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Waves Making Waves: Mandy Smoker Broaddus (‘97)

Mandy Smoker-Broaddus, Director at the Montana Office of Public InstructionA homicide rate more than double that of Detroit’s.  Higher than average domestic abuse and sexual assault cases.  Soaring unemployment levels.  

One may expect these problems from an urban environment.  But they are actually the recent statistics of a small community of about 7,000 on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.  

Considering this myriad of societal issues, it’s almost easy to understand how education would also be a large deficit in the community; if kids are preoccupied with serious financial and emotional problems at home, learning in school can be much more difficult.  

Disproportionately high poverty and unemployment rates appear in many Native American reservations around the state and country, along with lacking education.  In fact, Montana’s lowest performing schools were all on American Indian reservations.  

“Unfortunately, these kids come to school with many of the chips stacked against them.  The hardships loom large and make the work of education difficult,” said Mandy Smoker-Broaddus (‘97), Director at the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI).

“After some nights, it is a miracle that they can even make it to school.  They are just as talented, artistic, humorous, loving, and intelligent as any other young person – and they deserve great educational environments where their culture is honored, where their talents are grown, and where they can feel safe and loved and challenged,” she said.

And now they are getting those educational environments.  A few years ago, the Montana OPI received a large federal grant to help improve schools with the greatest need.  

Mandy, a Seaver College graduate, has served since 2009 as the Director of Indian Education for the state.  Three years ago, she became the director of the $11.5 million grant, overseeing the turnaround efforts in three low-performing schools (all on reservations).  

For Mandy, the work is also personal.

“One of the schools is in my hometown on the Fort Peck Reservation where I worked as principal and dean of students before.  This made the work especially personal to me, because I have cousins who work and teach in the schools, nieces and nephews who attend there, and I have always wanted what’s best for my small, rural community.”

Coming from a Church of Christ family, Mandy said Pepperdine was always her first choice for college.  After studying English at Seaver, she went on to earn two master’s degrees, one from UCLA and the other in her home state of Montana.  

“My Pepperdine experience certainly helped shape me and also gave me the skills to do work on behalf of others,” she said.

Her father also instilled a service attitude in her from a young age, helping to spur her career in education.

The School Improvement Grant (SIG) revised the schools’ curricula and brought in specialists to increase support for the students and families.  Community liaisons worked with parents on increasing student engagement and school success.  Instructional leaders were placed in each school.  Support for behavioral and trauma issues was provided to students and adults to encourage positive safe school climates and respect.  The grant also added summer school and after school opportunities.  A plethora of other changes were made to improve schools, helping hundreds of students.  

“I believe we can make a difference and I have committed myself and the 23 staff I supervise to working hard every day because nothing could be more important than giving these children the education they deserve.  Only with an education can they go out and reverse the damaging trends, ones I know all too well from my own lived experiences.  I have seen firsthand what alcoholism and poverty can do – but I have also seen the resiliency that these students demonstrate,” said Mandy.

“I believe in the work of public education, teachers and families working together to bring about change and equip the next generation with all the skills they need to achieve any dream they can dream.”



Waves Making Waves: Mike Lawton (MBA ‘95)

Pepperdine alumna Kymberlee Lawton (‘88) studied communications at Seaver College.  The Raitt Scholarship recipient was also active in student government, the Student Alumni Organization (SAO), and Advertising Club.

After graduating, Kymberlee worked at prominent media companies like The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Daily News, where she met her husband, Mike, a fellow Wave and graduate of the Graziadio School of Business and Management.

The couple had two sons together.  

Sadly, Kymberlee passed away suddenly in 2007, leaving behind Mike and their two young children.  “Kymberlee lived a life of service.  On any given day, service could have been a big smile, an easy ear, or a caring pep talk.  But she also served by effortlessly giving her time to many different childrens’ programs.  Kymberlee cared for people.  Kymberlee was and continues to be a difference maker,” said Mike.


To honor Kymberlee’s incredible passion for helping others, her family set up The Kymberlee Lawton Foundation (TKLF).  Mike serves as Executive Director of the Foundation.  

Soon after Kymberlee passed away, Mike took his sons on a mission trip with his church to the Dominican Republic.  They helped build a school for the impoverished Maranatha community.  

Before this trip, Mike and his family had never been to the Dominican Republic.  “It was the first opportunity for me to understand the steep challenges of its people, especially the children.  Nourishment, education, and other basic necessities do not come easy.  When food is portioned, children receive very little and often times go hungry,” said Mike.

Mike and his sons saw a great need and potential for carrying out Kymberlee’s vision of helping kids.

