Only hours after the story of 15-year-old Aviselle Diaz’s dream to attend a prestigious school in Jordan became public, the emails arrived.
“Sounds like she is a passionate and fascinating young lady who truly exemplifies the global citizen,” Ivonne Labrada-Leichtling wrote.
Each person who emailed was moved by Aviselle’s determination to become a peacekeeping liaison between the United States and the Arab world — and her quirky way of raising funds to help pay the tuition: by putting her dream in 100 bottles and dropping them into South Florida’s waterways.
Although no one who found one of the mosaic-decorated bottles was able to donate money, one person did contact The Miami Herald about Aviselle’s dream. And when Aviselle’s story was published later, the donations began pouring in from across the globe.
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“A lot of people were powerfully moved by her story,” said Dr. John Austin, the headmaster at King’s Academy in Jordan, which accepted Aviselle for the highly competitive cultural immersion program.
Aviselle’s dream in a bottle is becoming a reality.
Classes at King’s Academy start Sept. 1 and Aviselle arrives in Jordan in a matter of weeks. It is all overwhelming to her and her family, who weren’t prepared for the sudden change, but they recognize that this is the opportunity of her lifetime.
“I’m nervous because it’s a new experience,” Aviselle said. “But I’ve gotten this far and I’m willing to take on the challenge.”
Aviselle, a straight-A student at the International Relations Preparatory Academy in Coral Gables, wants to be a diplomat when she’s grown up. “I see the impact the Middle East has on our society,” Aviselle said previously. “But I also want to help people there, especially promoting education among women.”
Tuition at King’s Academy runs $39,200 for the year. The school offered her scholarships and financial aid, but the Diaz family was still about $12,400 short.
She spent six months asking local businesses asking for sponsorship, but didn’t raise any contributions.
That’s when she thought of the idea of decorating 100 bottles that would carry her message to strangers. On June 15, Aviselle’s 15th birthday, Avilio Diaz dropped his daughter’s bottles from local bridges, piers and causeways.
“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.”
The response to her story surprised Aviselle and her father. “My father is in shock,” Aviselle said. “Everything has been going so fast and it has been hard to keep up.”
The offers from people looking to help are still coming in and the funds are welcomed.
King’s Academy has agreed to start a general fund and any extra money that comes into the school on her behalf will go to a scholarship fund for other students who are in a similar financial situation.
And while she’ll soon be a world away, Aviselle is already planning ways to give back to Miami. Her story caught the attention of curators for TEDxYouth Miami, a independently organized speakers bureau to promote young South Floridians with ideas to change the world. She’ll be speaking to the group from Jordan via Skype.
“We’ve always wanted her to come and we’re pleased she was able to work it out,” said Austin, the headmaster.