There’s bravery — and then there’s moments like these.
Valedictorian Larissa Martinez had no idea how the hundreds sitting in the audience would react to what she was about to announce in her graduation speech, but she knew the time had come to be true to herself.
“I’m not going to stand here and give you the traditional Hallmark version of a valedictory speech,” she said. “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows in the United States.”
“This might be my only chance to convey the truth to all of you that undocumented immigrants are people too.”
Before she made the brave decision to come out as undocumented, only ten people at Larissa’s school knew about her immigration status. She used some of the speech to thank her mom and sister, who fled from an abusive father to the United States in 2010.
“While moms metaphorically move mountains for their children, you literally moved countries for my sister and me,” Larissa said. “That’s why everything I do, I do for you.”
She also asked her fellow students to use her as an example and keep their minds open about immigrants, saying that “America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice.” She never mentioned the Presidential candidate by name, but the reference was clear enough.
Larissa told local news affiliate WFAA that she was nervous about the speech from the start. But in the end, there was no reason for the 4.5 GPA student to be afraid — she was given a resounding standing ovation by her fellow classmates and audience.
In the fall, Larissa will be attending Yale with a full-ride scholarship, as if she weren’t impressive enough already.
A portion of Larissa’s speech is available to watch below, and a news clip on her and her family is available here.
This is what happened after a Yale-bound valedictorian in Texas revealed she is an undocumented immigrant:https://t.co/YamQEsiKjt
— Mic (@mic) June 9, 2016