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    ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! to celebrate SLI’s first decade

    Ticket sales have ended for this event.


    DATE AND TIME: Sunday, October 9, 2022, 5-9:30 PM
    LOCATION: [map] On Sunny Slope Farm, 1825 Sunny Slope Lane, Harrisonburg, VA 22801


    ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley will feature mingling over great foods and beverages from A Bowl of GoodCinnamon Bear Bakery & DeliCuban BurgerEl Sol Mexican RestaurantLa Morena Mexican FoodMagdalena BakerySaint Isidore Homestead & Permaculture, and Santa Isabel Coffee.

    Highlights also include an open bar with wine and Three Notch’d Valley Collab House beers, live music by Lua Project, and salsa and bachata dancing led by Phillip and Natasha Fusaro of Dance Together, all at On Sunny Slope Farm.

    The foundations of SLI’s mission began well before SLI’s first decade as a Virginia nonprofit. The original SLI was founded by Peter Iver Kaufman and others in 2001 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2008 Kaufman brought SLI to the University of Richmond, Virginia, and later to the Shenandoah Valley, where this organization was incorporated in 2012 and became a 501c3 public charity. Kaufman continues to serve as the program director for SLI in Richmond.

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    Partnership awards $1,000 “For Your Success” scholarship for second year

    PHOTO: Micael (bottom left) is the recipient of the 2022 “For Your Success” college scholarship award sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, Sacred Heart Center (SHC), Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), and an anonymous donor. Pictured with Micael are SHC Executive Director Tanya Gonzalez (top left), SHC Director of Programs Carolina Lugo, SHC College and Career Bound Facilitator Selena Pacheco, and SLI Advisory Council Member Lyons Sanchezconcha.

    Micael, a graduating senior of the Sacred Heart Center (SHC) College & Career-Bound Program, has been awarded the $1,000 “For Your Success” scholarship sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, SHC, Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), and an anonymous donor.

    “I couldn’t write or speak a single sentence when I got to the U.S in my freshman year, but I was determined to do my best at school as it was always something that mattered a lot to me,” Micael wrote in the scholarship application. “I started on level one of ESL at my school, took the exam, and was advanced to level three in my first year. I strongly believe my effort helped me improve my English proficiency.”

    Now studying in the honors program at the Richard Bland College of William and Mary, Micael has volunteered as an interpreter in hospitals, pharmacies, schools, and elsewhere, and in high school was a member of Rho Kappa, National Beta Club, and Spanish Honor Society.

    The SHC College & Career-Bound Program “was amazing,” Micael said during the scholarship award presentation ceremony. “It introduced me to the college world, and made me understand … that I can go to college.”

    The second-annual scholarship for College & Career-Bound Program graduates was sponsored by:

    • Canastas Chicken Restaurants has locations in Glen Allen, Richmond, and Henrico, and boasts “the best Pollo a la Brasa you will ever try.” 
    • Sacred Heart Center supports Latinos in Richmond through programs such as adult education, family literacy, citizenship classes, and more. 
    • Scholars Latino Initiative supports Latinx high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester.
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    Saturday SLI in Richmond: “Why College?”

    SLI in Richmond began the 2022-23 academic year with a Saturday SLI event for scholars and their families that included a “Why College” presentation by University of Richmond’s Edward Peebles, a mentor-mentee goal-setting activity, and lunch. The event was led by UR SLI co-presidents Sofie Martinez (in final photo, left) and Sofia Ringvald (right), pictured with SLI managing director Stephania Cervantes.

    (Photos by curlyheadphotographer)

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    SLI announces inaugural managing director

    As it celebrates its first decade as a Virginia nonprofit, Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has announced the appointment of Stephania Cervantes as its inaugural managing director.

    Cervantes will promote and execute SLI’s mission to support Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. 

    Through collaborations with public school teachers and local university faculty, staff, and student mentors in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia, SLI provides college access opportunities throughout high school, plus financial support for college success. 

    “I am delighted to welcome Stephania as SLI’s primary administrative leader,” said Jason Good, SLI board chair. “Her experiences in community engagement and commitment to creative collaboration across institutions will serve as a tremendous asset as SLI enters its next decade of serving remarkable young people.”

