About SLI


They have talent, aspiration, and determination, but Latino/x high school students may lack knowledge and access to college support systems for achieving their dream for higher education: how to prepare for and apply to college, secure financial aid or additional funding, or navigate college life.

Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012, the 501(c)(3) public charity, nonprofit organization Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) creates college opportunities for its scholars in its unique programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia.

In collaboration with university faculty and high school teachers, SLI offers opportunities such as rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. SLI’s dual enrollment tuition support, computer awards, and college scholarships further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree.

SLI was founded by Peter Iver Kaufman in 2001 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kaufman brought SLI to Virginia in 2008, and continues to serve as its program director in Richmond.


  • 114 scholars (50+ current, 60+ alumni)
  • $209,000 in scholarship awards
  • $49,000 in computer awards
  • $14,000+ in dual enrollment tuition assistance for scholars taking college courses while in high school
  • SLI teachers and professors also help to connect scholars to additional funding opportunities; in 2019 alone, graduating SLI scholars accepted nearly $960,000 in college awards and support grants.
  • SLI scholars have attended 16 colleges and universities:

Blue Ridge Community College
Bridgewater College
Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Nazarene College
George Mason University
Harvard University
James Madison University
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
Lord Fairfax Community College
Old Dominion University
Randolph-Macon College
Shenandoah University
Tidewater Community College
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Tech

SLI offers opportunities such as rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships.


Students who apply and are selected to be SLI scholars:

  • Accept new academic challenges and leadership responsibilities that empower their paths to higher education, with guidance from SLI high school teachers and university student mentors;
  • Develop personal statements and goals, evaluate careers and majors, apply for college admittance, and seek financial aid, all with the help of faculty mentors; and
  • Receive friendship, social support and help for navigating the challenges that come with being a Latinx college-bound student.

SLI scholars have participated in college-level writing and analysis seminars taught by university faculty members, college-readiness programming, leadership and service partnerships with community organizations, and leadership and networking retreats held on university campuses.

In addition, SLI offers the following support:

  • Dual-enrollment course tuition relief for eligible SLI scholars taking college courses while still in high school. These courses improve college readiness, enhance academic portfolios, and may reduce the number of credit hours needed in college.
  • SLI $1,000 computer awards that help eligible SLI scholars purchase the technology they need to start college.
  • SLI college scholarship awards of up to $5,000 that support eligible SLI scholars who are admitted to two- or four-year colleges.
  • Help accessing additional scholarships and funding for college.