Franchesca Diaz, MX’12 and Harvard University ‘16, was this year’s featured speaker at Prep for Prep’s signature event, the Lilac Ball. Below are excerpts from her speech.
When I was twelve I forged my mother’s signature on a form that allowed me to take my first Prep for Prep admission test. At an age where most parents are worried about their kids taking drugs or going on secret dates, my rebellion was applying to Prep, and then to Middlesex, where my mother’s overarching grasp would not reach. You see, she never let me or my three younger sisters, the only family she had, out of her sight. She immigrated to the United States by herself, supported her four daughters by herself, and persevered by herself. She was traditional, strict, and relied on our closeness to hold our family together. She had to be where she could watch me sleep every night with her big owl eyes. Ironically, she loved me too much.
After I was accepted to Middlesex, it was anyone’s guess if she’d let me go. One day, in mid-July, she woke me up early to go shopping. At the store, she asked me to pick between two colors for my bed sheets at boarding school. She was going to let me pursue my future.
Middlesex was filled with countless, magical “Aha!” moments that I will treasure always. Daily revelations that included things I was learning inside the classroom, on the field, in the dorm, and in the theater, opening my eyes to what was around me. Aha! There’s a word that means “relating to clothes”: sartorial, trust me; it comes in handy for a girl. Aha! There are other cultures out there, and who knew: some people wash their hair everyday? Aha! I discovered through friendships in the dorms and in pages of literature, that my experiences were not weirdly uncommon.
True to form, my mother continued to hold onto me, insisting that every year at boarding school would be my last. And so, I cherished every year like it was. At Middlesex I became an active member of the community; I joined student government, theater productions, and started a club for Latino culture. I ran on Varsity Cross-Country, became captain of the Varsity dance team, and performed in Guys and Dolls.
Through the supportive communities of Prep and Middlesex, I feel stronger, unstoppable, and capable of bringing my dreams within reach. I’ve had the blessing of having multiple communities, each so very different from the other. Where my mother’s world is small, limited to a tiny town in the DR and our block in the Bronx, mine is expansive: my family, my neighborhood, Prep, Middlesex, and soon to be, the world. There are some things hard to translate, things she doesn’t understand because she had never been exposed to them. The day before I left school for winter break, I called my mother to give her some amazing news. “Mami, me exeptaron en Harvard!!” I yelled as soon as she picked up the phone; “Ok” she said, “You better not get home late tomorrow, adios” and she hung up the phone. “What?!” I thought to myself. But I had to understand her, my mother had never heard of Harvard. Eventually, she had her own Aha! moment as friends congratulated us. I am amused whenever she asks me “Nena, what is the name of your college again?”