MULBERRY, Fla. (WFLA) – Once she got to the podium Saturday, Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas was direct and to the point.
“Care for some strawberries?” she asked a crowd of classmates and their families.
Throughout her speech, the valedictorian used the fruit as a metaphor for her young life.
“I am a daughter of two farm workers who have worked tirelessly from sun up to sun down,” Alvarez-Lagunas said.
Alvarez-Lagunas said her parents came to the United States from Mexico and spent hours in the sunbaked fields of Polk County each day, picking cucumbers, blueberries and strawberries.
Alvarez-Lagunas explained that the fruits and vegetables show determination, commitment and motivation.
“This one represents sweat,” she said, picking up a plump strawberry. “This one represents dirt.”
Witnessing her parents’ hard work motivated Alvarez-Lagunas to work hard in school and become valedictorian of the senior class at Mulberry High School, as well as an incoming freshman at Stanford University in California.
“Oftentimes, students like me, they’re ashamed of their backgrounds. And, I wanted to change that. They shouldn’t. Their upbringing made them who they are,” she told News Channel 8.
“I think she has a keen awareness of what opportunity looks like, and she’s not going to take her eyes off that,” Mulberry High School principal Michael Young said.
Her valedictorian speech has gone viral, viewed thousands of times online. But, Alvarez-Lagunas remains humble and has shifted the focus on her classmates who also watched their parents work relentlessly in the fields of Polk County.
“When I was writing the speech, I know the purpose was to get representation to those who feel under-represented. It was never about me,” she said.