During their trip, they met a local, Adames “Fabio” Jimenez, who wanted to improve his community through education of the local children.  

By 2010, Mike left his job in the United States and moved with his sons to the Dominican Republic.  They reunited with Fabio and his family and began planning a way to make a lasting positive impact on the education system in Maranatha.  

The pair assembled a team of teachers and volunteers to help open the Villa Emmanuel mission and school, which provides quality education, food, and medical care to local kids.  The school continues to grow and expand.


TKLF also supports other children’s organizations like Rye Elementary School, Rye Little League, and the Seacoast Science Center.

To get involved with TKLF, contact Mike at  



Can technology transform communities?

Can websites and apps keep teens out of trouble and off the streets of South LA?
Pepperdine alumnus Oscar Menjivar is proving that it can be done...with much success.
Oscar graduated from the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology with a master’s degree in learning technologies. But years before that, he himself was a kid growing up in Watts.
It didn’t take long for Oscar to apply his technological skills to help others. URBAN TxT teaches inner-city male teens research skills, public speaking, leadership, project management, and, of course, technology.
The program’s accomplishments and high success rate have caught the attention of many (check out Mashable’s recent article on URBAN TxT
Oscar recently answered some questions from his alma mater.
How did you get the idea to start the organization?
I founded URBAN TxT because I saw the necessity in my own community. I grew up in Watts and when I was going to school we didn’t have access to computer science classes. Ten years later, when I returned to my community as a career speaker, I realized that the kids in my community still didn’t have access to entrepreneurial or tech classes. Therefore, with the help of friends, I decided to start URBAN TxT. URBAN TxT now inspires young men to become technology entrepreneurs.
What types of things has URBAN TxT accomplished since it was founded?
100% of our seniors attend four year universities. 100% of our students stay in our program and 0 drop out. We have taught more than 100 students how to program and build their own web apps.
What's your typical day like with URBAN TxT?
A typical day at URBAN TxT is a fun learning day. You will find students designing, developing, and building strong friendships. We smile, play, and learn to build web apps. It’s a fun learning environment where students are challenged to do their best.
What's the best part of your job?
As a social entrepreneur, my favorite part of my job is when I see a kid have a spark in their eyes. Kids start believing that they can accomplish anything they put their minds too.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part is realizing that in order for us to keep doing such a great job, we must fundraise $200,000 by the end of this year. We hope that some funding from a few foundations come through.
How did your education at Pepperdine shape your career and/or you as a person?
Pepperdine allowed me to be creative and play in a new sandbox. It gave me the confidence I needed to be a social entrepreneur. Pepperdine allowed me to discover a new potential in myself and in others.
What piece of advice would you give to others who would also like to start an organization like yours?
Make sure that anything you start is something you truly love. Surround yourself with friends who will believe in you, even in the hardest times. Learn to take advice from others who are not in your immediate circle. However, learn to assess what advice is good for the growth of the organization.



Leading social change through education: Karen Driscoll

Race.  Diversity.  Conflict.  Resolution.  Social justice and change.

This is the business of the Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations (LDIR) program and, consequently, of Intern Karen Driscoll (‘10, MA ‘12).  LDIR is dedicated to developing leaders who value “inclusion, cooperation, power-sharing, justice, and equity.”  

imageThe program trains and provides resources to local communities and businesses to equip leaders with the skills and awareness needed to facilitate positive relations between different groups of people.

LDIR began after several Los Angeles community centers and places of worship were vandalized with hateful messages in the late 1980s.  The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) wanted to develop a program to help stop the social unrest.  The first LDIR program started in 1991 and quickly gained support from the League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC) of San Gabriel Valley and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/Martin Luther King Dispute Resolution Center (SCLC/MLKDRC).  

In 1997, the LDIR program was introduced to students in public schools in Los Angeles, San Gabriel, and Alhambra.

By 2002, the program was so successful that it was replicated in Flint, Michigan and Philadelphia.

Wave Karen Driscoll began interning for the organization a few months ago.  

“I’ve always been interested in working with organizations that are working with the community and making a positive difference.  When I found LDIR, I thought that their work was really unique,” she said.

Karen’s education at Seaver College prepared her for a career involving diversity and cross-cultural issues.  

“I remember my first international experience was through Pepperdine.  I did a study abroad program in Africa and, once I came back, I changed my major to international studies.  It helped me to see the world in a new way - to realize how big of a world we lived in.  I became passionate about international issues,” she said.

Karen spent three weeks in Uganda, taking courses in religion and cultural communications.  

