Klein Ngoga saw a fellow runner in trouble. It didn’t matter that Joe Parent was a competitor from another high school.

It happened last October during the Class A boys’ cross-country championship. Ngoga came upon a Kennebunk runner who was limping and groaning in pain. Knowing that his inexperienced Portland High School team wasn’t a top contender, Ngoga slowed his pace.

“I felt bad,” Ngoga said. “People kept running by. I had to reason out what was more important: help this guy who clearly was in pain or keep on running.”

Ngoga jogged the rest of the 5K race with Parent, who was unaware he had a broken leg. Ngoga finished last, one spot behind Parent. Ngoga’s turn as a good Samaritan won the admiration of other runners, coaches, faculty and Parent’s mother and father.

“His parents called me,” said Ngoga, 19. “It was very touching. They called me an angel, but that’s just the way I was raised.”

Ngoga came to Maine from Burundi in the fall of 2013, fleeing a war-torn country in East Africa that ranks among the poorest and most unhappy places in the world. For several months, he stayed with his father and two younger siblings in the family shelter in Portland. His mother, who worked for the United Nations, joined them later.

“It was a rough patch, but that’s life,” Ngoga said. “You have to go through things like that to become a better person.”

At King Middle School, he started out in classes for students who were learning to speak English, but within a few days he realized that he was ahead of the other students and asked to move into more difficult classes. At Portland High he enrolled in honors and Advanced Placement courses.

“It was really hard,” Ngoga said, “but like anything else, the more and more you do something, the better you get.”

Serious about going to college, Ngoga attended two summer programs to promote college readiness, was accepted into an internship program at Unum, and tutored other immigrant students.

Ngoga plans to study political science at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and continue on to law school. He hopes to help people and address social injustices that he has become more aware of in the last year.

Ngoga said he appreciates the support he has received from his parents, friends and mentors, especially Jane Wellehan, an English teacher at Portland High.

“She really stuck with me,” Ngoga said. “I always joke with her that she’s my second mom.”

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