Cuban-American Aviselle Diaz ’15 came to Jordan from Miami as an Arabic Year (AY) at King’s Academy student with her mind set on a twofold goal: to learn Arabic and to receive a global education at one of the most diverse institutions in the region.
Growing up knowing she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, Aviselle soon realized that a school such as King’s Academy, where students from over 30 countries study and reside together in a close-knit community that fosters tolerance and coexistence, was the perfect place for her.
There was one problem, however. Aviselle’s family couldn’t afford King’s Academy tuition.
Determined not to let money hold her back, Aviselle – with the help of her father – got creative. Together they artistically decorated 100 bottles, each containing a heartfelt plea for the “dear reader” to help make her dream of attending a school halfway across the globe become a reality. After launching the mosaic-adorned bottles into South Florida’s rushing waterways, Aviselle and her father, Pedro A. Diaz, waited anxiously and hoped for a miracle.
In a matter of weeks, Aviselle Diaz became a household name after the Miami Herald newspaper published her story thanks to a news tip from an enthusiastic bottle recipient. Next thing she knew, Aviselle suddenly found herself with enough funding to cover the tuition needed to attend King’s Academy. The main source of her funding came from Qatar Foundation International.
One year after completing the AY program at King’s, Aviselle – who is a junior – is still around, and she’s not ready to return home just yet.
The Department of Communications and Publications recently caught up with the diplomat in training, who talked about the extraordinary journey of following her heart and how hope truly does float.
Why did you want to attend King’s Academy?
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to become a diplomat in order to create negotiations between different nations and promote peace, tolerance and coexistence between all people. When I first found out about King’s Academy I knew it was the place I had to be! Not only does King’s provide a global education, but it allows you to become part of the Arab culture.
You knew you wanted to attend King’s but you also knew you couldn’t afford it. How did you manage to come up with the tuition?
For a year, I tried contacting many different organizations and companies worldwide but none were able to provide me with any sort of aid. So as a last resort, I decided to design 100 bottles, each with a message inside, not only asking whoever found them to somehow help me get to King’s Academy but also emphasizing the importance of never losing hope. I launched these bottles into the South Florida waterways and a few weeks later, four people contacted me to tell me they’d found them! One person went to a local newspaper, the Miami Herald, and told them about my story. It was amazing because the same day an article was published in that newspaper, I was able to obtain all the funds I needed to attend King’s!
You came to King’s in 2012 as an AY student. What was that like?
It absolutely exceeded my expectations. I came to King’s knowing no Arabic whatsoever, and this year I’m able to handle a conversation with people in town and can socialize with people in Arabic. I can read, write and understand – all this in just one year! It was really such a wonderful experience and I’m really grateful for that.
Why did you choose to return to King’s after completing your AY year?
I was able to learn so much about Jordan – about the language and culture of the region. It was such a wonderful experience and I thought to myself if I continue on and, inshallah, graduate from King’s Academy, I’m going to have such a different perspective on the world around me. I also definitely want to continue my Arabic because you can always learn it in a classroom, but when you’re one with the people, that’s when it really counts.
As a student receiving financial aid, what’s your view on giving back and supporting the school?
A lot of the time people ask about the pricing of schools and the one thing I always tell them is that so much money goes to supporting war and weapons. But investing in the education of a child doesn’t have negative consequences; it only has benefits and it will make a huge impact in the long run.
You’ve worked with sick children in hospitals. Tell us about it.
Yes, last summer I spoke to sick children about never giving up on a dream no matter what your circumstances are. After telling them my story – how my dream of attending this school came true – they were all so excited and started talking about what they wanted to do when they grow up. I even showed them where Jordan was on a map and one kid wanted me to teach him Arabic! So we got miniature bottles for the kids, which they decorated and wrote their own messages in. Some of them said they just wanted to get better. There was a camera filming and it was very difficult to hold myself together.
What has your journey taught you?
That you can never lose hope. You have to keep on trying until the very end. That’s what I wanted to do with hospitalized children [at the Dreams Come True event at Miami Childrens Hospital].
What do you have planned for the future?
I’m working with international organizations to sponsor an initiative called Education in a Bottle. The ultimate goal is to have youth from across the globe design bottles and place a vow inside to give to their leaders to sign. It will serve as a promise stating they will do all they can to provide education within their respective countries and around the world. Basically, we want to spread the message that through the limitless power of education we can achieve peace, coexistence, tolerance and understanding in our world today. I think it’s time we really focus on giving our children a better future, and when we do that not just as one community but really unite around the world, we can really make a difference.