Sunnyvale, CALIFORNIA — The next evolution of Close the Gap Foundation’s flagship Social Impact Fellowship — a 3-month summer fellowship for rising high school juniors and seniors to find mentors, give back, and grow their confidence — is about to launch.

After beginning with a handful of students in 2019, the Fellowship annually tripled its cohort size in an attempt to meet student demand and in response to increasing generosity from donors and corporate sponsors like DoorDash.

Having scaled so successfully in a relatively short amount of time, this year’s program is focused on continuing to strengthen the evidence base and care behind each programmatic element. This fall the Close the Gap UX team kickstarted this months-long process by reaching out to all of the over 60 Fellows, mentors, and program leaders for in-depth, 1-on-1 interviews.

But gathering feedback was just the first step. It fell to Fellowship Program Director, Nina Gnong, and her team to translate that data into actionable changes for the program. A responsibility that for Nina, a first-generation, low-income student herself, is personal.

My parents arrived in the United States as war refugees, and their understanding of how I could achieve economic independence and success was limited. It took me years of often lonely and disorienting discovery and work to land in a fulfilling place professionally. By leading this program, I hope that I can better prepare FGLI students like myself for their professional journeys. — Nina Gnong, Fellowship program director

The Summer Social Impact Fellowship leverages project-based learning, structured mentorship, and tailored workshops to help rising 11th and 12th-grade students recognize and embrace their potential with the support of the Fellowship community.

An essential component of the Social Impact Fellowship is the mentor-Fellow relationship. While students are encouraged to lean on the broader network of adults, it is their mentor who facilitates their project-based learning experience.

I’ve been lucky to have found the right network and mentors in my life, but growing up FGLI, I know access to professionals who are genuinely invested in your future is rare. The desire to rewrite that reality is what drew me to be a Close the Gap mentor last year and is why I am back to help lead the program this year. —  Katie Lei, Fellowship program manager

Close the Gap Foundation’s innovative approach to mentorship as a vehicle for closing the opportunity and network gaps has taken on added importance as the impacts of the pandemic persist, particularly for those from low-income communities.

Though it began as an onsite program, the Social Impact Fellowship has found its stride as a virtual experience. No longer restricted to the borders of the Bay Area, Close the Gap Foundation has meaningfully expanded access to non-urban communities less well-served by non-profit programs.

At the same time, the Fellowship program team has invested heavily in producing a meaningful, tight-knit community experience in a virtual environment. With strategically secured tools and creatively developed resources supporting a thoughtfully-revised program cadence, this year’s Fellowship cohort is primed to be the most connected yet.

For many FGLI students, the opportunity gap is a massive hurdle to overcome, especially alone. This year’s Fellowship program will continue to invest in student growth, but also create a stronger network of support. While overcoming adversity is never simple, we want our fellows to have the tools and community to flourish. — Anwar Dhanani, Fellowship program manager

The four-month summer program culminates with Pitch Day, an opportunity for Fellows to showcase their social impact projects to a panel of industry leaders and earn coveted Growth Mindset scholarships. Many Fellows spend weeks rehearsing their presentations with their mentors, ensuring that they end the program with valuable public speaking experience.

Applications to be a part of the fourth annual Social Impact Fellowship are now open and close March 31. Close the Gap Foundation seeks empathetic, mission-driven mentors and low-income, high school students who are motivated to make the most of the program. Prospective Fellows are evaluated for need and attitude over aptitude.

Close the Gap Foundation’s fourth annual Social Impact Fellowship will run from June to September 2022. Fellows will present their final social impact project to a panel of industry leaders during Pitch Day with the top project receiving the coveted $1,000 Growth-Mindset Scholarship.

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

To learn more about their annual Social Impact Fellowship Program, visit

To apply to be a 2022 Fellow click here. To apply to be a 2022 mentor click here. Applications close March 31, 2022.

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