COVID-19 has impacted us all. The world has been essentially shut down, but Firewall Centers wanted to create a sense of normalcy for the students that we no longer get to see in person. Our primary concern is for the health and well-being of the students and communities we serve, so we started virtual tutoring sessions. Even though the school buildings are closed, students still have work and need assistance.
Throughout the week, our mentors go online and help students in any way that they can. Our mentors are continuing to contact parents, check grades, and are there to listen to the students during this difficult time. Marcela, a mentor who serves at Plantation High School, has loved the opportunity to talk to the students and help them from afar. Marcela said, “I know the students are happy to see a familiar face. We chat for a bit, catch up on how they are doing, then jump into the homework.”
Even though we won’t be with our students as they finish up the school year, we are happy we have the opportunity to see them online and look forward to seeing many of them next year.
Transforming students into servant leaders is at the core of what we do here at Firewall Centers. A perfect way for the students to see how a servant leader should act is by looking to our AmeriCorps Firewall mentors. This year, we have seen several former Firewall students become part of our mentor teams. They are some of our best mentors, as they are able to connect with the students on a deeper level.
Sebastian Requena, a former Firewall student, is serving at our Flamingo Elementary center as a mentor to his own group of students. Sebastian was a part of our program starting when he was in sixth grade. He is currently a senior at Western High School and walks to his center daily after school.
We have watched Sebastian grow into a young man who truly exemplifies the characteristics and life lessons that we teach our students. He works hard in school and then works hard after school to invest in some of our elementary students.
Next year, Sebastian plans on going to school for Bio Medical Engineering to work with prosthetics. We are so happy that current Firewall students have someone like Sebastian to look up to.
On March 5th, Firewall Centers hosted an amazing breakfast at Community Christian Church where pastors and leaders from churches across Broward County gathered together. This breakfast was to inform the church community of what Firewall does to impact students’ lives and how they can be a part of it.
Having partners in the community is vital for growth. We currently partner with businesses, other non-profits, and churches all across the county. By reaching out to more churches, we hope to increase in volunteers, mentors, and even join together to do projects and outreaches to help the community.
Pastors from Greenhouse, Calvary Chapel Plantation, and Vertical Church spoke about their experiences partnering with Firewall. Church leaders were able to hear about the impact Firewall has on not only their students, but the student’s families and community as a whole. Pastor Greg from Greenhouse spoke about how he was a previous intern with Firewall. He was blown away with how real the relationships between the mentors and the students were. Pastor Greg loved how the mentors had the opportunity to display the love of Christ every day. “Volunteering with this program is one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Greg Grzesiak said. Pastor Virg from Vertical Church spoke about the outreach opportunities and church projects that they have worked on with us. Pastor Chris from Calvary Chapel Plantation spoke about the importance of churches joining together in schools where God is already at work. Pastor Chris mentioned the multiple outreaches that we have done together including a Thanksgiving outreach and packing backpacks full of supplies for needy families. We have been able to greatly impact the families of our students and there are even more ways to love on them when the church is joining in.
People who want to get involved have the chance to volunteer with us and to help students improve their reading skills and complete their homework. Volunteers are also welcome during Serve-A-Thon month, which is taking place in April. College and post-college students can apply to become AmeriCorps Firewall mentors for the 2020-2021 school year where they will receive a stipend and education award towards tuition and loans. We are excited for the churches to use their creativity to come up with other opportunities for us to work together.
Thank you to Community Christian Church for letting us use their campus to hold this event and to Chick Fil A for the delicious meal.
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!
The AmeriCorps Firewall mentors who serve at our centers are so important and play a huge role in the lives of the students that they invest in daily. 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. Due to the fact that our mentors spend every day in schools working with students, it is necessary to be aware of mental health. The mentors were given tips on how to handle situations that may arise while at the schools. This training was a great opportunity for mentors to be educated on a topic that is so prevalent in today’s society.
During this training, we also acknowledged the Firewall centers that are doing an extra awesome job working as a team. The three centers that were recognized for their performance were Lauderhill 6-12, Flamingo Elementary, and Crystal Lake Middle.
We can’t wait for our next training!
This year, Firewall Centers aims to focus and expand its already prevalent service footprint in Broward County. 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. Many of us would like to imagine that the seniors of our community are enjoying their years reminiscing on all of their life memories. However, many are not experiencing that because they have been placed in nursing homes where they have limited contact with family and friends. 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 from both Plantation High School and Western High School were brought to Artis Senior Living of Davie, where all of the residents are experiencing symptoms of dementia. This gave our students the opportunity to model the servant leadership lifestyle that is a part of everything that Firewall instills.
Daily, our students are being taught the importance of having good character and serving the people around them. When the idea was presented to the students they were excited for the opportunity to be the first visitor for many of the residents. At Artis Senior Living of Davie we spent time with the residents by doing crafts, listening to music, and playing games. The students also talked with the residents and heard about their different life experiences. Two juniors from Plantation High School expressed that they are excited to go back and talk to one of the women that they spent time with.
This month for Valentine’s Day, our students will be making handmade cards for residents living in different elderly care centers. This is their third year doing this. We love seeing our students serve others!