This past fall, town of Davie and Broward County School Board dignitaries gathered at a humble after-school center located in one of the most underprivileged neighborhoods of Davie. There, Firewall Centers was honored with a two-year, $100,000 grant from the AT&T Foundation. Present at the ceremony were the Firewall staff and Board, AT&T representatives, Davie Mayor Judy Paul and Davie councilmembers, and the Vice Chairman of the Broward County School Board Laurie Rich Levinson. Events included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and giant check presentation. Firewall Center’s leadership program is only 1 of 47 recipients nationwide to share in the nearly $10 million from AT&T’s Aspire Program funding. Applicants were evaluated based on their accomplishments in serving students at risk of dropping out of school, and their ability to use data to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work.
“As we work with parents, schools, their teachers and counselors to impact under-served students, we have found out that it is not only important to give kids a safe place to hang out, but a place where they are expected to perform to the best of their ability,” says the Executive Director of Firewall Centers, Andy Fernandez. “More and more people like AT&T are beginning to realize that in order to truly improve graduation rates, we must have measurable outcomes that show success and provide accountability.”
History and Values
Firewall Centers is a faith-based, non-profit organization that has been impacting the lives of middle and high school students since July 2003. Their mission: to transform students into servant leaders. Essentially, Firewall provides students with a free after-school program in which they receive daily mentoring, homework help, tutoring, and character development. The program impacts under-served, at-risk youth—giving them not only a safe place to belong, but a place of excellence where their best is expected. Firewall partners with the schools, teachers, counselors, parents, churches, and other groups to achieve a cooperative effort in reaching out to students.
Fernandez and his wife Janeth wanted to give students a refuge—to protect them from the evils of this fallen world as a firewall protects your computer from viruses and hackers. As Zechariah 2:5 states, “‘For I,’ declares the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”
Firewall seeks to impact the lives of students and families. Parents Richie and Marie were at a loss of what to do. Their daughter Ariana was just suspended from school for fighting, and she was being held back in the eighth grade. Every night seemed like turmoil as Ariana tried to finish her homework. And this is when Richie and Marie heard about Firewall. After enrolling into the center, life for Ariana and her family would never be the same. Today, Ariana is thriving in school and on a path to success. Her parents, like many others, are filled with gratitude for the ministry of Firewall.
Another student, Abner Molina expresses, “Firewall has helped me achieve high standards and accomplish what I could only dream of. Firewall provides me with resources and continues to push me on my path to success.”
Statistics say there are over 50,000 kids in South Florida who don’t stand a chance (firewallcenters.org). Family situations, learning difficulties, peer issues, and social influences have put the odds against many students. But organizations like Firewall exist to beat the statistics. With the right help and the right involvement, the youth of today can not only survive, but thrive. Thanks to the Lord’s work through Firewall and others, now they have a chance.
If you would like more information on Firewall Centers and how you can become involved, please visit their website at: firewallcenters.org. You can also schedule a Firewall Experience Tour to better see, hear, and experience how Firewall is impacting students one at a time. To contact Firewall, call 954-252-0838 or e-mail [email protected].
Finley can be reached at: [email protected].