July 2012 Newsletter

Firewall Kicks Off A Brand New Center!

We feel blessed to be able to announce the opening of yet another Firewall Center! The City of Hollywood contacted us in February asking us to provide our services to students in a very at-risk neighborhood near Attucks Middle School. Since then, we have met with the school’s

principal and the program directors at the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. They are all excited about partnering with us and the City of Hollywood is even letting us use this excellent facility free of charge! This new partnership will allow us to provide our much needed services to another 25 middle school students.

It is truly amazing how doors have opened wide for Firewall yet again, and we are certainly looking forward to what the future holds in store for us as we continue to fulfill our mission each and every day. Between our four centers this coming school year, we will be able to touch the lives of over 150 students every day! But we know that the need is great and we cannot get the job done without your prayers and support!

“Anyone wanting to be a leader must first be the servant.”
– Jesus Christ

Servant Leadership is at the core of everything that we do and teach at Firewall. Our staff models it, our students are encouraged and rewarded as they display it, and our friends and partners share our passion for it. That is why we had such an awesome day on June 30 when a group of 15 servant leaders from Calvary Chapel Plantation enthusiastically helped us to greatly improve our high school center in Davie.

These men took time out of their Saturday to do everything from electrical repairs, to carpentry, to pressure cleaning, and even hung our new Firewall sign on the building. Their work also included staining the access ramp and stairs as well as repainting the outside trim of the building a beautiful shade of “Mountain Blueberry.”

So we just want to take this opportunity to thank the MANY people who bless us with their time, treasure, and talents. You always come through for us and we want to thank you for supporting Firewall as we endeavor to impact the lives of students in neighborhoods throughout South Florida!


June 2012 Newsletter

This month, we want to recognize and thank all of our dedicated staff members and volunteers who week after week, day after day, give of themselves to model servant leadership in the lives of each of our students.

“The ultimate expression of generosity is not in giving of what you have,but in giving of who you are.”

Staff Member: Diana Reyes

I’ve had the privilege of working at Firewall as a mentor for the past year and a half. I can say that it has truly been a life changing experience to observe life change itself happen in the lives of the students that attend Firewall. Students from so many different backgrounds and with so many different stories come to us for help and in the process of helping them improve their grades and walking alongside them, something beautiful happens: transformation.  Sometimes it’s slower than others, but the change in outlook and attitude is almost always  present. Students come to truly believe in themselves and learn to never quit.

I will be pursuing a Master’s degree in the fall and sadly will have to leave Firewall. But the nice thing about working and being a part of Firewall is that Firewall never leaves you. I will miss my students very much but the relationships I formed with them have helped changed them and have changed me in the process. What an amazing blessing!

Volunteer: Thomas Chen

I began volunteering at Firewall in the fall of 2010 in order to fulfill a community service requirement for medical school at Nova Southeastern University. However, working with the  students at Firewall quickly turned from an obligation to a personal passion. Even before I completed the community service requirement, I knew that teaching and mentoring students who were eager to learn was an opportunity that I would strive to maintain week after week.

Firewall is a unique organization. Firewall combines a fundamental faith in Christ and spirit of service with dedicated leaders and a talented staff. I truly believe that without all these components Firewall would not be an effective ministry. As a Christian myself, my desire is to invest my time and energy where God can bless. And the Lord certainly has blessed, helping young adults to succeed in class as students and to make good decisions as servant leadership.

While the most apparent victories have occurred in the lives of the students, I would like to point out that students have been an encouragement to me, and afforded me an opportunity to serve the Lord. Studying medicine can be wearying and even stressful at times, but I’m   thankful for the refreshment that I’ve received from teaching and counseling students, and even playing games with them. Indeed, I believe that this mutual interaction is how community    service was intended to operate.

Job Opportunity

Firewall is growing fast because of the urgent need that young people have for academic assistance and positive role models in their lives. As part of our expansion, we seek to hire part-time individuals who are looking to change the lives of middle and high school students during the critical after-school hours. If you are interested in making a difference and serving others, contact us at 954-252-0838 or atinfo@firewallcenters.org. Please check out our website for more information.


May 2012 Newsletter

On May 22, over 140 students, their parents, volunteers, friends, and staff gathered at Calvary Chapel Plantation to participate in Firewall’s Student-to-Leader Graduation where we celebrated the success of the 2011-12 school year. Our high school graduates, servant leaders, and the volunteers and staff that make Firewall Centers possible for our students were recognized and honored for their dedication.

We would like to congratulate Angelo Defrank and Saraleen Benitez on their great accomplishment of graduating from Western High School! Angelo has been in the Firewall program since the 6th grade, allowing us to have the opportunity to watch him grow up into an extraordinary young man. It was very bittersweet for us as we listened to him speak to the crowd about his full college scholarship and his academic goals as he starts Broward College in the Fall. Saraleen spoke at our Luncheon in November and we had the pleasure of hearing her speak once again as she gets ready to pursue a career in nursing also at Broward College. We are very proud of these students and their achievements and look forward to all of the wonderful things that their futures have in store.

