MULBERRY, Fla. — Mulberry High School 2019 Valedictorian Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas's graduation speech has gone viral. Thousands have viewed a recording of the speech on Facebook.

  • Alvarez-Lagunas described picking strawberries with migrant worker family
  • Alvarez-Lagunas 1st in her family to graduate from high school
  • Will head to Stanford University on full scholarship this fall
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“Care for some strawberries?” she asked the crowd during the ceremony, holding a small basket of strawberries as a prop. She then explained how the strawberries were her motivation for doing well in school.

“These are not ordinary strawberries. This represents dirt. This one, I think, this is the blazing sun. And these are aches and pains," she said, explaining what each strawberry she was holding meant. "In other words, these are my motivators.” 

She described how she hated picking strawberries with her family as a youngster. Her mother told her if she wanted to avoid the lifestyle, she needed to get a good education.

She’s the first to graduate from high school in her family. Her mother said she was the happiest woman in the world. She said cried during her daughter’s speech, especially when her daughter talked about the odds she faced to graduate.

“Conditions grew worse in seventh grade when my father was deported," she told the audience. "Before we knew it we were swimming in an ocean of debt.  The chance of being able to afford a post-secondary education grew slimmer."

About a year later is when she learned she was at the top of her class, and she decided that she’d do whatever it took to retain that title.

“I began to take the best courses I could," she told us. "I began to think of a better future. I began to dream big."

"It was very hard to overcome that, because losing a parent is hard, but it was not enough for me lose focus of what I wanted to be,” she added.

She’ll now head to Stanford University on a full scholarship. There she said she wants to study bioengineering and either become a medical doctor or work in the field of medical research. 

Watch Alvarez-Lagunas's speech: