Pao School's first cohort of graduates shines

On 20 May, Pao School celebrated a historical moment on its Songjiang campus: the first graduation of students from its Senior Secondary Division. The Class of 2017 is a remarkably talented group of students from diverse backgrounds. They have been admitted to a number of the top universities in the world, including Ivy League schools in the United States, the University of Chicago, Rhode Island School of Design and the UK's University of Oxford.



10 years on from its founding, Pao School is proud to witness the success of this first cohort of graduates. Their success is inextricably linked to the school's missions of whole person education, passing on Chinese cultural traditions and fostering an international perspective, as well as its core values of compassion, integrity and balance.

A number of distinguished guests attended the graduation ceremony. They included Mr Ping Hui, Chief Inspector of the Shanghai Education Commission; Ms Long Wanli, Mr Yao Hui and Mr Chen Xiaohua, officials from the Songjiang District government; a representative from Fangsong Street; Xiaomi co-founder Mr Hong Feng; Pao School founders and board members; and parents and teachers.


Students play the Zhoushan Drum as part of a farewell ceremony for graduates


Beating the drums with vigour, the 49 graduates wore traditional Chinese clothing - the boys Zhongshan suits and the girls qipao dresses - as they went onstage to begin the ceremony. The Zhoushan drums (which are considered a cultural relic in China) were included in the ceremony because they are a popular traditional folk art from the hometown of Sir YK Pao: the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. With its focus on passing on Chinese cultural traditions, Pao School spent many months teaching students how to play the Zhoushan drums. This performance at the graduation ceremony marked the debut of Pao School's Zhoushan Drum Team.


Pao School Headmaster Wu Zijian speaks at the graduation ceremony


Headmaster Wu Zijian gave an impassioned speech at the graduation. He recalled the Class of 2017's first year at Pao School, and expressed his hope that their future will be bright. He urged students to keep in mind the words of Sir YK Pao: 'Exercise persistently, use sparingly, work diligently'. He said that the students should aspire for greatness, but that to achieve greatness requires hard work on the ground. Start with small goals, and as you achieve those, gradually set more ambitious goals, he said, adding that one should not be deterred by bumps in the road; with perseverance, those obstacles can be overcome. Finally, he reminded students that it is essential to keep both body and mind in good health.


Ping Hui, Chief Inspector of the Shanghai Education Commission, speaking at the graduation


During his speech, Chief Inspector of the Shanghai Education Commission Ping Hui praised Pao students for being admitted to some of the world's finest universities. He said he hoped students could appreciate their home country of China, their school and their classmates, and that they would uphold Pao School's core values of compassion, integrity and balance, as well as Chinese cultural traditions. He expressed the Shanghai Education Committee's support for Pao School, and wished the school the very best for the future.


Students recite poems they composed about their years in the Secondary Division


The students of the Class of 2017 have many fond memories of their years at Pao School; during the graduation ceremony, they recalled those memories in verse and song.


The full support of the founders has always served as a bedrock for Pao School's development. At the ceremony, the three founders spoke of their hopes for Pao School's first cohort of graduates.


Chairman Anna Pao Sohmen speaks at graduation


Chairman Anna Pao Sohmen spoke on behalf of Pao School to congratulate the students on their fine results and thank parents for their trust and support of Pao School. She shared her experience with the audience of studying abroad, which she did at the age of 16. Before she went abroad, her father Sir YK Pao told her to focus on two things: exercise to ensure a healthy body, and learn about the ways in which foreign countries are advanced.

In addition, the headmaster of her school told her to absorb knowledge like a sponge. As for learning on one's own, Sir YK Pao excelled at this, she said. She noted that Sir YK Pao devoted himself to building a shipping business in the 1960s.

Although he did not attend university, he still worked hard to learn English and insisted on using English in daily staff meetings at his company. Within three years, his company went global. Further, by the 1970s, Sir YK Pao was able to speak English fluently with leaders of other countries. Yet he continued to work on improving his English fluency, and listened to English recordings before going to bed every evening.

Using the example of Sir YK Pao, Chairman Anna Pao Sohmen encouraged students to learn independently and to be persistent in their studies; that is the key to success, she said.


