When Changdong "East" He returned to his native China following high school at St. Anne's-Belfield School and studying at the University of Chicago, he knew he wanted to carry on the connections he'd made with the School and his classmates. The answer, for him, was to co-found the St. Anne's-Belfield School Asia-Pacific Innovation Center (APIC) in Shanghai.
"I wanted to be involved in creating the Asia Center to support our community," said He, who also serves as a member of the School's Board of Trustees. "I hope it can maintain its values and standards to serve our community, and always be consistent with our practice and philosophy here in Charlottesville."
He, along with alumnus Suikai Lin '13, founded Shengta Education Technology Co. Ltd. In 2018 and established APIC independent of but working closely in partnership with the School. Its mission is to support outreach and programming initiatives in Asia intended to better serve the School's international community through orientations and gatherings for families, facilitating student and teacher exchange, identifying and liaising with prospective students and families, and coordinating alumni and parent engagement events, educational experiences, and trainings complementary to the American educational approach, among others.
For He, experiences at St. Anne's-Belfield School led him to have the confidence to found both a company and APIC, all as a relatively young alumnus.
"Amongst many characteristics I developed in my St. Anne's-Belfield School years, confidence and courage really stand out," he said. "I have endless happy memories during my time at School, but it is the failures I keep thinking about, and I appreciate how faculty members were always there to help students overcome setbacks both in class and in life. From small things like failing to pass a room check on dorm to things like getting a bad grade in class, or worse, on the SAT, teachers were always open and happy to help. It is always good to have failures at a younger age, and revise them early."
He expects that APIC will soon create a space for students, parents, faculty members, and alumni to exchange ideas and knowledge, enhancing the School's philosophy of lifelong learning.
"When I return to school or see someone associated with St. Anne's-Belfield, I'm always greeted by the warmest hugs, literally and figuratively," he said. "Students go various ways after graduating, and sometimes faculty members leave the School for various reasons, but what we will always have in common is our values."