When Carolyn DeJesus Martinez came to the United States from the Dominican Republic three and a half years ago, she didn’t speak English and only knew her sister, who came alongside her.

“I felt at first like I was alone,” she told the Herald. “I was without my mom, my dad and my grandparents. It was hard.”

It didn’t take long for that feeling to change.

Martinez, who has a passion for computer science, says she was quickly embraced by school officials at Boston International High School, where she blossomed from a second language learner feeling out a new country — to finishing first in her class and earning a full ride scholarship to Wesleyan University.

Martinez was one of 35 valedictorians honored at Boston Public Schools’ 21st annual luncheon Tuesday at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Forty percent of this year’s class of valedictorians were born outside of the U.S. and 43% will be the first to attend college in their families.

“We have some really good, talented, smart kids in our district,” Mayor Martin Walsh told reporters. “It’s great to see. The last couple of years we’ve had a lot of immigrant kids come through and graduate at the top of their class. They’ve overcome a lot of challenges in their life before they came to this country. We’re focused now on making sure that we’ve set our kids up for success.”

Tommy Nguyen, of TechBoston Academy, said he had to overcome a lot of “social hardships” being one of only a few Asian students at his school, but persevered through a lot of hard work and dedication. He will attend Wentworth Institute of Technology in the fall and dreams of entrepreneurship.

Read the full article on the Boston Herald website.