Sunnyvale, CALIFORNIA — Close the Gap Foundation is thrilled to announce the launch of its fifth annual Social Impact Fellowship, a 3-month summer mentorship program for rising high school juniors and seniors. The program, which began in a pilot with a handful of students in 2019, has grown exponentially over the years, thanks to the support of donors and corporate sponsors like DoorDash, Airbnb, Costco, Affirm, and more.

This year's program is focused on building upon the successes of the past Fellowships and continuing to strengthen the evidence base and care behind each element of the program. The Fellowship Program Director, Anwar Dhanani, and his team have worked tirelessly to incorporate feedback from past participants into actionable changes for the program, which includes a more engaging digital community on Discord where students and mentors can network, learn, and get help on their social impact projects.

The Summer Social Impact Fellowship leverages project-based learning, structured mentorship, and tailored professional skills workshops led by industry experts to help rising 11th and 12th-grade students recognize and embrace their potential with the support of the Close the Gap community. An essential component of the program is the mentor-Fellow relationship, which is designed to facilitate students' project-based learning experience.

I had a great experience this summer. Not only with the program itself, but also specifically with my mentor. I think the mentorship matching that they did was really perfect actually, she went so above and beyond as to not only coaching me professionally, but she was also there for me, personally and emotionally. And I really was able to get in touch with so many people within the program as well. I made a lot of new friends [with my cohort. And I just really had a great overall experience. I remember telling somebody... this is my favorite program I've ever done.
- Valery Reyes, 2022 Fellow & Scholarship Recipient

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. As hybrid education and work become the new normal, the digital divide, which affects low income communities who have less access to fast internet and personal computers, continues to wedge a hurtful gap for those who could benefit the most from open access to technology and information.

My parents immigrated from Mexico and worked in the grape fields of Delano as box packers, and when their employer's packing facility office purchased a new desktop computer, they gifted the old one to us. I was seven years old, and it was my first computer. Having access to a computer at a young age was the catalyst that sparked my interest in technology, and I credit my working in the tech industry today to that. This donation from Airbnb really brings Close the Gap's mission full circle. Many of our fellows, mentors, and volunteers have similar stories to mine, and together, we're all laying the groundwork to close numerous gaps facing FGLI students.
Jessie Salas, co-founder and executive director at Close the Gap Foundation

Close the Gap is proud to announce that for the second consecutive year, every student who is admitted to the Close the Gap Summer Fellowship will receive a donated laptop to keep, free of charge thanks to donation of laptops from Airbnb. Over 50% of Close the Gap Fellows depend on school-loaned laptops, but have to return them over the summer, leaving them without a personal computer. Close the Gap Foundation helps close the Digital Divide by donating laptops to first gen low income high school students so they can participate in remote programs like the Close the Gap Fellowship for their entire academic career.

This year, the Fellowship program will be continue to be virtual, allowing Close the Gap Foundation to expand access to non-urban communities less well-served by non-profit programs, such as the Central CA Valley. Stockton, Bakersfield, and Fresno areas in the Central CA Valley are close to home for program volunteers, and have seen rising application rates in recent years. Close the Gap is proud to expand the program to low income high school students who will be rising juniors and seniors in summer 2023, residing in Washington, Oregon, and California.

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.

This year Anwar Dhanani – a former mentor in the program who last year was a program manager volunteer, will lead the Summer Fellowship as program director.  

I began my journey with Close the Gap as a mentor and instantly fell in love with the organization's mission... I joined Close the Gap as a Program Manager and saw the scale of impact our program has for both Fellows and Mentors. For this year's Fellowship, I will be taking on the role of Program Director and will continue our goal to create meaningful connections and help facilitate the growth of our Fellows through their journeys.
- Anwar Dhanani, Fellowship Program Director

The three-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. 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 fifth annual Social Impact Fellowship are now open and close March 31, 2023. 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.

The fifth annual Social Impact Fellowship will run from June to September 2023. Fellows will present their final social impact project to a panel of industry leaders during Pitch Day with the top project receiving the $1,000 Growth-Mindset Scholarship, and finalist scholarships awarded as donation funds permit.

For prospective donors who identify with Close the Gap Foundation's mission to give high potential students a chance to realize their full potential, tax deductible financial contributions are accepted year round here.

Self identified low income high school students who will be rising juniors and seniors Summer '23 (class of 2024 and 2025) can apply for the Close the Gap Summer Fellowship here.

Mentors who are passionate about giving back and can dedicate 1-2 hours per week between June and Sept 2023 can apply to be a mentor here.

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