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Why I Give: Celebrating Chinese Culture at RE

The proverb A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step may best describe Shanjie Li’s transformational efforts at RE. Li is leading the way for parents, students, faculty and others to raise awareness of the Chinese culture and language to new heights through volunteerism and donations to the school.
An economist, educator, philanthropist and entrepreneur in the areas of real estate and new energy development in Miami, Li immigrated from China to the United States in 2012. Not long after, Li’s business attorney, Manny Diaz – the former mayor of Miami – recommended Ransom Everglades School for Li’s son, David. 

Li and his wife, Bin Luan, found Ransom Everglades to be a strong community offering an exceptional education. And it felt like home. As parents, the Lis became very involved as volunteers and now, donors.
“From a geographical point of view, Miami is very far away from China,” said Li, who holds a PhD in economics. “Miami’s Asian population, especially the population from China, is relatively small. For our children, and for Ransom Everglades to better understand China, I decided to promote Chinese culture and to make it a part of the larger culture of Ransom Everglades. That was my motivation to get more involved in the school.”  

In 2021, Li began conversations with the RE administration about bringing Chinese cultural awareness to the school and creating a sense of community and belonging for RE’s Chinese parents. Li recruited parents, primarily of Chinese heritage, to join his committee, which he named the Chinese Parents Committee (CPC). The committee plans two annual Asian cultural events, which are spectacular in content and serve as an inspiration for all cultural celebrations at RE. Li’s first event was the Lunar New Year in 2022 for Chinese parents, which was a small but significant step to gather RE’s Chinese parents for the first time. 

The committee then expanded its efforts to create an all-school celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in the fall of 2022 and the Lunar New Year in January 2023, both at the upper school with hundreds of students, siblings, parents and faculty members in attendance. The second-annual Mid-Autumn Festival was held in September at the middle school, organized by CPC volunteers with support from the RE advancement team and faculty members Karina Buhler and Vanessa Lopez.

Each CPC event showcases the beauty and meaning of Chinese culture through laughter and food, art and music, and a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Li’s goal is to help RE students of all backgrounds absorb the essence of Chinese culture and lay a cultural foundation for them to become world leaders and entrepreneurs.

It was not long after the first event that Li decided to make a significant and generous donation to Ransom Everglades’ endowment fund, calling it the Chinese Cultural and Scholarship Endowment Fund. Li sees “donations as the manifestation of belonging [at RE]. After our son, David, studied in the middle school for three years, we felt that David regarded the school as his home, and we also deeply felt the warmth and enthusiasm of RE. So our family collectively decided to donate to the school and set up the Chinese Cultural and Scholarship Endowment Fund with RE. We hope that Chinese culture can continue to take root in the school and others will follow.” 

Added Li: “All donors need to meet three conditions, namely: emotional resonance, value recognition and sense of belonging. With these three conditions, everyone is willing to do their best to contribute money and efforts to the development and construction of the school.” 

Ransom Everglades is grateful to Dr. Li for taking the first steps on a journey that has forged the path for others and created something wonderful for future generations of students.

For more information about volunteering for the Chinese Parents Committee or donating to Ransom Everglades, please contact Director of Advancement Melanie Hoffmann at 305 460 8820 or
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.