Providing the Educational Opportunities that Change Lives

Graduates in Their Own Words

Making Waves graduates confirm the impact the program has had on their lives and those of their families. They cite the program’s unconditional support, rigorous learning environment, stimulating interaction with an academically dedicated peer group, and generous financial aid and student placement services as crucial factors in their success. Following are snapshots of three of the First Wave graduates, now 29 years old.

Rebeca Rangel says Making Waves helped her gain the academic skills that enabled her to graduate from two of the nation’s elite academic institutions. A Bank of the West senior vice president currently on leave to attend law school at Northwestern, she notes:

"Making Waves augmented the subpar education of a bankrupt school district and provided me the opportunity to attend an independent high school, Stanford University, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. That I graduated from college alongside the daughter of the President of the United States [Chelsea Clinton] makes the unimaginable a reality to my immigrant parents. But in offering continuous emotional, education, and financial support, the Making Waves Education Program makes the unimaginable reality."

Rangel, who grew up in an immigrant Mexican-American family in the poorest community in northern California (Richmond), notes: "The daily tasks are not glamorous: daily homework, SAT prep, and addressing serious personal issues. These daily trials, however, expand social, educational, and financial capital and profoundly expand the capacity of all Wave-Makers to live healthy and productive lives and to realize the American Dream."

Daniel E. Shaw entered Making Waves in 1991 as a student at Richmond’s Adams Middle School, where standards were low and peer pressure discouraged academic achievement. With the help of Making Waves, he accelerated his learning and received unwavering support from high school through graduate school. A graduate of St. Mary’s College High School, Morehouse College, and the UCLA Anderson School of Management, Daniel is now an associate marketing manager at General Mills. He says:

"My new peer culture at Making Waves more than compensated for my middle school’s diminishing emphasis on achievement. Although my parents always challenged me to perform at a high level academically, a conflict arose when I went to school, as these same values were not reinforced by my peers. Making Waves provided an environment where academic excellence was expected. Every time I went to the building, I knew that I was going to be surrounded by scores of other students who strived for excellence in the classroom. While it was great having the support of the Making Waves staff, seeing and interacting with people my age who were dedicated to the educational process provided me with additional motivation to do well."

Brady Stewart entered Making Waves later than many of the participants - as an eighth grader in 1992 - but has participated in the program for the past 18 years, first as a student and then as a member of the Making Waves staff for several years.

"It gave me the tools, the confidence, and the support to make academic achievement and college entrance tangible and relevant to me and my family," he says. "The closer I got to graduation, the better I felt, knowing that I had people behind me with the belief that I would succeed no matter the obstacles." After earning his sociology degree from the University of California, Davis, Brady’s job helping students like himself is highly rewarding: "With each and every year that I am here at MWEP, I see more and more students, parents, families, and staff members becoming that much more satisfied with the work that MWEP accomplishes. The daily struggles we face in helping students overcome many barriers actually inspire us to continue striving on their behalf."