This year, a faithful donor and friend to Firewall stepped up and blessed both Angelo and Saraleen with brand new laptop computers! His desire was for these two students to have this practical tool in order to help make them more successful in college and as they move on to the next phase of their lives.

Servant Leader: Kathy
Kathy is now a sophomore at Western High School. We simply cannot believe that we have known this girl since her 6th grade year. We are so pleased with her hard work, her good grades, and her willingness to serve whenever an opportunity arises. She is a true servant leader. Kathy says:

“Firewall is my second home. Firewall has helped me become a better student and a better person. At Firewall, we learn about values that are helpful for our lives like having integrity and honesty. We learn that it is important to not only be honest with others, but with our-selves. For the past five years, I have learned responsibility. Anytime I have needed help, there is always someone here to help me. As I see the examples that the mentors give me, I want to be able to help out kids in the future because I feel that as a teenager, we need encouragement. Our mentors here at Firewall are a great encouragement to us.”

Servant Leader: Wayne
Wayne is a seventh grader at Indian Ridge Middle School. Even though this is Wayne’s first year at Firewall, it seems like if he has been here for years! He lives right next door to the center so he is always around! Wayne is a great student. He is helpful and kind to others. We love having Wayne at Firewall and know that he has a very bright future ahead of him. Wayne’s words:
“Firewall has made me a better person because I help more people than I used to. Firewall has also helped me do better on tests. Since I’ve been coming here, my grades have been better than ever. I really love this place and I hope to come here while I am in high school. You will have fun. They feed us snacks when we walk in and after we finish our homework, they take us outside or to the game room.”

April 2012 Newsletter

As Firewall continues to expand its reach to more students throughout South Florida, more individuals, foundations, and businesses get excited and grab hold of the vision that has been planted in our hearts.

Recently, we shared our vision with the BJ’s Charitable Foundation and are just beyond excited to say that they have jumped on board and generously gifted us with $5,000! This gift will allow us to purchase school supplies, snacks, and rewards for our students!

Without the support of individuals like you, foundations such as BJ’s, and many others that we will be highlighting in the coming months, Firewall Centers would not be possible for our students. We are grateful for your partnership!

Servant Leader: Jorden

Jorden is a freshman at Western High School. Because Jorden is on the school’s football team, he has learned to prioritize and keep his grades up so that he can have fun playing and doing what he loves to do. We have known Jorden for three school years and have watched him grow up into a very polite and diligent young man. We are honored to make him our Servant Leader of the Quarter. His words:

“I love coming to Firewall. The mentors at the center have helped me to better my grades and myself as a person over the years. Whether through being surrounded by nice people, getting help with my schoolwork from my mentor, or just watching videos that talk about important values, Firewall has helped me greatly!”

Servant Leader: Catherine

Catherine is a seventh grader at Pompano Beach Middle School. Even though we have only known her since the beginning of this school year, we have seen her mature a great deal not only in her academics, but in choosing the right friends. We look forward to having Catherine in our program and watching her grow up and reach her full potential in every area of her life. Catherine says:

“Firewall mentors help me with my homework and they help me study for tests. On Wednesday, we learn about God and how he wants us to follow him.”

Recently, Catherine’s mom sent us an email thanking Firewall for what we have done for her daughter. Her words:

“I just wanted to send you a Thank you for being there for my daughter. Her grades are improving and so is her confidence… I am very thankful for your program.”

Stories like these prove that Firewall is an essential presence in our community! As student’s lives are changed, so is the world around us. These young people are our future. They are the ones that will turn around, give back, and ultimately make a difference in their communities!


March 2012 Newsletter

“He is turning in work for the first time this year!” six grader Jimmy’s math teacher told us at a recent conference we attended. Jimmy attends our Pompano Center along with 22 other students from Pompano Beach Middle School.

At Firewall, we hear testimony after testimony of students like Jimmy who start our program and are struggling academically due to poverty, difficult family circumstances, language barriers, learning disabilities, a lack of confidence, or even something as simple as not having a safe and structured place where they can complete their work. Our mission is to create an environment where these students not only survive—but thrive. We accomplish this by not only providing them with the tutoring and mentoring they need to reach their greatest potential but also by instilling in students a no-excuses mentality that guides them in making right choices and shows them that hard work is rewarded. This approach, together with the daily accountability we provide by being in constant contact with the parent, teachers, social workers, and others, helps us change lives and sets us apart from other programs. Therefore, the success of Jimmy is not an isolated incident, but a daily testimony of how students are transformed by our loving yet systematic approach to mentoring middle and high school students.

