Introducing Making Waves Academy Class of 2023 

by Making Waves Foundation

Making Waves Education Foundation » News Stories » Introducing Making Waves Academy Class of 2023 

On June 8, 2023, the Making Waves Academy community gathered at the campus gymnasium to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2023. As over 80 graduates entered the building, they were met with cheers from their families, friends, teachers, school administrators and staff. 

Making Waves Academy graduates  throw their caps in the air at the end of the graduation ceremony
Graduates throw their caps in the air at graduation

The graduating class, known as the ’20th Wave,’ has shown remarkable resilience and determination, facing the unique challenges posed by the pandemic and the subsequent transition back to in-person learning. Despite these obstacles, every single Making Waves Academy senior who applied to a four-year college received acceptance to at least one institution, fulfilling Making Waves Academy’s commitment to providing every student with the opportunity to attend a four-year California college.

The future in STEM looks bright

More than 40 students graduated with honors (3.50 GPA or +), with many recognized as members of the National Honor Society. The 20th Wave’s post-secondary plans include attending University of California Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University , University of Southern California, and University of California Los Angeles.  An impressive 31 seniors will be attending a UC, and 27 seniors have secured spots at CSU campuses, pursuing majors such as Business, Kinesiology, Communications, Nursing, Fashion Apparel Design and Merchandising. The future in STEM is bright with 20 + seniors declaring majors in Biology, Science, and Engineering.  Seven seniors have committed to attending community colleges to embark on a trade or transfer pathway, while one senior is pursuing a military career and another senior is pursuing a union apprenticeship. 

U.S. News recently affirmed the Academy’s unwavering dedication to academic excellence by ranking Making Waves Academy among the top 4.5% of high schools nationwide. In his speech, Alton B. Nelson, Jr., the CEO of Making Waves Academy, expressed deep pride in the graduates, recognizing their determination and ability to surmount challenges. “What a journey you have been on the last four years. And yet you thrived. Your academic performance as a class is one of the highest I have ever seen at MWA. Your college and post-secondary pathways are very rigorous. Your high school completion rate is tremendous. All you have to do is take that leap of faith or start that climb.” 

Inspiring speeches from speakers

Senior Imuntinyan Aigbuza leads graduates in reciting the Wave-Maker Affirmation
Senior Imuntinyan Aigbuza leads graduates in reciting the Wave-Maker Affirmation

The event was filled with inspiring speeches from the valedictorians and other student leaders, who reflected on the pride they felt for their hard work, personal growth, and exceptional achievements. 

Senior Imuntinyan Aigbuza led the entire 20th Wave in reciting the Wave-Maker Affirmation, a powerful declaration of self-belief and unwavering determination:

“I AM A WAVE-MAKER! I am an agent of change. I can control my destiny if I set my mind to it. I am determined to be an intelligent, organized, and disciplined person. I will not let anything get in the way of my success. I AM A WAVE-MAKER! I am willing to get an education. I will go to college. I will complete the Making Waves program because I am determined to go to college.”

Student body president Jenissa Godinez
Student body president Jenissa Godinez

Student body president Jenissa Godinez, who will attend University of California, Los Angeles delivered a powerful speech to her peers.

“We did it. We graduated high school. We are now living the reality of what’s next. We completed what I would say was the hardest decision of our life. Not just answering the question, ‘What’s next?’ but, actually taking that step!” She offered a small piece of advice, “Whatever your choice is, do not spend time wondering if it was right or wrong. There is no right or wrong decision only an opportunity to grow.” 

Valedictorian America Leon-Betancourt who will be attending Barnard College, Columbia University, delivered an impassioned speech, sharing an important lesson about facing fears with the support of her community.  

Valedictorian America Leon-Betancourt
Valedictorian America Leon-Betancourt

“I’m certain that the main reason I am here is because of [your] empathy and support. Although I cannot yet claim to have overcome my fears, I do know that I will be leaving home with a sense of self and newfound courage to continue navigating life as a person who sometimes is afraid.  So, to all of the parents, siblings, friends, teachers, mentors, and loved ones that have helped us get to this point, we owe you a great debt of gratitude. Thank you for all of the lessons you have taught us, support you’ve given us, and kindness you have shown us. Class of 2023 I’ll leave you with this: acknowledge your fears, step into them, and don’t let them hold you back from doing really big things. “ 

Making Waves plays a vital role in providing support for graduates

To support their college journeys, Making Waves Education Foundation plays a vital role in providing support. Through the college and career success program, students receive college scholarships, one-on-one coaching, budget planning support, and career advising so they are able to graduate from college with minimal debt and set up for career success . The majority of the graduates have already enrolled in this program, highlighting their commitment to ongoing success. 

Making Waves Education Foundation CEO Patrick O’Donnell shared, “I’m so excited for the 20th Wave. They’ve built such a strong community and accomplished so much at Making Waves Academy. Now they’re courageously taking their next step. For all the Wave-Makers who are heading off to college and joining our college and career success program, our team is looking forward to partnering with them on their path to college graduation.” 

As students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, they shook hands with school administration and Making Waves Academy founders John H. and Regina K. Scully. As a parting gift, each student was presented with a single red rose. 

Alton B. Nelson Jr., CEO of Making Waves Academy, gives a speech to graduates
Alton B. Nelson Jr., CEO of Making Waves Academy, gives a speech to graduates

Nelson expressed his gratitude to Making Waves Academy’s founders, supporters, board of directors, staff members, and teachers highlighting their instrumental role in shaping the educational journeys of the Wave-Makers.

“Thank you so very much for your continued interest and support for Making Waves Academy and Making Waves Education Foundation. Between our two entities we serve well over 1,000 students in school here and hundreds of college students. Your shared vision of what is possible, your belief in people, and your belief in the power of what knowledge and compassion can do to make the world a better place inspires me to continue to chase outcomes, try to open doors and create opportunities for our Wave-Makers. We thank you so very much.”