- Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas, 18, used a pint of strawberries to deliver a captivating speech about “migrant culture” during the graduation ceremony at Mulberry High School in Mulberry, Florida in May.
- In her now-viral speech, she said the fruit represents “sweat,” “dirt,” “the blazing sun,” and “aches and pains” – her motivators for success.
- Alvarez-Lagunas said she inherited these motivations from her parents, who immigrated from Mexico and worked as migrant farmers in Florida.
- When Alvarez-Lagunas was in seventh grade, her father was deported, leaving her family “swimming in an ocean of debt” and she watched as her “chance of being able to afford a post-secondary education grew slimmer,” she said in her speech.
- But as GMA reports, the student graduated at the top of her class and will attend Stanford University in the fall where she plans to study bioengineering.
When Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas, 18, took the stage to deliver her Mulberry High School valedictorian speech on May 24, she started with a question: “Care for some strawberries?”
The question referred to the pint of the fruit she had brought with her to the podium as a prop.
“These are not ordinary strawberries – they’re jewels,” the Florida teen explained.
She went to say that to her they represent things like “sweat,” “dirt,” “the blazing sun,” and “aches and pains” – her motivators for success that have “been rooted in my migrant culture”
Alvarez-Lagunas said she inherited these motivations from her parents, who immigrated from Mexico and worked as migrant farmers in Florida.
As a child, she explained, she would pick crops like strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes along with her parents, but she “couldn’t handle” the intense physical labor under the hot sun.
“Your only way out of this lifestyle is through an education,” her parents would tell her.
And when Alvarez-Lagunas was in seventh grade, her father was deported leaving her family “swimming in an ocean of debt” and she watched as her “chance of being able to afford a post-secondary education grew slimmer,” she said in her speech.
“Current statistics say that I should not make it,” she continued. “I am from a single-parent household and will be the first in my family to graduate from high school. My parents were only able to obtain a fourth-grade education and my older sister … got pregnant and decided to drop out.”
Speaking to Bay News 9, she said that she began to challenge herself academically in the eighth grade.
“I began to take the best courses I could,” she told the outlet. “I began to think of a better future. I began to dream big.”
This year, Alvarez-Lagunas at the top of her class with a 4.68 GPA, according to Good Morning America. In the fall, she will attend Stanford University where she plans to study bioengineering.
“I have seen first-hand the challenges of not having an education, which is why I use all of these adversities as motivators for myself,” she said during her speech. “I share this with you in the hopes that you will realize that whatever stereotypes or statistics are placed on you, you can overcome them.”
She concluded her speech by referring to one strawberry as the future of the class of 2019, and another her own future. She took a large bite out of the second strawberry as the crowd cheered.
Watch all of her speech below, beginning about 37 minutes into the ceremony.
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