Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Scholars Latino Initiative (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 rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships for its students.
With donations from SLI’s community of support, SLI also offers dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree.
The SLI concept 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.
- 122 scholars (45 current, 77 alumni)
- $291,500 in scholarship awards
- $65,000 in computer awards
- $14,300+ 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 21 colleges and universities:
Blue Ridge Community College
Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Nazarene College
George Mason University
James Madison University
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
Lord Fairfax Community College
Northern Virginia Community College
Old Dominion University
Tidewater Community College
University of Pittsburgh
University of Richmond
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Union University
The College of William & Mary
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; 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.
In addition, SLI offers the following support:
- Dual-enrollment course tuition assistance 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.