Vice Chairman Tan Fuyun speaking at the graduation


During her speech, Vice Chairman Tan Fuyun emphasised appreciation and responsibility. She thanked Shanghai government leaders for their important support. She noted that the story of Pao School encompasses three generations of the Pao family. Chairman Anna Pao Sohmen and her son Philip Sohmen have been very devoted to the school; Vice Chairman Tan hopes students can be appreciative of their dedication.

Recalling the first time she met Sir YK Pao, Vice Chairman Tan said he asked her, 'What books have you been reading lately'? She hopes students can be like Sir YK Pao and consider learning to be a life-long experience. She also pointed out that Pao School would carry on its responsibilities and cultivate students with both strong Chinese and English ability, diverse cultural visions and an innovative spirit. She hopes Pao School will become a top school globally and promote Chinese education to the world.


Vice Chairman Philip Sohmen speaking at the graduation


During his speech, Philip Sohmen recalled Pao School's ten-year path of development. He said it was a long road, and that Pao School's success wouldn't have been possible without the support of the Shanghai government, parents and teachers. Philip Sohmen is proud of the students for their outstanding work. He hopes Pao School will continuously uphold its three missions, make education enjoyable for its students and maintain its unique campus culture with Chinese characteristics.

He hopes students will maintain Pao School's core values and present a positive image (of themselves and the school) to their family, home countries and the world. He also encouraged students to seek truth from hard work and exploration of the world.



Later in the ceremony, graduates sing the school song together, expressing their affection for Pao School.


Xiaomi co-founder Mr Hong Feng speaking at the graduation


During his speech, Mr Hong shared his own learning and work experience, and discussed the important choices he has had to make. He said that in work and life, we inevitably encounter many problems. We need to see the problems clearly and continuously learn in order to develop strong problem-solving skills, he said. He encouraged students to follow their interests and pursue their dreams. Do not be afraid to take risks; even if you fail, you will have no regrets because you will know that you at least tried and worked hard, he said.


All Pao graduates have contemplated how they have changed during their years at the school, and what they have gained from their education. Every graduate has a unique story.


Graduate representative Chen Kaixin speaking


Graduate representative Augustine speaking


Graduate representative Trinity speaking


Graduate representative Chen Kaixin spoke to the audience about how he grew at Pao School; he said the school has not been simply a platform for studying and exchanges; it has been like a home to him.

Student representative Augustine spoke about how when he first came to Pao School, he was able to find so many fine qualities in his classmates.

Meanwhile, Trinity recalled her ten years at Pao School fondly, saying that the learning experience she had at Pao School is extremely meaningful and will be with her for her whole life.


Graduate representatives presenting a gift to Dr Paul Wood, Executive Principal of the YK Pao School Secondary Division


Pao School's first cohort of graduates overcame many difficulties during their years at Pao School. They charged forward to meet challenges head on just like a car accelerating. Thus, they presented a wheel as a gift to Secondary Division Executive Principal Dr Paul Wood - a reference to him acting as the wheel steering students in the direction of their dreams.


Government leaders and the founders present graduates with graduation certificates


There was also a formal ceremony in which graduation certificates were presented to students. One after the other, students went onstage to accept their graduation certificates from government leaders, the founders, and the headmaster as the audience applauded.


Group photo of first cohort of graduates


Pao School's first cohort of graduates will always keep their fond memories of Pao School in their hearts. Having achieved outstanding results both academically and outside the classroom, they will now begin a new chapter in their lives. They have a bright future ahead of them.


Accordion Pao students accepted at top universities worldwide


Pao School is proud to share news on university offers for our first graduating class of 49 students, a stellar list of outcomes on a par with those of long-established leading schools worldwide. 55% of students in the graduating class were admitted or offered conditional acceptance to their first choice of university and 85% of students were admitted to one of their top three university choices.


The universities to which the first cohort of Pao students have been admitted or offered conditional acceptance are leading institutions ranging across a variety of countries and specialisms, reflecting the highly diverse range of interests and abilities of our students and embodying Pao School’s belief in best fit: finding institutions that are an ideal match for the student and his or her unique interests, skills and abilities.

