Did you know that more than 10 of our former Firewall students have become AmerCorps mentors? Many of these students start off by working in our internship program. The internship allows students that attend our High School sites to gain volunteer hours as they tutor and mentor fellow Firewall students. We currently have 4 mentors, like Sebastian R. (pictured below), that have participated in the Firewall program since 6th grade. These now AmeriCorps members experienced firsthand the impact of being mentored at Firewall and knew that was the example they wanted to follow. Servant Leadership was ingrained in them from the first day they joined Firewall as students, and now they can connect with our students even more by being a mentor to them.
We have had 5+ of our AmeriCorps Members go on to become full-time staff! In our current economy where jobs need to be filled everywhere, we have found a way to retain the hearts and minds of our AmeriCorps Members. At Firewall, they are able to live out our vision to “transform students into servant leaders.” They joined our team full-time to continue making a difference in students’ lives across Broward County.
This would not have been possible without the support of AmeriCorps and all of its connected entities. We truly exist “To improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.”
Firewall Staff and AmeriCorps members were inspired at our September 16th Training. We had to split our training into two groups due to our recent growth, as we added new Center locations and Mentors to the team. The day began with a Citizenship Training where Mentors learned about the importance of committing to personal responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our families, and our communities. “Every right has its responsibilities. Like the right itself, these responsibilities stem from no man-made law, but from the very nature of man and society.” (Senator Lewis Schwellenbach). Our staff and members split up into small groups as they participated in an activity where they had to shorten the bill of rights from ten rights to five. The activity brought members together as they learned to use both their similarities and differences to accomplish the greater goal.
Mentors then listened to one of our own Success Coaches discuss Behavior Tools that can help them daily as they serve their students. Utilizing his two degrees in Social Work and Psychology, Success Coach Ryan from our Bair Middle School site taught members how to increase appropriate behavior through clear expectations and repetition. Mentors also learned how to decrease inappropriate behavior through redirection and corrective feedback.
The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly the visit from Corey Simon, CEO of Volunteer Florida. He shared about his life and how “[He] never thought [he’d] be standing here doing what [he does]. But [he] just started by serving.” Through anecdotes of his program experience and the ways he served his community, he inspired our mentors to keep being a guide for our students. He reminded members that “Sometimes [the kids] just want to know that there’s someone there to listen, someone they can trust.”
We want to give a big thank you to Volunteer Florida and AmeriCorps for inspiring us to inspire our students and for their continual support.
At Firewall Centers, our students are not just assisted with their homework, but we create curriculum to help them better understand the world around them.
Our Elementary School Mentors spend hours making lessons, PowerPoints, and games for their students. Some of the topics we discuss include taking care of our environment and how they can apply math and reading to real world, day-to-day experiences. This helps our students realize that the world is more than just school and grades, and allows them to connect the knowledge they gain with the real world.
All the while, we are able to teach all of our centers from our unique T.H.I.N.K. and Life Skills Curriculum. These lessons include Drug and Alcohol Prevention along with aspects that assist our kids with social and emotional health. Our students even become excited just seeing our Life Skills Director, Greg, log in to the Zoom call. The relationships we build with our students is the most important part of our program. It allows us to walk through each part of their life with them.
This month we decided to take an inventory from our parents and students on how they’ve felt about Firewall during this period of COVID restrictions. HQ Staff called parents weekly and got their feedback, while mentors logged onto Zoom to ask the students what they thought about Firewall. It is always so satisfying to see our students and their parents continue to be appreciative for how our program impacts their life. Watch our favorite clip from our students in elementary down below!
March 5th is Employee Appreciation Day, but at Firewall we wanted to highlight our staff ALL MONTH! This all started by scheduling a monthly luncheon with all our staff. This allowed us to create an environment free of stress from work and just enjoy each other’s company.
As we shared each of our experiences at Firewall we wanted to appreciate all our mentor staff, that really helps Firewall help impact our students. Each Team highlighted 1-2 Mentors for special recognition. They were chosen by how they lived out the T.H.I.N.K. Principles (Take Charge, Have a Plan, Involve the Right People, Never Quit, Keep Giving Back), personally and professionally. All the names were compiled and their stories were sent out to everyone, so they could all appreciate different mentors at different centers. Read below, just one of the many mentors we got to recognize!
