no opportunities to speak English because I spend time only with my relatives. Since I joined the English conversation class, surprisingly I have got many, many beneficial results. All of my classmates who came from different countries in the world are very kind and hardworking. We practice and make progress continuously. Our teacher Kathy is a very compassionate, responsible and ethical lady. She asks us everyone to talk about what we did in a week and she then corrects our mistakes both in pronunciation and grammar. She teaches us American culture and customs. Our English level has improved in her class. We all love this class. It is an effective and vibrant class.

The memory of my childhood

I never knew my mother. She died giving birth to me. More unfortunate is the fact that not one picture of hers ever found by me.

I only knew that my father was the closest dear person. My aunt, my father’s sister, was another adult I knew from my childhood. She was never married. I was told that she left for London when she was only 17 years old. She first worked there as a nanny for a big farm owner. When the farm owner died, his children took possession of the farm and my aunt became the housekeeper. She had been in London for 40 years when she gave up her comfortable life there and came back to Shanghai to help my father take care of me.

At the time China was being invaded by Japanese. People were having a hard time and my aunt died from overwork when I was only 8. It was too big a challenge for an old woman to raise a baby girl.

As much as I could appreciate it, my aunt was my mother. I love her so much. She was as dear to me as my father. My only regret is that I had no chance to express my gratitude and pay her back. For the rest of my life, I will say to her I am sorry.

My pets in my childhood

I grew up without a mother. My aunt, who was like my mother, raised me. She didn’t live long either and she left me a dog and a cat to accompany me playing and sleeping. My dog was named John and my cat was named Pacy. Their names were given by my aunt. They were my dear friends. Every night Pacy was lying on my right side and John on my left side. At my age in the 80s, lots of memories have faded away. But the memories of my dog and cat in my childhood are still so vivid. In my mind they were like my best buddies and I could share my happiness and sadness with them. We developed a strong bond. They accompanied me until they passed. The year John died was when I was about to enter junior high school and Pacy died three years later. My childhood experience with them made me a lifelong pet lover. I have had dogs or cats for most of my life. 

First Thanksgiving

This thanksgiving is my first thanksgiving after I moved to United States to be close to my daughter. In ESL class I learned the traditions how Americans celebrate the holiday. We have a small family here so we chose to roast a chicken instead of a turkey. To go with the roasted chicken, we made a shrimp and tofu soup dish which is my favorite Chinese dish.

The recipe is really simple. The main ingredients are 2 tomatoes chopped, a quarter pound of shrimp chopped very fine and 1 container of tofu and some chicken stock. Heat a pot with a 1 tablespoon of oil, add some chopped garlic and stir. Once the garlic aroma rises, add the tomatoes to stir together for a minute and then pour in the chicken stock mixed with water. Cut tofu in small cubes and add to the soup base. Wait till the soup boiled, season the soup with salt and let it simmer for a few minutes. Season the chopped shrimp with salt and pepper and mixed in an egg white and stir thoroughly. The final step is to use a spoon to scoop the shrimp into balls adding to the boiling soup. Continue to let the soup to boil for two more minutes with the lid on and that will be it. This delicious shrimp and tofu soup is done. This hot dish is complementary to roasted chicken and it completed our thanksgiving dinner.