In recognition of their long service and achievements, the college-access nonprofit Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has conferred SLI Service Awards on Laura Feichtinger McGrath and Larry Miller, whose terms on the SLI board of directors concluded at the end of 2022.
Incorporated in 2012 and a 501c3 nonprofit since 2013, SLI creates college access opportunities through collaborations with public school teachers and local university faculty, staff, and student mentors. SLI also offers financial assistance to its scholars, and has awarded more than $476,000 in college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance. Its alumni have attended 21 colleges and universities.
“I am thankful for the contributions of Laura and Larry,” said Fawn-Amber Montoya, Ph.D., SLI board chair and associate dean for diversity, inclusion and external engagement at James Madison University. “SLI is the organization that it is today in large part because of their time and support. Their work has set an example for me of how to serve SLI students best.”
Feichtinger McGrath, Director of EL Services and Title III for Harrisonburg City Public Schools, is the longest continuously serving board member to date, and was a founding board member. She also served terms as secretary.
“From SLI’s inception, Laura has ensured that our mission is student-centered. Her experience as an educator has been invaluable to create structures that best serve both our scholars and the children of Harrisonburg City,” said Hannah Bowman Hrasky, SLI program director and teacher at Harrisonburg High School.
“Laura is well respected and trusted in the community and in the Harrisonburg City school district as a champion for the needs of our students and families with immigrant and refugee status. SLI has benefitted from her expertise as an educator, her knowledge of barriers and access, her generosity of time and service, and her wisdom for how to get things done,” said Carlos Alemán, Ph.D., SLI board member and program director and associate professor of communication studies at James Madison University.
“Laura works quietly and relentlessly for our city school students,” said Sylvia Whitney Beitzel, managing editor of the International Journal on Responsibility and recent SLI board member. “She is fierce about their rights to access the education they need. I have seen her hold families, care for students with great affection and respect, and translate what they’ve needed and what they’ve had to give into something tangible. She helps people make connections, she finds the resources, and she builds people up, beyond her job description. It is no wonder she is a founding board member and has been a committed one for this long!”
Miller, a retired banking executive, served as SLI’s director of development 2016-18, then joined the board of directors in 2020 for a three-year term.
“We knew that we needed to create a director of development role if we wanted to take the next steps of growth, but were also a bit uncertain what that role would look like or how it would transform the organization. By the end of our first meeting, I was absolutely convinced that Larry was the absolute right person to guide us on the next phase of our journey,” Alemán said.
“Larry’s kind and thoughtful guidance structured our future as an organization. His deep personal belief in the mission resonated with our community and helped establish SLI in the Shenandoah Valley,” Bowman Hrasky said.
“I have learned so much from working with Larry at SLI,” said Jason Good, Ph.D., immediate past chair and vice president for enrollment management at Ringling College of Art and Design. “He brings confident and strategic leadership, but does so with humility and in a way that creates space for various viewpoints. He has filled various roles at SLI, always willing to step up as needed with a deep commitment to the community and the scholars.”
Previous SLI Service Awards were conferred upon founding board members Paul Burkholder in 2018 and Phil Helmuth in 2021.
“Larry’s and Laura’s work leave lasting impacts on the SLI community. They have always been generous with their time and have provided great direction for us to lead the culture forward,” said Stephania Cervantes, SLI managing director.