Many African Students In America Out-Perform Their White and Asian Peers…Why?
When emigrated from Nigeria with her family in 2005, she left behind her home and her native tongue, but held fast to one simple principle: “If I wanted to be the valedictorian, I couldn’t slack.”
The process to obtain visas to come to the United States is extremely competitive, Mugane said, calling the U.S. embassies in many African countries “difficult” and “highly selective” in granting visas to prospective applicants. This may account for some of the high graduation levels, and relative success rates, of African immigrants.
Onwuakor, whose family spent years trying to obtain a visa to come here, agrees. “The economic difficulties that (African) countries face, it kind of motivates one to work hard. Also, many families spend 10 years trying to get a visa, so when you finally get an opportunity, it is expected that you’re going to do your best and make your parents proud and accomplish what you want,” she said.
Her mother, a registered nurse, and father, a caretaker for people with mental illness, are both “very proud” of her, Onwuakor said. Where she is from – a village in Nigeria of roughly 300 – there are no valedicatorians.
Now, like her brother and sister before her, she is off to college.
And she is not alone. Michael Wogbeh, a native of Liberia who immigrated to Boston less than three years ago, was an honor roll student and track star at New Mission High School in Roxbury. On Friday, he stood with the rest of his class at graduation and received his diploma.
“It was a great day to graduate,” said Wogbeh, who also hopes to pursue a pre-med track in the fall at American International College.
The challenges in the United States are different, he said, but so are the opportunities. In the United States, he said, success can be had “if you know who you are, and what you want to be.”