Foreign-born students vie for civics honors

Top civics students will compete in the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution National Finals in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Randallston High’s team will represent Maryland, reports the Baltimore Sun. Eleven of 13 team members were born in Nigeria, Liberia, Grenada and Egypt.

“Most of them have this great interest because it was starkly different from what they experienced. They have the appreciation for the Constitution and U.S. Bill of Rights that you wish the natural-born citizens would,” said Richard Weitkamp, whose entire Advanced Placement U.S. Government class at the Baltimore County school is taking part in the competition.

Students portray experts testifying on selected constitutional issues in a simulated congressional hearing. They must answer questions from a panel of judges that includes Supreme Court justices, historians, attorneys and political scientists.

Team members are top students who’ve taken gifted and AP classes together for years. Six come from Nigeria. Nearly all are female.

Christiana Ilufoye, a 17-year-old whose parents left Nigeria when she was 9 so that she and her siblings could get a better education, wants to become a lawyer, so she was eager to study the Constitution.

. . . Oluchukwu Agu, who came from Nigeria to Randallstown in 10th grade, is still trying to adjust. “The values and the culture are so different. In Nigeria, education comes first. … No one here is going to take a D home,” he said.

“We have some bonds because we all have a purpose here,” Ilufoye said of the competition. “We all know why we take this seriously.”

It’s inspiring and depressing at the same time.