High school valedictorian reveals undocumented status in speech

News 8's Jobin Panicker has more.

McKINNEY, Texas -- There is no easy way to prepare for what Larissa Martinez did last week.

The valedictorian at McKinney Boyd High School crafted her words and sentences carefully before making the speech at her graduation.

"Now I have to stand up there, in front of all those people," she said.

Martinez held a 4.95 GPA and took 17 AP classes over her high school career. She's also an undocumented immigrant.

"A part of me feels like I was meant to do this," Martinez said about her graduation speech.

The speech would take hours to put together. The family lives in a humble, one-bedroom apartment in McKinney. Larissa read her speech out loud to her mother, Deyanira Contreras.

"[Larissa] said, 'What do you think?' And then I realized, that's what we are. That's what you are... That's your story," her mom said.

Larissa has shared her full story with only a handful of friends all through her early life.

"We talk about that. We say we're not going to say nothing," Mrs. Contreras said.

Larissa's graduation speech would take six years to make -- not six hours. She decided to use the speech to reveal that she was an undocumented immigrant.

She told News 8 that before last week, only ten people at school knew.

"We just flew over here with luggage and a lot of dreams," Larissa said.

The family left Mexico City in 2010. Deyanira says she left an abusive and alcoholic husband. Both her girls were young at the time she arrived in the states. They arrived on a tourist visa and came over by plane.

They put in an application for citizenship almost seven years ago and are still waiting for it to be processed.

"They are my reason to live. So that's why I do it," Contreras said. "It's hard..."

Larissa's graduation speech was certainly not textbook and it also was not a feel-good speech, but it was real.

After all the edits and three drafts, Larissa posed a challenge to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Without mentioning his name in the speech, she alludes to his views on undocumented immigrants.

"America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice," she said.

"I didn't know if people would pick up on that, but I knew, and that made me feel better so," Larissa said.

The McKinney Boyd graduate was nervous about the reaction, all the way up to delivering the speech.

She did not expect a standing ovation to follow.

Martinez says she has a full-ride scholarship to Yale. She is hoping to enter the pre-med program and ultimately become a neurosurgeon.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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