BOSTON (WHDH) - It has been an uphill battle for the valedictorian of the class of 2021 at New England Law School. But, she did not let those struggles stand in the way of achieving her dreams.

Sofia Nuno Unanue congratulated her classmates at commencement. An accomplishment that has been full of both challenge and perseverance.

“When I graduated high school I was undocumented. So, just going to college for me was a distant dream,” she said. “I felt very foolish to just think about it.”

Nuno Unanue immigrated to the U.S. when she was 13 years old and said growing up undocumented was not easy.

“There are so many obstacles and you’re just trying to do the best every time to keep motivated,” she said.

Then her father was diagnosed with cancer and he died before she could graduate high school. It was he who always believed in her.

“My father was the first person to call me a lawyer, even though he didn’t see,” said Nuno Unanue.

Inspired by her parents sacrifices, Nuno Unanue refused to give up in the face of adversity. She spent countless hours studying and applied to 20 law schools — 19 rejected her.

“When I received all the rejections letters, I said I just need one opportunity, that’s all I need. One opportunity to prove myself. And that’s why I’ll always be grateful to New England Law because that’s the only school that believed in me,” she said.

Nuno Unanue obviously made the most of that opportunity and as top of her class, she delivered a powerful speech at graduation.

“I know that representation matters and I stand on the shoulders of so many people that have made it possible for me to be here,” she told those assembled.

She said she hopes that her story can inspire others to pursue their dreams.

“So, at the end of the day, we cannot let any circumstance decide who we are and we want to do with our lives,” she said.

Nuno Unanue plans to spend her summer studying for the Bar exam and she will be starting a new job at a firm here in Boston come the fall.

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