A New Frontier

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.

Meet & Greet

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.

Ramping Up

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.


Handing Out Hope

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.

Our Friends at CSC Broward

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!

Appreciating our Firewall Graduates

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.



Making Firewall History!

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.

Meet Sebastian in the video down below!

Make an Impact with Us

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.

Behind the Scenes

Firewall strives to help students achieve academic success and build character, but another priority is meeting the needs of their families.  It is hard for families to adapt to life during COVID-19 when they are unable to put food on their tables. We are thrilled to partner again with Harvest Drive to change that reality.

Harvest Drive partners with Publix to provide the food that we give our families. Volunteers from Harvest Drive come equipped with supplies as they pack the meals and help our staff pass them out to many of the families we serve at Firewall.

The need is great, and thanks to Firewall’s partnership with Harvest Drive, we are able to meet the needs of the Davie community. When we tell families that we have food for them, they come without hesitation. We have received countless texts from grateful parents that remind us why what we do is so essential. “Thank you for always thinking of us. You guys really care,” said one of our parents.

A Day in the Life of a Mentor

From day one of COVID-19 shutting down daily activities, events, and socializing, we’ve been hard at work helping our community. Whether we have been packing and handing out groceries to families in need or tutoring students over video chat services, we have continued to serve Broward County. We want to share how this is happening through “A Day in the Life of an AmeriCorps Firewall Mentor”.

Diego Rodriguez-Seda

“I wake up pretty early so that I can have some breakfast before logging on to tutor my students. While I’m eating breakfast, I take a few minutes to look through all of our social media platforms to make sure that we are staying in close contact with our followers. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, when I sit down to tutor on my computer I always make sure that I have a trusty stylus by my side so I am able to write on the screen. I think that being able to write on the screen gives more of a personal touch to tutoring. After I finish the tutoring session for that hour, I give that student advice and links to additional resources so they can continue practicing the topic we went over. Every hour, I log on to help any student that logs on for tutoring. Once in a while, I also text their parents to remind them of our tutoring sessions and the topics we are working on. With all of that work, my day usually finishes around 4 pm.”

Many of our mentors’ days look like this as they continue to build those relationships with the students that we serve. This is just a glimpse of how we are combating COVID-19.