Florida student graduates despite family trapped in Venezuela

Kayla Martinez graduates from Cypress Creek High School

ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 900 students gathered inside the Amway Center for the Cypress Creek High School graduation, but none took a more difficult path to get there than 19-year-old Kayla Martinez. 

"Every kid is important but watching Kayla walk, that's really a celebration," the principal, Dr. John McHale, said. "Her journey has been away from her family, dealing with adult problems and adult situations, dealing with immigration situations, dealing with life situations most kids thankfully don't have to deal with." 

Since last year, Martinez has been attending school on her own, which includes renting a room in someone else's house, while commuting by Sunrail and using Uber to juggle two part-time jobs. 

"There's so many people getting separated from their families," Martinez said. "There are so many Venezuelans here that have to start off from nothing, and they each evolve into this amazing hardworking person." 

Kayla Martinez was born in the U.S., but the rest of her family was not. In 2011, the family visited Venezuela, as they always, did once a year, but this time, the Venezuelan government blocked them from returning to the U.S.

Over the years, the family made 16 attempts to obtain visas, and they were all denied.
Last year, the family made the decision that Martinez should return without the rest of the family, to finish her high school education.

Martinez credits her principal, her high school counselor and her theater teacher with helping her get through the school years. 

"You never know who can help you," she said. "Look at me. It's amazing." 

Martinez has been accepted at two colleges with partial scholarships.

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