New Wave-Maker Success Framework Outlines Path to College Graduation and Beyond
by Alicia K. Gonzales
Combining student dreams with a measurable plan
At Making Waves Foundation, we have a new recipe for impact: the Wave-Maker Success Framework.
Based on insights from students and the expertise that our coaches have been implementing for years, this framework consolidates our tried-and-true college success program and coaching resources in a way that establishes an entry point for students and a measurable plan for their college and career success. Since our founding, more than 600 students, who are often the first in their families to go to college, have graduated from nationally ranked universities, including University of California campuses, California State University campuses, and private universities.
“To codify the Wave-Maker Success Framework, we reflected on the areas in which we are uniquely positioned to support students on their college journey. This pushed us to be clear about what we do and why we do it,” said Aiyana Mourtos, vice president of impact at Making Waves Foundation.
Supporting students’ college “game plan”
Recognizing that a variety of tools, approaches, and resources are needed to support a college “game plan,” Making Waves Foundation’s college coaches led pilot programs to zero in on the practices that help our college students — known as Wave-Makers — graduate and thrive, while taking into account who each student is as a person.
Coaches explored new ways of supporting students on their college journeys in areas such as wellness and self-advocacy, career exploration and readiness, agency and self-authorship, and academic planning. Based on the pilots, we implemented program refinements to bolster and measure support.
“One refinement that came out of the coaching pilots is a 60-question student assessment on identity, purpose, agency, and career readiness,” said Ayasha Tripp, senior manager of coaching services at Making Waves Foundation. “Once our coaches review the results, they are able to help students establish measurable goals for the year.”
Focusing time and energy
This information supports students in focusing their time and energy on setting specific and tangible goals with their coaches.
“The framework captures the intentions, qualities, and actions that we believe support student success in college and life beyond,” said Mourtos. “It reflects our belief that Wave-Makers bring tremendous strengths by virtue of who they are, while recognizing that college offers new experiences for holistic learning and development.”
“Asking coaches to think intentionally and creatively about the different ways to serve our students gave us an opportunity to be more purposeful,” Tripp shared. “Some coaches started focusing on career readiness with students. Others centered coaching around wellness and health to help students cope with the pandemic.”
With this approach, students are gaining flexibility to determine what feels right for their schedule and needs. In addition, with data available on Wave-Makers’ college journeys, coaches can evaluate their caseloads to inform who might need specific forms of support.
“Life in college can present a wide variety of different demands, so our coaches are helping students name their values and priorities so they don’t spread themselves too thin,” said Tripp. “We are taking the best of the coaching team’s experience and expertise and codifying it — learning from what the team has been doing and being strategic about what we focus on going forward.”
“Because we can’t do everything, we are asking students and coaches to focus their time and energy on target areas. If we can do these things well, then we will more effectively support students on their college journey,” Tripp shared. “That’s the meeting of impact and action.”
The new Wave-Maker Success Framework also provides shared language, categories, and terms that coaches, team members, and students can ground in authentically.
“This year, we’ll be trying a new goal attainment scale that helps break goals down into something a little bit more manageable,” shared Mourtos, who noted this work and the student assessment work was designed in partnership with Project Evident.
“Often, we hear students say they want a 3.5 GPA. That’s a great goal, and we support it. But what does that actually mean in terms of the changes they need to make to get there? Helping students identify and remove barriers is a key part of the attainment process,” she said.
Through the codified program strengths in the new Wave-Maker Success Framework, students and coaches are able to establish clear expectations, focus their time on specific goals, and ultimately, set each academic year up for success.
“Much of what we see in the new Wave-Maker Success Framework — and how we envision it helping coaches and students in the future — came out of the feedback from the pilots,” said Mourtos.
“Now that we’ve codified shared language and effective methods, students and coaches are able to set goals around a focus area that makes sense for them, which they can carry with them beyond college and into their adult lives,” she added.
“That gets at the heart of the holistic approach we’re taking with our students.”
In crafting this success framework, Making Waves Foundation team members drew on decades of insights, expertise, and experiences from college coaches, financial services coordinators, and Wave-Makers. We are deeply grateful for those insights and for feedback provided on early drafts. Key references from youth development research, higher education standards, and career readiness frameworks that informed this work include:
- Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework from The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
- Career Readiness Framework from The Chicago Jobs Council
- Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Learning and Development Outcomes
- Professional Competencies Rubrics from ACPA-College Student Educators International and NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- Character Lab, a non-profit organization that connects researchers with educators to create greater knowledge about the conditions that lead to social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being for young people throughout the country
Additionally, Making Waves Foundation partnered with Project Evident during spring 2022 to develop an aligned measurement framework. Through that process Project Evident supported with additional refinement of the success framework as we further clarified program priorities to inform metrics.
ABOUT MAKING WAVES FOUNDATION
With a unique focus on college attendance and graduation, Making Waves Foundation supports historically underrepresented and underserved students in pursuing their dreams. Making Waves Academy is a public charter school in Richmond, California, educating early 1,200 students and Making Waves Foundation’s college success program, known as CAP, provides coaching, scholarships, financial literacy, and career support for more than 500 college students as well as a network for more than 600 Wave-Maker alumni.
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