Students cheering in blue caps and gowns in seats at graduation event

Meet the 10th Graduating Class from Making Waves Academy

by Making Waves Education Foundation

Making Waves Education Foundation » News Stories » Meet the 10th Graduating Class from Making Waves Academy

“Over these past four years, we’ve had to constantly decide whether we wanted to keep going or simply give up,” shared Simren Sandhu, the Making Waves Academy student body president during her graduation speech this June at the school’s campus in Richmond, California.

“Yet no matter how many times we wanted to give up – the many, many, many times we wanted to give up – we are all here today,” shared Simren in her address to the Class of 2024 – a class that spent their first year of high school taking classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student speaking on stage at podium

“Whatever challenges we have to face in the future, I’m sure that we will continue to persevere by taking it one day at a time,”

shared Simren, who is planning to attend Harvard University this fall as a neuroscience major.

“As children of immigrants and people of color, we are the trailblazers of our families, lighting the way, not just because we graduated high school, but because we have the courage and determination to pursue better education and careers,” she shared in her speech while sharing appreciations for her family, friends, and teachers. 

Simren in Harvard sweatshirt
Simren Sandhu, the Making Waves Academy student body president, plans to attend Harvard this fall.

The ceremony also included speeches from Salutatorian Yoltzin Wallace and Valedictorian Alessandro Torres.

“Nothing I’ve accomplished, including being up here today, has been done without help,” Yoltzin said as he thanked his family, friends, teachers, and the Making Waves community in his speech.

“Being a teacher is a very, very hard job, and I applaud you for all of your hard work and devotion. The bar is set immensely high for my future college professors,” shared Yoltzin, who is planning to attend Columbia University this fall.

Student speaking on stage at podium

“Sometimes, I’m asked why I do what I do. Why try so hard in school? Why devote yourself to books and good grades? The answer is, and has always been, my family. They’re the reason,” 

Yoltzin shared in his salutatorian speech.

“In anything that I do, I do to the best of my ability so that my parents’ sacrifices will one day pay off.”

“As a middle child, I have always had two things to look out for: following footsteps but leaving some of my own behind,” added Yoltzin, whose older brother, Temoc, just graduated from Boston University this spring, and younger brother, Tlaloc, is a student at Making Waves Academy.

Both Yoltzin and Alessandro spoke about their studies but also about the friendships they have formed and the growth they have experienced at Making Waves.

“Over the collective 1,440 days we’ve spent together since the 5th grade, I’ve shared at least one special memory, conversation, or laugh with each and every one of you,” Yoltzin said. “I will never forget those moments.”

Back of student grad caps in front of speaker on stage
Valedictorian Alessandro Torres addressing the crowd.

“What a remarkable accomplishment it is for us to be here. Here at the end of a journey, we started together in our 5th grade cohorts,” shared Alessandro, who is planning to attend UC Berkeley this fall.

“Coming back from the pandemic was challenging academically,” he said. “It felt like climbing a mountain with stones on your back.”

Alessandro walking across stage in blue cap and gown

“When you look at yourself from freshman year and compare that self to now, I hope you can see the sheer amount of growth you have made because the person you are today is someone who is ready,”

Alessandro shared. 

“The obstacles you have faced have been opportunities to learn, and looking at you all today, I can see you have learned.” 

“You are the person who has forged lasting friendships, the person who has rigorously worked to educate themselves, and the person who has evolved to excel in whichever path brings you happiness,” Alessandro said. 

Making Waves Academy supports students in pursuing a variety of pathways after graduation based on each student’s life goal, with an emphasis on college-readiness for all students. In this year’s Class of 2024, 100% of graduates are planning to attend college.

College and universities

Most students, at 41%, are planning to attend California State University, or CSU, campuses, including, Cal Poly Humboldt, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State East Bay, Cal State LA, Cal State Northridge, Sacramento State University, San Francisco State University, and San Jose State University.

30% are planning to attend University of California, or UC, campuses, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz. 23% are planning to attend community colleges, including Berkeley City College, Contra Costa College, and Diablo Valley College.

A smaller percent, at 5%, have chosen private universities, including Columbia University, Harvard University, University of San Francisco, and USC, and 1% chose out-of-state public universities, including University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The breakdown of college decisions of the Class of 2024.
Academic majors

50% of students are pursuing STEM fields – ranging from biology to chemistry to engineering to nursing. 10% have declared a business major like business, fashion, and economics. The rest have declared majors across the fields of art, criminal justice, education, journalism, sociology, and more.

Pie chart with 50% stem majors, 10% business majors and 10% other
The breakdown of declared majors of the Class of 2024.

Students’ partnership with Making Waves doesn’t end at high school graduation. Through Making Waves Education Foundation, students and families have 1-on-1 support for complicated processes that are often barriers to higher education, like completing FAFSA and financial aid forms or making informed college decisions. 

Plus, most of this year’s Class of 2024 are earning yearly college scholarships as well as college, financial, and career coaching from the foundation. The Making Waves program specializes in guidance for first-generation college students throughout their college journey and into their careers so they can graduate with minimal to no debt, ready for their full-time career.

In addition to Simren, Yoltzin, and Alessandro’s speeches, this year’s graduation ceremony included remarks from CEO Alton B. Nelson, Jr., Principal Dr. Tameka Jackson, COO Liz Martinez, and virtual congratulations from Making Waves founders, John and Regina Scully. 

Graduating senior Valeria Valencia led the Class of 2024, known as the 21st Wave, through a reading of the Wave-Maker Affirmation, guiding principles for students that have resonated over three decades. 

“I am a Wave-Maker!  

I am a valuable person.   

I will believe in myself.  

I will achieve my goals.   

I am creative.  

I will be an impossible me and recycle my success.” 

– Excerpt from the reading of the Wave-Maker Affirmation
Student smiling in blue caps and gowns
Valeria Valencia (second from right) led the class in a reading of the Wave-Maker Affirmation.

Founded in 2007, Making Waves Academy now has 10 years of high school graduates. Alumni from the past 10 years attended the celebration. Several shared words of encouragement for the newest graduates. 

“Congrats Class of 2024!!! I hope the best for each one of you in your own unique, individual paths!!” 

“May all of you fellow Wave-Makers achieve your dreams because the future is in your hands. I’m proud of you all.” 

“As you move on to the next journey, never forget where you came from! Always give back, and remember to have fun!” 

Students in blue caps and gowns walking into graduation
A crowd celebrating graduation wearing blue caps and gowns

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