Jenny Yang

Year of Graduation: 
2019
Jenny Yang

“I treasure Exeter’s collaborative spirit and desire to create something greater.”

A failed honey bee hive showed Jenny Yang ’19 the real-world impact of building community.

The hive, one of several that Jenny’s family established behind their California home, collapsed suddenly last summer. “I wondered why the hive failed and what I could do about it,” she says, theorizing that observing bees traveling to and from their hives would provide a broader understanding of the hives’ health. A STEM enthusiast, she put her machine learning skills to work, teaching a computer to recognize hive issues using images of traveling bees provided by beekeepers she contacted via social media. Jenny created datasets based on what she found, publishing them online. “It’s crazy—the datasets have been downloaded over a thousand times by beekeepers and data scientists from as far away as India and Egypt, and have had thousands of views,” Jenny says. “The project taught me how powerful technology is and how it can be used to make a difference.”

Paying it forward

Articulate and enthusiastic, Jenny has built community since arriving at Exeter as a prep. “I’ve always had a large capacity for empathy,” she says. “I understand where people are coming from.” She’s motivated in part by a desire to pay forward the advice and support others have given her. As a student listener and a dorm proctor in Hoyt, she’s eager to mentor students, sharing her own experiences and resources, and always happy to lend a sympathetic ear. “When I was a student listener last year, I met a lower who plays the same position I do on the volleyball team,” says Jenny. “We ended up having so much in common. I invited her to join the Computer Science Club and, when she told me she was interested in ice hockey, I told her about ESSO Ice Skating. It’s exciting for me to be there for her and be someone she can look up to.”

Jenny is uniquely positioned to share her excitement for Exeter clubs: she’s co-president of Exeter Student Service Organization (ESSO), which she joined as a prep, as well as co-head of the Computer Science Club (she was the sole female member when she joined), and co-captain of the volleyball team. She’s a math tutor for Exeter area high school and middle school students and taught reading comprehension to local elementary school students; she also taught piano. Through tutoring and other programs, she’s worked diligently to strengthen connections between Exeter and its broader community, including Exeter High School students and residents of the town of Exeter. “The connections you form—inside and outside the school—are very valuable,” says Jenny. “I’m so fortunate to be able to use my knowledge to connect with others.”

Harkness to the next level

Harkness has furthered Yang’s ability to understand, and learn from, other students’ points of view. It has also enabled her to dive deeper into subjects that pique her interest. When a friend asked if she’d be interested in a self-directed advanced math course on parallel coordinates and multi-dimensional geometry, she jumped at the chance. “The class takes Harkness to the next level,” Jenny says. She’s one of three students working under the guidance of Mathematics Instructor Szczesny Jerzy Kaminski, exploring different proofs and theories, creating PowerPoint presentations to demonstrate what they’ve learned, and helping one another understand the material. “I love the flexibility of the class. We can pursue what we’re interested in,” she says. “It’s very spontaneous and exciting to explore these subjects. We’re on the same page and helping one another learn. It’s fun!”

Reigniting a passion for piano

Through lessons with concert pianist and Exeter Adjunct Instructor Jon Sakata, Jenny has found a new appreciation for piano; their discussions about music were transformational. “I really enjoy listening and understanding the music with an awareness of the sounds and the emotion,” says Jenny, who has played piano since age five but stopped practicing when she first arrived at Exeter.

“I’m welcoming the piano back into my life and seeing it in a new way.” She wrote about her musical journey in a poem titled “Piano” that won gold in the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. “To me, the piano was a metaphor for growing up,” she says. “When I was young, I didn’t understand the instrument’s musicality. It was just something I did. I fell in and out of love with it.”

As she considers college and beyond, Jenny wants to use her computer science knowledge to foster change. She’ll continue her bee hive health research this year via an independent senior research project, guided by Mr. Kaminski, her math instructor, and a mentor from Massachusetts-based MIT Lincoln Laboratory. And she wants to find a community where she can continue to make an impact.

“I treasure Exeter’s collaborative spirit and desire to create something greater,” she says. “I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I hadn’t come here.”

— Debbie Kane

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