• HHS SLI 2022
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    SLI grads name college picks

    Pictured: Harrisonburg High School’s 2022 SLI cohort

    HARRISONBURG, Va., June 15, 2022 – Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) scholars graduating from high school have named their university choices.

    Among the colleges and universities selected by the cohort of 18 students – six in Harrisonburg, eight in Richmond, and four in Winchester – are:

    • Bridgewater College
    • Eastern Mennonite University
    • J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
    • James Madison University
    • John Tyler Community College
    • Laurel Ridge Community College
    • Old Dominion University
    • University of Virginia
    • Virginia Union University

    Their anticipated fields of study include computer science, history, nursing, social work, pre-dentistry, and pre-veterinary sciences.

    “SLI produces new opportunities for Latinx students facing struggles during the college process,” said Janefer, a SLI scholar graduating from Harrisonburg High School. “SLI opens new doors by not only helping us pay our dual enrollment tuition to obtain college credits while in high school, but also by challenging us to serve the community without receiving anything back.”

    At a SLI graduation celebration in Richmond, scholars and their families were addressed by Rubi, a SLI alumna who now works for Gartner, Inc. 

    “SLI gave me and my parents hope, and reinforced my belief that if I was dedicated and determined to fight my way through, I could actually go to college,” she said. “I knew that graduating from college would help level the playing field for me as a Latina in the professional world, and I’m proud to say that thanks to my education and the invaluable support I’ve received throughout the years from the SLI family, I now have an amazing job in Washington, DC at the world’s leading IT research and business advisory firm.”

  • All Posts,  Events,  Expressions of Gratitude,  News,  SLI in Harrisonburg,  SLI in Richmond,  SLI in Winchester

    SLI scholars share joy and gratitude during the Great Community Give

    “What brings you joy?” Watch SLI scholars Guadalupe, Israel, Amy, Rosely, and Gabriela share in this video for the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham’s Great Community Give:

    During the campaign 39 donors contributed $9,350 to SLI’s mission to support Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. Thank you!

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    WHSV Community Spotlight: Scholars Latino Initiative


    By Chelsea Church/WHSV

    HARRISONBURG, VA – “For 10 years, the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has been helping create opportunities for students at Harrisonburg High School. The organization has several locations in Virginia made up of a group of outstanding students looking to further their education after high school.” WATCH AND READ MORE

  • Janefer
    All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  SLI in Harrisonburg

    A letter of gratitude from Janefer, SLI scholar

    Dear SLI Community of Support,

    As a SLI scholar, I want to express my gratitude to you for your support for Scholars Latino Initiative.

    Growing up, education was always the first thing. If I would arrive home with a grade below an A, my mother would always tell me, “You need to try harder in order to be able to qualify for scholarships and go to college.” Due to my mother’s hard work of raising me correctly, I was accepted to SLI my freshman year. 

    I am pushing myself to receive a degree in honor of my mother. She wanted everything in education but unfortunately she couldn’t afford it, so she crossed the border for me and my future and that has no price. 

    My college goals are to successfully receive my associate and high school degrees and then continue in a four-year university, attend dental school, and become a successful orthodontist. I will be successful for my mother and those hard working parents who crossed the border for their families. 

    Besides being beneficial to college, SLI has helped me become more outgoing and know what it’s like to help our community, especially those in need. Through community service, SLI scholars help elementary children, adults, homeless people and other people in need in many different ways. We can make a change as high school students. SLI has also helped me become more independent, go my own way, and make a fundraising activity to help us raise money for those who actually are in need. 

    SLI understands how difficult it is for Latino families to contribute to their children’s education, and produces new opportunities for Latinx students facing struggles during the college process. SLI opens new doors by not only helping us pay our dual enrollment tuition to obtain college credits while in high school, but also by challenging us to serve the community without receiving anything back. It is our choice to help, and we do it with much love and dedication. 

    Thank you.

    Harrisonburg High School ’22

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    Noche de Salsa ’21: Appreciations / Agradecimientos

    A celebration of college access opportunities for Scholars Latino Initiative scholars, COVID-conscious Noche de Salsa ’21 at Steven Toyota in Harrisonburg featured a Latin-flavor drive-thru dinner & margarita with park & watch live Salsa dancing and an online raffle. WATCH THE SLI APPRECIATIONS VIDEO.

    In the following video, learn about SLI directly from its scholars and read their notes of thanks, plus hear from SLI Board Chair Jason Good and recognize Noche de Salsa’s generous sponsors. *La presentación en español de Jason Good, el presidente de la junta directiva de SLI, está abajo.

    Thank you!

