• “Faith in the motivation, strength, and resiliency of SLI scholars”: SLI adapts for COVID-19

    Just as public school systems and universities are continuing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) is adapting its programming to continue creating college opportunities and providing support for its scholars.

    SLI program coordinators and collaborating volunteers and educators in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester are helping to identify its scholars’ immediate educational needs such as access to necessary technology, and are developing modified SLI activities such as online seminars and virtual mentorship strategies to continue providing scholars with college readiness opportunities.

    They are also listening even more closely than usual to what students are saying about their own and their families’ health and well being, according to Carlos Aleman, SLI program director and James Madison University professor. 

    “Most of our students and their family members have been working continuously in essential service roles since the pandemic began, and are at an even higher risk of a toll taken on their minds and bodies than the typical student,” he said. “It’s a source of hope that the broader community has faith in the motivation, strength, and resiliency that characterize all of our SLI scholars.”

    SLI supporters are central to making possible SLI’s ongoing mission and support for scholars, said Jason Good, SLI board chair and Eastern Mennonite University vice-president for innovation and student recruitment.

    “Donor support of our scholars during these times is more important than ever. I am grateful that our generous donors are continuing to show their trust in SLI as a good steward of their giving and as an avenue for personal impact,” he said.

    Contributions to support SLI scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance are accepted at vasli.org/donate or by check mailed to PO Box 2734, Harrisonburg, VA 22834.

  • A Reflection of Gratitude: Angela

    SLU alumna Angela (Huguenot High School ‘19) is studying Arts in Media & Communications at Shenandoah University, and recently wrote this:

    “Scholars Latino Initiative has changed my life tremendously and has provided me with help in many ways, giving me guidance and helping me financially and emotionally. At the beginning of my freshman year of high school I was concerned that people would look at me differently because I was new at my school, but my main concern was my future, as I thought I was unable to go to college due to the lack of money and my language barrier. 

    “But when I had the opportunity to join SLI, I saw doors open my way. I was able to meet more people like me who wanted to achieve their dreams. I was able to connect with important people who would academically guide me to choose the right path for my future.” READ MORE

  • Meeting Mary

    Educational inequalities and how SLI opens doors

    Scholars Latino Initiative’s director of development Christopher Clymer Kurtz first learned about SLI in 2018 when he interviewed one of its scholars, Mary, for a WMRA report about inequalities in education. He recently reconnected with Mary, and wrote this update. READ MORE

  • Thank you, Great Community Give friends!

    Educators shared why they support SLI, SLI scholars provided testimonials, and donors, eager to empower local Latino/x students who dream of going to college, responded during the 2020 Great Community Give.

    More than 70 people and educators who pledged matching funds donated more than $11,000 (in most cases giving extra to cover platform and payment fees!).


    Ongoing donations are gratefully welcomed at vasli.org/donate.

    Educators pledging Great Community Give matching funds included:

    • Pete Bsumek, Professor, James Madison University
    • Christopher Clymer Kurtz, former teacher, Rockingham County Public Schools
    • Dr. Lara Coggin, ESOL Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
    • Amber Corriston, Dance Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Mike Davis, Executive Advisor to the President, James Madison University
    • Dr. John A. Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
    • Andrew Dudley Barnes, Lecturer, James Madison University
    • *Jason Good, Vice President for Innovation and Student Recruitment, Eastern Mennonite University
    • *Laura Feichtinger-McGrath, Director of EL Services and Title III, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. Suzanne Fiederlein, Interim Director, CISR, James Madison University
    • MarthaJune Graber, Retired Spanish Teacher
    • Dr. Susan Huxman, President, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Pat Lintner, Chief Academic Officer, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. Fawn-Amber Montoya, Associate Dean of Honors College, James Madison University
    • Jenna Martin-Trinka, Reading Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. C. Leigh Nelson, Professor, James Madison University
    • *Bryan Pearce-Gonzales, Professor of Hispanic Studies, Shenandoah University
    • *Tom Robb, Math Teacher and SLI Program Director, Winchester Public Schools
    • *Carl Rush, Equity Coordinator, Winchester Public Schools
    • Kirk Shisler, Vice President for Advancement, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Dr. Ann St. Clair Lesman, Professor Emerita, Shenandoah University
    • Jason Van Heukelum, Superintendent, Winchester Public Schools
    • Anda Weaver, School Counselor, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Philip Yutzy, Spanish Teacher, Instructional Team Leader, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Margot Marie Zahner, Director, Great Oak Academy, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • and anonymous supporters

