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Richmond - Margarita Galaviz: An Aspiring Actress Shares How Making Waves Changed Her Life

Margarita Galaviz

Margarita Galaviz still remembers the day. She was sitting on her bedroom floor, playing, when her brother broke the news:

"My teacher had called and informed my parents that she had recommended me to the [Making Waves] program," Galaviz says.

Galaviz, then in the fourth grade, had that natural curiosity and love for learning that stands out. Still, she says, she needed someone to mold her, to nurture her potential.

Galaviz had never heard of Making Waves, but she knew it was a good thing because they noticed her because of her good grades.

She went to the interview, answered Glenn Holsclaw and Jessica Wright’s questions and went home. "I was really kind of nervous," she says.

Little did she know how life changing that phone call would be. Today, Galaviz is a graduate of a prestigious private high school and ready to enter Sarah Lawrence College in the fall of 2010. She attributes her success to the program’s seven years of consistent support.

 "I can’t even picture my life without Making Waves in it," Galaviz says. "I don’t know where I would have ended up."

‘I would have burned out’

"I’ve always had that drive," says Galaviz, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents and youngest of five children. But "it’s so easy to burn out."

When asked to explain, she quickly responds: "There’s so many obstacles in life." She lists academic, social, and financial obstacles. Galaviz says that growing up in Richmond – where it’s expected for teenagers to either drop out of high school or attend community college – is an obstacle in itself.

"If I didn’t have the support, if I didn’t have the program, I would have burned out," she says.

Galaviz, who has three older brothers and an elder sister, will be the first in her family to attend a four-year college. Her parents, both raised in Mexico, moved to the California Bay Area when they were young adults. Her father finished the equivalent of middle school and her mother, one of 12 children, never attended school. She later taught herself to read and write Spanish.

"I am defying the odds," Galaviz says. She recently graduated from The Branson School, which is 11 miles outside of San Francisco, and had attended the equally rigorous Prospect Sierra School for middle school. In addition to providing financial scholarships for her school tuition, Making Waves was there to assist Galaviz and her parents with the application process, essay writing, and decision-making process.

Involved HER Parents

Galaviz had applied and been accepted at highly competitive, progressive schools with different strengths. She weighed all the pros and cons: location, classes offered, school culture, extracurricular activities, social environment. She says the process was simplified because the Making Waves’ staff made a point of including both her parents, including speaking to her mother in her native language.

 "So it’s not that my Dad knows everything and my Mom knows nothing," Galaviz says.

Making Waves was particularly influential in helping her decide which high school to attend. Staff members spoke to her parents about why she should pick The Branson School, which is a college-preparatory day school with a fine arts program. Galaviz remembers her father urging her to choose Branson after he spoke with a Making Waves tutor.

"My Dad was the bridge," Galaviz says. "I could have not taken my tutor’s advice, but since it was coming from my father I was more willing to listen to him."

Galaviz flourished at Branson, made honor roll, played tennis and soccer, starred in musicals, and led clubs.

"Getting [my parents] involved in my academic life is something they have been really helpful with," she says.

Kicked in later on

Galaviz started attending the Making Waves after-school tutoring program and Saturday school three times a week as a fifth grader and two to four days a week in secondary school. At Making Waves she would look up vocabulary definitions and write down the prefixes and suffixes, answer questions on multiple-choice practice PSATs and receive intensive math tutoring. She participated in reading groups in seventh grade and Saturday classes for grammar rules for the "tricky ones you don’t know." Although she loved learning, she didn’t realize the full impact of the academic support.

"I didn’t really see it kick in until later on," Galaviz says. "When I got to high school, my writing was definitely at the level of other private school students."

Galaviz says Making Waves taught her responsibility and organizational skills "in discreet ways." Galaviz, along with the other 61 students in her Wave, were responsible for carrying an assignment log of daily schoolwork. She had to get her parent and teacher to sign it everyday. "It was such a drag," she says.

Students were also responsible for keeping their vocabulary words on index cards in a small box to bring to Making Waves every Saturday. They were rewarded if they did.

"Learning those organizational skills has really had an impact," says Galaviz, referring to her high school course demands. "I could have been a mess now if I hadn’t had that assignment log in fifth grade."

Educated about the world

Galaviz credits her perspective on the world to the historically relevant books Making Waves staff members assigned. Her favorite novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, is about a black family who travels to Birmingham, Alabama, during the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Four black girls were killed in the racial hate crime.

Galaviz says tutors led discussions to deepen student comprehension of how the bombing impacted lives. Students also shared their feelings and asked questions.

 "It was so shocking, you have to open your eyes to this was what the world was like before you were born," Galaviz says. "It’s tough material in general to process as a seventh grader."

Still, she is grateful Making Waves exposed her to American history. "The younger you start educating kids about the world, about life, the better it’s going to be for them," she says.

The critical-thinking opportunities provided to her as a seventh grader were different from some of her later classroom experiences, where she felt only one side of history was explored.

"Textbooks in some ways can be so narrow-minded," says Galaviz. "It’s really nice to have a program like Making Waves where they give you all the sides and an opportunity to come up with your own conclusion."

As a result, Galaviz became enthralled with African-American history and got so much more out of the course when she took it at Branson. "It’s a fascinating story of people suffering and people overcoming the huge obstacle of racism," she says.

Racial discrimination  was further examined at workshops held at Making Waves when Galaviz was older. During one workshop, a participant was asked to step into a square while others screamed derogatory words. Galaviz says the exercise prompted participants to think critically about how discrimination feels.

Other workshops covered topics such as motivation and community service. One community service workshop showcased booths for organizations such as the Red Cross, area beach clean-up and recycling groups, and prison inmate outreach.

It helped us "develop this need to give back," Galaviz says. Making Waves requires its students to complete seven hours of community service each year.

Moving her act forward

A lover of the arts and acting, Galaviz says she chose Sarah Lawrence College – a private liberal arts college in Bronxville, New York – because of its theater program, small classes and social environment filled with peers and professors who are as "passionate about art as I am." She will concentrate her studies on theater and aspires to become a film, television and Broadway actress.

Galaviz is thankful to Making Waves for getting her this far. "Making Waves came along at the perfect moment," she says. "[It] taught me to appreciate education the way I do."