Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity and Breaking First-Gen Barriers

by Elaine Fernandez

Anthony in UC Davis sweater and blue and orange wave with text for Voices of Making Waves
Making Waves Education Foundation » Stories » Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity and Breaking First-Gen Barriers

Voices of Making Waves: Meet Anthony Jacobo Gonzalez

Photo of Anthony in a Davis sweater
Anthony Jacobo Gonzalez at UC Davis

“Take advantage of every opportunity so say yes to everything,” shared Anthony Jacobo Gonzalez, a Wave-Maker from Pittsburg, California.

A current second year student at the University of California, Davis, Anthony is majoring in global disease biology.

“As of now my goal is to become a pharmacologist or work with vaccine development but I still want to keep my options open,” he shared.  

As he settles in from wrapping up the first quarter of his second year, he shared a bit about his experience at UC Davis so far along with some of the opportunities he’s been saying “yes” to.

Finding his community and giving back to his community

During his first year, Anthony lived in the dorms at UC Davis on a first-generation floor. He shared: “It was nice to be able to find common ground and meet new people in a place that’s unknown to me because I’m a first-generation student, not having that prior experience of what it was like to move away from my family for the first time.”

“I’m a big family person, so it was my first time going away from home for a long period of time. Not having my parents or my siblings there was a whole new experience for me,” he said.

Through this experience in the first-generation living and learning community, Anthony was able to find his community on campus, and now that he’s a second year, he spends time with the friends he made.

“I believe that we’re stronger together than what sets us apart. I always believed in helping people even if it’s just a little. You may not be able to give a lot, but at the end of the day, a little goes a long way.”

Currently, Anthony is giving back as a fellow for the Sacramento Valley College Corps.

Through the California Office of the Governor program, he’s taking part in developing a project that will focus on tackling food insecurity through a “pay what you can” food trucks for students at UC Davis.

Photo of Anthony with Gunrock and other Wave-Makers
Anthony (second from right) with fellow Wave-Makers and the UC Davis mascot, Gunrock

He chose to help students this way because of his passion for giving back to his community.

“I come from a first-generation background where my family didn’t really have a lot growing up but did the best to provide what was essential for me,” he shared.

“I want to be able to provide that for others and with this, I’ll be able to help students not worry about food while they’re trying to break barriers in obtaining their bachelor’s degree.”

As a College Corps Fellow, Anthony is taking a one-unit class where speakers share what they do and why they do certain service projects.

Enjoying getting the opportunity to partake in this experience and meeting new people, Anthony shared: “It’s nice to know that I don’t have to know everything and that everybody there is always willing to help one another. The interns are also students and we’re all there for a common purpose to help, which is great.” 

“Meeting all the students that are involved with the Sacramento region and listening to their different stories, interests, and passions was eye opening,” he shared.

Anthony is also volunteering, attending trainings, and providing service through the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center at UC Davis for 450 hours. When asked how he manages his time, he talked about how it’s something he’s working on improving day by day.

“I’m usually on campus from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. as I have two jobs on top of my academics,” he said. “It’s been hard because I’ve never taken this amount of responsibility in my life. I have a to-do list every day and I try to cross everything off, but I also acknowledge that if I can’t cross certain things off that it’s okay.”

Paving the way for future Wave-Makers

As a Wave-Maker, Anthony feels that the opportunities Making Waves Foundation has provided him have been extremely rewarding, emphasizing how essential the financial and coaching resources have been for him.

“The financial aspect helps so much because I don’t have to worry about paying my tuition off and I can strictly focus on my academics, on getting involved, and self-growth which is important,” he shared.

“With the coaching aspect, it has been pivotal to my development as a student and as an individual. It’s nice just to have someone that’s not going to judge you, and that’s just there that you can vent to.”

Anthony Gonzalez with his family at his little brother's graduation
Anthony (second from right) and his family at his younger brother and fellow Wave-Maker Manuel’s (third from right) high school graduation

“College is super hard so having that support from my coach that not only focuses on my academics but also my social life, physical health, and even mental health. It helps alleviate that stress.”

He also highlighted how honored he felt that as a Wave-Maker, he gets the chance to attend a four-year university while breaking generational barriers.

Anthony feels that it’s self-fulfilling to play a role in paving the way for future Wave-Makers. 

“Being a Wave-Maker has been a beacon of hope and optimism. Being a Wave-Maker helps me pave the path for my siblings and for future students,” Anthony shared.

Anthony’s advice

With a younger brother who is also a Wave-Maker, Anthony shared some advice for current and future Wave-Makers that he would give to his brother.

Anthony stated, “Put yourself out there and make connections, and say yes to everything. You never know what you’re going to end up liking or what you’re not. Doing this will allow you to not waste your time in the future living with regret in thinking of ‘what could’ve been’.”

Anthony advised Wave-Makers to not be too caught up on what the future holds.

“Everyone starts somewhere. You’ll eventually get to where you want to be. Everything’s going to end up working out the way it should. It’s hard not to stress because it’s your future on the line, but just try to live and enjoy the present,” he said. 

Anthony closes by sending a heartfelt message. “Being a part of Making Waves Foundation allows me to graduate college and provide a better lifestyle for my family,” he said.

“I just want to give thanks to Making Waves for the resources and opportunities they provide to me. Without that program I wouldn’t know where I would be right now. Helping me pay for tuition and providing me with an amazing coach have both been fundamental to my sanity. I really appreciate them, and everything they do in helping me break generational barriers.”

This Voices of Making Waves storytelling series spotlights the voices and journeys of the students and alumni in our Making Waves Education Foundation and Making Waves Academy communities.


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.