Making Waves Foundation » About Us » Welcome from the CEO

For over 30 years, our mission has focused on expanding educational opportunity for underserved and underrepresented students. Our Wave-Makers are an incredibly talented, passionate, and diverse group of students and alumni who are pursuing their life dreams with purpose and making a positive impact in their community and in the world.

We currently serve 1,100 5-12th graders at Making Waves Academy, 575 college students, and over 525 alumni who are working in fields such as business, education, healthcare, law, social work, and more.

I’m thrilled to support our Wave-Makers on their college, career, and life journeys as the CEO of Making Waves Foundation and have seen firsthand the impact that educational opportunity can make on the lives of individuals and communities.

Our Work

Here in Contra Costa County, too few students from low-income backgrounds graduate from college, a reality that disproportionately impacts students of color. Opportunity is not equally distributed in the Bay Area, and while children in historically underserved communities have limitless potential and dreams, they lack access to education, career, and life opportunities. However, a different reality is possible.

I believe all students are capable of unlocking their infinite success and achieving their dreams, that all students should be prepared for college and have the ability to choose their postsecondary pathway. And I believe that we should provide students with opportunities and guidance so they are equipped to live these choice-filled lives.

At Making Waves Foundation, our core strategy has been two-fold:

  1. provide academic and social-emotional support to middle and high school students so they are prepared for college and career, and
  2. provide scholarships and professional coaching to college students so they graduate college on time, with minimal debt, and set up for career success.

Our Impact

Making Waves Academy’s results preparing students to attend college are unparalleled in Contra Costa County. 100% of Making Waves Academy graduates meet California’s A-G requirements making them eligible to attend  University of California and California State University colleges or universities and 95% matriculate to higher education.

Our students who participate in our college success program, known as CAP, graduate college at over two times the rate of their low-income, first-generation peers and their debt levels are unparalleled at a time when student loan debt is skyrocketing nationally.

Our Future

We’re now at the start of a new chapter in Making Waves Foundation’s history. We’ve recently launched an ambitious ten-year strategic plan, an expansion strategy to increase college enrollment and the college graduation rate for low-income students in Contra Costa County.

This will scale impact at a community level and give us an opportunity to learn new lessons along the way so we get better and can share our learnings with others to drive breakthroughs in education more broadly.

Within this context we’re pushing ourselves to think big and stretch ourselves in order to drive impact. The pandemic has created significant disruptions in K-12 education, higher education, and the workforce. We must adapt to this new context and innovate, especially if we’re going to ensure that students from marginalized communities are positioned to achieve college and career success in this disrupted environment. We’re piloting new approaches to student support such as scalable technology in college advising, new and differentiated coaching strategies with our college students, and new partnerships with schools and nonprofits to accelerate college and career outcomes.

Join Our Community

Thanks so much for being part of our Making Waves community. I’m grateful for the amazing people in our community who show up for each other and our students and who collaborate with us in pursuit of impact. I invite you to stay connected to us by signing up to receive our latest news, resources, and opportunities and discovering more ways to get involved on our website here.

All the best,

Patrick O’Donnell

Chief Executive Officer