We believe Arlene Sanchez deserves this award because she is a direct reflection of “N” in THINK. She never quits!
On multiple occasions, Arlene has shown the desire to actively commit to our students and anything necessary to help them pass their grade level. She has shown initiative by putting extra time to be available to our students on Fridays for 1-on-1 sessions. She is dedicated to our mission at Firewall and the success of our students all the way from Orlando. Arlene deserves this recognition and more!
We aim to grow our mentors to be the best. It’s our goal not just to grow our students into servant leaders, but to give our mentors the training and support to be the best they can be.
Thank you for ALL of your help Firewall Family! Thanks to many generous donors, we were able to reach our end-of-year goals. We can’t thank you enough for believing in our mission to transform students into servant leaders. What we receive from YOU allows us to consistently support our students, through daily tutoring and mentoring. We are starting off 2021 strong because of your generosity!
We also wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our partners like the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, Volunteer Florida, United Way of Broward County and other individuals that have allowed us to spread holiday cheer with presents for all of our students.
We have also been able to produce a new video series, Firewall Explores, which has made our students excited to attend virtual sessions and stay interested in learning. Click below to see our Firewall Explores highlights from 2020!
Program Directors, Lead Mentors, Success Coaches, and Mentors packed their cars this holiday season, ready to spread cheer to everyone in our Firewall Family. They delivered thoughtful care packages, filled with goodies like snacks and toys, to over 100 mentors, families, and students alike!
Mentors also received a holiday surprise for them to enjoy. Students received different combinations of toys, socks, and books. This was all thanks to the generous grants and donations from The Children’s Service Council of Broward. They continue to support our mission to transform students into servant leaders. Click down below to see firsthand what happened at Firewall’s Winter Workshop!
Firewall Explores has become a big hit with all of our students. Every other Monday they log on ready to find out where Woodny and Diego have been. We have gone through some different topics like Civil Engineering and now Marine Life and their habitat.
Through a partnership with South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, we were able to use their facility and interview one their Aquarium Director, Rebecca. She helped the students learn about ways to keep their oceans and the fish in them safe. Also, Woodny and Diego were able to teach our students how the Nitrogen Cycle works. Videos like these help Firewall break down educational topics into bite sized interactive videos.
Click down below to see our latest video and check out the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach!
This month we went to our staff and asked them to finish one sentence: “I love Firewall Centers because…” Asking this question brought out a lot of amazing responses. Staff members that have been with us for years got to revisit the reason they first joined Firewall. On the other hand, new mentors and staff are mentioning that even while we are still virtual, they love connecting with their students. Alex, one of our Success Coaches for Bair Middle School, who has worked with us for 6 years, said. “I love Firewall because I get to build relationships with my students.” While, Shawn, our new Elementary Program Director, says, “I love Firewall because we have college students pouring into our students who need love and support, and they’re getting it.”
The closer we get to the end of 2020, the more we want to look back at the good times of our year. If you have a response to why you love Firewall, share it on social media and tag @firewallcenters! We’d love to see how many members we have in our Firewall Family. Of course, if you want to give more than a response and support us financially, you can go to firewallcenters.org/donate
More and more kids are signing online with us every afternoon. One of the many ways we are trying to make learning and tutoring fun is through a new YouTube video series called ‘Firewall Explores‘. With this series we are able to visually teach the kids, and they’re excited to log on every week.
But, this isn’t just fun for them, it’s also fun for us! Not only is a small group of our staff now fully involved with the production of this series, but it’s a group effort. The many hats that each of these people wear helps the vision of Firewall permeate through our video series. We have Eileen our Chief Marketing Officer, working the camera and contacting venues to find places where we can film. Also we have Woodny, a mentor for our Orange Park Center, who co-stars with Diego, our Communications Manager.
Firewall staff members work with our students everyday and know how they will react and connect with Firewall Explores. So, we know that this series can be a great gift to the students in their year as they spend their school days at home. Click down below to watch our most recent episode of Firewall Explores.