This list includes some of the most highly regarded institutions in the world, including three early acceptances to Ivy League institutions with distinctive academic programmes, the University of Chicago, and the University of Oxford. Students were also admitted to prestigious art and design colleges, women’s colleges, liberal arts colleges and comprehensive private urban universities. Several students have been awarded merit scholarships including the prestigious Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Programme for leaders (US$100,000 for 4 years) at the University of Notre Dame.

Pao students have the advantage of graduating from a school that in its first year of graduating students is already widely known and respected in the university admissions world. An admissions officer at a US university commented how Pao students stood out from many others: 'We are deeply impressed with the strength of these students, from their descriptive writing and clear points of view, to their leadership, vision and character’.

The University Counselling Office has played a key role in establishing Pao School's name in the university admissions world. The Office hosted the first OACAC (Overseas Association of College Admissions Counsellors) Regional Institute on the Pao School campus in 2015, bringing admissions officers and counsellors from around the world to experience our campus and culture. Pao School offers a comprehensive University Counselling programme and students and parents who have consistently engaged in this process, and who have taken full advantage of the university counselling team’s support, are well placed to experience success. Our graduating students shared their views on the Pao School University Counselling process:


After I had a series of meetings with my University Counsellor last winter, she provided me with a list of schools that matched my study habits, interests and lifestyle', says one Year 12 student who will matriculate at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. 'She also helped me develop a compelling personal statement that helped me to stand out in the applicant pool. I am glad such comprehensive support for the college admissions process is available on campus.


Going on a university tour abroad (to the US and UK) led by Pao School counsellors helped me understand how the US’s holistic admissions process differs from the review process used in the UK .

Says another Year 12 student


I feel very fortunate to receive so much assistance from teachers and counsellors in the University Counselling Office. They are true friends who understand us and help us in our time of need.

Another Year 12 student says


The students and teachers provided Pao students with a clear picture of what college life would be like.

Pao parents also praised the University Counselling Office. one Year 12 parent, whose daughter participated in several tours to school campuses in the US and UK, described her daughter's experience as 'truly hands-on'.


Ms Leshman knows our children very well, so she can provide advice for them based on their individual circumstances', the parent says. 'She always communicates and discusses with parents promptly and effectively. Furthermore, Ms Leshman never hesitates to work overtime to respond to student and parent questions - even during the evening and on the weekends. Both the students and I are very touched by Ms Leshman's dedication to Pao students.

Another Year 12 parent notes the crucial role played by Rhonda Leshman, Director of University and Careers Counselling, in the global university application process.



Offers in the US include

Bard, Barnard, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Brown, Colby, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fordham, Franklin & Marshall, The George Washington University, Kenyon, Lehigh, Mount Holyoke, New York University, Northeastern, Pitzer, Purdue, Reed, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Tulane, University of California campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Cruz), University of Chicago, University of Rochester, University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California and the University of Washington. 

Acceptances to the selective film production programmes at Emerson, Loyola Marymount University and Chapman were also received.

Offers from art and design colleges INCLUDE
California Institute of Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art, Rhode Island School of Art & Design (RISD) and School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Offers / conditional offers in the UK INCLUDE

University of Oxford, Durham University, Imperial College, University of Edinburgh, Loughborough, University of Sheffield, University College London, King’s College London, University of Nottingham, University of Warwick and more.

*These UK institutions are members of the Russell Group of 24 research-intensive, prestigious, world-class universities.

Acceptances in Canada INCLUDE
University of British Columbia, University of Toronto


Pao students have a global perspective and willingness to pursue their own pathways, and this was clearly demonstrated in a number of applications which were submitted to universities in non-Anglophone countries in Europe including BTK Berlin Design School (Germany), Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (The Netherlands), University of Tampere (Finland), as well as Jönköping University and Linnaeus University (both located in Sweden). Pao students will also study at the overseas campuses of Northeastern University and New York University.



With its mission of whole-person education, carrying on Chinese cultural traditions and fostering an international perspective, as well as its core values of compassion integrity and balance, Pao School has evolved into a leading educational institution since its founding in 2007.

As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, one of the greatest highlights of all is the tremendous success of the Class of 2017 - our first cohort of graduates. We congratulate them on their outstanding work - both their personal successes and all they have done to contribute to the building of a school for tomorrow's China.