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.
Meet Sebastian in the video down below!
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.
Kathy has been a part of the Firewall program since she was in the 6th grade. Janeth Fernandez says “I still remember Kathy when she started Firewall. She would work so hard on her academics. She didn’t even speak English at the time, but had such a great desire to better herself that it didn’t hold her back. My favorite part about Kathy is her heart to serve. She loves to help people and always has a smile on her face!”
She learned from a young age that hard work and perseverance produce great results. We knew her potential so as soon as she became a junior in high school, we offered her an internship opportunity to mentor our middle school students. Of course, Kathy was happy to give back and did an excellent job. We were happy to see her grow, mature, and become a great role mole to her students. In her senior year, we were pleased to hire her as a mentor, but this time as part-time staff member.
Kathy believes that there is no excuse for not doing your best. Growing up, she overcame many obstacles and therefore she pushed her own group of Firewall students to excel and had faith that they could do the same.” Kathy graduated from Western High School this year with a 3.57 GPA and over 400 community service hours. She is great with our students and building relationships and wants to be an HR professional in the future. We are so proud of her and know that she will continue to do great things in her community.
Annalyse also came to Firewall in the 6th grade, but we have known her since she was in 4th grade when she would come to the Center every day to pick up her brother, Angelo. Janeth Fernandez remembers how “quiet and shy she was, but was always so interested in learning every chance she could. Annalyse was always smart about surrounding herself with good people that encouraged her to work harder.
I can’t even picture Annalyse’s face without a big smile or a giggle. We knew she was a natural servant leader when she was always the first to run up and volunteer at all of our Firewall events. Annalyse has a way of standing out in a crowd and it’s definitely not because she is that shy little girl anymore. In fact, we all know when Annalyse enters the Firewall Center as she shouts her arrival. However, it’s because there is always joy when she is around. Her great work ethic paired with a wonderful attitude makes her stand out in all she does.”
Annalyse wants to be an elementary school teacher and would make the best one, as she is very loving and caring. When she was in her junior year of high school, we gave her an opportunity to intern with Firewall’s middle school students. She did a great job and with her smiles and caring personality, she made sure the students did their homework every day. In her senior year, we also hired her as a part-time mentor to our middle school students. Annalyse just graduated from Western High School with a 3.54 GPA. She too maintained excellent grades, completed over 300 community service hours, and even dual enrolled at Broward College, taking five college classes as a senior. We are confident that Annalyse will eternally impact all of the kids who are blessed enough to have her as a teacher in the future!