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Miami teen who got reprieve from deportation graduates high school


Daniela Pelaez works on a school assignment at her home in Miami, March 13, 2012.

MIAMI – Daniela Peláez, the North Miami Senior High School valedictorian who garnered national attention after nearly being deported, is graduating on Friday.

Peláez is scheduled to deliver her school's commencement speech at 2:50 p.m. ET at Florida International University.

Peláez's story blasted onto international headlines after her request for a green card had been denied by a judge, sparking a national debate on the Dream Act.

More than 1,000 students at North Miami Senior High School in Miami walked out of classes and took to the streets on March 2, protesting the immigration judge’s order to deport the 18-year-old honors student.

View NBCMiami.com's story on Daniela Peláez's big day

Peláez was later granted a two-year reprieve in March after facing imminent deportation.

Peláez boasts a 6.7 GPA and plans to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in the fall to study biology and history. Her career goal is to attend medical school and become a heart surgeon.

Peláez left Colombia with her parents in 1998. Her family overstayed a tourist visa in the U.S. when she was 4 years old. Her father eventually became a permanent resident through her brother, who serves in the U.S. Army and achieved U.S. citizenship. But her mother is stuck in Colombia, after she returned there in 2006 for medical reasons.

Peláez worked with Florida lawmakers to raise awareness about young undocumented students like herself, backing The Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act, or STARS, which allows students to remain the U.S. if they get a college degree.

The STARS Act would allow illegal immigrants who are 19 years old and younger, arrived in the United States before age 16, and have lived here for at least the previous five years the opportunity to stay for another five years and eventually get legal status if they earn a college degree and meet certain other criteria. 

Peláez and her sister also started their own foundation, We Are Here Foundation, Inc., to raise money and provide scholarships, grants and support to student immigrants in the U.S.

NBCMiami.com contributed to this report.

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