Collage of 5 college graduated Wave-Makers in their cap and gown

From Howard to UCLA to Yale, nearly 90% of Wave-Makers earn college degrees debt-free 

by Making Waves Education Foundation

Making Waves Education Foundation » News Stories » From Howard to UCLA to Yale, nearly 90% of Wave-Makers earn college degrees debt-free 

Celebrating this year’s 110+ college graduates earning degrees from 25+ universities

During the 2022-23 academic year, more than 110 of our students, known as Wave-Makers, received their degrees from more than 25 colleges and universities across California and the U.S.  

The list of colleges includes all nine undergraduate University of California campuses, nine of the California State University campuses, three Ivy League universities, one Historically Black College and University, and several private universities such as Scripps College and USC.  

Supported by Making Waves Education Foundation, the majority of Wave-Makers are people of color and/or are first-generation college graduates.

As the U.S. experiences a student loan debt crisis, our college and career success program has helped nearly 90% of our college graduates this year earn their degrees debt-free.

Partnering to make college affordable and graduation attainable 

Through Making Waves’ college and career success program, students receive scholarships and financial planning support as well as college and career coaching so that college is affordable and graduation is attainable.  

Based on their unique goals, students partner with the Making Waves team – including a college coach, financial coordinator, and career specialist – to discover more about themselves, grow their strengths, navigate college life, plan their budget, explore their career dreams, and more.

“I would like to thank my college coach, Julie Kirk. She was so extremely patient and caring,” shared Carol Luna Morales, a 2023 graduate of St. Olaf College. “She made space for me whenever I was facing bumps in my journey.” 

“She also cheered me on for all my major milestones and tiny accomplishments,” added Luna Morales, who double majored in Film and Media Studies (FMS) and History and double minored in Latin American Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.”

Carol wearing grad attire in the middle of her parents who are holding her grad cap and diploma
Carol Luna Morales celebrating her graduation from St. Olaf with her family.

A 2023 UC Berkeley graduate, Diraj Thajali shared: “I interacted with my college coach, Ms. [Flea] Tripp, probably more than a couple of my close friends throughout my time at Berkeley. She is the most caring and kindest person I know.”  

Reflecting on his partnership with his college coach around goal setting and communication skills, he added: “Every interaction with her helped me re-discover myself.”

Meet some of the newest college graduates!

Alex Aceves with his cap and gown holding flowers at his SFSU graduation
Alejandro Aceves Madriz – San Francisco State University 

A Making Waves Academy alumnus, Alejandro Aceves Madriz graduated from San Francisco State University. The first-generation graduate earned his degree debt-free. He is currently pursuing a career in the wealth management industry while enrolling in the College for Financial Planning to earn my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Certification.

He shares his advice for college students.

Learn about personal finance early (even if you’re not a finance major.) Getting involved in *relevant* school activities, looking for internships, and networking are huge factors because doing the bare minimum will not cut it. Ask yourself if you can genuinely see yourself working in a career based on your field of study.

Doris Martinez in her cap and gown holding a MWEF banner at UC Berkeley
Doris Martinez – University of California, Berkeley  

Doris Martinez graduated from UC Berkeley this spring with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She is a first-generation college graduate and is working as a finance consulting intern at Ernst and Young. 

“I would just like to say thank you so much for supporting my dreams, and so many other students’ dreams. I know a lot of the Making Waves community here at Berkeley and we’re just always so thankful for everything Making Waves has done for us.”

Carol Luna in her cap and gown with stoles with a forest background
Carol Luna Morales – St. Olaf College 

Carol Luna Morales graduated from St. Olaf College with a double major in Film and Media Studies (FMS) and History and a double minor in Latin American studies and Middle Eastern studies. During her college experience she restarted the campus Queer student organization. Now Luna Morales is working at Reel Stories, a filmmaking program for girls and non-binary youth. 

Luna Morales shares some of her favorite college memories as:

“Reintroducing St. Olaf to drag shows after there not being a drag event in five years. Getting to study abroad in Egypt for a whole semester. I got to travel to Aswan and Luxor twice and got to take film classes with well-established Arab film producers and makers.”

Guadalupe Ortega – University of California, Davis 

A Making Waves Academy alumna, Guadalupe Ortega has been a part of the Making Waves community since she was in fifth grade. Ortega graduated from UC Davis in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in managerial economics. 

“My coach is so supportive. Yes, we talk about academics, but I like that she also talks about my family and my extracurriculars,” Ortega shared. “I know a lot of people don’t have these opportunities. I am very thankful for the scholarship and for the overall program.”

Diraj Thajali in his cap and gown with a UC Berkeley backdrop
Diraj Thajali – University of California, Berkeley 

Diraj Thajali graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science. A first-generation college graduate, Thajali is now a full stack engineer at block chain services company, ClutchLabs. 

⁠”I want to thank the whole Making Waves Education Foundation team for helping first-generation and low-income students like me and others achieve our goals. With you guys by our side navigating college was so much easier. Whether it was helping financially, academically, emotionally, or professionally, every staff member really cared about what they did, and I am forever grateful for it.”⁠ 

The graduate, university, and student debt numbers are estimates as of July 2023. Confirmed data for the 2022-23 academic year will be included in our Making Waves Education Foundation impact report coming out in November 2023. 

About Making Waves Education Foundation

At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.

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