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Woodlands High senior, a new U.S. citizen, wins state competition

May 9, 2019

Before he even became a United States citizen, The Woodlands High School student Agustin Perez set his sights on becoming the Texas Citizen Bee champion.

Last year, he came close and ranked in second place at the statewide civic education competition. This year, Perez took first place as the state champion, with his newly designated citizenship in hand to boot.

“I’m super proud of myself. I’m proud to represent my school, where we’re very competitive, to be able to win something (like this),” Perez said.

Perez is originally from Tlaxcala, a state in central Mexico. When he was five years old, his parents decided to move to The Woodlands to escape the impending war and violence there. His parents own a cosmetics company that they were still able to run from the states, so they were also able to obtain their U.S. visas and residency.

“It was tough, growing up where I didn’t know the language or culture, but I got really into academics. I found inspiration in it, and I liked it and wanted to overcome challenges,” Perez said.

After almost 10 years, the Perez family was granted their citizenship. First, Perez said his parents had to take the citizenship test. He said he’d help his mother study for the test — using the same materials he was using to study for the Citizen Bee competition.

Once his parents passed the citizenship test and took the official oath, Perez and his sister were automatically granted citizenship as well last summer. In the interim, Perez had tried for his first Citizen Bee title, and that’s when he made it to second place.

This year, as an official citizen, Perez said he worked harder.

“There’s a 200-page study guide, like a book. It covers historical people in American history, documents, supreme court cases and the constitution. It also covers civic values and concepts that have to do with the constitution like federalism and popular sovereignty,” Perez said.

All his studying paid off: he got all 65 multiple choice questions correct for the first part of the test and missed only one question in the oral part of the competition. This is the first time that anyone has gotten that good of a score, Perez said.

His history teacher, Preston Balluck, said he was completely blown away by Perez’s performance.

“We were both completely blown away by it. He set the bar very high for the future. As humble as he is, he’s still competitive at heart,” Balluck said. The competition was held the last weekend of April at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

Perez is headed off to college this fall and hopes to pursue a career in politics, planning to one day move back to Mexico to spread the values of democracy and equal rights for all.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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