    *Member, SLI Board of Directors

  • Meet SLI in Richmond

    Meet the Scholars Latino Initiative in Richmond in this June 3, 2020, Zoom meeting hosted by Cecilia Barbosa, chair of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board:

    Guests and Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) board of directors chair-elect Karina Kline-Gabel and member Chris von Rueden heard from:

    • Peter Iver Kaufman, SLI founder and program director in Richmond; Professor, George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
    • Angela, SLI alumna, Huguenot High School (’19); rising sophomore at Shenandoah University
    • Ariel, SLI alumnus, Huguenot High School (’20); entering Eastern Mennonite University
    • Blanca, SLI alumna (North Carolina, ’09); University of Richmond and Texas A&M alumna (master’s degrees in public health and biomedical sciences); student affairs, Texas A&M
    • Laura, SLI mentor, University of Richmond (’20); Richmond Award and LeSane-Malone Award recipient
    • Christopher Clymer Kurtz, SLI Director of Development
  • Generous donors meet Giving Tuesday Now goal

    Thanks to many generous people in the SLI community, donations of more than $5,000 plus $5,000 in matching funds surpassed the Giving Tuesday Now goal of $10,000, which will support two SLI scholarship awards!

    This campaign has ended, but gifts of support for SLI scholarships are welcome anytime at vasli.org/donate.

    Thank you!

  • Cheer for SLI scholars

    Intense grit and determination are staple attributes of SLI scholars, to an inspiring degree. In this pandemic, perhaps all of us need more of these – along with copious amounts of moral support and friendship. 

    You are invited to cheer for SLI scholars here – or learn more:

    Even as schools are closed for the academic year and college admissions offices are figuring out how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, SLI is committed to its scholars. 

    Until we can again serve our scholars in person, we’re doing what we can – through social media and online writing and reading assignments, for example. And donors continue to step up to fund the college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance that SLI scholars are counting on for this fall.

    A Zoom session for Winchester SLI scholars and mentors

    Cheer for SLI scholars by writing words of encouragement to them in the comments for this Facebook post. Maybe you know what it’s like to be the first in your family to pursue higher education. Maybe you admire determination. Maybe college was a life changing experience for you, and you wish the same for SLI’s graduating seniors. 

    Your heartfelt words will be meaningful. Go for it.


    P.S. Want more ideas for helping SLI?

  • You have been on our minds: A letter from the SLI Board of Directors

    Estimados Participantes de SLI, Alumnos y Donantes,
    Mientras que nos encontramos en esta época de pandemia, la junta directiva de SLI ha estado pensando mucho en todos ustedes. Esperamos que sus familias estén bien de salud y les deseamos lo mejor durante esta crisis….VER MÁS

    Dear SLI scholars, alumni, and supporters,
    As we each face challenges in this time of pandemic, you especially have been on our minds. We hope for good health for you and your families, and for renewed energy for pursuing your goals…..READ MORE

    Jason Good, chair, and Karina Kline-Gabel, chair elect
  • SLI is a community of support for “truly exceptional” scholars

    For the tenacious SLI scholars preparing to be the first in their families to attend college, the coronavirus pandemic is merely another source of deeply felt anxiety and uncertainty. 

    Carlos Aleman, SLI program director and JMU professor

    “The social uncertainty and isolation of our coronavirus moment is not too far off the everyday reality of many SLI students and their families,” said SLI program director and JMU professor Carlos Aleman. “The first-generation students we’re working with are truly exceptional in their abilities to move toward college given everything else that’s happening in their lives.” 

    When you donate to SLI, you are providing encouragement, strength, and a way forward for SLI scholars like Everth, Flory, and Noel.

    “SLI has always been a community of people that care for me and encourage me to reach out when I need help,” said SLI alum and supporter Rebecca, who is studying economics and political science at Tidewater Community College.

    Thank you for being part of the community that surrounds SLI’s highly motivated and determined scholars even – especially – in this difficult time.

    Christopher Clymer Kurtz
    Director of Development

  • Congratulations to SLI alum Maria!

    Congratulations to SLI alum Maria Garcia Martinez (Harrisonburg High class of 2017), who has been accepted into the nursing program at Blue Ridge Community College. This video about her was created when she was in high school: