Bringing in their individual expertise and daily classroom experiences, Close the Gap's Board of Educators (BoE) has been a huge part of Close the Gap’s successes with serving first-generation, low-income students (FGLI) by providing hands-on guidance to Fellows and mentors during the Social Impact Fellowship and giving valuable feedback during the monthly BoE meetings. In this spotlight series, we wanted to share with you their personal stories and ‘whys’ as an educator and a board member.
Let's meet Jasmine
An English high school teacher from Hesperia, California, Jasmine Hobson Rodriguez joined Close the Gap in March 2021 as a part of Close the Gap’ s inaugural Board of Educators. Passionate about giving her students the support and resources they need to academically succeed, Jasmine became involved with Close the Gap knowing the importance of mentorship for FGLI students.
As a tutor back in high school, Jasmine knew that she has always liked helping people. After going to college to become a computer engineer, she realized that her passion lied somewhere else and decided to switch into studying what she truly enjoyed, which is English. After finishing her Bachelor’s degree at UC Riverside, Jasmine joined UC Irvine’s Teacher Education Program.
With the population of her students being mostly first generation and/or low-income, Jasmine understands the difficulties and challenges her students face based on her shared experience. Jasmine wants to work on fighting the stigma against FGLI students and show that being empathetic is key to understanding the needs of this population, in order to better serve them.
In our conversation, Jasmine opened up about her experiences as a high school teacher and as one of Close the Gap’s Board of Educators.
What brought you to education?
JHR: I've always liked helping people. I did tutoring when I was in high school where I tutored for an elementary student in Reading and Math, and it’s funny ‘cause I didn’t think I would be a teacher. Going into college, I wanted to be a computer engineer and after doing that for 2 years, I realized ‘Man, I hate this.’ And so, I switched to what I enjoyed, which has always been English.
Then, I took a shot at teaching. I was worried I wasn’t going to like it but I got lucky because I know some people go into teaching as a back-up and then, they hate it and find something else to do. But yeah, I got lucky that I liked it and I’ve been there ever since.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
JHR: I really enjoy spending time with the students and watching them become their own person. Over time, as I have been teaching, my classes shifted from focusing on the skills in analysis and annotation towards prioritizing the reflection and examination of who they are as a person and how they communicate with others and how their communication is received. And so, I’ve been using more public speaking geared curriculum because I think it just helps them become their own person more.
And that’s the cool thing – looking back at a student when you first started with them a year ago and seeing how they’ve changed, and how they’ve matured and how they have this completely new perspective in life.
What does working with FGLI students mean to you?
JHR: They’re good kids. People expect them to be all like out of control but even the ones who have behavioral issues will still be respectful. I see the similarities from when i went to school to where I am teaching and I feel like these kids get labeled that they’re going to be such a problem, that they don’t care, and that their parents don’t care.
But if you actually put in the work and get to know them, they don’t deserve that. I feel like people have that stigma like ‘Oh, I don’t want to teach there. It’s so difficult,’ but that’s not fair.
What does closing the gap mean to you?
JHR: Giving opportunities that will help level the playing field. Mentorship is so important, as well as having resources and people to help you. All of those things are built in for a lot of people who are not FGLI and a lot of people don’t recognize the privilege these give you. Students that are low-income don't have the same opportunities. They can do so much more than they’re given the chance to.
What brought you to Close The Gap and how has your experience been as a part of our Board of Educators?
JHR: I had brought a guest speaker to my school site who was talking to my students about how important mentorship is, networking, and how someone basically saved him by becoming a mentor. It was around the same time that he had just spoken to my kids when I saw an email about Close the Gap’s mentorship program. So, I reached out to show interest and to see if there’s any way I can help and you replied to me that you were looking for Board of Educator members. So I got lucky. It was kind of great timing.
It’s been a year since I joined the Board of Educators and the experience has been great. I think that the best thing about the meetings is that - I mean you're really structured, but in the meetings you tell us "Hey, here’s what we want out of this feedback, what we’re trying to address" and then you come back and say ‘Hey, here’s what we’re actually doing with this information." Because a lot of the time with teaching and education, we point things out. We say "Hey, this is a concern’" and then nothing gets done. So, the nicest part has been seeing that there is an impact to what we’re trying to do. Seeing that there's a positive effect from having all these meetings. There’s action. We’re doing something. We’re actually changing things.
Do you have any advice for any future Board of Educators?
JHR: It’s a good thing to do if you’re feeling stagnant because education is really difficult right now. Some people are completely leaving teaching. It’s a good supplement to remember why you started doing what you’re doing and stay involved.
About Close the Gap Foundation
Close the Gap Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Sunnyvale, California. Founded with the vision to create an equitable future without opportunity gaps for low-income youths, Close the Gap Foundation works to empower first-gen, low-income students to build lifelong confidence and reach their fullest potential. Close the Gap Foundation Close the Gap Foundation's President and co-founder, Tai Tran, has been recognized as a Forbes 30 Under 30 and LinkedIn Top Voice.
Close the Gap Foundation's flagship program, the Social Impact Fellowship, is a three-month all-expenses-paid program that helps first-generation, low-income high school students find mentors, grow their confidence, and give back. Through structured mentorship and project-based learning, Fellows work with mentors from renowned organizations like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and UCSF to tackle a self-directed social impact project to pitch to a panel of industry leaders.
To learn more about Close the Gap Foundation, visit: www.closethegapfoundation.org
To learn more about our Board of Educators and Board of Directors, visit: https://www.closethegapfoundation.org/about#board
To partner with Close the Gap Foundation, inquire at: firstname.lastname@example.org