    SLI has experienced consistent growth in student membership and funding, including tripling donor financial contributions in the last five years, more than doubling investment reserves in the last two years, and increasing annual budgeted direct student financial support each year for the past five years. Since 2012 SLI has provided more than $431,000 in college scholarship awards, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance. Its alumni have attended 21 colleges and universities.

    Cervantes, a program recruiter and community liaison for the Shenandoah Valley Migrant Education Program at James Madison University’s Institute for Innovation in Health & Human Services and Harrisonburg resident, is a bilingual facilitator who has developed curricula and instructed at the Full Circle Montessori School in Arlington. She has participated in or led various initiatives relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, food access, safe spaces, reparations, community mutual aid, Latinx solidarity, and access to resources. She attended Piedmont Virginia Community College and the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University.

    “I believe in addressing the gaps in educational opportunities available to the growing Latinx population of this region and pushing beyond the perceived expectations of what a Latinx learner can achieve,” she said. “This role presents an opportunity to reimagine an inclusive network of support, one that opens doors to help students actualize their potential and take charge of their education journeys.”

    The foundations of SLI’s mission began well before SLI’s first decade as a Virginia nonprofit. The original SLI was founded by Peter Iver Kaufman and others in 2003 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2008 Kaufman brought SLI to the University of Richmond, Virginia, and later to the Shenandoah Valley, where this organization was incorporated in 2012 and became a 501c3 public charity. Kaufman continues to serve as the SLI program director in Richmond.

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    ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! tickets now available

    HARRISONBURG, Va. – ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! will celebrate Scholars Latino Initiative‘s first decade as a Virginia nonprofit supporting Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. Learn all about the October 9 event – and get your tickets! – at vasli.org/tapas.

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    SLI announces endowment lead gift

    HARRISONBURG, Va. – Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has announced that it will establish an endowment at the Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County with a lead gift of $100,000 from Gerald F. “J.J.” Smith, Jr. of Winchester, Virginia.

    Gerald F. Smith, Jr.

    The endowment will help sustain SLI’s mission of supporting Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. Additional SLI Endowment gifts that meet contribution minimums are welcome.

    “Each year for many years, SLI scholars have benefited from the Smith family’s generosity,” said Jason Good, SLI board chair. “Now, thanks to J.J.’s foresight in establishing this endowment to continue his support in perpetuity, many more will also be able to attend college.”

    Smith, until recently the president and CEO of Valley Proteins, was celebrated as a Community Star in 2020 by the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley. He serves on the board of directors of First Bank and was honored recently as a trustee emeritus of Shenandoah University, a SLI partner.

    A 501c3 nonprofit, SLI creates college access opportunities through collaborations with public school teachers and local university faculty, staff, and student mentors in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia. SLI also offers financial assistance to its scholars, since 2012 providing more than $380,000 in college scholarship awards, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance. SLI alumni have attended 21 colleges and universities.

    This year SLI is celebrating its 10th year as a Virginia corporation, but the foundations of SLI’s mission began well before SLI’s first decade. The original SLI was founded by Peter Iver Kaufman and others in 2003 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2008 Kaufman brought SLI to the University of Richmond, Virginia, and later to the Shenandoah Valley, where this organization was incorporated in 2012 and became a 501c3 public charity. 

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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.”

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    SLI announces board appointments

    HARRISONBURG, Va., May 19, 2022 – Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has announced the appointments of Cecilia E. Barbosa (pictured, left) and Veronique N. Walker to its board of directors, bringing its membership to 13.

    “We are pleased to welcome Cecilia and Veronique to the SLI board,” said Jason Good, SLI board chair. “Their professional experience and expertise will strengthen SLI as we pursue our mission to support students with college access opportunities.”

    Cecilia E. Barbosa, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.C.P., is founder and principal of cBe consulting, which provides consultation in public health and nonprofit leadership to community groups, and private and public organizations. She has worked for over 20 years in public health in Virginia, including several years as an independent consultant; as director of the Virginia Department of Health Division of Child and Adolescent Health; and as executive director and board chair of the Virginia Public Health Association. She was appointed by the governor to the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority and the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, where she served as chair.

