• New SLI program directors in Winchester

    New SLI program directors help make college “more than a dream”

    Scholars Latino Initiative has welcomed Ileana Escalante (left) and Ruth Espinoza de Arteaga as program directors for its Winchester program at John Handley High School. Escalante and Espinoza are both Spanish teachers at Handley and co-sponsor the school’s student organization Latinos Unidos.

    “I am honored to work with SLI scholars,” said Escalante. “I passionately believe in empowering Latino students to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential. As a result, I know they will bring growth and positive change to their communities.”

    Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, 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 its students rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. 

    Donations from SLI’s community of support allow the organization to offer dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree. SLI has awarded $213,000 in scholarships, $46,000 in computer awards, and more than $14,300 in tuition assistance.

    “My main motivation for taking up this responsibility is to support our Latinx students, making them aware that college is more than a dream but a reality for them,” said Espinoza. “Their future is built always in the present, and we can lend a hand to make this dream come true.”

    Since the organization’s formation, SLI efforts at Handley were led by teacher Thomas Robb, who also served on the SLI board of directors through 2020.

    “lleana and Ruth bring a leadership that builds on the foundation cultivated by Tom and others in Winchester,” said Carlos Alemán, university professor and SLI program director in Harrisonburg. “This is an exciting opportunity that will benefit students, and all of us at SLI welcome their energy and vision, expertise, and wisdom.”

  • SLI board of directors welcomes Fawn-Amber Montoya

    The Scholars Latino Initiative has announced the appointment of Fawn-Amber Montoya, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity, inclusion and external engagement at James Madison University, to its board of directors.

    “Dr. Montoya is an incredible leader and we are honored to have her join SLI,” said Jason Good, board chair. “Her experience and expertise add immense value to our organization and our community.”

    Montoya was nominated by Karina Kline-Gabel, vice chair of the SLI board and of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, who noted her “action-oriented commitment to improving college accessibility for Latino/x students in our community.”

    Before assuming her role at JMU in 2019, Montoya directed the Honors program at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where she received awards for service, advising, and mentoring and was a professor of history who taught courses in race, ethnicity, and gender, and focused on Mexican-American history. She has consulted on numerous museum exhibits, co-authored Practicing Oral History to Connect University to Community, and edited Making An American Workforce: The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company’s Construction of a Workforce during the Rockefeller Years.

    “I am excited about joining the board because my experience interacting with SLI students has always been inspiring,” she said. “They are motivated individuals that are ready for successful experiences in higher education.”

    Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, 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 its students rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. 

    Donations from SLI’s community of support allow the organization to offer dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree. SLI has awarded $213,000 in scholarships, $46,000 in computer awards, and over $14,300 in dual enrollment tuition assistance.

  • Careers Panel Discussion highlights possibilities for SLI scholars

    Moderated by Karina Kline-Gabel, vice chair of the SLI board of directors and of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, this Scholars Latino Initiative presentation for SLI scholars and additional student groups in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester featured leaders sharing about their careers and professional experiences.

    Panelists included:
    *Maribel Castañeda, Director of Appointments and Director of Latino Outreach, Governor Ralph S. Northam
    *Kevin Gabel, Director of Construction Management, Lantz Construction
    *Silvia Garcia-Romero, Cultural Diversity Manager, Sentara RMH
    *Patty Gavilan, RN, CMI – Manager, Language Services Department, Bon Secours Mercy Health
    *Tanya Gonzalez, Executive Director, Sacred Heart Center
    *Charles A. Martorana, Valley Region President, Blue Ridge Bank

  • Winchester SLI celebration

    Winchester SLI celebrates 2021 graduates

    The Winchester SLI recognized its graduating mentors and seven graduating scholars at a celebration this month featuring guest speaker North Carolina SLI alumna Rubi (seventh from left), who shared about her own SLI/college journey. Graduating scholar Jennifer (fifth from left) and mentor Damaris (third from left) shared brief reflections about how SLI has shaped them, and SLI program director Karen Cornejo Guillen (fifth from right) presented graduating scholars and mentors with a small gift. SLI program director Ruth Espinosa (far right) read a poem and said a few words of encouragement to the graduating group and rising seniors.

  • Great Community Give ’21

    Thank you, Great Community Give!

    Sixty-six donors gave $15,246 to help Scholars Latino Initiative provide college scholarships, computer awards, dual enrollment tuition assistance, and college opportunities for Latinx students.

    As SLI alumna Elly said recently: “SLI was a very eye-opening program for me. I had amazing mentors who guided me in my educational path, as well as that ‘push’ to keep me going. From not believing I could obtain a college degree to now working on my graduate degree is honestly a huge blessing and a great honor to my family!”

    Thanks to the Give, SLI’s community of support is growing – which means greater impact for SLI scholars like Elly.

  • Meet SLI in Richmond (2021)

    Discover the Scholars Latino Initiative’s Richmond, Virginia, program through the experiences of its scholars, mentors, and founder in this virtual gathering’s highlights reel:

    The event was sponsored by Truist Financial and hosted by Lyons Sanchezconcha of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board and Amelia Castañeda of Richmond Public Schools.

  • ¡Conózcanos! SLI – Harrisonburg

    Aprenda sobre el programa de Scholars Latino Initiative a través de las experiencias de los estudiantes, los tutores y los líderes de la organización en este evento virtual.

    Presentado por Karina Kline-Gabel de la junta Virginia Latino Advisory Board y Sal Romero de las escuelas públicas de Harrisonburg Public Schools. Patrocinado por Rocktown Realty.

  • Phil Helmuth

    Helmuth receives SLI Service Award

    Departing SLI board member Phil Helmuth has received a Scholars Latino Initiative Service Award in recognition of his eight-year tenure, which included terms as chair and treasurer.

    “Phil’s energy is infectious,” said Jason Good, board chair. “He was the stabilizing force through SLI’s early years, and a constant source of expertise and wisdom.”

    Known by board colleagues as “tireless and selfless,” a “powerful example” who had “faith in the good will and effort” of others, and a “fantastic coach,” Phil played a “pivotal role in the development and growth of SLI,” said Brent Holsinger, board secretary.

    “Phil helped take us from a tiny organization with three students to where we are today,” said Hannah Bowman Hrasky, board member and program director at Harrisonburg High School. “He has been a big part of making a difference in all of those students’ lives, and for that I am very grateful.”

    A retired development director and minister, Phil will continue with Mennonite Disaster Service as coordinator for early response and rebuilding efforts following Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Louisiana.

  • Meet SLI in Winchester

    In this highlights reel, discover the Scholars Latino Initiative through the experiences of SLI mentors Maya, Damaris, and Joseph and scholars Emily and Everth:

    The event was hosted by Bryan Pearce-Gonzales, member of the SLI Board of Directors, professor of Hispanic Studies at Shenandoah University, and member of the WPS School Board.

    Learn more about SLI’s impact here and donate here.

  • Meet Rubi, SLI scholar

    Meet Rubi, who says that her SLI experiences were “life changing.” Currently employed by Gartner, Inc., Rubi is an alumna of SLI in North Carolina and of the University of Richmond, where SLI founder Peter Iver Kaufman now holds the University of Richmond’s George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies.