We’re getting our first wave of winners from the new scholarship program that Saturday Night Live has introduced in partnership with four of the biggest improv/sketch programs across America.

The Second City last week announced its first four scholars, having had to pick from upward of 1,300 applicants. They are Alexi Bolden, Gabriella “Gabi” Castillo, Kaili Turner and Morgan Van Dyne. They’ll receive funding for their Second City training in both writing and performing, as well as access to SNL talent executives. They began training last week.

More about the four Second City scholars:

  • Alexi Bolden is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in theatre and African American Studies. I would like to extend a large thank you to Saturday Night Live and The Second City for awarding me the SNL DEI Scholarship. “I am constantly influenced and inspired by SNL to be bold with myself and, by association, with my comedy. Thank you to the wonderful people at The Second City who have been so kind throughout this entire process. I am honored to be one of the first recipients of this amazing opportunity and am eager to work with world-class professionals at The Second City to learn and refine my creative crafts!”
  • Gabriela “Gabi” Castillo is an actor and teaching artist living in Chicago. Born in Havana, Cuba, she immigrated to the United States in 1998. Castillo graduated with an MFA in acting from the Professional Actors Training Program at the University of South Carolina. “If I were to describe how I feel, I would do a better job by showing it in an interpretive dance than by putting it into words. I’ve had a giddy heart since finding out that I was one of the recipients of the SNL Scholarship…This blessing has rid me of a major financial obstacle that was delaying my return to the Second City Training Center. It was at the SCTC where I first learned how to use comedy to transform into art the paradoxes of my experiences as a Cuban-American of black descent and refugee. I believe comedy is as challenging as it is rewarding, and I cannot wait for classes to start!”
  • Kaili Y. Turner is a Black Indian and proud enrolled member of the Nipmuc nation, as well as a comedian, actress, writer, producer, and puppeteer. Born in Boston, MA, and raised between Mashpee, MA, and Boston, Kaili graduated from UMass Boston with a B.A in theater arts and a minor in dance. After performing in the Boston theatre scene, she moved to New York where she attended the Actors Studio Drama School MFA program. Since graduation, she has been in multiple commercials, stage plays, and film projects. “I’m so ready for this ride! I know it’s going to be challenging at times, but this comedy thing kinda has a hold on me. A year of training at Second City is definitely a bucket list item for me.”
  • Morgan Van Dyne is a Chicago-based comedian who enjoys using their platform to speak about queer identities, mental health, and disabilities. As someone who has grappled with all of these, Morgan believes that comedy has been not only a wonderful coping skill, but also a way to explore, learn, and inform. Their loftiest career goal is to show the world that you are never too broken to be happy or lovable and they have begun to achieve that goal by writing shows for The Second City Training Center, The Annoyance, The Playground, and more. Morgan has also participated in many stand-up showcases, including the Who Dis Showcase, a comedy show featuring disabled comedians. In the future, Morgan hopes to continue spreading the message of inclusivity and self acceptance in the form of belly laughs. “I’m so honored and excited to be receiving this scholarship. For me, this is an opportunity to use comedy to do good. I hope to tell new stories and amplify other less heard points of view.”

Coincidentally, the Upright Citizens Brigade just opened its application process last week.

The scholarship includes: class credits, guidance from the UCB and SNL casting execs, and the ability to directly submit an audition tape (performers) or packet (writers) to SNL upon completion of the scholarship. Applicants must submit before the end of day Feb. 10, 2021; they’ll be notified by Feb. 22 if selected for additional consideration. Winners announced March 5.

Meanwhile, The Peoples Improv Theater planned to have announced its first batch of scholars by mid-December, but a public announcement remains forthcoming.

The Groundlings plans to offer SNL scholarships to three students per quarter, but only if those students are in the school’s program. To wit: “The application for an SNL Scholarship is the same application as for a Groundlings Diversity Scholarship. All applicants must fill out the full application. Only students who have passed a Core Track audition by the posted application deadline are eligible to apply for an SNL Scholarship. No exceptions.”