A prefrosh goes to Washington

Li Boynton, a high school senior admitted early to the Yale College class of 2014, had Michelle Obama’s sense of style in mind when she went shopping Tuesday evening.

After all, the Houston native will be sitting beside the first lady at tonight’s State of the Union address. Boynton, who was one of three winners of the 2009 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, said Tuesday night she did not know why the White House selected her, but she guessed that President Barack Obama may use her to represent a topic he is going to address in his speech.

Li Boynton has been admitted to the class of 2014.
Li Boynton has been admitted to the class of 2014.

“I think he’s going to say something about education, science and the environment, and I fit all of those categories,” Boynton said.

A receptionist at the White House said no one was available for comment, and a representative of Intel could not be reached for comment.

Boynton found out about the honor last week during an art class. An Intel spokesman had previously let her know they were trying to arrange something with the White House, so when she received a voicemail in class, she had a suspicion she knew who it was.

Boynton won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for her research on how bioluminescent bacteria can detect water contaminants. Instead of paying $20,000 for expensive equipment that would measure the amount of light bioluminescent bacteria emits, she said, she made her own device — “it’s not as legit as it sounds,” she stressed — at a cost of only about $1,000.

Even though Boynton was admitted early to Yale, she is not yet sure if she will matriculate. She said Yale is her first choice and she plans to attend Bulldog Days, but she is also applying to other schools to see where she gets the most financial aid.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said Tuesday that Boynton’s selection to attend Obama’s speech is “great.”

“It surely will be a wonderful experience for her,” Brenzel said.

Boynton said she did not yet know her full itinerary, only that she is meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She hopes, though, to have the chance to eat dinner with the Obamas and meet their pet Portuguese Water Dog, Bo, she said.

Still in Houston when she was interviewed Tuesday night, Boynton said she and her mother will fly to Washington early Wednesday morning.

In preparation, Boynton and her mother did some last-minute shopping Tuesday night. They settled on a pink shirt with ruffles and a black pencil skirt, both from J. Crew — a brand Michelle Obama is known to wear.

President Obama will address Boynton and the nation at 9 p.m. tonight.


  • Yale grad

    Congratulations! And I hope you can attend Yale. It is a fantastic school.

  • y12

    Congratulations to Ms. Boynton! That is going to be a really great experience.

  • ’12

    Congratulations!!! What a great accomplishment. Also, come to Yale… it’s the best place place in the world :).

  • Yale ’06

    WOW! Welcome to Yale and what a great start to your career!

  • Recent Alum

    “She said Yale is her first choice and she plans to attend Bulldog Days, but she is also applying to other schools to see where she gets the most financial aid.”

    What is it with this new generation of applicants who only seem to care about money?

  • Alum

    I’m not sure I quite understand the practice of fussing over high school seniors admitted to Yale who have not made a commitment to enroll. And in in some ways I think that both parties (the senior and Yale) may be manipulating each another. I would suggest the YDN stick to covering students enrolled.

  • @5

    because $50,000/year is nothing to sneeze at, and because most level-headed people are well aware that a good education can be had just about anywhere.

  • @ #5

    Tuition and fees in higher education have increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2008, while median family income has only increased 147 percent.

    At Yale, in 1982, tuition was $8,190. In 2008, it was $35,300 (not including room, board, and other fees). That is an increase of 431 percent… and also why this generation of applicants cares about money.

  • Her applications to other schools are irrelavant

    Yale’s financial aid program is amazing. There’s no other reason to apply elsewhere.

  • nudelman

    This kids going to Harvard. She only applied to Yale early because Harvard doesn’t have early admission. Vast majority of past Intel Science Competition winners have gone to MIT or Harvard. Science reputation can’t be built up overnight, so these science-oriented kids think of these places first. Yale is merely seen as more as a “better Brown,” than a “more well-rounded MIT.” Yale should be more aggressive about recruiting top science students and encourage them to stay in it.

  • Cantab ’07

    I think nudelman is correct. With grade inflation and higher accolades in the sciences, she’ll go to Harvard. Besides, most prefrosh are idealized, and in their mind Harvard will always be number 1, despite its lower quality of undergraduate education. I think she should go there for graduate school, however.