Even though they have grit and determination, Latino/x students who dream of higher education or professional careers may, along with their parents, lack knowledge about how to prepare for and apply to college, access 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 Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia.
In collaboration with university faculty and high school teachers, SLI offers its scholars opportunities for rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships – and dual enrollment tuition support, computer awards, and college scholarships.
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 Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Eastern Nazarene College, George Mason University, Harvard University, James Madison University, Lord Fairfax Community College, Old Dominion University, Shenandoah University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.
As early as in their first year of high school, students who apply to become and are selected as SLI scholars to:
- Accept new academic challenges and leadership responsibilities that empower their paths to higher education, with guidance from SLI high school teachers and 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.
SLI was initially modeled after NC Sli (now LatinxEd) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded by Peter Iver Kaufman.