“Just being in a very different culture than America was very new to me.  But it was exciting to meet people who were very gracious and very hospitable, who just wanted to share their life with you and welcome you with open arms.  For us being strangers, they didn’t know anything about us and yet it felt like we were at home.  It was an amazing experience,” she said.

After graduating from Seaver College in 2010, Karen looked for graduate programs where she could apply her international studies background and desire to make positive change in the world.  

Finally, she came across the Social Entrepreneurship and Change program at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.  This unique program trains its students to be sustainable business leaders solving social problems like hunger and homelessness.


Students of the Social Entrepreneurship and Change program.

“As a student wanting to make a positive difference in the world, interested in making change globally and locally, it just seemed like the perfect fit for me.  I like the way that it had the nonprofit world, but also the practical business aspect of the program,” she said.

After graduating from the program last summer, Karen is enthusiastic about putting her skills to use at LDIR.

“I think the best part is really being able to contribute to my field.  At LDIR, I really feel like I’m useful and I’m adding value to the work,” she said.

Karen also enjoys having opportunities to observe the organization’s workshops and see how they impact others.  

“A couple of weeks ago, I was able to be a participant in one of our workshops.  It was really geared toward helping facilitate conversations with people around race and gender issues.  Being able to see firsthand the work of LDIR, it was a great opportunity.  I felt like I gained some skills on how to help people have those difficult conversations,” she added.

After her internship, Karen plans to continue working toward social change.

“I don’t really know what comes next but I know I’ll always want to be involved in work that is meaningful and that really touches people’s lives in a profound way.  I don’t want to limit myself and say that I only want to be in one area.  But if it’s work that’s making a positive difference in the world, then I want to be involved in it and I want to make a career out of that kind of work,” she said.  

She said her service-mindedness stems in part from her international experience at Pepperdine.  “I think it had a lot to do with my international experience and just seeing how fortunate I was to be born in America and be able to take advantage of the education and just a lot of the different opportunities that I have just being from the country I was born in.  So, seeing that other people didn’t have the same opportunities, I wanted to do my part to make sure that I could help people,” she said.

She advised others who want to get involved in organizations working for social good to take initiative.  “Be proactive about reaching out to organizations and making contacts because these organizations always need help and it’s a great way to get firsthand experience and really find out if it’s something you want to do.  Be proactive in developing a network that is diverse and fits your interests,” she said.

Check out some of Karen’s blogs from her work with LDIR, wherein she explores topics like nonviolent communication and restorative justice.

If you’re interested in furthering social justice, contact LDIR at to get involved.



Coming home again: Eliza Kim (MA ‘03)

Even as a child growing up in LA’s Koreatown, Eliza often played the role of teacher to her peers.  After school, she used furniture in an empty lot around her mom’s local business to set up makeshift desks for her “classroom.”  She made copies of her own homework and taught the material to her friends for fun.

Today, Eliza serves as Principal of Rise Kohyang Middle School, a charter school in her hometown.

It would seem like education was always in the cards for her.  However, Eliza originally had other plans, as did her family.  “My mom kind of tried to steer me away from being a teacher, but still toward something where I could utilize my leadership skills and civic-mindedness.  She thought it was a better platform for me to make more money,” she explained.

As a student at the University of Southern California, Eliza studied broadcast journalism.  Toward the end of her time at USC, she took on an American Studies minor and things started to change.  For the first time in her undergraduate education, Eliza began to really enjoy her classes and connect with the material.

“After finishing up my minor, I realized I didn’t want to pursue journalism.  My classmates were busy putting together their reels and portfolios and they were all applying to different news stations across the country and I realized that’s not what I wanted to do,” she said.

Eliza wandered back to the idea of teaching, a career that had always been in the back of her mind.  She took a job as a teaching assistant at a local elementary school.

“I fell in love with teaching.  I realized I was good at it.  I was better than some of the teachers that were already teaching in the classroom,” she said.

Here, she met Pepperdine student teachers and got their feedback on the master’s and credential program at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.  After applying and being accepted, Eliza started classes that spring.

“I loved it.  It was a lot of hard work because I had to student teach and work during the day and I took all the classes at night.  But, because it was something that I loved and enjoyed, I excelled at it and it was fun,” she said.

After graduating from Pepperdine, she worked at LA Unified School District schools until she was offered a position at Stella Middle Charter Academy, a Bright Star School.

Jeff Hilger founded Bright Star Schools in 2002 as a charter school system with the goal of bringing college-preparatory education to the Los Angeles communities with limited access to quality education.

At the time, Eliza didn’t know a lot about the differences between charters and regular public schools.  But she did know while working with Bright Star Schools, unlike other places, she would have access to the classroom technology she needed for her students to succeed.  

