“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.