Firewall Centers, the after-school mentoring and tutoring program, located in Davie,FL has earned National Accreditation through Green Apple Accreditation of Children’s Services.
Green Apple Accreditation of Children’s Services is a national, independent accrediting agency for Child Care Centers, After School Programs, Private Schools, and Behavioral Health Programs.
Firewall Centers was founded in July 2003 after the tragic death of a 13-year-old girl who overdosed on drugs while left unsupervised during after-school hours. Founders Andy and Janeth Fernandez began meeting weekly in the very mobile home park where the young girl lived and died, providing activities and positive object lessons for its youth. Recognizing the need for a daily positive presence, an after-school mentoring and tutoring center was established. Since 2012 when Firewall Centers began its first after-school program within public schools, the organization has expanded from serving 40 students to now more than 500 every day. Even COVID could not stop us! We continue to receive more recommended students from school administration.
This February, we are sharing some EXTRA love for our community. We had the amazing opportunity to not just work with another non-profit in Broward County, but also gift each of our students a pair of shoes! ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ gathered over 100 pairs of shoes, both new and refurbished. They sorted them by size and name, and packed them up for us. One of the great things about ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ is that they are also a program funded by The Children’s Services Council of Broward County.
We then took the bags of shoes and socks back to our Orange Park Center. HQ staff, alongside our mentors, separated the bags by center. Over 120 of our students all around Broward County will receive shoes and other gifts (i.e. chocolates, candy hearts, etc.) for our Valentine’s Day delivery. Make sure to check out our YouTube channel on February 14th to see our complete recap video of the deliveries and our work with ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’.
If you would like to visit ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ website for more info on their organization, go to injacobsshoes.org
Thank you for ALL of your help Firewall Family! Thanks to many generous donors, we were able to reach our end-of-year goals. We can’t thank you enough for believing in our mission to transform students into servant leaders. What we receive from YOU allows us to consistently support our students, through daily tutoring and mentoring. We are starting off 2021 strong because of your generosity!
We also wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our partners like the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Volunteer Florida, United Way of Broward County and other individuals that have allowed us to spread holiday cheer with presents for all of our students.
We have also been able to produce a new video series, Firewall Explores, which has made our students excited to attend virtual sessions and stay interested in learning. Click below to see our Firewall Explores highlights from 2020!
Program Directors, Lead Mentors, Success Coaches, and Mentors packed their cars this holiday season, ready to spread cheer to everyone in our Firewall Family. They delivered thoughtful care packages, filled with goodies like snacks and toys, to over 100 mentors, families, and students alike!
Mentors also received a holiday surprise for them to enjoy. Students received different combinations of toys, socks, and books. This was all thanks to the generous grants and donations from The Children’s Service Council of Broward. They continue to support our mission to transform students into servant leaders. Click down below to see firsthand what happened at Firewall’s Winter Workshop!
Firewall Explores has become a big hit with all of our students. Every other Monday they log on ready to find out where Woodny and Diego have been. We have gone through some different topics like Civil Engineering and now Marine Life and their habitat.
Through a partnership with South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, we were able to use their facility and interview one their Aquarium Director, Rebecca. She helped the students learn about ways to keep their oceans and the fish in them safe. Also, Woodny and Diego were able to teach our students how the Nitrogen Cycle works. Videos like these help Firewall break down educational topics into bite sized interactive videos.
Click down below to see our latest video and check out the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach!
This month we went to our staff and asked them to finish one sentence: “I love Firewall Centers because…” Asking this question brought out a lot of amazing responses. Staff members that have been with us for years got to revisit the reason they first joined Firewall. On the other hand, new mentors and staff are mentioning that even while we are still virtual, they love connecting with their students. Alex, one of our Success Coaches for Bair Middle School, who has worked with us for 6 years, said. “I love Firewall because I get to build relationships with my students.” While, Shawn, our new Elementary Program Director, says, “I love Firewall because we have college students pouring into our students who need love and support, and they’re getting it.”
The closer we get to the end of 2020, the more we want to look back at the good times of our year. If you have a response to why you love Firewall, share it on social media and tag @firewallcenters! We’d love to see how many members we have in our Firewall Family. Of course, if you want to give more than a response and support us financially, you can go to firewallcenters.org/donate
More and more kids are signing online with us every afternoon. One of the many ways we are trying to make learning and tutoring fun is through a new YouTube video series called ‘Firewall Explores‘. With this series we are able to visually teach the kids, and they’re excited to log on every week.
But, this isn’t just fun for them, it’s also fun for us! Not only is a small group of our staff now fully involved with the production of this series, but it’s a group effort. The many hats that each of these people wear helps the vision of Firewall permeate through our video series. We have Eileen our Chief Marketing Officer, working the camera and contacting venues to find places where we can film. Also we have Woodny, a mentor for our Orange Park Center, who co-stars with Diego, our Communications Manager.
Firewall staff members work with our students everyday and know how they will react and connect with Firewall Explores. So, we know that this series can be a great gift to the students in their year as they spend their school days at home. Click down below to watch our most recent episode of Firewall Explores.
Firewall Centers’ first week of virtual sessions was wrapped up so perfectly by, all of our staff coming together and packing about 70 care packages for our parents and students. We filled backpacks with school supplies that every student needs. We added items like notebooks, pencils, pens, and markers to the bags. This was along with a specialized pouch of supplies for interactive lessons, that we will be going through in the next two weeks.
We’re also “walking with them through life, so they can succeed in everything they do.” We had to do more for our community than just backpacks for the kids. We had to help the families with what they need. With the donations from Harvest Drive South Florida, we handed out each family a bag full of groceries. “Some families were going through a hard time and you could just see how grateful they were.”
This day of deliveries was not just a gift to the families but also for our staff members. “You could tell that [the families] had not been around other people for a while, and seeing us was so emotional for them.” We went out in teams of twos and threes, some blasting 80’s music and some slurping slushies. This delivery day gave us an opportunity to get out of the office and experience life with each other.
Our staff here at Firewall is working hard to ensure this year starts off well. As they diligently contact parents and schools, they are becoming more attuned to our community and its needs. Although, the behind the scenes work usually doesn’t get seen.
We have Program Directors that are setting up calendars and fun curriculum for the students. Our marketing department is focusing on ways to make the year fun, by creating videos and activities for the students to enjoy. Especially, our Americorps Program Manager which has been working hard to recruit Mentors, and signing them up to receive their grants at the end of the year.
We’ve been in and out of meetings preparing for this year. Many ideas are being thrown around for content, to keep the students engaged. Program Directors have been sitting down and making themes for certain weeks and days to help the kids focus on the topics they will be learning. From looking at the moon phases through a telescope, to planning a giveaway for the students, we are so excited and ready for our students to come and feel the impact of our work.
On Saturday morning, the 15th of August, Firewall handed out hope as parents started lining up at Calvary Chapel Plantation for free backpacks full of supplies, but they received more than that. Volunteers from Calvary Chapel and staff members from Firewall Centers banded together to hand out groceries and other basic essentials to these families. All students in Broward County are required to attend school virtually, because of COVID-19. This means that families have to make many sacrifices and endure much hardship in order to balance work while assisting their children with home-schooling. We weren’t just handing out large bags of groceries and backpacks full of supplies, but we were handing out hope.
After just an hour and a half, volunteers and staff members gave out over 120 backpacks. With sometimes multiple families in each car, we had 50-60 cars pass through the parking lot. These opportunities to help our community and partner with others who have the same heart, are what Firewall Centers is all about.