Friday,Apr 29, 2022 was a special day at Aventura City of Excellence School (ACES). Not only was it Arbor Day but it was also a third grader’s ninth birthday. A special Arbor Day presentation was planned by her mother, Awilda Corcino, ACES middle school guidance counselor. A giant gift wrapped box was set center stage in the Aventura Recreation Center while the entire grade level, staff members, and Ms. Corcino’s family filled the bleachers to witness the main event. Erica, third grade, had prepared to recite an Arbor Day poem entitled, “Trees”. The crowd bustled in anticipation as Erica was called up to perform. Erica confidently recited the poem and the crowd applauded but everyone still wondered about the giant six-foot tall box on display. Ms. Stephanie Concepcion, ACES School and Community Engagement Liaison, continued the presentation and shared with the audience that the gift was for a student that was present which would be revealed by three clues. The first clue was that the person knew a special butterfly named “Hot Sauce”, whispers rippled through the audience. The crowd anxiously awaited the next clue. “I was nervous and kept hoping I could keep it together”, Ms. Corcino shared. The second clue was that this person spoke a language that only they and another person understood.
The crowd looked around as Ms. Concepcion asked the audience if anyone thought they knew who it could be? Several hands shot up and many third graders were signaling at Erica. Erica was unsure but her classmates cheered her on and she walked back center stage. The last clue was that “today is the person’s birthday and their name starts with an E”. Erica nodded and confirmed that she fit the three clues. Ms. Concepcion called Dr. Anthony Tyrkala, principal and former Army, to assist in the reveal. The audience held their breath in anticipation and stomped their feet for the reveal. Erica was turned away from the box. Dr. Tyrkala lifted the box in 3…2…1…as Erica turned she saw her birthday surprise. Her uncle, Private First Class Bryan Asencio stood in full Army uniform and Erica leaped into his arms as the crowd cheered. Erica’s uncle had been stationed at an Army base in Alaska for the past year and she missed him dearly. These two have a special bond as the clues revealed. “When they read the part about our special butterfly I was trying to hold back my tears, then they got to the part about our special language and I just felt the tears rolling down my face”, Private First Class Asencio. Tears of happiness rolled down Erica’s cheeks, her mom’s, and many in the audience who witnessed the joyous reunion. The ACES TV Crew was on hand to capture the moment on camera and their Instagram reel has over 11,000 views and been shared over 100 times. Everyone was thrilled to be a part of a special military homecoming and such a beautiful memory for Erica, her family, and the ACES community.
Instagram Reel stats as of 5/19/22