    A message from Jason Good, Chair of the SLI Board of Directors:

    On behalf of the board of the Scholars Latino Initiative, thank you for your support. Thank you, thank you. By partnering with SLI, you undoubtedly directly made a positive impact in our communities. Since our founding in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012, our SLI family of supporters has consistently grown through new donors and increasing generosity, driving our work to support Latino/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships.

    In just the last five years, you have tripled your donations. Tripled. As a volunteer board and a community based non-profit organization, this immense generosity makes our work possible. These donations have a direct impact on the scholars. In 2021, our annual budget now has over $100,000 allotted for direct scholar financial support through scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment support. The family of SLI scholars now has grown to 118 current scholars and alumni who have attended more than 20 colleges and universities.

    We are not an organization that only provides financial support. SLI is built on providing comprehensive support and partnership with students through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. Our programming directors, including university faculty and high school teachers, are truly training the leaders of tomorrow.

    We are humbled and honored by the stories of incredible scholars. Alex, arriving in the US as a freshman in high school from El Salvador without speaking English, joined SLI as a sophomore at Harrisonburg High School and by the end of his junior year had a 4.1 GPA, was taking multiple AP, dual enrollment, and honors courses, and is planning on studying computer science in college.

    Ángela, a first generation SLI college student, shared “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… 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.”

    Thank you for joining us on this day and for your incredible generosity. We are honored to work in the Harrisonburg community and partner with incredible organizations, companies, schools, and community members like you.


    Un mensaje de Jason Good, el presidente de la junta directiva de SLI:

    De parte de la junta directiva de Scholars Latino Initiative, gracias por su apoyo. ¡Gracias, gracias! Al colaborar con SLI, sin duda, han tenido un impacto positivo en nuestras comunidades. Desde nuestro establecimiento en el valle en 2012, nuestra familia de partidarios ha crecida con donantes nuevos y generosidad cada vez mayor, haciéndolo posible realizar nuestro trabajo apoyando estudiantes Latinos y Latinx con crear oportunidades de estudiar una carrera universitaria desde nuestros programas de preparación académica, desarrollo de liderazgo, becas, y mentores y amistades que ofrecen un apoyo social y la fortaleza para enfrentarse a las dificultades que acompañan acceder al sistema educativo.

    En solo los últimos cinco años, han triplicado las donaciones. Triplicado. Como una junta directiva voluntaria y una organización comunitaria sin ánimo de lucro, esta generosidad inmensa resulta en que nuestro trabajo sea posible. Estas donaciones tienen un impacto directo con los estudiantes. En 2021, nuestro presupuesto ahora tiene más de cien mil dólares asignados para apoyo financiero estudiantil directo a través de becas para la matrícula universitaria, becas para computadoras y becas para los cursos dual-enrollment. La familia de scholars de SLI ha crecido a 118 estudiantes actuales y ex alumnos quienes han asistido a más de 20 universidades.

    No somos una organización que solo ofrece apoyo financiero. SLI fue establecido con la filosofía de proveer apoyo comprensivo que incluye preparación académica, desarrollo de liderazgo, y mentores y amistades de apoyo. Nuestros directores de programas, incluyendo profesores universitarios y maestros de las escuelas, verdaderamente están preparando los líderes del futuro.

    Las historias y testimonios de los estudiantes nos dan honor y humildad. Alex, llegando a los Estados Unidos en noveno grado de El Salvador sin hablar inglés, empezó con SLI en su segundo año de Harrisonburg High School y a terminar su tercer año tenía un GPA de 4.1, estaba tomando varias clases de AP, dual enrollment y honores, y está planeando estudiar ciencias de computación en la universidad.

    Ángela, una alumna de SLI de primera generación universitaria comentó que SLI ha cambiado su vida de una manera tremendo y la ha ayudado de varias maneras, dándole apoyo y ayudándola emocionalmente y financieramente. Cuando tenía la oportunidad de empezar con SLI, vio puertas abrir y tenía la oportunidad de conocer a otros como ella quienes querían realizar sus sueños. Podía conectar con personas importantes quienes la ayudaron a escoger el camino correcto para su futuro.

    Gracias por estar con nosotros en este día y por su generosidad increíble. Tenemos el honor de trabajar en la comunidad de Harrisonburg y colaborar con organizaciones, compañías, escuelas y miembros de la comunidad increíbles como ustedes.

    Jason Good, Chair
    SLI Board of Directors

    And Thank you! to the local businesses and organizations that donated raffle prizes:

    Raffle winners have been notified by email.

  • Alex
    All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Harrisonburg

    An interview with Alex, SLI scholar

    Scholars Latino Initiative scholar Alex (Harrisonburg High School ’22) never planned to attend college in the US, but now hopes to study computer science at a prestigious university here. A restaurant server, writer, and member of the National Honor and Spanish National Honor Societies, Alex is poised for an academically packed senior year.

