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.
When thinking about Christmas time, everyone pictures their own special traditions and the ways that make it feel like Christmas to them. The holiday season looks different for everyone. Some enjoy the season by receiving gifts and spending time with their loved ones, while others enjoy it by giving. We love seeing our students smile, especially when it’s caused by people who through their actions, are applying our principle of “Keep Giving Back”.
This year, one of our board members, Aaron McKee, and his wife Toni, purchased board games for every one of our student’s at Walker Elementary School for Christmas. Walker Elementary School is located within Fort Lauderdale’s 33311 zip code where the per capita income is $15,490 and the average household income is only $43,220. The need is great in the neighborhoods surrounding the school which is why Firewall chose to serve Walker and it’s students. In fact, the school is located in an area that has a higher rate of childhood poverty than almost 97% of U.S. neighborhoods, and many of these children attend Walker. The smiles on the student’s faces are enough to show how much this meant to them.
It is our mission to help the students who are a part of Firewall Centers achieve academic success, build character, and transform into servant leaders. It was such a great opportunity for the students to see one of our board members and his wife serving and blessing them this holiday season.
Firewall Centers strives to deepen its impact on families by working collaboratively with other organizations. Firewall and Harvest Drive have worked together over the last 7 years, gathering food for the families of many of our students. Harvest Drive strives to educate students on the issue of hunger in our community and empower them to take leadership roles in lessening hunger’s devastating impact. During the month of December, we sat down with them to discuss how we can grow our partnership in 2020.
One way that we will be collaborating is by bringing our students and mentors together to one location to pack 144 boxes of nonperishable items provided by Harvest Drive. This will take place during our 7th annual Serve-A-Thon in the spring, and these boxes will then be distributed to the families that we serve who are most in need.
During this new year, we are planning to have many opportunities to impact Broward County. Through our annual Serve-A-Thon, we will be collaborating with multiple non-profits and serving the community with about 20 different projects. It is important that the students at Firewall learn how to serve others while being a part of our program. Through Serve-A-Thon, Firewall students will learn the importance of serving by making cards for senior citizens, bags with supplies for the homeless, collecting canned food items for Harvest Drive, and more.
Everyone is eager to see what will unfold as these organizations work together to bring change to our community.
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.
When you think of Thanksgiving most think of a relaxed, fulfilling time with family and friends. Our biggest problems are usually debating between leftover turkey sandwiches or eating another slice of pumpkin pie. It’s almost too easy to enjoy our time and never stop to think of those who may need help during this Holiday season, yet more than 1 in 5 families across the country and over 260,000 individuals in Broward County are unable to provide themselves with a meal that many of us may end up taking for granted.
These families are not far from home, but are often your neighbors and fellow community members. These are the families of students we serve every day here at Firewall. This Thanksgiving, we strived to meet more of the needs of our students by also serving their families. A partnership between Calvary Chapel Plantation, Harvest Drive Florida and Firewall Centers Donors collaborated to bring over 150 Thanksgiving Day meals to Firewall families all over Broward County.
On behalf of all the families that make up Firewall Centers, we would like to give a BIG thank you to our generous partners for sharing in something special for our community. Calvary Chapel Plantation and Harvest Drive Florida are paving the way in servant leadership and we are humbled to have been a part of serving with you.
Giving Tuesday was a great success for Firewall Centers with generous donors offering to match dollar for dollar your end of the year donations. We are thankful for all your support!
With the end of the year approaching quickly, there is still time for you to double your impact by participating in our matching challenge. From now until December 31st, every dollar given to Firewall will be doubled.
Consider donating so Firewall can continue transforming students into servant leaders.
We are so excited to impact more lives with your help!
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.