Before 9th grade morning meeting commenced on September 20th, it was just another Wednesday for the students in attendance. However, senior Mariana Monroy sat to the side, nervous and impatient for the clock to strike 8:55 am. The previous week, her Senior Speech rehearsal was an emotional experience for her classmates, and while her topic was difficult, she hoped it would reach her audience.
“I wanted to initially just talk about band,” Monroy said. “I wanted to talk about commitment, but I couldn’t really come up with ways to get their attention, so I decided I would use my story and why I like band and am so committed to it.”
After a touching rehearsal of her deeply personal in front of her peers, Monroy had one more hurdle to cross when performing her speech for the freshmen – the Ann Richards band director, Mr. Stephen Howard, would be in the audience. After much anticipation, once the assembly was settled, Monroy dove into her speech.
“Music allows me to get away from any problems I have going on in my life and just live in the moment. I’m just like any other high school girl,” Monroy began. “In moments like these I feel like I am not different, but I am different, and I will always stand out that way.”
She takes a breath.
“…Because I am undocumented.”
Not unlike other students at ARS, the recent news of President Donald Trump’s limits on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, as well as the generally anti-immigrant attitude he has boasted throughout his administration, has left Monroy with more stress surrounding her immigration status than usual.
“Of course, I don’t have a big sign following me around announcing to the whole world my immigration status,” Monroy continued, “but it sure feels that way.”
Monroy describes that as a young girl she thought of herself as a spy or a Hannah Montana-style popstar, keeping her “second life” a secret from the world.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Monroy said. “I am proud to be an undocumented Mexican girl, who jumps over obstacles every day, who doesn’t let her immigration status define her, but there’s times when you just need to have a break and let it go – and that’s okay.”
Monroy later admitted that it was scary for her to talk about not one, but two topics that were so close to her heart. In the end, her story achieved her goal of engaging the audience and even eliciting a few tears.
“Find a place that allows you to get away from any problems you may have,” Monroy concluded. “And once you find that place, never let it go, because it will always be there for you, especially when you need it the most.”
After a rousing round of applause from the room, Monroy was congratulated by her bandmates and friends who had come to hear her speak. Mr. Howard walked over to the group of seniors to celebrate the special speech and give Monroy a hug.
“I hope [the freshmen] saw it as a way to find their passion, even if it’s not band,” Monroy said.