In light of social distancing measures, high school and college students graduating during the coronavirus pandemic have been forced to skip the traditional cap and gown ceremonies. That sacrifice likely stings a bit more for students from immigrant families, many of whom overcame untold challenges in order to earn their education in this country.
Selena Gomez, who's recounted how her own aunt and grandparents risked their lives to leave Mexico for a better life in the U.S., sent a special message of love and encouragement to the nation's "Immigrads" on Saturday, May 23, via the #Immigrad 2020 Virtual Commencement, according to ET.
"I know that this is a virtual ceremony, but it is very real," the singer assured the class of 2020 in her surprise speech.
"I want you guys to know that you matter and that your experiences are a huge part of the American story. When my family came here from Mexico they set into motion my American story, as well as theirs. I'm a proud third-generation American-Mexican and my family's journey and their sacrifices helped me get me to where I am today."
Selena went on to point out the similarities between the story of her family's immigration and those of this year's graduates, telling them, "regardless of where your family is from, regardless of your immigration status, you have taken action to earn an education, to make your families proud, and to open up your worlds."
Selena, 27, has been increasingly vocal in supporting immigration causes over the past few years. Last fall, she wrote a personal essay for Time in which she shared her thoughts on why the country's seemingly divided views on the matter seemed to miss the mark.
"Immigration goes beyond politics and headlines. It is a human issue, affecting real people, dismantling real lives," she wrote at the time. "How we deal with it speaks to our humanity, our empathy, our compassion. How we treat our fellow human beings defines who we are."
The singer also executive produced a documentary series on Netflix called "Living Undocumented," which premiered in October 2019.
Define American, a media advocacy organization, launched the #Immigrad campaign in 2017 to highlight the achievements of high school and college graduates from immigrant families amid rising tensions around immigration issues in America.
This year, the organization partnered with United We Dream, FWD.us, I Am an Immigrant and Golden Scholars to hold a virtual ceremony for graduating first, second and third-generation immigrants, according to Define American's website.