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High School Valedictorians Have High Aspirations

This week we are speaking to high school valedictorians from across the country. Today we speak with 17-year old Leilanie Martinez.

Martinez is graduating from South Gate High School in Los Angeles county. She will attend U.C. Berkeley next year and plans to major in political science.

That’s because she eventually wants to come back to South Gate to run for mayor of Los Angeles.

“My first act would be to have a day of volunteering,” she told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson, “where all the citizens would come out and volunteer one day.”

Note: The third interview in this series will air later this week.

Interview Highlights: Leilanie Martinez

On what she wants her classmates to take from her valedictorian speech

“I definitely love South Gate High School, and I think I really want students to take on the message from my speech to go on and make the world a a better place. I feel like everyone has their talents, everyone has their strengths, and I feel as if everyone can make a difference in this world by just helping out one another. And I think I really want people to come back to the roots and come back to kind of make South Gate a better place.”

On what has motivated her to be successful

“All throughout high school, middle school, I was everywhere. Definitely, I love leadership. I’m in Girl Scouts, I sold all the Girl Scout cookies and everything. But definitely, you know, I think I was mainly motivated by wanting to set the positive example for my younger siblings. Definitely, you know, they’re very young. I’m the oldest. They range anywhere from two in June, and I have a little seven-year-old and a soon-to-be 10-year-old, and definitely, you know, my siblings are my main motivators, you know? I want them to know that they can be as involved and help out the community as much as possible within their clubs and organizations, but at the end, academics is always number one, and I wanted to make sure, you know, I gained this valedictorian status to show them that anything’s possible. You don’t necessarily need to be very smart to begin with, but if you study and if you apply yourself, you can do anything you want to do.

On what she would do as mayor of her hometown

“I want to make sure I come back to my community and I want to make sure I come back to the city I came from, and I want to make sure I advocate for them and, you know, definitely work with them and try to advocate for, you know, rights, like for others less fortunate, you know, homeless youth. I want to be able to make sure that, you know, education is still working to its tip-top. I want to make sure that, you know, our society’s always improving, always exceeding expectations. So definitely, I want to someday run for mayor, and hopefully, you guys can support me.


  • Leilanie Martinez, valedictorian at South Gate High School in South Gate, California.

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