• All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Richmond

    College update: Rosely, SLI scholar

    John Handley High School ’22
    George Mason University ’26 (computer science)

    Ever since I applied to be a SLI scholar, I knew two things for certain: I wanted to go to a four-year college, and I wanted to study computer science. George Mason University is the college that I chose to fulfill my biggest goals, and I’m confident I will have the tools available to stay up to date on new and evolving technologies and build my knowledge of computer science concepts and languages. Furthermore, GMU is close to the action of D.C and all surrounding areas, and I hope to have networking, internships, and work opportunities available to help me be active in the tech world. 

    I am grateful to SLI for all the help and support it’s given me and others.

    My biggest strengths are my adaptability and optimism, which will continue to help me as I enter college. The tech industry grows and involves at a rapid pace, and I need to be able to adapt to it. The pandemic forced me to become more adaptable to anything and challenged my optimism. However, I figured out how to stay optimistic by taking everything in, letting myself take breaks, and seeing the light at the end even as the world grew bitter. Whatever the industry decides to throw, I know I will be able to adapt and figure out any new technology. And when it eventually gets frustrating, I will remind myself of the light at the end of the tunnel. 

    In college having to program and find different solutions to problems will allow my creativity to grow. As an artist, I have countless drawings filling space on my hard drive, but this talent also allows me to figure out creative ways to solve a problem. Programming is all about trial and error, so even if a solution seems impractical, I still need to try it and see if it gets me anywhere. To be able to create great programs, test out features, or go bug hunting, I will need to be confident in my creativity.

  • All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Richmond

    College update: Maria, SLI scholar

    Mills E. Godwin High School ’22
    Virginia Union University ’25 (English and secondary education)

    Read Maria’s 2021 interview here

    By attending college I want to learn how to be the best ESL teacher I can be. I want to learn how English is taught so I can do that well, and I plan to get a master’s degree to expand my options and make me a better educator.

    I also hope to learn more about the world and other people, and perhaps to one day also teach English in other countries. Learning history and about cultures all over the world will allow me to better connect with my students and people around me.

    My family is not able to financially support my education, so I am determined to do my very best to pay my way through college. I have a passion for learning, and will make certain to take advantage of every opportunity I am given to continue my journey. 

    My strengths are in my character and dedication toward achieving my goals. I’ve been told that I am kind and compassionate, which will help me to be a good and understanding college student and future teacher. My determination will help me to keep on track and do the best job that I can towards achieving the future I want for myself.

  • 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.”

  • Yoselin
    All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Richmond

    Meet Yoselin, SLI scholar

    Pictured: SLI scholar Yoselin (Huguenot High School ’24) and her family at her quinceañera in 2021.

    SLI: What are some of your interests?

    Yoselin: I love to draw and write. I am interested in learning about sewing, and I love the thought of designing clothing. Some of my favorite classes are both English and science, which are the main classes I’ve had.

    What would you like to share about your family or life history?

    My parents came from Guatemala to California and later to Virginia. They had me here, in Richmond. 

    What are your college/career goals?

    I want to go to college to experience and learn. I want to learn more about the science of the human body and join the medical field as a registered nurse, or work in the ER.

    Why did you decide to become part of SLI?

    SLI has helped me realize I might need extra help, considering I would be the first in my family to go to college. I do not have an older sibling who has graduated from college and could guide me. I was also interested in the many opportunities that SLI offers, and I met such wonderful people. I even made an awesome friend from SLI and we talk almost every day! I love being part of SLI. It is an incredible experience. I’ve heard from those who have gone into SLI and shared their experiences, and I agree with them: SLI is a life changer, and with the help of everyone I’ve learned so many things since I’ve joined! I do not regret joining.

  • Ariel 2022
    All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  SLI in Richmond

    A letter of gratitude from Ariel, SLI scholar

    Dear SLI Community of Support,

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

    As an immigrant student, my personal and academic journey has taught me a lot about resilience and persistence. With the help of SLI and even as an English learner in high school, I was able to rank 10th in my class. Now as an undergraduate student in college, I have been on the dean’s list since my first year. 

    Participating in SLI helped me gain vital soft and hard skills that prepared me for my academic career. Additionally, I was able to improve and excel in leadership skills, participating in state-level events and competitions such as the Virginia Future Business Leaders of America and Virginia Boys State of the American Legion.

    After earning a college degree I want to become a politician or policy analyst. I will serve my community, specifically the helpless and unprotected people, the ones fighting the odds of socioeconomic, cultural, and even immigration situations, the ones suffering inequality and injustices. 

    Your support for SLI helps young Latinx students with incredible potential who will give back to their communities, and overall, the entire nation. As is often said, “We cannot help everyone – but everyone can help someone.” If we have the possibility to contribute to a good cause, why should we abstain from doing it? By helping someone, or in this case SLI, we help ourselves in the long run.

    Thank you.

    Huguenot High School ’20
    Eastern Mennonite University ’24

    Photo credit: Eastern Mennonite University

  • Richmond SLI 2022 graduation
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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! 

  • 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!

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

    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

  • Meybelline
    All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  SLI in Richmond

    Thank you! from Meybelline, SLI scholar

    My family and I are very grateful for the SLI computer award. Yesterday my mom and I went to buy the computer I needed for my first year at Virginia Union University. As of today, I will start a few of my classes virtually, and the computer will be a great help (I am emailing you from it).

