Nearly half the competitors on a Tempe high school’s academic decathlon team are recent immigrants. The Arizona Republic reports:
High school student Carlos Ballesteros began learning English just over a year ago. Since then, the teenager from Mexico wrote an award-winning essay during an academic decathlon competition.
Ballestero’s teammate, Mauricio Leon, also is a foreign-born student excelling in speech, language, and writing. He too recently mastered the English language and already has won several medals for his speaking and interviewing skills.
Both students are part of an ethnically diverse academic decathlon team at Tempe’s Marcos de Niza High School. Nearly half of the team members began speaking English just a few years ago, but most of them shine in the categories of writing, speech and communications.
In the competition, students demonstrate their abilities in math, language and literature, economics, science, music and art.
The Marcos students come from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, including Asian, Hispanic, Russian, Romanian and Peruvian.
The students say their love for reading and literature helped them learn the language quickly. Some also said that watching American television helped them grasp English.
The team must have a terrific advisor.
It’s not typical for new immigrants to be able to give a good impromptu speech or write a winning essay. It is common to see foreign-born and first-generation students winning in math, science and engineering competitions. Spelling, too, as as Glenn Reynolds writes in his MSNBC column. Many native-born American children are discouraged from competing — except in sports — lest they damage their self-esteem or suffer from stress.