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Second Sentara Health grant to increase college access, bolster health career pathways for SLI scholars

Photo: Sentara Health employees Zulma Argueta (left), Onesimo Baltazar Corona, and Silvia Garcia-Romero talk with SLI scholars about health careers during SLI’s College Access Day in December. Sentara has awarded a second grant to SLI for such events and for college scholarships for SLI scholars who are pursuing health-related studies and careers. 

Sentara Health has awarded a second grant of $60,000 to the college-access nonprofit Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI). 

The grant will help provide college access opportunities for students to gain awareness of their college and career options, including those in health care, plus support college scholarships for SLI scholars who are pursuing health-related studies and careers. 

A previous grant from Sentara supported SLI programming in 2023, plus scholarships for 18 SLI scholars and alumni pursuing health-related studies and careers including health information management, biology, clinical laboratory science, neuroscience, nursing, psychology, biomedical engineering, occupational therapy, medical Spanish, speech pathology, biotech science, and computer engineering.

A response to medical staff shortages plaguing the U.S. healthcare system, the grants are part of Sentara efforts to create a pipeline for young students to their desired healthcare careers while also positively impacting their community’s economics and health equity outcomes.

In addition to helping to fund SLI scholarships, Sentara has provided eye-opening opportunities through SLI programming. During the annual James Madison University Professors in Residence and SLI College and Career Access Day in December, Sentara professionals shared their expertise in promoting salud y comunidad, or health and community. Sentara physician assistant Leodegario Alonso provided the keynote address, sharing about persistence on his career journey, and encouraging students to forge their own pathways. 

“It is very powerful to have someone like Leo, who looks like the scholars, share a story that resonates with them and inspires them to continue on their career path,” said Silvia Garcia-Romero, director of Diversity & Inclusion at Sentara, who also participated. “These experiences are so impactful and make a difference in Latino career advancement, and this is why we are proud to be a partner and support SLI’s work.” 

A 501c3 nonprofit, SLI creates college access opportunities through collaborations with public school teachers and local university faculty, staff, and student mentors. SLI also offers financial assistance to its scholars, since 2012 providing more than $542,000 in college scholarship awards, computer awards, and dual enrollment and Advanced Placement tuition assistance. SLI alumni have attended 24 colleges and universities.

“This new grant from Sentara will help propel SLI scholars into health-related careers,” said SLI board chair Fawn-Amber Montoya. “It is SLI’s honor to be part of the community that is supporting their professional journeys.”