A high school valedictorian in Texas gave an emotional graduation speech in which she revealed to her school and to those assembled her immigration status. “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” said Larissa Martinez, the valedictorian at McKinney Boyd High School in McKinney, Texas during her June 3rd address to the 2016 graduating class. “I decided to stand before you today and reveal these unexpected realities, because this might be my only chance to convey the truth to all of you that undocumented immigrants are people too.”
Along with discussing the importance of embracing immigrants, she shared details of the obstacles she overcame while she worked to achieve a stellar academic record. “If I was able to break every stereotype based on what I’m classified as Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, low-income, then so can you. We do not have to let expectations become our reality,” said Martinez.
Martinez will attend Yale University in the fall with a full scholarship to pursue a pre-med track to become a neurosurgeon. Federal laws don’t prohibit states from giving tuition to undocumented students. At least 17 states, including Texas, have legislation allowing undocumented graduates to pay in-state tuition for colleges and universities.
In her speech, Martinez advocated for other immigrants, both citizens and undocumented, praising “people with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones, people like me, people who have become a part of American society and way of life, and who yearn to help make America great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice.”
Martinez was praised for her character and her academic work. History teacher Scott Martin told a local station he “knew from about the third week of her freshman year” that she was special.
“I noticed how high her GPA was even in that third week,” Martin said. “And then I got to know her as a person.”
“We are here without documentation because the U.S. immigration system is broken and forces many families to live in fear,” said Martinez.
Martinez told those assembled that she left tough circumstances in Mexico, including an abusive father who was an alcoholic. She said her mother’s strength kept her going. She dreamed of one day becoming an American, so she and her mother applied for citizenship, but seven years later their applications have not been accepted.