“I ended up taking this job with Jeff because I told him I needed my own overhead projector and wireless Internet in the classroom.  Because he offered me those two things, I went with it,” she said.

After three years of teaching, Eliza became an administrator and now she’s been an administrator longer than a teacher.

It wasn’t long before Bright Star Schools asked her to start a new charter.

“This particular school was very personal to me because my CEO offered a huge spectrum of support.  He’s like, ‘We want you to open our third school.  You can name it.  You can tell me what you want to do with it.  He was really like, ‘What’s your vision?’ and ‘Let’s see if we can make it possible.’  And because he opened it up like that, I was able to make it more personal,” she said.  


So, Eliza helped found Rise Kohyang Middle School last fall.  The school’s mission is to “develop students who embrace a spirit of community, a goal of service to others, and a desire for self betterment through a college education.”  

“Kohyang” means “hometown” in Korean.  Eliza was eager to open the school in her own hometown and fill a need in Koreatown.  

But she faces some of the same problems today that she saw growing up in the area decades ago.

“It’s a bag of mixed emotions really.  There are lots of positives and negatives.  For instance, closed-mindedness.  Because the community has lots of different demographic populations, some of the same prejudices and ignorances are still here.  But then, on the same level, we’re educating the next generation so that you’re hopefully making an impact so that you don’t see the same things that you felt and saw before,” she said.

Rise Kohyang also has unique challenges because of its location.  

“Along the Wilshire Corridor, it’s so expensive and it’s quite the metropolitan area.  So, finding space, number one, is the biggest challenge.  Number two, because we’re right here in the central part of the city, the competition is much more fierce compared to what other charters have to deal with being outside the area.  So, enrollment has been another challenge,” she said.

While many charters experience waitlists because they serve rural regions or populations with limited options for education, Rise Kohyang has the opposite problem.

“It’s the elements that you see charters having to face five to ten years from now that we are undergoing at the moment because we are in a denser part of the city where competition is more fierce between all different types of schools,” said Eliza.

“This competition is good for education because that’s what you want, to offer parents all that choice.  But, you want to make sure your doors are open.”

Despite lower than anticipated enrollment numbers, the school had a successful start.

“The staff here has been more than awesome.  So, I think we’ve been able to handle and do a lot even though it was our induction year,” she said.

With the multitude of challenges that can face educators today, Eliza said her Pepperdine education prepared her well and had a great impact on her career.

“I loved that program at Pepperdine, like Dr. Fortson and Dr. Condon.  I still remember them.   This was ten years ago, but I can still recall their names,” she said.

“I remember one of my favorite lessons with Dr. Condon.  The most impressive thing about her was how she was so prepared.  She was modeling for us how as teachers that’s what really sets you apart.  Her class also adhered to my personality because I like challenges.  I like to play games.  I can get competitive and she always had that piece to all of her lessons so I always wanted to win all of her prizes.  She had this little blue elephant doll and I remember winning it and I was just so happy - this was at 21 years old,” she remembered with a laugh.  

Eliza encouraged those interested in the education field to persevere and be positive.


“I know sometimes the best candidates are deterred from teaching because maybe they feel like they could be making more money somewhere else.  But there is seriously no better reward than in education,” she said.  

“Find a niche.  Find a school with the mission and program that you believe in and you’ll feel like you’re doing it with a community that supports you and that makes all the difference,” she advised.

“Be always open to feedback and to growing.  The best teachers never do the same lesson the same way twice.  They’re always constantly improving and doing better.  It will never get boring.  Even if you’re having the worst day, a student can come by and greet you and make you feel so much better.”




Valor Academy through the years

“Hey, you might want to check out this Valor Academy place.”

This was my first introduction to a project that would become one of the most rewarding aspects of my work here at Pepperdine.  Which is saying quite a bit, because we have no shortage of rewarding experiences at Waves of Service.

Valor Academy is a small charter school in Arleta, CA, about an hour away from Pepperdine’s Malibu campus.  The Director of Instruction, Jessica Boro, is a graduate of the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.  I’m thankful I was invited to visit “this Valor Academy place” because our collaboration became one of the most successful programs of Waves of Service.

Over the last three years we’ve had an incredible partnership with Valor Academy.  Dozens of alumni have participated.  These have included Seaver’s Kai Braden of AMEN Missionary and Kelly Gonzales of The Mulligan Project, who spoke to the students about international service work.  

imageGraziadio’s MBA Women International chapter, headed by Rachel Landolt and Nicole Warner, gave Valor students a tour of the Pepperdine campus, and Graduate School of Education and Psychology student volunteers Freddy Rivas and Edgar Palayo shared what it’s like to be a Pepperdine Wave.  Pepperdine family members have helped out too, including my own husband who took Valor students on a personalized tour of Warner Brothers.  School of Public Policy alumna Alison Tolladay helped connect the Valor Lions with the Lakers, which resulted in the recognition of two Valor Academy scholars as Laker Students of the Month.  

