Keystone Academy Celebrates New Academic Year By “Soaring to New Horizons”

By Communications

Students and employees of Keystone Academy have ushered in a fresh academic year on a campus teeming with joy and optimism. Keystone officially opened the academic year 2022-2023 with the “Soaring to New Horizons” ceremony on September 2. At the event, new Executive Head of School Dr. Emily McCarren met the entire Keystone community for the first time.

Dr. McCarren succeeds founding Head of School Malcolm McKenzie, who retired in June 2022 following his vibrant four decades in the field of education. Now, she is ready to lead the newest part of Keystone’s exciting journey, working with everyone in the community to bring the school further into new horizons.


A Collective Impact

New and returning students, faculty, and employees entered the Keystone Sports Field to the tune of A New Dawn, a lively orchestral piece arranged by Keystone Class of 2023 member Yeung Liu and performed by the Keystone Yunyin Orchestra. The national flag of the People’s Republic of China was escorted by Class of 2023 members Chen Siying, Liu Zhixin, Aidan Chong, and Wang Yixuan to the platform while the flag-raising ceremony was presided over by Associate Head of School and Dean of Curriculum Lili Jia and Acting Head of Primary School Grace Wang. The Keystone Yugezi Children’s Chorus led the singing of the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

The ceremony was formally opened by Frances Yang, member of the Keystone Board of Trustees, who fondly recounted in her speech the many moments she has witnessed in Keystone since its foundation in 2014. She recounted the transformations she saw in students over the years, as well as the performances and competitions where Keystone students demonstrated their support for one another and learning from each other. These experiences, she said, “give each child the opportunity to grow to their full potential and become lifelong explorers and learners who look at the world and embrace the future.”

Ms. Yang also invited the students and employees to “look up at the sky” and “look at the kite motifs” symbolizing the “Keystone kite” that has successfully flown in the past eight years, thanks to the “tireless efforts, dedication, mutual trust, and love” expressed by each member of the Keystone community. She also called on the community to welcome Dr. McCarren, the school’s “new captain who will guide the flight of the Keystone kite”.

“We are grateful to have met such a wise and brave Executive Head of School, Dr. Emily McCarren,” Ms. Yang said. “Welcome to your new home!”

In her first community address, Dr. McCarren invited everyone to “reflect on the past, and all the moments that brought us here together” and “honor the people who came before us, at this school, in our lives, and even on this land” as Keystone began to look to new heights. Dr. McCarren shared how it was breathtaking for her to stand now in “an amazing new school” that she had heard about several years back on her previous trip to Beijing.

“I wonder, ‘How did this happen?’” she asked, and then led the audience to ponder the concept of the butterfly effect, which to her, “might give some shape to life’s beautiful mysteries.”

Small changes in big complex systems can have huge impacts. Globally, the last few years have reminded us in many ways of the deep power of our interconnectedness in our complex global system. We know that what happens to people in one part of the world matters even to people on the other side of the globe.

That is why at Keystone we are a new WORLD school. We are a school rooted in China; we are proud of our Chinese culture and identity. And we are preparing you, our students, to know and care for the complex systems that will determine our shared future on our fragile planet. We are preparing you to promote peace, prosperity, and innovation locally, nationally and globally.

We trust that you will be strengthened by our five shared values of compassion, justice, respect, wisdom, and honesty. It is inspiring to imagine the collective impact of each of you on our shared future. What extraordinary change will come about because of the flap of your wings?

The impact of our school is measured both by the contributions of our students to the world, and in the contribution of our teachers to the field of education. This is a school that does the hard important things with a purpose that is at once humble, and grand.


Flying the Keystone Kite

Students took center stage at the opening ceremony, with young speakers welcoming Dr. McCarren and the entire community to the new academic year and student groups performing artistic presentations. Grade 2 student Fiona Zhao opened the sharing by recalling a preschool class activity where their teacher asked them to make a “wise choice.”

“I think joining Keystone is a wise choice,” Fiona proudly said. “I can learn lots [of knowledge] and meet many new friends here. The campus is beautiful, and the teachers help us feel the changes in the campus by experiencing the four seasons. I’m sure you’ll enjoy every day at Keystone!”

Leo Wu from Grade 9 spoke about how autumn in Beijing “is always the season when things grow.” Reflecting on how he and many students live in a “dynamic era of many opportunities”, Leo said that Keystone allows them to “chase our dreams, desire success, and ultimately, make contributions to the world.”

“I believe we’ll always take the five shared values as the foundation, change as the pursuit, the beauty of all things as the vision, to light up in the name of our passion,” he added.

Grade 11 student Annie Geng reminded the community of “what remains unchanged” in Keystone: that “[it] is rooted in China [while] hold[ing] the teaching philosophy of the world in mind.” These aspects of the school, she said, “remind us to remember our original intentions and walk on the right track.” As Keystone entered a new academic year, Annie welcomed the “changed parts”: the new students and employees who make the campus “more diverse, warmer, and stronger.”

“Every one of us at Keystone, like a kite, will fly higher and farther this school year—developing our bonds and working together, facing challenges boldly, and being reborn,” Annie said.

Performing troupes brought more color to the crisp autumn day when the ceremony was held. The Keystone Yunyin Orchestra opened the ceremony with a rousing rendition of “Land Under Heaven”. Established in 2014 by Music teacher Jasmine Yang, the Keystone Yunyin Orchestra has become a large ensemble of more than 30 student musicians specializing in Chinese folk instruments. The orchestra has played folk songs at numerous school events, bringing Keystone community members to the wonders of Chinese cultural and national music.

The Keystone Yugezi Children’s Chorus performed the simple yet moving song “Light Up the Future”. Conducted by Music teacher Wande Kang and supported by his colleagues in the Performing Arts Department of the Keystone Primary School, the chorus comprises over 50 students between Grade 3 and Grade 5. Mr. Kang hopes that Yugezi members can experience and create beauty in music, and continuously expand their artistic horizons through the harmonious melodies they make.

Aside from musical performances, the opening ceremony featured a showstopping visual treat from the Keystone Secondary School Dance Group. The troupe performed a unique choreography inspired by calligraphy titled “Compassion, Justice, Respect, Wisdom, and Honesty”, named after Keystone’s five shared values. In this number, student dancers likened their bodies to the calligraphy brush. Their silky black-and-white attire ran like a flowing script. Their rendition truly reflected and combined the beauty of Chinese dance and calligraphy. The choreography was developed by Dance teacher Yang Zheng following the concept created by Visual Arts teacher Yanjun Wang. He hoped that the dance would instill in the students and community the five shared values.

One of the school’s longest-running bands also performed live to express their hope for the new academic year. VITAMIN sang “I’ll Be There for You” from the popular American TV series Friends. The six-year-old band currently has four members, three of which are Keystone students.

The opening ceremony concluded on a high note, thanks to the moving drumbeats and rousing harmonies from the original orchestral piece “Overture 2023” arranged by Grade 9 student Haoyang Yu and performed by the Keystone Yunyin Orchestra.



The past eight years defined Keystone’s growth. Now, the school is heading towards an exciting phase in its history as the new academic year becomes an opportunity to fly higher, thanks to the new people joining the community. The sky is the limit for the Keystone kite; imagine how far it can reach. There might be cloudy and rainy days, and, worse, smog might return and partially block our vision. But the community will never forget this glorious autumn day when we set off our grand Keystone kite and let it soar to new horizons.