The team at Close the Gap (CtG), spoke with the many talented fellows and mentors about their experience with the Close the Gap Social Impact Fellowship program, as well as their support for the first generation, low income (FGLI) community. In this case study series, we share with you their personal stories, passions and motivations.
Let’s meet Diane
Diane is a junior at Hayward High School, where she is involved in several clubs such as Club Batia (her school’s Italian club), fashion club, Model UN and VSA (Vietnamese Student Association). She also enjoys tennis and volunteering with Dear Asian Youth as a content creator.
Diane was a previous CtG Social Impact fellow with the 2022 cohort. As a fellow, her social impact project, Kare Packages for Kids, created kits for foster children containing necessities such as hygienic products, a stuffed animal, school supplies, and more.
In an interview with CtG, Diane opened up about her experiences as a first-generation, low income (FGLI) student and her time as a CtG fellow.
What does being FGLI mean to you?
Diane: I suppose it means that I am aware of the disadvantages I have and also that I have to work harder even though my sister already went to college. She was not around when I was filling out FAFSA and such so I pretty much had to figure it out on my own. It is a learning experience regardless.
There is definitely a lot of trial and error and just trying to do enough to stand out. It is a time of self discovery and finding out how to navigate college. Also, being on the low income side, it is difficult to make sure that college fits with tuition and finding good college scholarships. Since my sister is going to college at the same time, it is going to be intense for my parents, so I feel like there is more pressure in a sense to make sure that I get the best financial assistance possible.
What drew you to CtG?
Diane: I found out about CtG because Janet Yu (2019) went to my high school and promoted CtG’s mission. I liked CtG's work to help FGLI students navigate through college. I also saw the social impact project and thought that it would be a great opportunity to push myself to do a project that I probably would not have initiated on my own. I really wanted to do something during the summer that would keep me engaged in doing something impactful.
Also honestly the opportunity to receive a laptop and scholarship was appealing. I remember thinking that my sister had gotten a new laptop when she went to college and all I had was a desktop which was not portable. I felt like not only could I help out my community with Close the Gap but I could help my parents save some money when I go to college.
How have you grown from the Fellowship?
Diane: I think CtG definitely disciplined me and helped me learn a lot of time management, as well as made me a better person overall. At first I had a bit of imposter syndrome but once we started the Fellowship it was great and I am really glad I was a part of it. I learned how to speak up, ask for help and use the skills that I already excel at to the point where I can market myself in the future.
I learned that if I want something, I need to get out of my comfort zone and seek discomfort. The fellowship taught me how important it is to be uncomfortable. I learned that if you are comfortable you are settling, you are stagnant, you have to be uncomfortable in order to grow.
Any advice for future fellows/mentors?
Diane: During my social impact project I needed to do more outreach and absolutely hated making phone calls, I still kind of do. I would rather email everything but I found expanding my communication channels lead to more success and forced me to get out of my comfort zone and seek discomfort. I truly believe the fellowship made me realize how important it is to be uncomfortable.
Just do it. Don’t be afraid, just do it. There’s nothing to lose. If you get rejected by a company that does not want to work with you, find another one. If your certain project is not reaching the fundraising goal, then make modifications. Do not find excuses, find solutions.
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 such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and UCSF to tackle a self-directed social impact project to pitch to a panel of industry leaders.