    When did you decide you wanted to go to college?
    As a kid, you always want to be a doctor. I remember when I was in first, second grade saying that I was going to be a doctor. But now that I’m an adult, I’m afraid of needles and I don’t like seeing other people’s blood, so I’m better off using computers.

    I didn’t know that I wanted to go to college until probably 6th or 7th grade. That was when I was back in my country, El Salvador. I just said that I was going to go to the university, but I never thought that I was going to be able to. 

    But then in 2018 everything changed for my brother and me, because my mom decided that we had to come to the US. My dad had come to the US when I was four, so he could give us a better life. Then he got sick, and my mom was like, “It’s now my duty to move to the US and be giving you guys the life that you guys deserve.” She was going to come by herself, but then my cousin called her and said, “Hey, just wait one month, and then we’re going to help you” to bring my brother and me. My mom returned home and waited, and a month later she told us we were moving to the US next month. 

    It was never in my plans to come to the US. I had thought I would live my whole life in El Salvador, but it didn’t happen.

    What has been your high school experience?
    I didn’t know English when I came to the US during my freshman year, so they put me in 9th grade even though I was supposed to be a sophomore.

    Sophomore year I actually started taking regular classes and honors classes, and I joined a few clubs, including SLI. I almost dropped my Honors history class, but I didn’t, and got a 103% in the class. It made me more confident with taking more difficult classes, because I know that I can do it if I really want to. 

    In my junior year I took two Advanced Placement (AP) classes and two dual enrollment classes for college credit, and honors classes as well. My GPA was 4.1

    I could have graduated last year, because I only needed two classes, but I decided to stay so I could boost my GPA and take more AP and dual enrollment classes, and make my resume stronger so I can show colleges what I’ve done with only several years in the US. 

    For my senior year I am taking three AP classes (physics, government, and Spanish literature) and two dual enrollment classes (calculus and English). I’ll also continue working and doing community service, so I can give back to the community. I’ve already signed up for different community service opportunities that are happening this upcoming month.

    How did you join SLI?
    In my freshman year they handed out SLI information in my government ESL class. I filled it out, and wrote my essay that we’re supposed to write, and I then handed it back to Ms. Bowman. I was like, “I just came to the US. I’m probably not at the same level as the other kids applying, so I’m definitely not getting in,” but I got in.

    SLI introduced me to ways to give back to the community and help the community become a better place. I didn’t know how to give back to the community when I was a freshman, but SLI introduced me to different things, like volunteering at Waterman Elementary School with Amigos Unidos. That gave me a different view of things, and led me to sign up for more community service opportunities.

    What about computer science interests you?
    I like all the mystery there is behind computers, how they actually work, and all the impact they are going to have on the future, and the impact that they’re having right now on us. It gives me goosebumps just trying to learn how everything works in them.

    Since I was a kid I was really curious about everything. If I need to know something, I’m actually going to look for it, and if I want to learn something, I’m not going to be okay until I learn it, until I’ve mastered it.

    Back in El Salvador, I had a camera and a computer that my cousin left for me. My favorite show was about magic, so I looked up how to do all the visual effects, and by 12 years old I was recording myself doing magic tricks and editing them using visual effects. My videos were not good, but they were not bad, either – kind of good. I could make things disappear and reappear at a different place, making it look smooth, like it actually happened.

    I took AP computer science principles this past year, and got 100% in the class. 

    You’re also a writer?
    One of my biggest goals is to publish a book and make an impact on readers. When I was 15 I created a cover for a book that I was going to write, and the whole plot, and I actually wrote it. It has 25 chapters, with around 2,000 words per chapter. That was the first book that I wrote. 

    There was one trilogy that I was going to write, like Hunger Games and Harry Potter mixed together. I developed the plot for the three books, but I didn’t end up writing them. I actually have lots of drafts of different books that I want to write, more than 20, more than 30 drafts. 

    What has kept you motivated?
    My family, and mainly my mom. I was doing everything because of them, because I wanted to make them proud. My mom didn’t finish grade school or anything like that, and she didn’t go to high school, and I feel like it would be disrespectful for them if I didn’t keep going, pushing myself to be better, to give them a future they deserve. 

    I want my brother to see me as a role model. I want him to know that if he wants something, he can do it. He just has to believe that he can do it and he will.

  • Johana
    All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Harrisonburg

    An interview with Johana, SLI scholar

    This summer Scholars Latino Initiative scholar Johana (Harrisonburg High School ‘22) started her first job, at a department store. She loves helping customers, she said in the following interview with SLI, and plans to continue serving others as a nurse practitioner.

    Why did you decide to work in a department store?
    I was trying to get out of my comfort zone. I know a lot of people, but I also like to be with just a few people. So I thought, “Let me get a job and save money.” And I’m loving it there. 

