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!
Every year we partner with Samaritan’s Purse during the holiday season to make a difference. Operation Christmas Child, which is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, provides partners around the world with shoe boxes that are filled with hygiene items, toys, and school supplies. These boxes are sent to children who have been affected by a natural disaster, war, disease, and other catastrophic events.
For the 4th year, our high school students had the opportunity to help play a part in making a child in need’s holiday season special by packing some of these boxes themselves and adding a handwritten card wishing them a Merry Christmas.
Operation Christmas Child helped our high school students get into the holiday spirit as they excitedly lined up to fill the boxes and had the opportunity to see all of the items that were being sent out.
When asking one of our Program Directors Elizabeth (Liz) what she thought about the experience she said, “It was so amazing to see so many students who have struggles of their own give their time and money to help other children this Christmas season.”
Not only has this opportunity been one that will impact children all over the world, but it also truly impacted the students that we get to work with every day. It has been our pleasure to see those we serve, serving others.
Firewall Family, meet Nick. Nick is one of our Americorps mentors and has been working at Plantation High School for over a year. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2018 and is currently applying to Medical School to pursue his dream of becoming a Pediatrician.
One of Nick’s students is Abdullah. Abdullah has been in Firewall for the past five years. He has always been a bright student who has put a lot of effort into his academics. As he has worked with Nick, Abdullah has found direction for his future career.
“This year we started doing career planning sessions with students, and I think these have made a huge difference for Abdullah. Even though he was always scoring high and taking a rigorous course load, he didn’t really have an understanding of what he wanted to do or how to get there. I remember feeling this way during high school as well, and it can become overwhelming when you get to college and still don’t have a plan,” Nick said.
“At each session, I am able to understand Abdullah’s interests, as well as his strengths and weaknesses. This has helped us narrow down choices for his career so that we can start creating concrete steps to get there. It’s also nice to give Abdullah advice because I’ve been in his shoes, and I wish I had someone to tell me what I know now.”
“I knew the sessions were paying off when Abdullah came in the other day saying he wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. When I asked him why he said it was because he wanted to be like me. When he told me this it made me realize how much of an impact I have on these kids and how important these sessions are for them”.
When we asked Abdullah about these sessions he described how they have helped. “From the beginning, I always had interests in business and professional careers, but Nick helped me map out a plan to achieve these goals. He gave me the foundation and in the end, I was able to make a well-informed decision on my own.”’
“Firewall has helped so many kids by changing the trajectory of their lives, and I’m just happy to have been apart of the process. It’s a large responsibility to shape a child’s future, and it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone passionate about helping underserved communities for the long haul.”, said Nick.