Daughter of farmworkers becomes class valedictorian at Polk County school

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Brenda Alvarez-Lagunas just made a meteoric jump: She went from being the daughter of farmworkers to becoming the number-one student in the class of 2019 at Mulberry High School.

In her valedictorian speech, she described how her parents were her motivation to strive academically and achieve a better lifestyle than the one she was used to.

“As a young child, I remember being in the fields, and watching my parents glazed with sweat and their clothes dripping wet, as if it had just rained on them," she said. "Despite the beaming sun and the body aches and pains, their smiles shown with every bucket they carried.”

She said her parents were always scrambling just to buy the bare necessities. They lived in ramshackle housing, with unwanted guests.

“Mice, cockroaches, even slugs,” she said.

Toys, like what other kids had, were considered extras and were few and far between.

“Instead, my parents gave me special gifts,” Brenda said at the podium. “The gift of a strong work ethic, the gift of resilience and the will to succeed."

And she has. Brenda is the first person in her family to receive a high school diploma.

“I have never seen a diploma, and I have never held one,” Brenda explained.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the other day she got even bigger news and broke it to her family: She has been accepted as a member of the freshman class at Stanford University.

“They didn’t know any colleges by name or what a valedictorian meant. They didn’t understand the terms. How could they?” she commented during an interview on Thursday.

Judging by Brenda’s excitement, they realized both were a big deal. In Spanish, Brenda’s mom Maria Lagunas called her daughter a "fighter."

Now Brenda hopes her two sisters are just as determined to succeed as she is.

“I just want them to realize they have so much untapped potential,” she added.

Brenda will be using hers when she majors in bioengineering at Stanford next fall.