In one of her essays, Maureen likened herself to a camel, a familiar sight in the city near the Egyptian Pyramids where she was born. The camel, she wrote, actually originated on our own cold continent before eventually making its way to the scorching dry heat of North Africa. Like the camel, she has adapted. Her family is Coptic Christian, and, with her mother and little sister, they fled growing religious persecution at home. Arriving at Staten Island six years ago with minimal English, she found that she was able to use math and art to “connect and understand a plethora of people, who in return, did the same.” They did not see her as an immigrant but “as a person, a friend.” She made one of those friends on her first day at Port Richmond High School when, battling through the crowded school cafeteria to a table that she thought was empty, she found it occupied but sat down and introduced herself. The other girl’s name was Sayuri, Japanese for small lily, and she wrote it in Sinhalese, her native language. Maureen then wrote her own name in Arabic, adding some flourishes to the two names. It was the first of a series of friendships that Maureen says allows the participants to draw strength from cultural differences. Maureen’s class at Port Richmond High numbers 334; she is first in the class.