Clapton Girls’ Academy trio return from US president campaign trail
Three girls who were selected to join the US election campaign trail are still buzzing a week after the event.
Jamiah Okoye, Ruth Lyons and Sharmin Siddiqa, of Clapton Girls’ Academy, Laura Place, spent two weeks in the US helping both the Republican and the Democrat parties.
During their once-in-a-lifetime experience, the trio attended rallies held by the defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and US president Barack Obama’s wife Michelle Obama. They also heard pop star Ricky Martin and former US president Bill Clinton speak.
Jamiah, 16, who is studying History, English, Biology and Chemistry A-Levels, said: “I found it a really brilliant experience. It’s not something that comes along regularly.”
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The girls initially worked with Gus Bilirakis, a Republican congressman from the US House of Representatives for Florida, and then spent time moving between the two sides.
“They spent around 14 hours a day working – mainly canvassing and making phone calls.
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Although the girls were all Democrat supporters, Jamiah said: “I enjoyed looking at both sides of the spectrum. It allowed us to be open-minded.”
Ruth, 17, who is taking her A-Levels in Philosophy, English Literature and History, added: “I think it was really interesting to see how the USA runs their election campaigns and to see how people view politics in America.
“People were taking time out of work to help and make phone calls. They will do anything to get their politician elected.
“There’s something quite impressive about them singing the national anthem.”
“The patriotism of the American people is amazing”, added Sharmin, 17, who is studying English literature, history and sociology A-Levels.
A highlight for both Jamiah and Sharmin was attending a rally held by the First Lady. Sharmin said: “The highlight was seeing Michelle Obama. She’s more up our street.”
“She’s a really emotive speaker”, added Jamiah.
After spending 10 days in Florida, the girls flew to Washington where they met with British embassy staff and were asked to speak at an elementary school.
Sharmin said: “We were supposed to speak about British culture but the pupils were more interested in whether we liked pop band One Direction.”
Assistant headteacher Michelle Fennell, who accompanied the girls to the States, said: “It was fantastic. The girls gained a lot of confidence from the trip.
“They learned a lot about the relationship between Britain and the US.”
They were one of four schools in the UK – out of 500 who applied – chosen for the Act Inspired US project, which gives sixth formers from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to join the US campaign trail.
The trip was funded by the Transformation Trust, a charity aimed at supporting extra-curricular activities for schools.