Texas valedictorian Larissa Martinez revealed her undocumented status in a high school commencement speech. She received a standing ovation from the McKinney Boyd High School graduation attendees, but not everyone is praising her accomplishments.
Larissa, her mother, and younger sister moved to McKinney, Texas, from Mexico in 2010. They left to escape the teen’s father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Almost immediately after arriving on a tourist visa, the mother applied for citizenship, but the application is still pending.
According to Larissa, immigration officials told her mother that they are still processing applications from 1996, per the FOX 4 interview in the below video. The teen said that the only way to help her family “move forward” was by working hard in high school.
During Larissa’s four years, she obtained high grades in 17 Advanced Placement classes and was at the top of her class, added Fox 4. She graduated with a 4.95 GPA out of a possible 5.0 and is now headed to Yale University on a full scholarship. She plans to double major in cognitive science and political science. Afterward, she plans to attend medical school, become a neurosurgeon, and ultimately work for Doctors Without Boarders, an organization that provides free medical care and surgery to impoverished individuals throughout the world.
Larissa said she knew there would be some backlash after she gave the commencement speech but that most of the responses on social medical have been positive.
This ‘undocumented’ valedictorian is causing an uproar | New York Post https://t.co/rw5alZCSS1
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) June 10, 2016
So I guess now as long as you get good grades in school, it’s fine to break our nation’s laws?https://t.co/0OzmaI8Ess
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) June 9, 2016
The speech was a coming out for Martinez as few knew of her undocumented status. She credits a high school history teacher, Scott Martin, who served as a father figure, for encouraging her and helping her to reach goals. Martin taught Larissa for three out of her four years of high school and said he could see her potential as early as the third week of ninth grade.
Larissa’s speech was an emotional one, and she alluded to Trump’s slogan about making “America great again” but said she would do so “without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice.” She advocated for immigrants, citizens, and the undocumented, stating that her purpose was to encourage others at her high school that they, too, could overcome obstacles, per NBC News.
“I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States. 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.”
On a KRLD NewsRadio 1080 interview, Martin said his views changed over the years. His background is Republican, and he was born in a small town in Oklahoma, per CBS DFW. As a high school teacher, he met many students who came from low-income families, and he spoke of how unlikely it is that someone from such circumstances could become valedictorian. Martin said Larissa is both intelligent and humble.
Martin wanted Larissa to reveal that she was in the country illegally and what her plans are because it was a central theme to her story. At the same time, Martin said he understands the political issue of immigration and how others feel about it. When asked if Martinez’s disclosure could negatively affect her status in the U.S. or trigger issues with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Martin responded that he won’t know until next week, added CBS DFW.
“I come from a small town Oklahoma, Republican background. But being a teacher, I have to love and teach every kid without bringing politics into it. And when kids from these backgrounds outperform kids who come from so much, it blows my mind.”
Another recent undocumented high school graduate, Mayte Lara, made a joke on Twitter about her undocumented status, nice legs, and full financial aid package to the University of Texas. It resulted in backlash calling for deportation, and later, Lara deleted her Twitter account and apologized.
— Austin Statesman (@statesman) June 9, 2016
[Image via McKinney Boyd High School/Facebook]