Jessica Boro was even named Educator of the Month in front of thousands at the Staples Center.  Valor students and their families got to attend Lakers games through this partnership, and the Los Angeles D-Fenders took on the Valor Lions in a heck of a game.

Many other alumni, like Graziadio’s Hydee Ong and the Graduate School of Education and Psychology’s Cassandra Mele, have lent their skills in this partnership.

Valor has given back to Pepperdine in so many ways.  Jessica Boro and Founder/Head of School Hrag Hamalian (below) presented on Improving Education as part of our Speaker Series.  They later joined us as guest speakers at our Making Waves in Education event.  


The Valor students perform our fight song like champs and even created some cheers of their own.  

Our partnership with Valor Academy exemplifies what Waves of Service is all about: finding ways that Waves can support each other in service to the community.  We were pleased to feature Jessica Boro as a Woman of Valor in the Pepperdine Magazine.  And just last year Ms. Boro won the prestigious $2000 Graduate School of Education and Psychology Waves of Service Award.


I found myself with tears in my eyes last week as I watched Valor’s first graduating class walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.  I couldn’t have been more proud to be there.  I can’t wait for the day we welcome Valor Lions onto campus as official Pepperdine Waves.




Waves Making Waves: An Interview with Alison Tolladay (MPP '10)

We all know that making a difference in the world is truly a team effort...But no one knows this better than Waves of Service Leader, Alison Tolladay! Alison, a 2010 graduate from the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, is a key player on a very popular local sports team...our very own Los Angeles Lakers! While she may not be shooting free-throws out on the court with Kobe, Alison's position as Coordinator of Community Relations for the team makes a huge impact every day. Alison's heart for giving and love for her community help the Lakers shine in their own community and beyond! We had the chance to sit down with Alison and chat about how she and the Lakers reach out and make a difference every day!
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do with the LA Lakers and how you became involved with the team?
My current position with the Los Angeles Lakers is Coordinator of Community Relations. I began my Laker journey in 2009 when I was still a student at Pepperdine. I had returned from an internship in Bolivia for the summer and thought I wanted to get another internship just to better prepare me for entering in to the “real” world. I was looking all over the internet trying to find something when I came across a Community Relations Internship, I clicked on it and it went directly to the NBA website and described a job working with the Lakers Community Relations Department. The job sounded like a lot of fun, so I decided to apply. Mind you, I had no clue who was even on the Lakers team other than Kobe Bryant, so I thought it was a long shot. Well, the rest is history; I began my internship with the Lakers in 2009 and it ended with a great victory beating the Boston Celtics in 2010. Now about my specific position…the Lakers Community Relations Department is the liaison between the team and nonprofits, schools and other community organizations. This is done through interacting on many levels whether it will be partnering with a nonprofit on a specific project and adding our Laker assets to it, to answering the hundreds of pieces of fan mail we receive throughout the year. One of the main things we do throughout the season is provide programs in three main categories: education, health and wellness, and environmental impact.
You’ve helped the Lakers get involved with service opportunities with other organizations as well, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the environmental nonprofit, TreePeople. What is one of your favorite/most memorable service crossover story?
This is so hard! I have had so many favorite/memorable moments in my short time at the Lakers that it is very hard to choose just one. One of my favorites happened this year with our new Adopt-A-Family program we did during the holiday. We partnered with the LAUSD Homeless Education Program this year and adopted 8 families. We were given lists of things they needed and details of each member of the family…then the fun part: shopping! After we had bought everything, we had a Lakers staff wrapping party and began to plan our big gift giving extravaganza. We invited the families to the game on December 18th where they were treated to an exciting game between the Lakers and Charlotte Bobcats. After the game, we invited them to a private reception in the Coaches Locker room complete with Gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate. As they entered, they saw that each family had a Christmas tree complete with lots of presents for each person of the family. As the families were jumping around with excitement a special guest came in to say hello…Kobe Bryant. After the excitement had subsided a little and everyone had the chance to meet Kobe, all they could talk about was how this was the best Christmas ever. I have never received so many hugs and it was a true pleasure to make sure these families had a great holiday.
The Lakers have a huge following nationally and globally, and a big way many fans stay up-to-date on the latest Laker news is by social media. In what ways do you use social media to promote service and service opportunities to the Lakers’ fans?
The Lakers use social media constantly. We have the most Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media platform followers than any other NBA team and more than many other sports franchises. We also use a @LakersCommunity as our Community Relations Twitter, Facebook and Instagram handle. We use it to promote the work that we are doing in the community, encourage organizations to apply for grants and to promote any programs or initiatives we are trying to focus on.
