Larissa Martinez just graduated at the top of her high school class. She’s headed to Yale University in the fall.
She also just told an auditorium full of people that she’s an undocumented immigrant.
Martinez divulged her undocumented status in her valedictorian speech given on June 3 at the graduation ceremony for McKinney Boyd High School in McKinney, Texas — and she used the big reveal to deliver a profound message to her fellow graduates.
“When people see me standing up here, they see a girl who’s Yale-bound and seems to have her life figured out,” Martinez told her classmates. “But that is far from the whole truth.”
She went on to tell the story of her immigration to the U.S. from Mexico nearly six years ago. She and her mother made the move to escape Martinez’s father, who she said was abusive. Once she arrived in Texas, she struggled to assimilate and often found her intelligence questioned because of her heritage. She also encountered difficulty with the broken U.S. immigration system: Martinez said she has been waiting seven years for her legal residency application to even be processed.
“I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” she said. “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.”
She even took a dig at Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, saying that immigrants “yearn to help make America great again, without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice.”
Martinez closed her speech by turning her story of hardship into a some seriously inspiring advice.
“While I can’t predict the future and tell you how successful you’re all going to be, by sharing my story I hope to convince all of you that if I was able to break every stereotype based on what I’m classified as — Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, and low-income — then so can you,” she said. “We do not have to let expectations become our reality.”
You can watch Martinez’s entire speech right here, starting at 21:52:
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