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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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    College update: Gabriela, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Shenandoah University ’23 (pre-physical therapy)

    I’ve been part of the SLI program since I was a freshman in high school. In fall 2019, I started my education at Shenandoah University as a freshman, majoring in exercise science with a concentration in biology. I’m now in my senior year, and during my journey as a first-generation student, and I’ve been able to learn and grow as a person in ways that only education can give. I’ve been able to make career connections that allow me to become more knowledgeable in the physical therapy field, which is the field I intend to pursue after graduation. 

    I aim to make a difference in my community, and support from SLI is absolutely the difference maker when it comes to affording the education I need in order to do that and give back in the future. My mom is a single mom, as my dad passed away before I was born, and so she is the only one providing for me and my brother. She has done everything she can to support me financially but it’s still not enough to cover my college expenses, so I’ve been always working and studying at the same time to pay for books, room and board, and additional expenses.

    It’s incredible to think that I’m one semester away from being able to graduate. I remember when I attended my first class, terrified because I knew nothing. College has taught me so much, not only about the field I intend to pursue but also about life in general. So far I’ve completed two internships, one in an inpatient clinic and the other one in an outpatient clinic, where I could put into practice all the knowledge I’ve gained during my time in college. I believe this could not have been possible without the help of programs like SLI where dreams come true for hardworking students like me, students who are trying to have a better future. 

    SLI has been quite an awesome experience, empowering and lifting. I’ve been able to learn about my strengths, talents, and weaknesses. I’ve always been a resilient person, always thinking positively, patient, and hard working towards my goals, and I’m totally sure that these strengths are the main factors that have pushed me through everything and got me where I’m today. In the medical field, you have to learn to be patient and positive because you have to be strong for your patients. They rely on you, and the more communication and connection you have with them, the faster they would be able to recover. 

    Helping other people has always been something I truly enjoy. I’ve always been a giver, and since I was little I enjoyed finding ways or opportunities where I could help people without expecting anything back. I think that being so passionate about helping others, open minded, and positive will help me be successful in the field.

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    College update: Katie, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Eastern Mennonite University ’23 (psychology, criminology)

    I’m in my last year of college and this achievement comes from my perseverance and from all the people who have helped me through this amazing experience. As a college student I have learned to not underestimate myself and to see the wonderful things I’m capable of. 

    Being an immigrant student is hard enough, and being a first-generation student as well means I have to work twice as hard – and I have been working hard these past three years in college. I have encountered many obstacles, but I have never given up, and I never will.

    That’s the most valuable strength I have: I never give up. That’s what has gotten me this far, and it will help me to achieve my goal. Sometimes I doubt myself, but then I tell myself to keep trying even if it’s hard, and that I’m capable of doing amazing things, and I have to work hard to get what I wish for. I know that I have to be brave to achieve my dreams, and I think that’s what will lead me to my success. 

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    Meet Osvaldo, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’25

    SLI for me..bundles you up with wisdom. The program is great and provides an enrichment of knowledge and opportunities, some of which would have been unimaginable coming from a first-generation Mexican household. There is a lot to gain from this amazing program, they prepare you to get into college as well as to know how to survive within college, never leaving you alone. Guidance never fails to be present in this program as they always make sure to show you the correct path in all circumstances. I am very thankful for [teacher and SLI program director] Ms. Orellana since she introduced me to this incredible program where I met the charismatic Professor Peter Kaufman [SLI founder and program director]! I am also really thankful for him. Thank you so much to the extraordinary SLI team that made all impossible dreams possible, none of this would’ve been possible without you all.

    After high school I picture myself attending college while taking courses that support my dream of being an actor. I’d also like to take business courses. 

    Well-recognized YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, better known as Mr. Beast, has always been a huge inspiration for me ever since I was young, and is now someone I look up to. He has a lot of given traits that make him someone bright, such as his humorous personality. Despite him being a multimillionaire he gives back to the most needed communities or just complete strangers he finds at any location no matter what. I would also like to open my own YouTube channel in the near future to be able to spread my fun personality along with giving back to those who need help in many communities. 

    Since day one my family has always been beside me pushing me to strive for the best. I have learned how to be an individual full of discipline, respect, and humbleness thanks to my parents. I have and continue to receive a bundling amount of motivation throughout my academic journey which really reflected the support my family has always carried on me. Though I make mistakes, a lot of them, I am reminded to try to perform the best I can even when committing tiny errors. Fun is a must when my sisters and I do anything together. My family constantly emphasizes how they are my biggest fans when it comes to my dream of being an actor. I will continue to work hard to make them proud.

    My parents immigrated from Mexico to Richmond, Virginia, where I was born. I am Mexican-American as well as the only male child in my household. Anytime I get stressed I head for my soccer ball. Playing soccer outside is also one of my get-away passions.

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    College update: Angela, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Shenandoah University ’22 (communication media, Spanish, cinematography)

    Read Angela’s reflection of gratitude here

    Three years ago I was a girl with many ambitions and visions in mind. Today I am just months away from achieving that beloved goal that many of us set for ourselves but not all of us have the opportunity or the discipline to finish: to have a university degree, to have a different future from our immigrant parents. 

    Originally I was supposed to graduate one year from now, but thanks to my commitment I have been able to advance in certain classes, which will allow me to graduate early with a double degree. 

    As a university student, SLI has been a fundamental program in my life, since it has obviously given me support in every way and has helped me develop many areas of my life, both academically and personally. At the beginning of my career one of my goals was always to finish everything that I started, from assignments to internships. I challenged myself to improve my English, and I was able to attend tutoring. 

