Thalía is a 2018 graduate of AF Hartford High. In the fall, she will attend the University of Michigan. I am a lotus flower. I didn’t grow from concrete, I didn’t grow from rich soil. I grew from the mud under water. I was thrown in the water with weights on my feet. I was told from the start that I was going to be a failure because I didn’t speak English, I was told that I would never be anybody. I come from a household where my sisters and I are mothers and fathers to each other. I have spent 11 years without my grandmas, aunts, uncles, without my country to teach me about myself. I came to a country whose main goal was to break me and make me into somebody who I knew I wasn’t. I was built from scratch, at least I thought so. I am built from my sister Jaisha’s protective heart and character. I am built from my sister Paola’s attitude and confidence. I am built from Papa Jaison’s style and his big heart. I am built from Abuela Chendy’s love for people and Abuela Lilian’s intelligence and her amazing vocals. I am built from Titi Tata’s tough love and from Titi Mercy’s classiness and intellect. I am built from Tio Johnny’s garden flowers and strong pride. I am the sand, the platano trees, the ocean, goya, Ismael Rivera, coqui, Tainos, Yoruba, espanoles, the machete, the palm trees, la malta, the sun, the rivers. I am proof of colonization on my island. But at the end of the day I still get to decide who “me” is because I grew by myself so I get to decide how I grow and I am a beautiful, big, and bright flower. Amapola.