ABOUT THE Founders
It has been our life-long passion to serve the emotional needs of children and we want to do it right. Between us, we have collected 13 years of experience teaching and mentoring students in high-need communities and over 7 years of academic research understanding the neuroscience of behavior. Our passion for kids’ wellbeing and commitment to data-driven practices inspire us everyday to create the best emotional support for our upcoming generations.
Co-founder + CEO
Co-founder + Chief Creative
Melis Yilmaz Balban, Ph.D
Co-founder + Head of Research
Rodrigo Avellar de Muniagurria
Closegap started as a donation platform. We'd partner closely with high-need schools so students could create profiles and ask for basic items that would make it easier for them to show up at school and learn. Items ranged from uniform pants to eczema cream. Civic-minded folks, who generally had a penny to spare, would select items they wanted to donate and could expect a handmade thank you card in the mail. In many ways it felt like we were connecting two disparate worlds. Kids who struggled with basic items like toothpaste now had a channel for textbooks. Folks coming from much higher socioeconomic backgrounds now had the ability to peer into the lives of disadvantaged families and see the daily challenges that keep them down and out. We loved doing this work and we learned a lot.
After spending so much time in our partner schools, one thing continued to shock us — aside from emotionally escalated kids being sent to the school social worker or occasional interventions for higher-need students — there were no emotional and mental health supports integrated into the school day for kids. We started interviewing educators to learn more. We found out that most teachers had no idea when one of their students was experiencing trauma at home. We found out that school social workers and school psychologists were carrying out interventions using pen and paper, and were struggling to organize and understand the data they were collecting. Then we started talking to parents. We learned that they constantly question their parenting practices and wonder if they are doing all they can do to help their kids. Long story short: parents, teachers, school psychologists and all the other amazing caregivers that care for our society’s kids rarely feel confident in their roles.
That's why we're building Closegap.
It’s clear that everyone needs some help supporting the emotional development of the next generation. Our first step in addressing this problem is to simply surface the experience kids are having and to share that information with all the important adults in their lives. Thereafter, we’ll build tools that offer advice and unique insight on the needs of each child. We don’t take this mission lightly. We are aware that emotional data and any data concerning children is inherently sensitive. That’s why we’re inviting all parents, educators, kids and communities to collaborate with us. We have always seen our product users as an extension of the team. You are just as much a part of the creation process as we are. We believe that if something truly powerful is to be made for children, then it must be developed by everyone who cares for them.
Have some ideas? Send us a note!