The Bay Area operations of Summer Search — which include a Petaluma branch — have been awarded $500,000 by the Super Bowl 50 Fund. Summer Search works to close the opportunity gap for low-income students to get them into and through college. The North Bay office last year worked with 127 students from Sonoma County, 54 high school students and 73 in college.

The way the program works is two-pronged, said Kait Schroeder, executive director of the North Bay branch.

First, students are selected through an application and recommendation process in their sophomore year of high school. They are provided with two summers of “experiential experience,” Schroeder said, “something really challenging, outside their environment.”

The first summer often takes the form of something like an Outward Bound adventure and leadership camp. The second summer is often an overseas trip for a service project, Schroeder said.

Summer Search’s other approach involves simultaneously developing a support network for students centered around a mentor who works with the student through to their college graduation.

“We’re really committed to our students becoming among the first in their family to get a college degree but at the same time they’re training in altruism and responsibility,” Schroeder said. “So they’re not only going to be successful themselves, but they’re going to be committed to giving back to their communities in some way.”

The $500,000 will be allocated among the organization’s three Bay Area offices based on the number of students served, which means the North Bay division will get 25 percent of the amount. The office plans to serve 400 students next year, up from a total of 350 in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties.