New SLI program directors in Winchester

New SLI program directors help make college “more than a dream”

Scholars Latino Initiative has welcomed Ileana Escalante (left) and Ruth Espinoza de Arteaga as program directors for its Winchester program at John Handley High School. Escalante and Espinoza are both Spanish teachers at Handley and co-sponsor the school’s student organization Latinos Unidos.

“I am honored to work with SLI scholars,” said Escalante. “I passionately believe in empowering Latino students to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential. As a result, I know they will bring growth and positive change to their communities.”

Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SLI creates college opportunities for Latino/x high school students through unique programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia. By collaborating with local university faculty and high school teachers, SLI offers its students rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. 

Donations from SLI’s community of support allow the organization to offer dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree. SLI has awarded $213,000 in scholarships, $46,000 in computer awards, and more than $14,300 in tuition assistance.

“My main motivation for taking up this responsibility is to support our Latinx students, making them aware that college is more than a dream but a reality for them,” said Espinoza. “Their future is built always in the present, and we can lend a hand to make this dream come true.”

Since the organization’s formation, SLI efforts at Handley were led by teacher Thomas Robb, who also served on the SLI board of directors through 2020.

“lleana and Ruth bring a leadership that builds on the foundation cultivated by Tom and others in Winchester,” said Carlos Alemán, university professor and SLI program director in Harrisonburg. “This is an exciting opportunity that will benefit students, and all of us at SLI welcome their energy and vision, expertise, and wisdom.”