Providing the Educational Opportunities that Change Lives

Support for Students

Addressing Barriers to Learning

"If we want to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn, we must ensure that their basic needs are met. This means that students who are hungry should be fed, that children who need coats in the winter should receive them, and that those who have been abused or neglected receive the counseling and care they deserve." – Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University

Making Waves recognizes that underserved students need more than ongoing academic enrichment and support in mastering writing, reading, and mathematics, or even guidance in bolstering study habits and developing independent learning skills. Making Waves must also pay special attention to their emotional and developmental needs.

Making Waves takes a holistic approach and addresses all of the problems encountered by children living in poverty. The program provides:

  • Nutritious meals four times a day.  
  • Safe, reliable transportation to take students to and from school.
  • One-on-one and small-group learning interventions specially focused on literacy skills, language development, reading and math to bring our students to grade level.  
  • Mental health services with licensed clinicians who are experienced in addressing common problems faced by underserved students and their families. These include issues such as addiction, gang involvement, anti-social behavior, and domestic violence.
  • Parent education and special resources, including translators, for parents and guardians who do not speak English.
  • Integrated technology that assists student learning. Laptop computers are available to all our Wave-Makers.
  • College counseling that begins in middle school and continues until completion of a bachelor’s degree.

Making Waves does not simply make referrals for students. Our staff includes a roster of in-house psychologists, social workers, academic advisors, college counselors, tutors, and nutritionists. Most of our tutors are high-performing local college students who come from similar backgrounds and can relate to Wave-Makers' struggles, support their aspirations, and provide effective guidance. These tutors can speak honestly about the rigors of college-level work, the satisfaction and rewards that come from intellectual accomplishment, and the challenges that underserved students face.

All students have access to counseling and request it for various reasons. In some cases students experience trauma or must deal with life-changing circumstances such as the death of - or abandonment by - a family member. Sometimes students need counseling to address the various challenges that come with adolescence.

"Counseling is provided once a week in 50-minute sessions," says clinician Debbie Schleicher. "I check in with students about school, family, and their social and academic environment. Students have a lot going on. It can be stressful and tedious. These students put in many hours of academic work each week, and having an hour to be reflective and talk about themselves helps them process and clarify their experiences. Counseling gives them a voice and an advocate."

This kind of deep personal relationship with students extends across all areas of the Making Waves program, from providing them with life enrichment to college counseling. "Kids are here for eight years, from fifth to twelfth grades. You really get to develop a bond not just with the students, but with the families. You really know them as they grow and (you) develop a special sense of trust with the families," notes Terri Frick, Making Waves Program Administrator in San Francisco.