Blue background with white letterings of How We're Insuring Our Core Value Aren't Just Words on a Wall

How We’re Ensuring Our Core Values Aren’t Just Words on a Wall

by Elaine Fernandez with Erick Roa and Cynthia Garcia Villalta

Making Waves Education Foundation » News Stories » How We’re Ensuring Our Core Values Aren’t Just Words on a Wall

Drive impact. Build community. Do hard things. Learn and grow. Promote equity. These are the five core values that guide the work of Making Waves Education Foundation.  

I am a marketing intern at Making Waves and a Wave-Maker attending UC Davis. I recently sat down with Erick Roa, chief operations officer, and Cynthia Garcia Villalta, people and culture manager, at Making Waves Education Foundation to discuss the ways that Making Waves instills their core values throughout their organization. 

What do the five core values mean to you? 

Erick Roa: As an organization, having a set of values is important because it communicates internally and externally what we’re about. Our team really strives to ensure that our values aren’t just something that you see on the wall but that they are something that we truly live into, and that we create programs, opportunities, and make decisions around. 

Cynthia Garcia Villalta: It is important for our organization to have core values and that these beliefs are representative of various aspects of our work. By taking into consideration all these different core values, it allows us to center them around how we support our people and our student services. 

How have these values aided in bolstering Making Waves’ mission and vision? 

Cynthia Garcia Villalta: I think one of the things that we’re constantly challenging ourselves in is to promote equity within our systems and processes. Given that we have these core values, it serves as another reminder that we have to put equity at the forefront.   

Our core values serve as a constant reminder that equity is to be prioritized throughout our organization, whether it has to do with reinforcing our processes or creating new ones. 

Since the core values were launched, what have been intentional ways that the values have been instilled in the staff experience? How have these values come to life in diverse ways? 

Cynthia Garcia Villalta: We believe the staff experience starts from the first interaction you have with Making Waves, so we have ensured that we have processes in place to make our interview processes equitable and ensure our interview pools are diverse and representative of the community that we work with and are a part of. 

To further instill the values into the team experience, Erick and I launched the core value champion awards to constantly remind our folks about our core values and what we stand for. 

Our core values champion program involves us having five sea animals to represent Making Waves’ core values. For instance, we have a dolphin representing our value of building community. Through nominations received by their teammates, we award the top team member that highlights and embodies that core value. This program is something we’re trying out and building community around. It’s nice to see folks celebrated and acknowledged for their work.  

We also use a team management software, called Lattice, and we have our core values within Lattice so that folks can give each other feedback and associate it with one or more of our core values. 

What steps is Making Waves Education Foundation taking to continue the value of promoting equity? Are there any new implementations taking place in the future?  

Erick Roa: The core values are that driving force for a lot of our conversations. For instance, we have our diversity equity and inclusion committee, and they are leading the multi-year road map for how we’re promoting equity as an organization. Our compensation model is one of the key elements of equity in our organization due to it promoting fairness, transparency and consistency for folks. 

Most folks come from very similar backgrounds – from being first-generation and being the first person in their family to go into higher education to being surrounded by folks who have also chosen to work in higher education and impact others.

I think that says a lot about our core values. A lot of us have a personal attachment to these core values in one way or another, and we can see how Making Waves Education Foundation continues to make sure these values shine through our work in every action we take.  

Our Core Values
  • Drive impact. We expand educational opportunity for underrepresented students – this is the heart of our mission. To support college and career success for individual students and at scale in communities, we think big, set ambitious goals, and achieve results.   
  • Promote equity. We acknowledge that marginalized communities face systemic inequities. With our students, we address barriers to opportunity by supporting them to pursue their dreams. With our staff, we leverage our diverse perspectives, build genuine relationships, and implement policies that promote fairness for everyone. 
  • Build community. We seek deep connections and nurture authentic, inclusive relationships. We show up for each other and build each other up with love, strength, and joy. We accelerate progress through intentional collaboration and partnership.  
  • Do hard things. When we see a challenge, we rise to it with optimism and courage. The stakes are high, so we don’t give up.  
  • Learn and grow. We stretch ourselves by staying curious and testing new ideas. We reflect, celebrate, iterate, and share our learning to support others’ growth. 
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.

Related News and Resources