What cause do the Lakers feel most passionate about supporting? Is there a cause that YOU feel particularly passionate about supporting?
The Lakers are committed to improving the Los Angeles community in three main categories: health and wellness, education, and environmental impact. I do not have a personal favorite because I think all of the causes we focus on our extremely important to not only the community of Los Angeles but to our worldwide community. We are very lucky to have such a far reach around the world that we are able to affect real change and positive behavior.
Kids are a huge part of the Lakers’ service mission… How does your work with the Lakers Youth Foundation and the Jr. Lakers empower kids to be active servants in their communities?
The Lakers Youth Foundation is a separate entity than the Community Relations department but we do partner on projects throughout the year. Their emphasis is on bettering the Los Angeles community with the use of sports to promote education, teamwork, and self-esteem. These pillars align with what the Community Relations department supports throughout the year and the Foundation gives the Lakers another way they can do great work out in the community.
How are you and the Lakers setting precedents and inspiring other major players in the sports world to get involved with social causes and giving?
The Lakers have always been very generous in their giving. This precedent has been set by our late owner Dr. Jerry Buss. It was always important to him to strive to better the Los Angeles community in any way that we can, and we try to do that every day in our jobs.
What is it about the sports world that inspires you the most?
Sports are something that are a great equalizer and people of all ages can watch, enjoy, partake in at different levels. It is a common bond that we all share and best of all, it is something fun.
What is the best part of your work? What is the most challenging?
The best part of my work is that I get to help people every day. How many people get to say that? I am very lucky that I get to work for an organization that values the community as much as the Lakers do. With that enthusiasm to do good we get to meet and help some great people. Whether it is something small or large each person is always grateful which makes my job the best. The most challenging part of my job is that I can’t help everyone. There is simply a limit to what we can do at times, but I try to always do a little something for each organization/person. For example, someone would like to invite Kobe to their birthday party. Well, I can’t send Kobe to your birthday party, but I can send you a fan pack with and a video message from Kobe wishing you a Happy Birthday. These seemingly little things really make a difference and are what make my job so rewarding.
How did Pepperdine prepare you for a life of service?
Pepperdine as a university is very service-based and is part of the reason I choose to go to school there. With setting a high value on service, it really encourages you to get out there and do something in your community.
In your opinion, what is the most important resource that someone serving can give to those they serve? How do you and the Lakers give this resource?
Time. Sometimes too much stress is put on a dollar amount, but what is really important is a person’s time that they are giving. It is something that is priceless and cannot be replaced by a dollar amount. In my role at the Lakers, I am not the person that distributes money to nonprofits to better their work, but what I do is give our team’s time to these nonprofits to fulfill projects that they need completed. From helping out with manual labor or simply just talking to people at a community center, this time is so precious to those who receive it that we could not put a price on it.
If you could give one piece of advice to the world, what would it be?
Life is too short, don’t stress about the small things and have fun!
Alison, thank you for sharing your story! You are MVP in our eyes, and the Lakers are lucky to have such a caring heart on their team! If you would like to learn how to get involved with the Lakers' community outreaches, please visit their community page at .



Waves Making Waves: Ryan Allen (‘02)

Three years after graduating from Seaver College, Ryan found himself in the Gulf Coast town of Pascagoula, Mississippi right after Hurricane Katrina.  He was a first responder for the devastating storm that claimed more than 1,800 lives and displaced more than 250,000 people.

“We were there the day after, so everybody was evacuated or in a shelter.  The place was a ghost town.  Just destroyed.  It was really eerie,” he remembered.

Ryan was a volunteer with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).  

That day, the National Guard showed him around the makeshift shelter, a nearby high school.   By night, they turned over the reigns to Ryan, the leader of his team; he found himself in charge of the facility filled with 400 evacuees.  

He remembered thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing right now.”

“I was pretty stressed out,” he recalled with a laugh.

Of course, Ryan quickly got the hang of it and helped run the shelter for two weeks before being reassigned to another area to help distribute hot meals to people affected by the storm.

Ryan spent two years travelling around the country on service assignments with the NCCC, which rotates volunteers following short-term projects, usually after six to ten weeks.  He managed an after school program for inner-city kids in Brooklyn, painted classrooms in Baltimore, helped rebuild homes in New Orleans after Katrina, and did environmental work in New England.  

