• All Posts,  Expressions of Gratitude,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Harrisonburg,  SLI in Richmond,  SLI in Winchester

    Help SLI scholars maximize their potential!

    DONATE TODAY: vasli.org/donate

    “Whether it’s community college, a four-year university, or even just AP classes and dual enrollment while in high school, education has the power to change the world. By giving to SLI you can ensure that Latinx students have access to these opportunities and they can maximize their potential.” –Stephania Cervantes, SLI managing director

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    SAVE THE DATE! ‘Merienda, a SLI celebration’ set for Sunday, September 17, 2023

    “Merienda, a SLI celebration” will feature diverse, locally sourced meriendas, beverages, and live music with dancing from 4-8 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2023, at On Sunny Slope Farm, Harrisonburg. More info and tickets coming summer 2023!

    Event sponsorships are invited here.

    Many thanks to the many sponsors for SLI’s October 2022 ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! event:

  • All Posts,  News,  SLI in Harrisonburg

    SLI alumna Dulce Alonso speaks at JMU

    SLI alumna Dulce Alonso (Harrisonburg High School ’15, George Mason University ’17) spoke to a crowded audience on the subject of civic engagement and citizenship at a university event hosted by JMU’s Center for Civic Engagement and JMU Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies. Dulce (bottom row, second from right) was made to feel at home by JMU students who are peer mentors for SLI’s high school scholars.

    Watch SLI Beginnings to hear Dulce talk about her SLI experiences.

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    SLI meets Dolores Huerta at Somos JMU Latinx Conference

    A SLI highlight from the inaugural Somos JMU Latinx Conference was meeting keynote speaker Dolores Huerta, celebrated Latina labor leader, activist, and community organizer and founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. (Thank you, Karina Kline-Gabel, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the JMU College of Arts and Letters, for the photo and for leading the conference!)

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    ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! celebrates SLI’s first decade

    In celebration of Scholars Latino Initiative’s first decade as a Virginia nonprofit and with the support of many invaluable partners and sponsors listed below, ¡10th Anniversary Tapas! brought together the SLI community for a night of inspiring speeches, incredible food, and much more.

    Presenters included Dulce Alonso, who as one of SLI’s first alumni is featured in the SLI Beginnings video, and SLI program directors Carlos Alemán (also featured in the video) and Hannah Bowman Hrasky.

    Guests also enjoyed mingling over foods and beverages by A Bowl of GoodCinnamon Bear Bakery & DeliEl Sol Mexican RestaurantLa Morena Mexican FoodLucien’s Catering, Magdalena BakerySaint Isidore Homestead & Permaculture, and Santa Isabel Coffee. Additional highlights included 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 near Harrisonburg.

    Read about SLI’s longer history and watch SLI Beginnings here.


    Words of celebration by Hannah Bowman Hrasky, SLI board member and program director at Harrisonburg High School:

    “Nine years ago, Laura Feichtinger-Mcgrath, Sandy Mercer, Carlos, and I met to talk about my joining the team. They gushed about the three scholars in the program, the mission of the organization, and the commitment of all the adults and students involved. I got to tag along with Dulce, Willy, Raul, Sandy, and Carlos to a campus visit at EMU and saw the incredibly tight bond they had formed. I knew I wanted to be part of that little family.

    Over the last nine years, SLI has changed my life. I have learned and continue to learn so much about the many obstacles facing Latinx students as they navigate predominantly white spaces, about the ever changing policies surrounding documentation, about how laws and systems of power directly impact marginalized students.

    Most of all, I’ve learned about perseverance. I’ve seen our students struggle with challenging course loads, expectations of them that are either far too low or far too high, immigration law, institutionalized obstacles, and severe uncertainty about their own or their family’s ability to even live in their homes. In the face of all of this, our scholars are unwavering. They have set the example for future students, for me, and for this organization of how to relentlessly pursue a goal. SLI’s work and our success over the last decade is entirely because of this example of perseverance from our students.

    Now, when I look out at the twenty-eight current SLI scholars at HHS sitting in my classroom, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and pride. I am so grateful for them, I’m so grateful for this organization, and I’m so grateful to all of you who have demonstrated your support over the last ten years.

    Here’s to the next decade. Thank you all so much.”


