Valedictorian Validation: What Larissa Martinez Taught Me About Uplifting Others

By Devin Holt-Zimmerman

By now, most of you have probably heard of Larissa Martinez. If you haven’t, she is the McKinney Boyd High School valedictorian who, during her commencement speech, announced her status as an undocumented immigrant. Now, Martinez is not only receiving a full ride to Yale but also hateful messages and public outcry for her deportation. In an unrelated incident, Central High School valedictorian Mari Filer announced on social media that she was graduating with a 4.56 GPA, 24+ college credits, and $2.8 million in scholarships (yes folks, you read that correctly). Mari was also greeted with tons of backlash from social media users, most claiming the feat was impossible and that she was using the post to “boost her ego”. Mari responded with dignity and grace, stating, “when I post my accomplishments or awards, I always give God the credit because it’s his to give…God is not done with me yet.”

Now, many people argue that Martinez dropped a politically controversial bombshell at the wrong time. They argue that Filer should have known that what she put on the Internet was susceptible to trolling because it exists in a public forum. I’m not here to argue with that. What concerns me is that in a society where youth are struggling to even finish school due to outside factors, we are failing to celebrate the achievements of our young women. Martinez’s undocumented status does not erase the work she has put in. It does not erase the fact that a U.S. born citizen did not match her accomplishments. In fact, Martinez was not the only undocumented immigrant to achieve such high educational recognition. Crockett High School senior Mayte Lara Ibarra graduated with a 4.5 GPA, rocking 13 cords and medals. Instead of celebration, these girls are facing burning criticism for a factor they could not even control. Fox Sports reporter Emily Austen was removed after a video from the Barstool Sports broadcast surfaced. The video caught Austen and others commenting on Martinez’s commencement speech, Austen herself stating, “I didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart.”

Mayte Lara Ibarra, valedictorian at Crockett High School, speaking at her graduation ceremony.

For years, social media has served as a constantly expanding platform. It presents a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, pass messages, and share positive experiences. But social media also provides another, easier avenue for criticism and judgment. When it came time to post my own engagement on Facebook, I was surprised by how nervous I was. Would it be received well? Who would like it? Am I doing too much? When I took a step back and realized that I was scared of the reactions of people who I considered friends, I knew something was wrong. We have seen how harsh cyber-bullying can be, especially among women. But what exactly is threatening about another’s success? One of my favorite lines comes from Nicki Minaj. Expletives excluded, she says, “cause’ every time a door opens for me that means you/ Just got a better opportunity to do you/ They don’t understand these labels look at numbers and statistics/ I lose, you lose ma’ it’s just logistics…” She’s not bragging about her success; rather, she’s saying, “Hey! Come join me!” Filer was not rubbing her success in our faces. Martinez isn’t. Ibarra isn’t. They’re saying, “Hey, come join us!”

Women have made such great strides in education all over the world. So many organizations have been developed to ensure education for girls who previously did not have access to it. These young women have truly reinforced the idea that no matter where we come from, we women are on a mission to run the world (shout out to Queen Bey). Hats off to you ladies. We wish you the best!

One Comment Add yours

  1. 24sevdev says:

    Reblogged this on The Right Now and commented:
    I wrote a little somethin’ somethin’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s