Texas Valedictorians Reveal Undocumented Status At Graduation, Draw National Attention | KERA News

Texas Valedictorians Reveal Undocumented Status At Graduation, Draw National Attention

Jun 10, 2016

Five stories that have North Texas talking: A McKinney Boyd graduate told fellow students she was an undocumented immigrant in her speech; Taylor Swift’s co-writer could help you with your songwriting this weekend; ride the Texas Star for free; and more.

Larissa Martinez, a recent graduate of McKinney Boyd High School, told the Class of 2016 that she wasn’t going to give them “the traditional Hallmark version of a valedictorian speech” but rather one “that discusses expectations versus reality.” To her fellow students, she might appear as a girl with proud parents, a full-ride to Yale and her life figured out, she said. “Those are the expectations.” The reality? She’s a daughter of a single mother and one of the “11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States.” She chose the speech as her last opportunity to “convey the truth” that “undocumented immigrants are people, too.” The audience cheered.


Martinez and her mother and sister have been waiting seven years for her citizenship application to go through, after leaving Mexico City in 2010, according to WFAA. While Martinez received a standing ovation at the end of her speech, there’s been heavy backlash on social media.

The same day as Martinez's speech, Mayte Lara, a 17-year-old graduate and valedictorian of Crockett High School in Austin, tweeted a picture in her mortar board last week with the caption: “Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I'm undocumented.” Despite some messages in solidarity, a barrage of negative responses followed, and she’s since deactivated her account.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, she said: “But I just want everyone to understand that my tweet wasn’t made to mock anyone. I just wanted to show that no matter what barriers you have in front of you, you can still succeed. And I do pay taxes, have a DACA which allows me to work and study here, and I have a social security number.”

Read more about Larissa Martinez and Mayte Lara. [The Associated Press, Austin American-Statesman, WFAA]

  • Pitch your hits to Liz Rose, Irving native and Taylor Swift co-writer, at a songwriting showcase in Dallas this weekend. On Saturday, Rose will perform alongside  “Alyssa Micaela, Ashley Ray and Heather Morgan will join Rose in the performance at The Kessler Theater to unpack the art of songwriting” for The Girls of Nashville, a songwriters’ showcase celebrating women in music, Art&Seek reported. Rose has written not only Swift’s Grammy-winning songs like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “You Belong with Me” but also tunes for country music’s Little Big Town, Tim McGraw and Lee Ann Womack, among others On Sunday, attendees can learn more about writing hits and pitch their songs to Rose and the others in a songwriting workshop at Sons of Hermann Hall. More event information. [Art&Seek]
  • The bathroom door in a North Texas barbecue joint reads “No men allowed in the women’s bathroom please.” The neatly printed, laminated sign wasn’t posted inside Cresson’s BBQ on the Brazos in light of President Obama’s recent directive for public schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice. The restaurant in the town of 1,000 has had beef with a certain cross-dressing cowboy that has patronized the joint for two and a half years, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Owner John Sanford told the Star-Telegram: “Before this gender thing got started, there’s a truck driver who comes in here who occasionally has on jeans and boots or occasionally has on a skirt and 6-inch stilettos.” The sign has been up for months after female employees of the restaurant and adjacent convenience store expressed concerns about the man using the women’s restroom. Read more. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]
  • A Texas man received the first hand transplant performed in North Carolina. Rene Chavez, 54, from Laredo, Texas lost his hand 50 years ago when he stuck his hand in a meat grinder and his brother accidently turned it on, WFAA reported. Decades later on May 27, Chavez’s dominant left hand has been restored after 12 hours of surgery at Duke University School of Medicine. WFAA reported: “Duke Health doctors say the transplant marks the inauguration of a clinical trial at Duke to determine the safety and efficacy of hand transplantation, and the efficacy of a new anti-rejection drug called belatacept.” Chavez is one of fewer than 90 people that has received the surgery. Read more. [WFAA, The Associated Press]
  • You can ride North America’s largest Ferris wheel this weekend for free. It’s the 212-foot Texas Star at Fair Park, of course. The free rides are part of 80th anniversary celebration of the Texas Centennial Exposition this week. According to GuideLive: “The free rides on the Texas Star happen June 10-11 from 5-10 p.m.; the midway will be open the same hours and you can also hop on the Tower ride for free. Another awesome thing: You can get Fletcher's corny dogs on June 10 and 11 — the first time they've been available at Fair Park outside the confines of the State Fair.” Read more about the celebration. [GuideLive]