Nuestra Comunidad: Latina immigrant makes history at Gwinnett high school

Patricia Granda-Malaver defies the odds by becoming the first Latina valedictorian at Collins Hill High School. She will go on to study politics at Columbia University in the fall.

caption arrowCaption
Patricia Granda-Malaver defies the odds by becoming the first Latina valedictorian at Collins Hill High School. She will go on to study politics at Columbia University in the fall.

Driven by an unbreakable determination, Patricia Granda-Malaver hoped her story would help to shatter misconceptions of Latinos. After countless sleepless nights and late hours studying, she did just that by obtaining the highest academic honor in her school.

Of the more than 700 Collins Hill High School graduates, the young Peruvian immigrant become the first Hispanic female valedictorian in the school’s history. But behind this achievement were struggles including learning English upon moving to the states to reach this accomplishment.

“I remember that someone once told me that Peruvians aren’t intelligent,” Granda said. “It was a motivation for me to keep studying to prove that just because I am a Latina doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant or dumb. They stereotype us and poke fun at Latinos. Some people just don’t understand my story and what my parents have done.”

She took rigorous advanced courses, earning high grades and even becoming president of the National Honor Society chapter. These, among other achievements, positioned her above other students and was awarded the QuestBridge and Gates Millennium scholarships. With these full-ride grants, she can continue her education for up to 10 years.

Although her plans may not be set for that length of time, Granda has her sights set on Columbia University, where she be headed in the fall to study politics, a degree she has chosen following the footsteps of her father and motivated by her commitment to improving immigration policies.

“It’s very important to me,” she said. “I hope that by being in politics I can have an impact on the community.”

Aside from her studies, Granda has dedicated time to serving the community. For years, she has been involved with Gwinnett United In Drug Education, an organization that promotes drug abuse awareness and has served as a peer leader mentoring younger at-risk students.

“It has always been Patricia’s hope to leave a positive legacy behind in order to inspire other immigrants to excel, reach higher, and believe in themselves and in the beauty of their dreams,” high school counselor Beata Lech said. “Despite all her accolades, she remains humble and relatable.”

It is that same humility and poise that beamed during her valedictorian speech as her parents watched on, overcome with pride in seeing how their sacrifices have paved the way for this first-generation graduate.

“With perseverance, you can reach your objectives. I can say this from experience because without perseverance I would not have gone from a former student who barely knew her English alphabet to standing up here as the first Latina valedictorian at Collins Hill High School,” Granda said in during her valedictorian speech. “But no matter how many millions you may make or how many expensive cars you may have, always thank those that have helped you get to where you are.”