Firewall is also incredibly unique in that it not only provides this support system for students for a period of a few months or even for an entire school year, but we literally walk through life with students year after year until they graduate from high school and head towards college or career. Recently, we came across a 2010 study conducted by Public/Private Ventures through Harvard University. They studied over 400 after-school programs that focused on serving middle and high school students and determined that the number one trait that showed a program to be successful was their retention rate. In other words, if a program retains 50% of its students for a twelve month period or longer, it is considered successful. Remarkably, Firewall’s retention rate for this school year is 85%!

This retention rate speaks volumes about Firewall, as it is fulfilling its mission so effectively that teenagers who vote with their feet are voting with their daily presence. Our daily attendance this year has been an incredible 85.4%. When you link these numbers together, what you get is a recipe for life transformation as students come day after day and stay year after year. The key to our success as an organization is pouring into the lives of our students in a way that most organizations can not or will not because of the substantial commitment of time and dedication that is required to do the job with excellence.

February 2012 Newsletter

This month, we are highlighting some more of our Servant Leaders and their  stories:

Servant Leader: Abner
Abner is a junior at Western High School. He is a hard-working, smart, and dedicated student and person. Abner helped out with the building project over the summer and did everything from digging ditches to painting. After he got to know us, he decided to give the program a try and has been coming ever since. We are very blessed to have him and to call him our Servant Leader of the Quarter. His words:

“Firewall has helped me achieve high standards and accomplish what I could only dream of. Firewall continues to push me in my path to success, providing me with resources to complete what I have to do. I was able to achieve a 4.0 GPA my first semester this year. I am excited to see what I am going to get the second semester. I am thankful and extremely happy for what Firewall has done for me.”

Servant Leader: Aaron
Aaron is in the eighth grade. He is a great role model for the younger students. He not only gets good grades, but he plays for his youth group’s band. We love having Aaron in the program and are excited to see what the future holds for him! Aaron says:

“Wow… I can’t even explain how much Firewall has helped me. Last year, my grades were slipping and so was I. I got to enroll in this program, and I must say how lucky I am! The mentors and staff are helpful, kind, and very educated. Being in Firewall has helped me to change my outlook on life, making me a more positive person. I really do believe that God has blessed me with amazing friends. Actually He has blessed me with a family, because that is what Firewall is all about.”

Servant Leader: Manuel
Manny is an eighth grader and attends our Pompano center every day. He is well-behaved, has a good attitude about everything, and has been able to achieve all A’s and B’s since the school year began. Even though there can be distractions, Manny always tries to stay focused. He is Servant Leader of the Quarter. Manny’s words:

“Firewall has helped me with my homework and with my schedule. This has helped me become a better student and improve my grades tenfold! Firewall has taught me about four core values: Faith, Integrity, Relationship, and Excellence. These values have helped me change and become a better person overall.”


January 2012 Newsletter

We are blessed! Our high school students have been counting down the days until they have their own place, and the time is finally here! We are putting the finishing touches on this brand new center and it will be ready for our use by next week.

We just want to take this opportunity to once again thank the MANY people who have helped make this project possible for us. This group of people includes our own students, who have come out and worked hard whenever we have needed them. These students have done everything from digging ditches and painting to helping build a handicap ramp. They have also cleaned, organized, and moved furniture around. You name it, they have done it. Firewall’s mission is to transform students into servant leaders and during this time, we have been able to witness the character of our students as they display what being a true servant leader is all about.

Now we would like to introduce two of these servant leaders as they share their stories:

Servant Leader: Annalyse
Many of you know Annalyse and her older brother Angelo. Annalyse is a tenth grader this year and has been in the Firewall program since the 6th grade. She is one of the kindest and friendliest students you will come across at our West Davie center. Her hard work in both school and around the center made it easy for us to choose Annalyse as one of our servant leaders this quarter. Her words:

“Firewall has changed me to become a better student because my grades have     improved. I worked really hard in all of my classes and with the help I receive at   Firewall every day, I am ending the quarter with only one C and the rest of my grades are A’s and B’s. After I finish my homework, I always help around the building and even help other students with their homework. I am usually the last one to leave!”

Servant Leader: Emily
Emily is in the seventh grade. She is an excellent student and overall, a wonderful girl both inside and out. She is the definition of a servant leader. She has achieved straight A’s since she began her sixth grade year and is truly a pleasure to have in our program. Emily says:

“Firewall has helped me change to become a better student and a better person. The mentors always make sure I am on task while doing my homework. If I don’t have any homework or I already finished it, I study for a test or quiz then I help others with their homework. Firewall has made me a better person because I have learned that I need to choose to do good things. You can’t just expect someone or something to make you into a better person. You have to be willing and choose to be good without expecting an award in return. Firewall has helped me stay on the right track and not be a troublemaker and also, to do my best in everything. ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ –Philippians 4:13″