    I am extremely grateful for everything I have achieved both in my academic life and in my personal life. As an independent student, I have faced a difficult financial situation that has pushed me to leave my comfort zone and work daily to be able to keep up with my university and personal expenses. 

    I am motivated to stand out from the ordinary. My verbal skills have allowed me to communicate with character when asking for help or advice. My early maturity and independence have taught me to appreciate the smallest things in life. 

    Being independent at such a young age is difficult, but it is a great blessing to feel proud of myself and of everything I have achieved, and of what I am about to achieve.

    Angela also shared about her SLI experiences in virtual Meet SLI events in 2020 and 2021, and in this reflection of gratitude.

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    College update: Irais, SLI scholar

    George Wythe High School ’20
    Eastern Mennonite University ’24 (history, social work)

    College comes with many challenges and opportunities and also many experiences. I have learned many things in college, but the most important is that our actions determine our results, and that the future we create depends upon the choices and actions we take today. 

    I am thankful for all the help I have received from SLI. Everyone has dreams and goals, and SLI scholarships make things easier for many students. 

    I want the opportunity to give my best to the people I will help in the future after I graduate from college. Life sometimes can be hard but I always try to find solutions to the problems and to stay motivated when things get difficult. I believe that this always helps me and will help me in the future if I face a problem. 

    I have a strong character that helps me in tough situations and this helps me to help others. I like to read and write articles about the issues that the world faces daily. This can have a big impact on people, and I can have the opportunity to further develop this talent by taking English writing courses.

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    College update: Guadalupe, SLI scholar

    Hopewell High School ’22
    Eastern Mennonite University ’26 (engineering, biology)

    Going to a university is the way to prepare me intellectually and socially for my future career. I hope it will help me develop skills and give me experiences that will lead me to find my interests and motivations to become a better version of myself.

    My dedication and responsibility have always been my forte and have led me to be the best in my class. They have taught me not to give up in any area and look for all possible solutions to a problem.

    I have always been a reserved girl, and sometimes I’m afraid to leave my trust zone, but that’s because that’s how I’ve been raised, in a humble and somewhat conformist family. My father, the sole breadwinner for a family of six children, never demanded a penny from me and much less pushed me to get a job. However, more than anything I knew that one day I would be an adult and would have to fend for myself. 

    Ever since I was in elementary school, I knew that my goal was to go to college and get a career. I tried hard to be the highest average and I did it. Neither of my parents finished high school so they couldn’t help me with my homework but with my effort and dedication, everything went well. 

    Coming to the United States complicated my life a bit, not only because of my lack of understanding of the language but also because I became my parents’ translator in areas I didn’t know, like health care, school, and laws. I was afraid of failing them or giving wrong information. It was more difficult because sometimes I had to leave my own responsibilities to help my family. 

    I am now an adult, and as difficult as it is to separate from my parents, I know that I need to find myself and finally complete my dream. I have made an effort and I hope the finances are not a problem because I really think I deserve it.

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    College update: Israel, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’21
    Virginia Commonwealth University ’25 (pre-law, criminal justice, homeland security)

    Watch Israel share about SLI in 2021 here

    My first semester at VCU was chaotic. Everything was happening really fast. My grandfather had passed away a few months before school started and due to covid restrictions, my family and I were unable to travel. As the start of the school year came closer (less than a month away), we had to go on a rushed trip to Mexico so that we could have our visas renewed. I returned to the U.S. with a renewed visa two days before school started. I had barely any time to process what was happening because of all of the things going on in my life at that moment. 

    During my first semester I soon realized that I was unhappy in mechanical engineering. I had felt like I had to continue the family’s line of engineers, but after a talk with my father, I felt relieved of that thought and decided to change my major to something that I am truly passionate about and feel like I can do more in. I am now double majoring in criminal justice and homeland security. My vision is to go to law school to become a lawyer. 

    I am currently an intern with one of the best attorneys in the state. I have always been attracted to the legal field, and I have a strong sense of justice and advocacy. I feel like as a lawyer I will have more power to stand up to people, and to help my community from any unjust treatment.

    My only source of income is my father. My current type of visa does not allow me to have a job. This is one of the things that have me constantly worried. Knowing that I cannot help my family financially is a big concern for me.

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    College update: Galilea, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’21
    Virginia Commonwealth University ’25

    Some of my most memorable accomplishments in high school consisted of many great activities that helped me to become a well rounded student. In the beginning of my freshman year, I joined the volleyball team, and continued through my junior year before the pandemic hit. My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to take classes to become a vet assistant, something that I became very passionate about. I also took three years of American sign language, and was able to hold a conversation with some people. 

    I also began working during my sophomore year. Working a part-time job and being a full- time student isn’t easy, and I worked very hard in both school and my job. 

    Now I am a full-time college student working a part-time job as a vet assistant at an animal hospital. It makes me feel proud knowing that my parents came to a foreign country away from their home to give their children a better life. I am where I am because of their hard work. 

    Now that I’m in college, my expectations and goals for myself are many. I’ve had the opportunity to join a club and connect with more students like myself who share the same interests. One of my goals is to come out of my shell and try new things.

    And as I continue my years in college I hope to accomplish more goals like doing outreach and learning more about how to become independent step by step. I still live with my parents, so I commute. But being on my own, driving to school and spending more time on campus, is teaching me what it is like to do things on my own. I hope to learn this new stage in my life, and to adapt to it fast.   

    I have always enjoyed writing, and being in SLI for three years helped me strengthen that ability. I am a first generation college student and the oldest child, but my parents, close friends, and amazing professors and mentors all push me to give it all my best.

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