MISSION: With programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia, the mission of Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) is to support Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships.
APPROACH: Through collaborations with university and high school staff, faculty, and students, SLI provides college access opportunities throughout high school, plus financial support for college success.
IMPACT: Since 2012 SLI has served 159 scholars (46 current and 113 alumni) and paid $434,243 in financial support for students, including:
- $321,379 distributed as college scholarship awards to attend two- and four-year institutions. Named scholarships such as the F&M Bank SLI Scholar College Award and the Sentara SLI Scholar College Award support SLI scholars pursuing relevant fields of study.
- $89,445 in computer awards to help eligible SLI scholars purchase the technology they need to start college.
- $23,418 in tuition assistance for scholars taking dual enrollment college and AP courses while in high school. These improve college readiness, enhance academic portfolios, and may reduce the number of credit hours needed in college.
SLI teachers and professors also help to connect scholars to additional funding opportunities, and SLI scholars have attended 24 colleges and universities: Blue Ridge Community College, Bridgewater College, Dickinson College, Eastern Mennonite University, Eastern Nazarene College, George Mason University, Harvard University, Hollins University, James Madison University, Laurel Ridge Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, Old Dominion University, Randolph-Macon College, Reynolds Community College, Shenandoah University, Tidewater Community College, University of Pittsburgh, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Union University, Washington Adventist University, and The College of William & Mary.
CONTEXT: SLI scholars experience unique circumstances as in many cases first-generation college students; as talented but often invisible individuals; as children from families that are disproportionately under-resourced and disenfranchised; and as members of a growing population in Virginia and the U.S. that is underrepresented on college campuses.
VISION: SLI is a community-based, not-for-profit organization built on partnerships with high schools, universities, communities, students, and parents, and dedicated to advancing Latinx students’ post-high school educational opportunities. SLI advocates for Latinx opportunities and strives for social justice and equity. Scholars are mentored to be leaders that positively contribute to their communities.
PROGRAMMING: Students who apply and are selected to be SLI scholars participate in various growth activities, such as:
- Accepting new academic challenges and leadership responsibilities that empower their paths to higher education, with guidance from SLI high school teachers and university student mentors;
- Developing personal statements and goals, evaluating careers and majors, applying for college admittance, and seeking financial aid, all with the help of faculty mentors;
- Participating in family-inclusive programming that fosters skills and knowledge needed for supporting college access; and
- Receiving friendship, social support and help for navigating the challenges that come with being a Latinx college-bound student.
SLI scholars have also 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.