Before her graduation last week, only 10 people knew about Larissa Martínez’s undocumented status. But when she took the stage as the valedictorian of McKinney Boyd High School in Texas, she let the world know with her powerful speech. “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States,” she said.
“The most important part of the debate and the part most often overlooked is the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people too. People with dreams, aspirations, hopes, and loved ones. People like me. People who have become a part of the American society and way of life and who yearn to help make America great without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice. By sharing my story I hope to convince you all that if I was able to break every stereotype based on what I’m classified as – Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, low-income – then so you can you.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, she decided to speak out on her status to bring attention to the broken immigration system. She and her family fled her abusive, alcoholic father in Mexico City and arrived in the United States in 2010 on a tourist visa. Since then, her family has been waiting for their citizen applications to be processed.
In that same time, Larissa has excelled at school. Arriving just before her seventh grade year started, she immediately set out to learn English and borrowed many books from the library. When the school year officially kicked off, it took her only a month to be moved from English as a second language classes to regular English classes to pre-AP English classes.
She started off her high school career ranked No. 1, and she graduated with a 4.95 GPA, 17 AP classes under her belt, and a scholarship to Yale through Questbridge – a program that connect high achieving students from low-income backgrounds to top colleges.
For years, her social studies teacher Scott Marin encouraged her to deliver an unconventional graduation speech when the time came. Three weeks before graduation, she showed him a draft that brought him to tears. Check out Mic’s video of her speech below and be prepared to ugly cry: