Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) alumna Ángela (Huguenot High School ‘19) is studying Arts in Media & Communications at Shenandoah University (’23). She shared about her SLI experiences in recent virtual Meet SLI events in 2020 and 2021 and in the following reflection:
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.
That is something I did not get at home. Because my dad never had the opportunity to go to school and doesn’t know how to read, he was never able to help me fill out important documents for school. But he has been beyond supportive, and I would not be standing where I am right now if it was not for his sacrifice.
While I did not have academic guidance at home, I did have it through SLI, thanks to SLI mentors and Peter who took their time to fill out documents I had never even heard of before, like the FAFSA. [SLI founder and Richmond program director Peter Iver Kaufman is a professor at the University of Richmond, where he holds the George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies.]
Peter taught me how to write 10-page essays and I am grateful for that because if I had not received the help I got from SLI, I would not be where I am today. Thanks to SLI, I have been able to be more confident about my writing, reading, and pronunciation. I’m also able to attend college and achieve my dreams of becoming a communicator and helping my family. SLI has opened doors to places where I never thought I would be.
Thanks to SLI, I began my education at Shenandoah University in the fall of 2019. As a first-generation college student, the process to get into college was difficult to me at first, but thankfully my SLI mentor guided me throughout the application process and that opened more opportunities to me.
When I went to Shenandoah I knew I wanted to study Arts in Media & Communications. This year I took general ed classes as well as Media & Communication classes such as Understanding Media and Communications, Multimedia Journalism, Writing Women, and Role Play and Simulation. I am also taking a summer class (Business & Professional Communication) to keep moving forward with my studies.
At the moment I have earned 31 college credits. My plan is to keep going and graduate, to achieve my dreams.
My priorities are school and to help my mom bi-weekly. I work a full-time job from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday. I try to provide my family in El Salvador with the things they need, as my mother and brother currently have an unstable well-being and I am the only person that can really help them. But as I do that, my priority is also school and being able to keep it going to have a successful future.
I also have Spanish conversations for the students at Shenandoah who are currently learning the language. I do that as a work study position during the school year and over the summer, but my main purpose of being part of the Spanish conversations is to help students learn the language.
I am proud that one of my professors has recommended me to the Honors Program, and I am currently in the process of becoming part of it.
This past year I also had the honor of being elected as the student SLI coordinator for Shenandoah University and being a guide to the Handley High School students who are currently enrolled with SLI. As Elly, the most recent SLI coordinator and a great student and person, leaves Shenandoah, I am beyond grateful for this opportunity that has been given to me. This is something I can do to give back to the program that opened doors for my future.