While many young Chinese headed to urban centers for better jobs, Liang Lina returned to her home village.
After graduating from Guangxi Normal University, Liang put herself forward as party chief of Luhe Village in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
On Wednesday, she was awarded the "May Fourth Medal," the highest honor for Chinese youth. The medal is conferred annually on about 20 young people across China by the Central Committee of China Communist Youth League and the All-China Youth Federation for entrepreneurialism and self-motivation.
"My hometown was too backward. As the only person in the village with a master's degree, I had to do something for it," Liang said.
Many were skeptical: "How can a novice like her to do such a tough job?"
Liang soon began to help her fellow villagers get a little bit richer. The whole village began to grow a medicinal herb that is good for coughs.
"Along with some other village officials, we began to convince people to grow the herb, and it worked out quite well," she said.
The villagers, some hesitant at first, were soon planting the herb.
Besides herb-planting, Liang soon had 12.8 kilometers of road surfaced. A basketball court and a rural library were built. Two dams were renovated, solving the local water shortage.
"People give you credit if you tackle their direct concerns," Liang said.
Many villagers have now changed their view of her.
REACHING FOR THE STARS
Thirty-six-year old Liu Xiaolei was also a recipient of the "May Fourth Medal," for his devotion to space.
On Sept. 25, 2013, carrier rocket Kuaizhou-1 took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China, sending the Kuaizhou I satellite into orbit. It was the maiden flight of Kuaizhou series, and China's first satellite with a small, solid-fuel, "quick-reaction" system.
Liu was second-in-command of the design team.
"Quick-reaction" means saving time in disaster relief, Liu said. In the face of natural disasters like earthquakes, "quick-reaction" shortens imaging time from over 20 days to a couple of hours.
"I truly felt I was realizing my dream of serving the country," Liu said with pride.
Liu had been a fan of science fiction since he was a child and that inspired him to become an aerospace engineer. His parents told him it would be an arduous journey to becoming an engineer.
"Fascinated by space, I refused to be defeated by difficulties," he said.
After graduating from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2002, Liu joined the China Space Sanjiang Group Corporation, living his dream by designing rockets.
"Developing aerospace technology entails grave responsibilities and a sense of mission," Liu said. He is now working on the latest Kuaizhou rockets.
FEET ON THE GROUND
From the vastness of space, to the tiniest quanta, China's young people dream big dreams.
Chinese scientists announced Wednesday that they had built world's first quantum computer. Lu Chaoyang, is one of those scientists. In 2000, Lu was admitted to the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), and he was determined to do photonic quantum information research.
After a doctoral program at Cambridge University, he returned to USTC and became the youngest professor at the university.
"I was keenly aware of the value of quantum information technology in telecommunications security and computing," he said.
Last year, Lu and his colleagues developed the world's best single photon source based on semiconductor quantum dots. Recently, Lu and his team set two international records in quantum control of the maximal numbers of entangled photonic quantum bits and entangled superconducting quantum bits. Lu's achievements may be all but unintelligible to the layman, but in the world of quantum computing, he is a star.
Lu believes that young people should not be content with a "good" job; rather they should follow their instincts and aim high.
"Reach for the sky while keeping your feet on the ground," he said. "Explore the frontiers of human knowledge, while making best use of existing technology."
THE BUS ROUTE
Today, excellent young Chinese are active in all walks of life. "May Fourth Medal" winners include Zhang Jie, a police instructor in Anhui Province, and Chen Lele, a bus conductor with Qingdao Public Transportation Group.
"All we have to do is to devote ourselves to what our country needs most," Liang said. "You feel delight and happiness when you put your whole heart into a job."