Though it seems like a natural fit now, Ryan didn’t always know environmental work was his niche.

About five years ago, he began working with TreePeople, an environmental nonprofit that integrates trees, people, and technology to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles.

“When I started there I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was something I was passionate about.   I was really interested in it and it sounded like something I would like.  But, once I started doing it, there are just some things about it that I just really love.”


(Above: Ryan Allen leading a group of Pepperdine Graziadio Alumni Network Los Angeles members in a tree planting project.)

“I really love being able to work in the community with people, having them get their hands dirty planting a tree or watering a tree, having people make a permanent physical change to their community that’s going to make it pretty, but also going to help the environment and help them, which in turn helps their health and just creates a better life for people.  I really enjoy that aspect of it.”

Ryan currently serves as the Environmental Services Manager for Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC), a nonprofit providing youth services, clinical work, community and economic development to Koreatown in Los Angeles.  

“I feel like there’s a really great opportunity to make Koreatown the greenest community in Los Angeles.  To really have a huge impact in a small area is exciting for me.  I like that idea,” said Ryan.

Environmental work with KYCC includes a myriad of community improvement activities.  Crews remove graffiti and paint over it seven days a week.  In fact, KYCC removes more than 50,000 square feet of graffiti each month.

They also plant and maintain trees.  Since 2007, KYCC has planted more than 6,000 street trees.  

According to Million Trees LA, urban trees provide shade and save on energy costs, in addition to cleaning the air and helping reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming.  Street trees also capture polluted urban runoff, improve water quality, and, of course, provide aesthetic value.

KYCC also conducts community cleanups, removing thousands of bags of trash yearly.

“I think it gets overlooked a lot when people start talking about budgets and how to spend our money and we always think about, police, fire, and teachers.  People don’t think about the environment when it comes to spending money and, to me, it’s a vital part of our infrastructure,” said Ryan.

The 35-year old organization focuses on Koreatown and the surrounding South Los Angeles communities, especially low-income and immigrant communities.  

“The thing that I’m loving about it is it’s really focused.  There are really strong community relationships and partnerships,” he said.

If you’d like to serve with a fellow Wave to help make Los Angeles greener, contact Ryan at  



Waves Making Waves: Kelly Gonzales

Meet Hong.  Hong is a little girl in Vietnam with a great laugh and the world’s biggest smile. She’s a sweetheart, and she’s an orphan.  Hong has hydroencephalitis, “water on the brain,” which causes intellectual disability. She can’t speak and doesn’t have parents to speak for her.  But she’s changing the world.

In 2008, Pepperdine alumna Kelly Gonzales was travelling in Southeast Asia when she stopped in at an orphanage.  Hong held up her arms in the universal “pick me up” sign, and Kelly fell in love.  She’s been working ever since to adopt Hong.  In the meantime, Kelly started an organization to help kids like Hong have better lives.

Kelly is the co-founder of The Mulligan Project, whose mission is to “improve the quality of life for children through special education, physical therapy, healthcare, speech therapy and above all …dignity.”  They provide education, physical therapy, nutrition, and other essentials aimed at teaching these kids to live independently at home.

Last year The Mulligan Project and their “boots on the ground” sister organization Kianh Foundation opened the Dian Ban Day Center, a school for kids with intellectual and physical disabilities.  The school currently has 45 full time kids with another 20 on the waiting list.  Classes are separated by ability rather than age, with classroom names like the “busy bees” or “tiny tigers”.  Dian Ban provides education, but the school does much more than that for the kids.  “Often,” Kelly says, “this is the first time they’ve had a friend.”

Some incredible stories have come out of the school.  Earlier this year, volunteers from Australia taught dance therapy.  “I wish I had had a camera on the parents.  There was so much pride on their faces,” Kelly said.  In Vietnam, parents with disabled children are considered to have done something bad in a past life.  So children born with intellectual or physical disabilities are often neglected or orphaned entirely.  For those parents, having pride in their children was a transformational moment.

Hong continues to live in Vietnam, and Kelly continues to advocate on her behalf   One day Hong will come to the US to live with Kelly, her husband Eddie, and their adopted son Addis.  Until then, Kelly and The Mulligan Project will continue to fight for Hong and all the kids in Vietnam.

Want to help? You can sponsor a child and more at




Waves Making Waves: Carolyne Keeler (‘87)


“A lot of it did start when I was at Pepperdine,” said Carolyne Keeler (‘87), a Seaver College graduate.

She remembers looking through college catalogs and reading about the University.  “One of the reasons that Pepperdine really appealed to me was the philosophy of the school: freely ye received, freely give,” she remembered.  Carolyne has since served her community in numerous capacities.  