  • All Posts,  News,  SLI in Richmond

    Richmond SLI student leaders creating a path to success for Latinx students

    Reposted from urnow.richmond.edu. Pictured: Sofia Ringvald (left) and Sofie Martinez.

    Senior leadership studies student Sofia Ringvald has always been passionate about volunteering, especially with other Latinx students.

    “Coming here from Florida as a Latinx female, I knew I wanted to get involved in a Latinx organization,” Ringvald said. She now serves as co-president of the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI). She and co-president Sofie Martinez, also a leadership studies major, work with high school students in the Richmond area to help them apply to and prepare for college.

    “This work is important because our program creates meaningful relationships with our mentees,” Ringvald said. “For some of these high school students, SLI is their way to have a future and have a mentor who cares enough to make sure they get to where they want to be.”

    The University of Richmond chapter of SLI pairs Spider undergrads with high school students. They meet at events throughout the year. This month, they answered questions about preparing for college and the application process.

    “I had always wanted to contribute to the greater Richmond area, but never really knew where my time would be utilized the best,” Martinez said. “I see my time at SLI as the most impactful work I have done to serve a community, not because of the impact I have made on the program, but on the ways the members of the program have impacted me. I have met some of the most determined, hard-working, compassionate, funny, and inspirational people in this program.”

    Martinez, the first in her family to attend college, said the world of higher education can sometimes seem daunting.

    “You don’t know the right things to wear, to say, to believe, or to be taken seriously,” she said. “SLI’s main goal is to create a community for our mentees and their families who want to enter into this environment for the first time, and help them through that process.”

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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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    JMU touchdowns equal support for SLI scholars

    Thank you, Lantz Construction Company! Lantz pledged a donation to SLI for each James Madison University Football touchdown (7, for the win!) against Norfolk State on September 10. Pictured are Lantz director of construction management Kevin Gabel and SLI@JMU college student mentors Andrea Mariscal-Guzman and Kiara Christian, who delivered the game ball.

  • All Posts,  Events,  News,  SLI in Richmond

    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)

  • All Posts,  Meet SLI Scholars,  SLI in Winchester

    College update: Amy W., SLI scholar

    John Handley High School ’21
    University of Pittsburgh ’24 (philosophy of politics; law, criminal justice, and society; classics)

    Read Amy’s 2021 interview here

    At a young age, ever since I realized my father had to work a tireless twelve-hour day while my mother had a ten-hour day at work just to provide for our family, it became my mission to attend college. 

    Due to my self-motivation and strong independence, I have undergone hundreds of late nights working on school projects and assignments, participated in and led multiple clubs and school events, spent my free time volunteering around the community, and have made continuous efforts to communicate with others my future aspirations. No one forces me to continue or to stay in school; I choose to continue because it is what brings me joy. 

    I am easily able to adjust due to my adaptability and genuine optimism, and these strengths have allowed me to be thrown into a completely new environment and community of high-achieving scholars at the University of Pittsburgh where I happily immerse myself and my future.

    Although the college experience and workload can be mentality fatiguing, I have felt growth and progress emotionally and academically. SLI scholarship funds help significantly with my tuition costs, which are straining my ability to afford continuing my academics.

    I have been extremely happy and content attending the University of Pittsburgh. I have discovered a previously unknown love for the subject of philosophy; established an interest in health care ethics, specifically with focus on women’s physical and mental health; initiated close professional relationships with professors I adore (I’m currently formulating a design for a children’s book with one); become increasingly involved with Pittsburgh experiments; and applied to become a part of Pitt’s student-run activities board, the Pitt Program Council, for the upcoming school year. I was also placed on the dean’s list in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences for academic achievement made this past year.

    With my current interest in philosophy and legal studies, one of my long-term goals consists of majoring in either philosophy of politics or in law, criminal justice, and society. In addition, I plan to minor in the classics. I am also considering going to law school. In preparation for this goal, I am currently enrolled in courses such as The Nature of the Emotions, Criminal Procedure, Law and Politics, The Legal System, and for fun, Beginning Latin 1.

    An immediate goal is furthering my leadership abilities and people organization skills. For this, I have enrolled in a Pitt Program Council committee in which I plan to become a team leader. I also plan to spend time volunteering in the city of Pittsburgh as I did in Winchester. As a people person, my spare time is spent networking with peers and professors.

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