• 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.

  • “Thank You!” for SLI’s success in 2020

    A letter from Jason Good
    chair, SLI board of directors
    vice president for innovation and student recruitment, Eastern Mennonite University

    Dear SLI Community of Support,

    As 2020 comes to an end, I want to express my gratitude to you for your vital participation in creating college opportunities for SLI’s 114 current and alumni scholars, like Jaime:

    Jaime, SLI alum

    “SLI positively impacted me by offering resources to help navigate my high school course selection, helping me develop a critical-thinking mindset through college-level seminars, and financially supporting my community college transfer credits and college expenses.”

    –Jaime, SLI alum
    John Handley High School ’19
    University of Virginia ’23

    The outpouring of support for SLI this year has allowed SLI to expand its 2021 budget for college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance to more than $100,000, a first for this young nonprofit. Thank you for helping to grow SLI’s impact! 

    I am proud of what SLI has been able to offer even during the COVID-19 pandemic. SLI’s program directors at high schools and universities in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester continue to find unique and creative ways to impact scholars, such as:

    • “Early College” seminars with reading and writing assignments on democracy;
    • Workshops on financial aid, scholarships, and the college application process; 
    • Peer mentorship including meeting with new SLI candidates and through individual pairings and student organizations; 
    • “SLI on Sunday” virtual gatherings focused on support and well-being and leadership;
    • Community service efforts such as a voter registration campaign that resulted in 30 new registered voters, including the parents of one scholar. Spring semester activities will include a clothing drive for families in Central America affected by hurricanes, participation in a community campaign for sustainable solar energy, support for an initiative to provide college application assistance and career guidance to Latinx immigrants who have graduated with their GED, and a post-holiday gift grab for elementary and middle-school students who may need to replenish school supplies;
    • Artist meetings with poet and performer Denice Frohman and Peabody Award winning film writer, director, and producer John Valadez, in collaboration with JMU’s Center for Multicultural Student Services and the JMU Honors College; and
    • Book study and capstone project with JMU English Professor Allison Fagan on Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson.

    Again, thank you for being part of SLI’s successes in 2020.

    Wishing you all the best in the new year,

    Jason Good, Chair
    SLI Board of Directors
  • Why I Support SLI

    Shining Accounting Services CEO Sandra Suarez (pictured cradling a framed newspaper article about her Samuel R. Bowman, II Endowed Scholarship award) has served as a board member, volunteer, and faithful donor for the Scholars Latino Initiative, which empowers its scholars just as Suarez was once empowered in her own educational journey.

    Nothing is impossible. I absolutely HATE the phrase, “I can’t do it.” I believe that I am a prime example that if you never give up and persevere through all of life’s challenges, then you will achieve ANY goal you set out for yourself. 

    After working in the U.S. as an immigrant for seven years, I decided to go back to school and get a degree to set up my own business. I had my doubts going forward such as how I was going to pay for my courses and how would I find the time to attend classes while raising three children. Luckily my husband at the time was a huge help in raising my kiddos as I accomplished my schoolwork.

    However, the lingering financial burden was still weighing one me. The Samuel R. Bowman, II Endowed Scholarship [of The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County] came to the rescue and provided me with an amazing financial opportunity. I applied and received a scholarship in 2010 and suddenly a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t believe it! I finally had no excuse to not pursue my dream of graduating from college in America. 

    I am eternally grateful to SLI for believing in my community, providing an enormous opportunity, and supporting the dreams of dedicated individuals. Their continued involvement with the Latino community is why I continue to support their cause. Not only do I benefit emotionally from serving with them, but I can also help others receive necessary aid. 

    Sandra Suarez, CEO, Shining Accounting Services

    Although it was far from easy, especially with nagging (albeit delightful) children demanding my attention, and feeling like I never had enough time for my never-ending assignments, I was able to graduate in the spring of 2012. 

    After graduation I felt compelled and slightly obligated to find a way to give back to the Latino community, the same way I was helped. I discovered the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) and I have been contributing as much as I can ever since. 

    I am eternally grateful to SLI for believing in my community, providing an enormous opportunity, and supporting the dreams of dedicated individuals. Their continued involvement with the Latino community is why I continue to support their cause. Not only do I benefit emotionally from serving with them, but I can also help others receive necessary aid. 

    SLI is a fantastic organization and I am proud to be a part of such a caring and resourceful community.

  • For Giving Tuesday 2020, gratitude and inspiration from SLI scholars and board members

    DONATE ANYTIME HERE

    #SLIGivingTuesday, which raised more than $11,000 to support SLI computer awards and dual enrollment tuition assistance, highlighted SLI scholars, mentors, and board members. Pledged matching funds doubled the impact of generous donors.



    GivingTuesday matching funds generously provided by:

    and
    *Jason Good, Vice President for Innovation and Student Recruitment, Eastern Mennonite University
    *Phillip and Loretta Helmuth
    *Brent Holsinger, Founder and President, On the Road Collaborative, and Laura Toni-Holsinger
    Dr. Philip and Allyson Pate
    Brad and Jayne Schlabach
    and anonymous supporters
    (*SLI Board of Directors)
  • “I became the mentor I wish I had.”

    JMU nursing student and Scholars Latino Initiative mentor Jessica Discua-Aguilar said in a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage month that as a first-generation citizen and college student, she at times “felt lost, incapable” even though she “just knew” she had to “make it in America,” she wrote. “I understand what it’s like to not have a mentor or have the resources needed to be successful.” READ MORE

  • SLI Announces Advisory Council

    A warm welcome to the members of the brand new SLI Advisory Council! This body, facilitated by SLI Board of Directors chair-elect Karina Kline-Gabel and member Larry Miller and Director of Development Christopher Clymer Kurtz, will advance the expansion of SLI’s network of supporters and advocates to promote SLI’s long-term fiscal sustainability and growth, for the benefit of SLI scholars.

    Inaugural council members are:

    • Kenia Brooks, Farm Placement Specialist, Virginia Employment Commission, Winchester
    • Amelia Castañeda (not pictured), Welcome Center and Family Advocacy Coordinator, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond
    • Isabel Castillo, Lead Organizer, Virginia Organizing, Harrisonburg
    • Diana Patterson, Owner, DSP Services, LLC, Winchester
    • Sal Romero, Jr., Director of Equity and Community Engagement, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, Harrisonburg
    • Lyons Sanchezconcha, Virginia Latino Advisory Board; Educator, Richmond Public Schools; and College and Career Bound Program Facilitator, Sacred Heart Center, Richmond