One of the ways we eased our student’s anxiety during exam season was by hosting a game night for them at the Town of Davie’s Orange Park Community Center. Middle and high school students competed to win a gift basket with prizes. Our students released all of their stress by racing in Mario Kart, battling in Sup Smash Bros., and just laughing and spending time together throughout it all. Firewall Centers always aims to walk through every part of life with our students. This is just another one of the ways we do that!
Each and every one of our students this year have brought so much light to their communities. At all 9 of our programs, we held awards ceremonies to recognize all their amazing accomplishments in and out of school this year. Our elementary school centers held lively ceremonies that included musical performances, poems, and even a play written by one of our Lead AmeriCorps Mentors, Ledly.
Some of our other centers went with a more spectacular approach. Our Lauderhill 6-12 center, for example, hosted students along with their parents and siblings. With a full crowd and guest performances from Firewall’s own Rhythmic Panther Dancers – funded by the Children’s Services Council — Lauderhill ended the school year with an amazing blast. All of our graduating seniors received “College Survival Kits” that included college and career resources, stress balls, and essential school supplies.
Featured above is one of our Lauderhill 6-12 graduating seniors, Fernanda, who has been with Firewall since 6th grade. She said that “Firewall didn’t just help me with school, but with making the right choices and becoming a better person.” This is one of the reasons Firewall Centers exists, to transform students into servant leaders. We can’t wait to hear back from our seniors as they continue to grow into accomplished adults!
In April, Firewall Centers and its students had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a countywide movement. “The Broward AWARE! Protecting OUR Children campaign, powered by the Children’s Services Council (CSC), is an awareness campaign that uses the full spectrum of media to ensure that Broward County families, educators, media, law enforcement and all stakeholders use and share resources that make it possible for children to safely realize their full potential, hopes and dreams.”
On Saturday, April 9th, Firewall bussed over 100 students to Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park in Fort Lauderdale to join the CSC and other local organizations in spreading awareness about the hardships that youth face in their communities. Our Coconut Creek students prepared and presented facts about homelessness in Broward and how it affects children. Our Lauderhill 6-12 students performed artistic expressions of dance, rap, and song to illustrate that with awareness, comes action.
Our students were also able to hear presentations from prominent community leaders on the topics of prevention for human trafficking, child endangerment, and child abuse. These events expand our students’ worldviews as they realize that Firewall is not alone in its mission to make a difference in their community. In fact, there are countless people, many of whom they have never met, that care for their wellbeing too.
Firewall students that attend our program housed in Davie’s Orange Park Community Center were ecstatic to return from their Spring Break because they were treated to an Easter Party! This celebration highlighted not just all their hard work throughout the year, but gave them some much-needed rest before upcoming final exams. Our middle and high school students enjoyed trivia games, egg hunts, and food and beverages when they walked into the Center on that Tuesday afternoon following the break. Each grade competed against one another to win Easter gift baskets and prizes to enjoy themselves or share with their friends.
Events like this Easter party allow Firewall to walk even closer through life with students and thus strengthens the organization’s overall impact. Meaningful experiences and celebrations are remembered by students forever as they grow up and learn to appreciate themselves and others along the way.
The week before Spring Break, our Bair Middle School Center hosted a ‘Spring Break Field Day.’ This purpose of this event was to celebrate the students’ perseverance and the hard work they accomplished throughout the year. Field Day gave the students a fun, physical outlet with healthy competition as they played with their Firewall classmates. Each grade-group was part of a team that competed against each other to be the best in the Firewall Center. We even welcomed back some of our former students who moved up into high school, but that still have siblings who attend the Bair Middle Center. This day was full of smiles, music, and laughter and served to ease the stress that school can bring for our students before they enter into Testing Season.
Thank you CSC Broward for funding events like these that help our students build relationships and find healthy outlets that they can use throughout their lives!
Out of Firewall’s 9 centers, Bair Middle School is the largest. Serving over 80 students every day, our staff and AmeriCorps members (pictured above) assist with homework help and career development. This center is funded by the Children’s Services Council of Broward (CSC Broward) and AmeriCorps.
Every week, Bair Middle students engage in Social Emotional Lessons and Cultural Arts and Nutrition/PE activities that increase their life skills and ultimately help them become well-rounded individuals as they grow up.
But that is not all we do with Bair Middle students. This year, we had the amazing opportunity to work even closer with the school’s administrative staff for the betterment of the school and students. Because of our close and long-term relationship with the school, the Magnet Coordinator asked us to write a letter of recommendation for their school to receive a national Magnet School award.
“Bair Middle School [was] proud to receive a Magnet School of Excellence merit award from the Magnet Schools of America. Bair offers high quality, rigorous, and specialized programs to inspire students from all walks of life and prepare them for college and the workforce.”
Bair Middle even offers helpful references and instructions where parents can access the school’s Parent and Family Engagement Plan on their website at www.bair.broward.com.Firewall aims to continue growing its impact at Bair and at our other centers just like this one.
In October, we had the great opportunity to host two representatives from Broward College at our Lauderhill 6-12 and Coconut Creek High School Centers. They led a presentation on the importance of continued education after high school. As they discussed aspects of financial aid and all the support they can get from the institution, more and more of our students started verbalizing their interest.
Broward College highlighted the ways that students and their families can save money by starting their under-graduate education with them first before transferring to another university. It was noticeable how many of our students were affected by this eye-opening presentation! Even after the visit was over, the students continued to speak of ways they would use their degree or certificate. We can’t wait to see our students get accepted into institutions like Broward College and better their lives through continued education.
Broward College is a public college in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is part of the Florida College System. It was established in 1959 as part of a move to broaden Florida’s two-year colleges.
Students at a few of our program sites were rewarded with Halloween parties last week. Students, staff, and AmeriCorps Firewall members had such an amazing time together, sharing food and engaging in different fall activities like painting pumpkins. At our Lauderhill 6-12 site specifically, students put up an entire show that included readings of Haitian poems in Creole and performances from our brand new Dance Troupe: the Rhythmic Panther Dancers.
Thanks to funding from the Children’s Services Council of Broward, we were able to start the Rhythmic Panther Dancers. Through the Dance Troupe, our students get the opportunity to grow in something they love while receiving the academic and social-emotional support they need to succeed. We want to give a big thank you to CSC for their support that has allowed us to enhance our program for the betterment of our student’s lives!
The Children’s Services Council provides leadership, advocacy and resources to enhance the lives of the children of Broward County and empower them to become responsible, productive adults.
Did you know that more than 10 of our former Firewall students have become AmerCorps mentors? Many of these students start off by working in our internship program. The internship allows students that attend our High School sites to gain volunteer hours as they tutor and mentor fellow Firewall students. We currently have 4 mentors, like Sebastian R. (pictured below), that have participated in the Firewall program since 6th grade. These now AmeriCorps members experienced firsthand the impact of being mentored at Firewall and knew that was the example they wanted to follow. Servant Leadership was ingrained in them from the first day they joined Firewall as students, and now they can connect with our students even more by being a mentor to them.
We have had 5+ of our AmeriCorps Members go on to become full-time staff! In our current economy where jobs need to be filled everywhere, we have found a way to retain the hearts and minds of our AmeriCorps Members. At Firewall, they are able to live out our vision to “transform students into servant leaders.” They joined our team full-time to continue making a difference in students’ lives across Broward County.
This would not have been possible without the support of AmeriCorps and all of its connected entities. We truly exist “To improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.”
Firewall Staff and AmeriCorps members were inspired at our September 16th Training. We had to split our training into two groups due to our recent growth, as we added new Center locations and Mentors to the team. The day began with a Citizenship Training where Mentors learned about the importance of committing to personal responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our families, and our communities. “Every right has its responsibilities. Like the right itself, these responsibilities stem from no man-made law, but from the very nature of man and society.” (Senator Lewis Schwellenbach). Our staff and members split up into small groups as they participated in an activity where they had to shorten the bill of rights from ten rights to five. The activity brought members together as they learned to use both their similarities and differences to accomplish the greater goal.
Mentors then listened to one of our own Success Coaches discuss Behavior Tools that can help them daily as they serve their students. Utilizing his two degrees in Social Work and Psychology, Success Coach Ryan from our Bair Middle School site taught members how to increase appropriate behavior through clear expectations and repetition. Mentors also learned how to decrease inappropriate behavior through redirection and corrective feedback.
The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly the visit from Corey Simon, CEO of Volunteer Florida. He shared about his life and how “[He] never thought [he’d] be standing here doing what [he does]. But [he] just started by serving.” Through anecdotes of his program experience and the ways he served his community, he inspired our mentors to keep being a guide for our students. He reminded members that “Sometimes [the kids] just want to know that there’s someone there to listen, someone they can trust.”
We want to give a big thank you to Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps for inspiring us to inspire our students and for their continual support.