She currently volunteers as a board member with U Touch I Tell, a nonprofit aimed at minimizing and preventing child sexual abuse.  The organization says that one in four children is sexually abused before turning 18.   The group works to change that staggering statistic.  

Chi Hosseinion, a survivor of childhood sex abuse, founded U Touch I Tell after writing a children’s book of the same name.   Chi created the book to give parents and other caretakers a comfortable way to teach their children how to protect themselves from sexual predators.   She later started the nonprofit to help victims, parents and families, educators, and law enforcement in disseminating information and educating others about child sex abuse.

When Carolyne heard U Touch I Tell was looking for a grant writer, she volunteered to offer her writing expertise and provide support to the organization’s fundraising efforts.  She was soon invited to be a board member.  

But her life in service really began more than 20 years ago.  

“Pepperdine is where my whole spiritual progression started.  I grew up in a very Jewish community.  I knew that was one religious group I could relate to and my family background is Catholic and Episcopal.  But, while I was at Pepperdine, I ended up joining the Mormon Church.  And the Mormon Church is very service-oriented.  I studied religion a lot, inside and outside of class, when I was at Pepperdine,” she said.

Carolyne took a break from her studies for an 18-month mission trip with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  She was assigned to different areas in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where she took part in a variety of activities from cleaning up litter to teaching families.  The assignments changed on a monthly basis.  

At first, Carolyne was concerned about interrupting her studies for the trip.  She knew she would have to take a leave of absence, which meant walking away from academic scholarships.  Moreover, she’d have to tell her father about her plans.  As one of six children who her father helped support financially, Carolyne worried that it would be a challenge for him to accept.  

"My Dad’s opinion is really important to me.  His advice has been integral in many pivotal decisions in my life.  When the day came for me to tell him about my plans to quit my studies to serve a mission, I remember being really nervous.  But he stayed calm and just said, ‘You know, this is going to be the best thing for you. This is going to develop your character more than anything else that you’ll do.’ And it ended up doing that,” she said.

"Serving a mission has to be the number one thing that has taught me to think on my feet and be able to be very flexible and more open-minded when it comes to personal and social interactions.”

“Pepperdine kind of launched me into this experience of being able to do things that are outside of myself.  My life wouldn’t have gone the same without having that experience at Pepperdine; it would have been so difficult.”

Carolyne specifically remembers one of her religion professors, Dr. Stuart Love: “He was just a really interesting person and a really good lecturer.  He was the kind of person that lived what he taught.  He really made a big impression on me.  He was just a really good man, very service-oriented.”

After graduating from Pepperdine with a degree in sports medicine, Carolyne volunteered for numerous medical teams on professional athletic tours.  She also worked for an orthopedic surgeon and later as a freelance sports writer.

Once she met her husband and the couple had their first child, volunteering became her outlet.  Carolyne served as President of the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) for three years, managing about 300 volunteers.

“We’d do anything from helping out with brushfire communications to driving around in the middle of the pouring rain where there were a bunch of mudslides.  Kind of crazy stuff,” she said.

Carolyne also served as a West Coast project manager for federal satellite communications projects serving the National Capital Region, which administers park areas like the National Mall and monumental core parks that were established in 1792.   

Her current volunteer career not only involves protecting children, but also environmental work.  She also helps manage the East Coast element of The Solar Turbine Project.  

"It is a sustainable energies project that is the brainchild of many of our genius engineers in Los Angeles.  Even in the R&D phase it has such promise because these guys seem to be committed to providing solar energy to the common man at a reasonable price and they want to make this technology affordable for third world villages so they can become self-sufficient in their agricultural practices."

“I love that I can help make the world a better place - to be part of the solution.  I deliberately flew out to sit on the perimeter of hurricane Sandy because our test site is there, and I felt the need to experience first-hand the inclement weather so I could give feedback to our engineers while they design the unit,” she said.

Moreover, Carolyne supports the efforts of Auction Horses Rescue, a group that saves abused and neglected horses.  

Carolyne’s work with U Touch I Tell is her first experience on a board of directors and one that she finds especially rewarding.  

“It develops a certain amount of courage because the subject that they have to talk about, the thing they’re trying to prevent, is not an easy one.  It’s taboo to talk about it.  Just to even be a part of it, I think you have to have a certain amount of courage because it’s easier to walk away and pretend it’s not there.  I feel like it’s helping me to be more courageous so that I can be an advocate,” she said.  

To join a fellow Wave in advocating on behalf of sex abuse victims, get involved with U Touch I Tell by contacting Carolyne.