More and more kids are signing online with us every morning. 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! A small group of our staff is now fully involved with the production of this series. We have Eileen our Chief Marketing Officer, working the camera and contacting venues where we can film. Also we have Woodny, a mentor for our Orange Park Center, who co-stars with Diego, our Communications Manager. The many hats that each of these people wear helps the vision of Firewall permeate through our video series. Staff that are working through the day-to-day, know the students that will be watching these videos and know how they will react and connect with it.
We hope 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.
We would like to introduce you to one of the organizations in our Firewall Family today. You may have seen their logo on our website or social media before. “The Children’s Service Council (CSC) funds close to a hundred programs that serve children and families, advocates for policies that protect the interests of future generations and provides leadership that brings the child-serving community together.”
The CSC has helped build many stepping stones in Firewall’s journey recently. Last year they graciously granted us $20,000 for capacity building. This money was utilized for a re-branding and many new assets that have been pivotal in our organization. This year, the CSC is helping us fund 2 centers, and continue to keep them open for FOUR YEARS! Lauderhill 6-12 and Bair Middle will be at a sprint when the school year starts because of the CSC’s help. These grants will not only allow us to serve our students academically but also provide each student with their own Success Coach. The Success Coaches develop relationships with the students and keep them on track in school, while also connecting to their families and making sure that any material or social-emotional needs the family might have are also met. We are very excited to continue working with the CSC to further our vision: to transform students into servant leaders!
On June 30th, we had the opportunity to host 15 high school graduate students at our Orange Park Center. Dividing the two schools, Plantation High and Western High, we were able to keep to code and still enjoy each others company.
We sat down with them and ate great food from Padrino’s Cuban Restaurant. We discussed with them their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. Some students were going straight into school and taking classes to graduate quickly. Other students came to the party straight from work, and were going to continue working hard at their current job. After that, those students are hoping to attend college. Two of our Firewall Alumni will even be joining our team of mentors for the 20-21 School Year! They will be directly making a difference in kids’ lives that were just like them.
Calling their names, just like at a formal ceremony, they walked up and received a gift card and medal. We want to help them smoothly transition into their adult lives with a little monetary help, and lot of pride for the program they attended. All of them were very appreciative of the get-together and were sad to leave. We want to wish a great upcoming year to them and their fellow graduates all over Broward County.
This is an exciting year for Firewall! We have the most seniors graduating of all Firewall history. This program has not only helped our high school students learn more about themselves, but also about how we impact Broward County. We even had the opportunity to hire some of our graduating seniors! Sebastian Requena, a former Western High School student, was involved in our program at Flamingo Elementary just down the street from his school.
While keeping his eyes on the prize of graduating high school, he also was learning new ways to help his community and grow in experience. Sebastian even said “it felt like being a mentor in my last year of high school was like I was giving back to the program that helped me.” It’s not just about helping others at Firewall Centers, our mentors gain great experience. “Working for you guys gave me an idea of what I want to do with my life,” says Sebastian. At Firewall we seek to help the community by not just being in the community, but being the community.
Operations at Firewall are steamrolling straight into the summer. We are on an expedition looking for new Mentors to join us in making an impact in our community of Broward County. We are accepting applications on www.firewallcenters.org/apply now until the school year begins in August. Phone and Zoom interviews are being conducted now. Once one is hired they are placed at a center and training is given. As applications come in we get excited to meet and work with the hearts written on these resumes. Even if you know someone who would be a great fit look down below for more info on positions!
The benefits to becoming an AmeriCorps Firewall mentor are:
1. receiving a college scholarship
2. bi-weekly pay
3. building one’s resume
4. leadership development.
Mentors commit to serve from August 2020-June 2021, weekday afternoons at a public school in Broward County. These mentors build relationships with students, model positive behaviors, and tutor and help with homework.
The pay and college scholarship amount depends on what position one is hired for. Each position works a set amount of hours for the school year. Once the hours are met, the scholarship is given to the mentor.
Requirements for this position are a high school diploma, U.S. citizenship or the ability to work in the U.S., and commitment. We look for people who are committed to staying throughout the entire school year.
We’ve all at one point or another had difficulty learning something. Whether it was Chemistry in high school, Algebra in Middle school, or even Art in kindergarten, we all needed to find a way that we learned best.
Many students today focus on the Procrastination-Cram method, where they wait until the last day or hour and try to “cram” as much information in their head as possible. Other students maybe use memorization or repetitive mnemonics to help them recall the information.
But, what teachers and professors are finding out is that there are small good things that can help with the big bad work they have to complete. Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D speaks of many “laws” about teaching/learning in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Success as a Teacher. I found a way to condense them into 3 easy techniques.
The first technique is Content. Relevance, association and interest play a big part in what you are teaching. Make sure you are using examples that your child can understand and relate with. But, not just things that are new.
The second technique is Interaction. Your student wants bright, colorful, moving parts. They want to be able to see and feel that they’re doing something that has impact. Just like when you work and you get paid, they seek that direct causal relationship between input and output. Which leads us to the last technique.
The third technique is Effect. Your child needs to see the effect when there are no moving parts. The reward and the challenge needs to exist. Overcoming a challenge can be a reward in itself. But, if the task becomes to cumbersome, a reward at each milestone can help them move forward.
Hopefully, these techniques can aid you in assisting your child or student in many ways!
We are happy that so many college and post college students want to be a part of what we’re doing to help transform students into servant leaders. With that being said, we want our AmeriCorps mentors to be prepared to enter the schools that they will be serving. In January, we had an AmeriCorps training with a special guest from the United Way of Broward, Aisha McDonald. She spoke on mental health and the importance of truly understanding what that means.
An estimated 60% of residents in nursing homes never have a single visitor and spend weekends, birthdays, and even holidays by themselves. How can Firewall make a positive impact on changing this reality? Students who are a part of Firewall had their first opportunity of the new year to serve our local senior community by visiting Artis Senior Living of Davie.
AmeriCorps Firewall mentors are vital to the work that we do. We currently have 60+ mentors serving at our different centers and will need even more for next year. Recruitment for mentors will begin in the next few months. If you are a college or post college student who has ever had an interest in becoming a Firewall mentor or know someone who might, consider applying this year.