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”.
“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.
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.
All around the world different months of the year are given “month-long observances.” April is Autism Awareness month, February is Black History month, and July is even known as National Ice Cream month. One observance that is close to our heart is National Mentor month which takes place this month. Firewall Centers wouldn’t be what it is today without the faithful mentors who show up day after day to serve our students. Our AmeriCorps Firewall mentors put their heart and soul into helping students achieve academic success, build character, and transform into servant leaders.
The mentors at Firewall are college and post-college students who are AmeriCorps members and amazing role models to the students of Broward County. They make such an impact on the students that we serve, but the students are also impacting the mentors every day. It is so rewarding and encouraging to the mentors when students that they have been investing in show improvement in their grades and character.
One of our previous Firewall mentors, John, enjoyed playing a role in helping high school students realize their full potential. “I was ecstatic about the opportunity to work with young people. High school students should be filled with hopefulness and optimism about the future. Unfortunately, many at-risk youth are shackled by low expectations and have a low opinion of their abilities. At Firewall, I saw firsthand the life-changing power of mentoring. We help students visualize themselves as the next doctors, lawyers, police officers, and mechanics by working with students to develop a concrete plan that make their dreams a realistic achievement,” said John.
We currently have 60+ mentors serving at our different centers and will need even more for next year. Recruitment for mentors will begin in the next few months. If you have ever had an interest in becoming a Firewall mentor, consider applying this year.
To all of our mentors, thank you for your service.
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.