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 spotlight series, we share with you their personal stories, passions and motivations.

Let’s Meet Valerie

Valerie is a freshman at University of California, Irvine (UCI)  and is majoring in biological sciences, and hopes to become a veterinarian in the future. She loves animals and is passionate about helping her community. She is also a part of the Latina women club and the pre-veterinary club at UCI.

In an interview, Valerie opened up about her experience as a fellow and how CTG has helped her give back in her community.

What was the college application experience like for you?

Valerie: It was good. I had to access a lot of resources from my teachers and counselors since I am a first generation low-income (FGLI) student. I didn’t have parents to help me with the college application process. With the help of my school and knowing that I was not alone the process brought me comfort. I didn’t get into all of the colleges I applied to, but the ones I did, I was extremely grateful for. Thinking back, I am super proud of the ones I did get into and where I am now. Being a first generation low income (FGLI) student is something that I carry with me. Although, it’s where a lot of

What drew you to CtG?

Valerie: My counselor sent out an email about the program. After reading the flier, I learned that  I could win a scholarship and that there were mentors from different companies. I never had a mentor in that sense. I mean I have parents and counselors, but Close the Gap sounded like a new premise to me. I also liked that there was project based learning, this interested me from the start.

How have you grown from the fellowship?

Valerie: I really enjoyed it. It was a tough process to fit such a big project over the summer, but I learned a lot. I feel like I was able to build a community with people and built many connections. The workshops that were provided helped me get started with the application process as well as finding scholarships. I also learned how to get ready for interviews.

I would say at the start of the fellowship I was kind of shy. I didn’t really like talking or I just kept to myself. I think towards the end I became more outgoing, especially when it came to pitch day. I had to present in front of many talented people and all my peers. I was able to grow from being shy and find a way to succeed. I know that I made myself proud and I grew from the experience.

Any advice for future fellows/mentors?

Valerie: For fellows that might be interested in joining the program, I would say just go for it. You only miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and it is a really cool program. You make such cool connections, and you’re able to build friendships over the summer. I have to say that it does get difficult sometimes, but you have so many people to reach out to for help and there are many resources available.

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.‌‌

To learn more about Close the Gap Foundation, visit:‌‌

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