    Barbosa is secretary of the board of the Jenkins Foundation and past vice-chair and secretary of the board of Dancing Classrooms of Greater Richmond. She holds a doctorate in social and behavioral health from Virginia Commonwealth University, master’s degrees in public health and city planning from the University of California at Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Smith College. A citizen of the United States and Brazil, she is fully proficient in Portuguese, Spanish, and French, and can converse in German and Catalan.

    Veronique N. Walker, Ed.D., L.P.C., N.C.C., is the equity and family empowerment coordinator for Winchester Public Schools. She previously served as a school district associate superintendent, director, and coordinator; a school counselor; and a community in-home therapist and lead family service specialist.

    Walker is a licensed professional counselor and a national certified counselor, and has facilitated and organized 150+ trainings, workshops, mentoring sessions, and conferences focused on professional growth and development; multiculturalism and cultural proficiency; bullying prevention, safety, and anti-harassment; mental health and social services; and child, youth, and adolescent trends. She holds a doctor of education degree in organizational leadership and certification in administration and supervision from Shenandoah University, a master of arts degree in counseling from Marshall University, and a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Shepherd University.

    ABOUT SLI

    Shenandoah Valley Scholars Latino Initiative Inc (SLI) is a 501c3 nonprofit that supports Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships.

    Through collaborations with public school teachers and local university faculty, staff, and student mentors in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia, SLI provides college access opportunities throughout high school, plus financial support for college success. With support from generous donors, since 2012 SLI has provided more than $380,000 in college scholarship awards, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance. Its alumni have attended 21 colleges and universities.

    SLI is celebrating its 10th year as a Virginia corporation, but the foundations of SLI’s mission began well before SLI’s first decade. The original SLI was founded by Peter Iver Kaufman and others in 2003 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2008 Kaufman brought SLI to the University of Richmond, Virginia, and later to the Shenandoah Valley, where this organization was incorporated in 2012 and became a 501c3 public charity. Kaufman continues to serve as the SLI program director in Richmond.

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    SLI invites applicants for new managing director position

    [Update August 2022: This position has been filled.] The managing director will play a key role in leading the Scholars Latino Initiative into its second decade of supporting Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships.

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    SLI alumna speaks to graduating scholars in Richmond

    Photos courtesy of Cris Ramallo Photography: SLI alumna Rubi speaks to graduating SLI scholars and their families; SLI scholars and mentors with Rubi, SLI program director Ester Orellano, SLI founder Peter Iver Kaufman, and Richmond SLI mentor interim president Sofie Martinez; Rubi, an alumna of the University of Richmond School of Business and of the original SLI. Watch Rubi’s 2021 interview


    The following is an excerpt of the April 2022 speech to graduating Richmond SLI scholars and their families by Rubi, an alumna of the University of Richmond School of Business and of the original Scholars Latino Initiative.

    When I was a sophomore in high school, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI). 

    It had always been my dream to go to college, and when I toured colleges I would get so excited – but always with a nervous feeling in the back of my mind because I didn’t actually know how I would be able to make it to college. The obstacles seemed so daunting. Not only was I clueless about the college application and admissions process, but also – how would I even pay for college? 

    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! I realized I had to work even harder than some of my high school peers to get to college, but this newfound challenge of getting my grades up to ensure I could qualify for any college drove me to partner even closer with my SLI mentors and peers, as well as with my high school teachers and even with my parents, to execute on a solid gameplan. 

    I will admit: It was a challenging process. There was so much I didn’t know about the college application process, and my parents didn’t know either, since they had never had the chance to go to college. I would have been so lost had it not been for SLI, my mentor, my other peers in the program, and, of course, SLI founder Peter Kaufman. I had tons of questions at all times, and my parents did, too, but we were blessed to have this incredibly patient and dedicated team helping us get through them all. And eventually, I got accepted into my top-choice school!

    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. 

    SLI not only creates high-caliber students, but incredibly well-rounded individuals with a generous spirit who go on to give even more to their communities and become essential parts of society. 

    In closing, I want to wish you all the absolute best in your next adventure! There will be challenges for sure, but when you find yourself intimidated or disheartened, always remember this: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” You’re a fighter, you’ve always been a fighter, and that’s why you’ve been handpicked to be in this great program. You have been armed with an incredible network of support, already with so many accomplishments under you, and you will continue to thrive.  

    I look forward to hearing about all your future successes because I know you will go on to accomplish so many great things! 

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