    I am beyond thankful for this opportunity. My mother works really hard to support me and my sister in everything she can. She’s a strong, amazing woman, always supporting us and being there for us. This award was a blessing for me and we are very thankful.

    Best regards,
    Meybelline and family
    Huguenot High School ’21
    Virginia Union University ’25

  • Maria
    All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  News,  SLI in Richmond

    An interview with Maria, SLI scholar

    SLI scholar Maria (Godwin High School ’22) is using her experiences and love of academics to help others in similar situations. An equity ambassador for her school, she also leads students in tutoring their English as a Second Language (ESL) classmates.

    What’s something you’re looking forward to about your senior year in high school?

    I’m going to have calculus, statistics, and physics. It’s going to be really hard, but I’m kind of looking forward to really being there in person with my teachers and asking them how to really improve and do well, the best that I can. 

    I go to Godwin High School, and am part of the center for medical sciences there. You can take really cool elective classes, microbiology and genetics and that type of thing. Last year I took microbiology. It was a great experience, but the thing that was missing from it was the labs, since we were online. That was kind of sad, but despite that, I was still able to learn so much and it was such a fun experience.This year my physics class will have labs, and organic chemistry. That’s one I saw when I was a sophomore, and they do a bunch of labs with chemicals.

    Are you planning to go into a medical career?

    I wanted to go to Godwin in the first place to figure out whether a medical path would be good for me, and I’ve discovered that basically it’s really, really hard. They really force you to go outside your comfort zone and teach you how to do research, how to do a scientific research paper and all of that. Maybe I want to pursue something related to that. 

    I’ve done plant-related research projects since my freshman year, and last year I actually won first place at a science fair. That was kind of shocking. My project was called “The Effect of Lipid Second Messenger Phosphatidic Acid on Spinach Growth.” I have learned a lot about how to do plant research. It’s fun.

    What have been your school experiences?

    I moved here from Mexico when I was 10 years old, in August 2013. I went to fourth grade, and my teacher met me for two months and then went on maternity leave, so I got another teacher. I didn’t know how to speak English, but she treated me like any other student, and I was forced to learn English really fast. By fifth grade I was already at level four in ESL, and sixth grade was my last year taking ESL.

    I worked really hard to do well. I’d look at my classmates who were in advanced classes, and I was just really sad that my teacher didn’t put me in any of them, because I had good grades in science. She knew that I liked science, but I guess she didn’t think that I was capable. 

    That made me kind of sad or disappointed, that she didn’t think that I could do it, so I just took it upon myself to do well in my science classes. I kept asking my teachers, “Hey, do you think that I could take this advanced class next year? How does that work?” In seventh grade I took two science classes at the same time. I just was like, “I’m going to do it.” 

    I took all the middle school classes that I needed to take to be accepted to Godwin, and I ended up doing really well. I guess that was really a good moment for me in school.

    What else motivates you?

    I came to this country so that I could improve, to get a better education and a better life. 

    My dad ended up out of school after third grade, but he did learn how to read and do math, so that was really helpful. He always says, “Yeah, I didn’t didn’t even get to finish more than third grade because I had to work, but I want you to really learn.” 

    My mom finished elementary school and then she had to start working at a factory so that she could support her younger siblings so that they could actually stay in school for a little bit longer.

    My parents have always talked to me about how important school is and how it can get you really far in life and can just help you in many ways. Even my grandma always talks about school. She never learned how to read or anything. She feels bad that she doesn’t know how to read, but she always said, “My kids are going to learn how to read, and they’re going to stay in school for as long as humanly possible.”

    How did you get connected with SLI?

    In my first year of high school, I began to notice that my classmates already knew how to write science papers. The most I’d written in middle school was three pages, maybe two pages, but they had already written eight- to 14-page research papers, and had been reading scientific literature. I was like, “Okay, I am miles behind everyone else.”

    But my science teacher, even though she was really intimidating and at first I was just a scared freshman, really encouraged me. She made sure that I knew that I could ask her any kind of questions, and just helped me a lot. She also got to know me personally. Then her husband heard about SLI, and so that’s how she gave me Dr. Kaufman’s email. I reached out to him my sophomore year, and I’ve been able to get so much out of this wonderful program and am very thankful for this opportunity.

    This summer I took a French class and a government class. Then I took two weeks off, and then I got back into work on my SLI paper that we were working on. I finished it last week and turned it in, and now I’m going to just get as prepared as I can for the ACT and the SAT, and also review a little math so that I’m not completely at a loss when I get to school.

    You also enjoy helping other students, right?

    I am an equity ambassador, which is a program that focuses on bringing the same opportunities to every student. One day, during a meeting with the principal, the counseling director, some teachers in the equity team, and parents, I took it upon myself to bring up that ESL students could really use some peer support, especially in high school. 

    My sophomore year, at around the same time that I started SLI, I began tutoring a brand new student from Honduras. She didn’t know anything. It was her first year, so I had to teach her a lot of things and help her with math and English. 

    My principal gave me the opportunity to have a club to help ESL students. We’ve been working on that, helping ESL students, and trying to recruit student tutors that speak different languages but also that are passionate about helping other people. Most of the time that is very much the case, because they also have shared the same experience of coming here and being absolutely lost, especially with virtual school. 

    I have really enjoyed being able to help people in some kind of way. Even if we help just one student it will all be worth it.