The glass bottle lay in the sand, its orange flowers and mosaic tiles glittering. On one of her daily walks along North Beach, the twinkling colors caught the attention of Daymara Garcia.
Picking it up, she noticed a note inside: Three sheets of paper describing the wish of Aviselle Diaz, a determined 15-year-old from Kendall.
“I write to you dear reader as my last resort,” the note read. “And pray that you who have found this plea riding on the ocean waves will find it in your heart to help me in any way possible.”
Diaz, who wants to be a diplomat when she grows up, has been accepted into a competitive year-long cultural immersion program at King’s Academy in Jordan.
During the year-long program, the students take intensive Arabic-language training, are immersed in Arabic culture and visit historical and cultural sites in Jordan. But the prestigious school comes with a hefty price tag: $39,200 for the year.
Although the academy has already offered Diaz scholarships and financial aid, her family is having trouble coming up with the remaining $12,400.
For almost six months, Aviselle and her father, Avilio Diaz, tried asking local businesses for help, giving presentations with a binder explaining her project. The presentation came with a brief history of Jordan, detailed information about King’s Academy and a clear explanation of why she wants to learn Arabic.
“I see the impact the Middle East has on our society,” Aviselle said after rattling off a number of facts about the region. “But I also want to help people there, especially promoting education among women.”
While many businesses were impressed by her presentation, her proposal yielded no support.
With few options left, Aviselle decided to decorate 100 bottles that would carry her wish to strangers.
“My bottle was my last opportunity to save this project,” Aviselle said.
With some acrylic paint, broken pieces of tile and a bit of silicon caulking, Aviselle spent two weeks decorating bottles her father had collected from local restaurants. On June 30, her 15th birthday, Aviselle’s father drove around Miami-Dade with the bottles in his car, dropping the wishes from causeways, bridges and piers.
“I was worried I was going to get arrested,” Diaz said. “But it was the only thing I could do for my daughter.”
Aviselle and her family aren’t asking for money directly. In their bottled message they included information on how to make a direct donation to King’s Academy on her behalf. Their hope is that enough people will make a contribution before the Aug. 20 deadline to accept her placement in the program.
And if people give more than she needs, Aviselle wants to start a scholarship fund at the school for future students from South Florida.
“She’s mature enough to recognize that the Middle East is important and that’s why she wants to go to Jordan,” said Nathalie Milian, Aviselle’s ninth grade English teacher at the International Relations Preparatory Academy in Coral Gables. “And she has the composure and she has the willingness to put herself out there and engage with other people.”
Since 2007, King’s Academy has recruited young adults from the Middle East and the United States into a general four-year high school program that is based on the Advanced Placement curriculum.
Aviselle, a straight-A student and member of her school’s model United Nations team, was one of just 20 students chosen for a new curriculum focusing specifically on immersing students in Arabic language and culture.
“I admire how much effort she put into this,” said Vera Azar, the director of communications and publications at King’s Academy. “The problem is that the program is costly, and while we offer financial aid, we cannot subsidize the full cost.”
Garcia, who found the bottle on Miami Beach’s North Beach, couldn’t afford to help financially, but she was moved by Aviselle’s plea.
“It looks like it took a lot of time to make the bottle,” Garcia said. “And it was a beautiful letter.”
In her letter, Aviselle asks anyone who finds the bottle to contact the local news media, so Garcia called The Miami Herald with Aviselle’s story.
“Hopefully, people become interested in her story and someone can help,” Garcia said. “It seems like a good cause, and she’s a person in need.”
So far, only a few people have contacted Aviselle, but none has had the means to help. While she’s hopeful, Aviselle knows the odds are against her. But she is steadfast in achieving her goal.
“If I don’t get a chance to go this year, I’ll still keep trying for next year,” Aviselle said. “This is what I want to do, and I will keep working for it until I have no more resources.”