• All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  News

    “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
  • Angela
    All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  News,  SLI in Richmond

    A Reflection of Gratitude: Ángela

    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.

  • Great Community Give and SLI
    All Posts,  Events,  Expressions of Gratitude,  News,  SLI in Harrisonburg

    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
    • Lara Coggin, Ph.D., ESOL Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
    • Amber Corriston, Dance Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Mike Davis, Executive Advisor to the President, James Madison University
    • John A. Downey, Ph.D., 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
    • Suzanne Fiederlein, Ph.D., Interim Director, CISR, James Madison University
    • MarthaJune Graber, Retired Spanish Teacher
    • Susan Huxman, Ph.D., President, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Pat Lintner, Chief Academic Officer, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Fawn-Amber Montoya, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Honors College, James Madison University
    • Jenna Martin-Trinka, Reading Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • C. Leigh Nelson, Ph.D., Professor, James Madison University
    • *Bryan Pearce-Gonzales, Professor of Hispanic Studies, Shenandoah University
    • *Tom Robb, Math Teacher and SLI Program Director, Winchester Public Schools
    • Kirk Shisler, Vice President for Advancement, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Ann St. Clair Lesman, Ph.D., 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