"The work that we do creates positive disturbances or positive movement in our students’ lives and in our communities. We seek change in our society; the status quo is not acceptable. We seek to be agents of beneficial change for our children and the communities we serve. Most importantly, we strive to instill in our children the awareness that they are gifted and have a responsibility to share their gifts and thereby make a difference in their lives and the lives of others."
Providing The Educational Opportunities That Change Lives
Support for Parents
At Making Waves, parents will find a school staff that understands the unique challenges and concerns that underserved and resourced-starved families typically experience. Making Waves is guided by the belief that "we are all learners." The staff makes every effort to support and advocate for parents and learn how to better assist them in helping Wave-Makers reach their full potential.
Many parents consider Making Waves to be "part of the family" because of the consistent support the program provides. In return, the program asks parents for a deep, enduring commitment to their child’s academic and developmental journey. Parents are required to volunteer at the school, attend weekly and monthly parent meetings, and support student homework and projects.
In the words of Virginia Garcia, who is a parent of two Wave-Makers and is the Family Relations Coordinator at the Making Waves Education Program in Richmond, "It’s a lot of work" to be a parent of a Making Waves student. It requires dragging children out of bed on weekends, setting firm rules, volunteering, and regularly attending meetings and forums. Her first daughter to complete the program at MWEP is currently studying biology and chemistry at Dominican University. She was recently inducted into the National Honor Society. "Maybe one day we will be calling her 'Dr. Morales,' " Ms. Garcia says with a beaming smile.
Teachers have long recognized that a family's engagement in their child's education is a great predictor of success. Many students have parents and guardians who effectively navigate the educational arena, but some do not. Adapting to the various backgrounds from which our families come, we build connections with families and implement measures that bring parents and guardians into a committed partnership with their students and Making Waves. We currently serve more than 1,000 family members and offer ongoing parent/guardian education courses and monthly forums, coordinated through our Dean of Students Office. The program also supports the community-building and education efforts of the Parent Association we founded - Tsunami. To solidify adult participation, Making Waves requires the completion of annual volunteer hours and attendance at quarterly Wave meetings.
Core Beliefs About Parents
- Parents are a fundamental component of student success. "We cannot do this work without their support," says Making Waves Academy Dean of Students Irene St. Roseman.
- Parents are expected to hold students to high standards. The school leadership requires high levels of engagement from parents, as it does from students and teachers. This includes reinforcing the importance of college, driving students to Saturday tutoring, and participating in conferences and events.
- Parents reinforce what it means to be an educated person. Making Waves parents recognize that students are prepared not to compete with other students in their school or community, but to acquire analytic, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills to compete in the global marketplace. Making Waves encourages parents to understand the value of inquiry and debate and of student participation in rigorous Socratic discourse with teachers.
- Parents are important role models in teaching young people how to resolve conflict. Making Waves works closely with parents to help students learn to respect others, develop communications skills, and model non-violent approaches to conflict resolution.
- Parents and staff members teach students how to be resilient and handle adversity. Staff members, students, and parents are taught to face up to their challenges, not make excuses, and not feel victimized due to family or neighborhood dysfunction or financial hardship. Instead, Making Waves strives to create a culture where students feel ownership over their lives and can rise above various levels of adversity.
How Making Waves Creates Solutions for Parents
There are a number of unique historical, social, and legal reasons why many underserved parents tend not to participate in a child’s academic journey. Making Waves is aware of the legacy of racism, school segregation, and oppression that can undermine aspiration and achievement, and has developed practical solutions.
|Problem||What Making Waves Has Learned||Solution|
|Underrepresented adults often have had negative experiences with schools, resulting in mistrust and apprehension that linger today and are passed on to their children.||This cultural mindset needs to be acknowledged and deconstructed so that parents can connect to their children’s current educational experience.
||Making Waves designates a staff member to act as a liaison to parents to address their needs and concerns and help them navigate the education system.
|A significant number of non-English-speaking parents may easily feel disconnected from their children’s school life.||Language limitations do not have to limit parent involvement if the school is energetic in its efforts to help non-English-speaking parents participate in the program and better support their children’s success.||Making Waves leadership works to ensure that the program creates a multicultural and multilingual community that mirrors the student and parent population.
|Many underrepresented families have multiple jobs. Households often have limited time and energy to devote to homework assistance or night and weekend school activities.||Families will willingly participate if they believe it is crucial to keeping their children in the program. Family involvement strengthens family connections and productivity.
||Making Waves has developed a group of motivated and productive family members to help better support our Wave-Makers. During their eight-year commitment, families are required to volunteer. The program, using parent/guardian volunteers, provides translation services, parent-to-parent outreach, fundraising, parenting classes, and meals.|
|Educators and the public often believe that underrepresented families are not interested in their children’s grades or success in school. This is often used as an excuse to not try to engage families.||Research indicates that underserved families do want their children to succeed in school, but the vast majority don’t know how to help. Many of our parents did not attend college and therefore lack basic understanding of college preparation and the college application process.
||Making Waves has created mandatory weekly and monthly meetings and forums on how parents and guardians can actively play a role in their child’s education. These activities create automatic family participation and involvement.
School Tuition Grants
Making Waves ensures that our students are enrolled in the best possible schools and most appropriate colleges to support their achievement. In many cases, public schools available to Wave-Makers do not offer the academic rigor or high-quality learning environments necessary to accelerate learning growth or advanced study in key academic areas. That is why Making Waves is establishing public charter schools and provides tuition support to send students to private and parochial schools with strong college-prep programs. Our track record proves the strategy correct: Wave-Makers graduate from high school at almost four times the rate of their local peers. Thus far, Making Waves has provided individual and group school placement, application, and financial aid counseling to give more than 600 students the chance to attend some of the best independent and parochial schools in the region. (The number of students Making Waves so serves will continue to diminish annually as we expand our public charter schools.) Making Waves also supports students in attending the most appropriate college, regardless of financial need. When financial aid does not cover expenses, Making Waves helps students pay for college with grants for tuition, room, board, and books.