    I like seeing different people, the customers. One day I was feeling kind of sad, and this lady came to me and she said, “Have you tried this candy?” She loved this candy. It was like Italian lemon flavored. She said, “Here you go, you can try it and tell me if you like it.” Now it’s one of my favorites.

    She made my day. That’s something that I love about working with different types of people: They can make your day better.

    Who are some other people you have learned from?
    My dad always told me, “Hey, you’d better go to college, better get a degree, because I didn’t have that opportunity, and I want you to have it, for a better life.” He wants me to be that person, to be a professional. And I want that, too. I don’t want to just do it for him, I want to do it for myself. So I always had that mindset of going to college.

    He started taking some programs that would help him progress in his work. He keeps studying. He’s like, “I just want an opportunity to go to college, too.” 

    I used to make fun of him. I used to say to him, “Hey, Mr. Google,” because I could ask him whatever, and he would always have an answer. Even if it wasn’t right, he always had an answer.

    What are your career goals?
    I want to become a nurse practitioner. I love everything related to the human body, how every system in our body has a different function, and how they all work together. I believe our creation is so fascinating.

    For a nurse aid class this fall, I’ll be at a retirement community. I’m excited to learn about caregiving in that setting.

    What has been your experience with SLI?
    SLI has given me many opportunities to grow

    I applied to SLI at the end of my freshman year. I was afraid to speak in public, and I remember the first year. [SLI program director] Dr. Alemán was always asking us many questions about different topics. He was always pointing at people, saying, “What do you think about this? What do you think about that?” I was always so nervous, like, “Oh my God, I don’t want him to pick me.” But Dr. Alemán has helped me to be more confident in public speaking.

    SLI has created for me a vision for college, how to get into college, how to be a college student but also how to be a better college student. It has also given me a lot of opportunities to be around brilliant people who teach many good things including how to be one of them.

    It has also given me opportunities to work with my community, the Latinx community. I’m so thankful that I’m in SLI, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things we will do this year.

  • All Posts,  News,  SLI in Harrisonburg,  SLI in Richmond,  SLI in Winchester

    Graduating SLI scholars name university picks

    PHOTO: Harrisonburg SLI’s graduating scholars are (from left) Savannah, Lisbet, Eliana, Leslie, Helen, Jennifer, Luisana, Jan, Noel, and Daniella.

    This year’s 22 graduating Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) scholars – 10 in Harrisonburg, five in Richmond, and seven in Winchester – have announced their higher education plans. They will attend:

    • University of Pittsburgh
    • University of Richmond
    • University of Virginia
    • Virginia Commonwealth University
    • Virginia Tech University
    • Virginia Union University
    • The College of William & Mary
    • James Madison University
    • Eastern Mennonite University
    • Bridgewater College
    • Blue Ridge Community College
    • Lord Fairfax Community College
    • Northern Virginia Community College

    “These scholars represent a positive future for our communities,” said Carlos Alemán, university professor and SLI program director in Harrisonburg. “We’re proud of them and look forward to hearing about their successes in college and beyond.”

    SLI supports Latinx high school students through college access program opportunities and access to dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships, awarding $364,800 in direct student support to date.

    In addition to providing direct financial support, SLI collaborates with local university faculty and high school teachers to offer its scholars rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships, all of which help prepare students for college.

    “I am a first-generation student,” said Amy (Handley High School ’21) in a recent interview. “Lots of people think that it’s just like going to school and getting good grades, but sometimes it’s about building connections.” 

    Her SLI mentor “really helped me a lot,” Amy said. “I didn’t really know the whole application process and I didn’t know how early you should start, but she would keep texting me and reminding me.”


    With her new university experiences beginning in just weeks, Amy is looking forward to building new connections.

    “I hope I have a good first day, because I’m going to be meeting a lot of people, a lot of teachers, and trying to get my way around,” she said. “But I’m excited.”


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    Careers Panel Discussion highlights possibilities for SLI scholars

    Moderated by Karina Kline-Gabel, vice chair of the SLI board of directors and of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, this Scholars Latino Initiative presentation for SLI scholars and additional student groups in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester featured leaders sharing about their careers and professional experiences.

    Panelists included:
    *Maribel Castañeda, Director of Appointments and Director of Latino Outreach, Governor Ralph S. Northam
    *Kevin Gabel, Director of Construction Management, Lantz Construction
    *Silvia Garcia-Romero, Cultural Diversity Manager, Sentara RMH
    *Patty Gavilan, RN, CMI – Manager, Language Services Department, Bon Secours Mercy Health
    *Tanya Gonzalez, Executive Director, Sacred Heart Center
    *Charles A. Martorana, Valley Region President, Blue Ridge Bank