Renee Juckem of Kiel was struggling, but she remained determined to continue her path toward a bachelor’s degree from Lakeland College.
Enrolled in an intermediate algebra course, her first math class in more than 20 years, Juckem felt lost. Fortunately, Yuge Li came into her life.
 “Yuge started out as my tutor, but became a great friend,” Juckem said.

 The relationship began when Juckem, who has worked full time for more than two decades in the Human Resources Payroll Department at Kohler Co., decided to pursue a degree in Business Administration from Lakeland.
 “The instructor was great, but I was totally overwhelmed by the material,” Juckem said. “I was in over my head. My instructor recommended I work with a tutor.”
That advice led Juckem to Li, a secondary education mathematics double major in Lakeland’s traditional program.
“Immediately, during the very first session, I knew what a big help Yuge would be for me,” Juckem said. “She worked around my hours and just went above and beyond. The way she presented it was amazing. She could tell when I wasn’t getting it, and would explain it a different way. She was very patient.”
Juckem earned an “A” in that class, then aced a statistics class—also with Li’s help. Along the way, the bond grew, and Li, who is from China, was welcomed into the Juckem home in Kiel.
“I asked her what she does for the holidays, and she said she just basically stays in her dorm room,” Juckem recalls. “I told her my family would love for her to join us for Thanksgiving, and she was happy. She clicked with my family immediately.”
“Every time I spend a holiday with her family and friends, she introduces me to new people as her lifesaver,” says Li with a big smile. “It feels good. My mom is about her age, so my relationship with Renee is like a mother-daughter relationship. She gives me good advice.”
Juckem is about halfway to her Lakeland degree and thriving academically after that rocky start. Li, after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in May, plans to earn her master’s, teach for a couple of years in the U.S. and eventually return to China. The Juckems are talking about visiting her someday.

Juckem says her husband, Jeff, and sons Nathan and Trevor “hate the thought of her leaving. She’s like an adopted daughter.”

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