Richmond, CA. Making Waves Foundation is thrilled to announce the appointment of Patrick O’Donnell as Chief Executive Officer. Since 1989, Making Waves Foundation has provided historically underserved and underrepresented students in West Contra Costa County and across the Bay Area access to an equitable education. In this newly created role, Patrick will provide high-level, strategic and operational leadership in pursuit of the mission during a period of remarkable growth.


Patrick brings diverse leadership experience from his career in education and nonprofit management. He started his career as a teacher in Los Angeles, teaching 7th and 8th grade Language Arts as a Teach For America corps member. During his time in the classroom, Patrick built a fierce commitment to his students and to achieving justice and educational equity. He went on to hold a variety of senior leadership roles at Teach For America, most recently serving as the Executive Director of Teach For America – Indianapolis and as the Vice President of National Development. Patrick’s commitment to serve students growing up in low-income communities and his relational, goal-oriented style will allow him to help the foundation envision future strategy, adapt to changes in the education landscape, and maximize impact for students.


Making Waves Foundation’s vision is a society in which all youth–regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status–have access to high-quality educational opportunities and the tools to achieve success. The foundation works to achieve this vision by taking a two-pronged approach to advancing college access and success. First, the foundation supports the success of Making Waves Academy, a public charter school in Richmond, CA. Last year, 95% of Making Waves Academy graduates enrolled in college. Second, the foundation facilitates college success for Making Waves Academy graduates and other low-income college students across the Bay Area through the foundation’s college success program, CAP−an intensive program that provides coaching for students throughout their entire college experience, working to help students graduate as quickly and with as little debt as possible. Currently 90% of CAP college students are on track to graduate within six years, compared to the national average of just 11% of students from low-income households.


“I’m so excited and honored to join the Making Waves Foundation team,” said O’Donnell. “It’s inspiring to see the work the foundation does supporting and empowering students in the Bay Area to excel academically, graduate college, and become leaders in their communities. During every opportunity I’ve had to spend time with the team and board at Making Waves, it’s been clear to me that this is a group of people who cares deeply about students, equity, and justice – I can’t wait to continue and expand our work advancing college access and success.”


Providing vision and direction to a staff of approximately 50, the CEO will partner with the board, its executive committee and his senior colleagues to define, maintain, monitor, and enhance the organization’s highly successful programs and services, as well as guide facilities expansion and support diversification of philanthropic support.


“Following an extensive national search that brought numerous qualified candidates to our attention and a thorough selection process with broad stakeholder participation, we are excited to have Patrick O’Donnell join our Making Waves Foundation team as CEO,” says co-founder and board chair John H. Scully. “Patrick has achieved remarkable results in his educational leadership at multiple levels, and we are so fortunate to have him fill this critical position. His passion for students and his ability to think strategically, manage effectively and build relationships all while focusing on outcomes will help drive our strategy, culture and results in the coming decade as we fulfill our mission to educate underserved youth.”


Working with Making Waves Academy CEO Alton B. Nelson, Jr. and Melissa Fries, Executive Director of CAP, Patrick is well-positioned to navigate the opportunities ahead as we continue to iterate and execute on the mission our founders conceived 30 years ago.


Patrick begins his role on Monday, July 29, 2019.