Meet Rubi, who says that her SLI experiences were “life changing.” Currently employed by Gartner, Inc., Rubi is an alumna of SLI in North Carolina and of the University of Richmond, where SLI founder Peter Iver Kaufman now holds the University of Richmond’s George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies.
A letter from Jason Good, chair of the SLI board of directors and vice president for innovation and student recruitment at Eastern Mennonite University
Dear SLI Community of Support,
As 2020 comes to an end, I want to express my gratitude to you for your vital participation in creating college opportunities for SLI’s 114 current and alumni scholars, like Jaime:
“SLI positively impacted me by offering resources to help navigate my high school course selection, helping me develop a critical-thinking mindset through college-level seminars, and financially supporting my community college transfer credits and college expenses.”
–Jaime, SLI alum
John Handley High School ’19
University of Virginia ’23
The outpouring of support for SLI this year has allowed SLI to expand its 2021 budget for college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance to more than $100,000, a first for this young nonprofit. Thank you for helping to grow SLI’s impact!
I am proud of what SLI has been able to offer even during the COVID-19 pandemic. SLI’s program directors at high schools and universities in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester continue to find unique and creative ways to impact scholars, such as:
- “Early College” seminars with reading and writing assignments on democracy;
- Workshops on financial aid, scholarships, and the college application process;
- Peer mentorship including meeting with new SLI candidates and through individual pairings and student organizations;
- “SLI on Sunday” virtual gatherings focused on support and well-being and leadership;
- Community service efforts such as a voter registration campaign that resulted in 30 new registered voters, including the parents of one scholar. Spring semester activities will include a clothing drive for families in Central America affected by hurricanes, participation in a community campaign for sustainable solar energy, support for an initiative to provide college application assistance and career guidance to Latinx immigrants who have graduated with their GED, and a post-holiday gift grab for elementary and middle-school students who may need to replenish school supplies;
- Artist meetings with poet and performer Denice Frohman and Peabody Award winning film writer, director, and producer John Valadez, in collaboration with JMU’s Center for Multicultural Student Services and the JMU Honors College; and
- Book study and capstone project with JMU English Professor Allison Fagan on Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson.
Again, thank you for being part of SLI’s successes in 2020.
Wishing you all the best in the new year,
Jason Good, Chair
SLI Board of Directors
Shining Accounting Services CEO Sandra Suarez (pictured cradling a framed newspaper article about her Samuel R. Bowman, II Endowed Scholarship award) has served as a board member, volunteer, and faithful donor for the Scholars Latino Initiative, which empowers its scholars just as Suarez was once empowered in her own educational journey.
Nothing is impossible. I absolutely HATE the phrase, “I can’t do it.” I believe that I am a prime example that if you never give up and persevere through all of life’s challenges, then you will achieve ANY goal you set out for yourself.
After working in the U.S. as an immigrant for seven years, I decided to go back to school and get a degree to set up my own business. I had my doubts going forward such as how I was going to pay for my courses and how would I find the time to attend classes while raising three children. Luckily my husband at the time was a huge help in raising my kiddos as I accomplished my schoolwork.
However, the lingering financial burden was still weighing one me. The Samuel R. Bowman, II Endowed Scholarship [of The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County] came to the rescue and provided me with an amazing financial opportunity. I applied and received a scholarship in 2010 and suddenly a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t believe it! I finally had no excuse to not pursue my dream of graduating from college in America.
I am eternally grateful to SLI for believing in my community, providing an enormous opportunity, and supporting the dreams of dedicated individuals. Their continued involvement with the Latino community is why I continue to support their cause. Not only do I benefit emotionally from serving with them, but I can also help others receive necessary aid.Sandra Suarez, CEO, Shining Accounting Services
Although it was far from easy, especially with nagging (albeit delightful) children demanding my attention, and feeling like I never had enough time for my never-ending assignments, I was able to graduate in the spring of 2012.
After graduation I felt compelled and slightly obligated to find a way to give back to the Latino community, the same way I was helped. I discovered the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) and I have been contributing as much as I can ever since.
I am eternally grateful to SLI for believing in my community, providing an enormous opportunity, and supporting the dreams of dedicated individuals. Their continued involvement with the Latino community is why I continue to support their cause. Not only do I benefit emotionally from serving with them, but I can also help others receive necessary aid.
SLI is a fantastic organization and I am proud to be a part of such a caring and resourceful community.
#SLIGivingTuesday, which raised more than $11,000 to support SLI computer awards and dual enrollment tuition assistance, highlighted SLI scholars, mentors, and board members. Pledged matching funds doubled the impact of generous donors.
GivingTuesday matching funds generously provided by:
The pandemic-friendly Noche de Salsa was a celebration like no other: a drive-through takeout dinner — with live dancers! — in the Steven Toyota service building. READ MORE
PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Young | The Breeze
JMU nursing student and Scholars Latino Initiative mentor Jessica Discua-Aguilar said in a celebration of National Hispanic Heritage month that as a first-generation citizen and college student, she at times “felt lost, incapable” even though she “just knew” she had to “make it in America,” she wrote. “I understand what it’s like to not have a mentor or have the resources needed to be successful.” READ MORE
It’s not exactly a ballroom, but the service station at Steven Toyota will serve as the setting for Scholars Latino Initiative’s annual Noche de Salsa event that features dancing and food — just in drive-through style this year. By Sky Wilson for The Citizen. READ MORE
A warm welcome to the members of the brand new SLI Advisory Council! This body, facilitated by SLI Board of Directors chair-elect Karina Kline-Gabel and member Larry Miller and Director of Development Christopher Clymer Kurtz, will advance the expansion of SLI’s network of supporters and advocates to promote SLI’s long-term fiscal sustainability and growth, for the benefit of SLI scholars.
Inaugural council members are:
- Kenia Brooks, Farm Placement Specialist, Virginia Employment Commission, Winchester
- Amelia Castañeda (not pictured), Welcome Center and Family Advocacy Coordinator, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond
- Isabel Castillo, Lead Organizer, Virginia Organizing, Harrisonburg
- Diana Patterson, Owner, DSP Services, LLC, Winchester
- Sal Romero, Jr., Director of Equity and Community Engagement, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, Harrisonburg
- Lyons Sanchezconcha, Virginia Latino Advisory Board; Educator, Richmond Public Schools; and College and Career Bound Program Facilitator, Sacred Heart Center, Richmond
Just as public school systems and universities are continuing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) is adapting its programming to continue creating college opportunities and providing support for its scholars.
SLI program coordinators and collaborating volunteers and educators in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester are helping to identify its scholars’ immediate educational needs such as access to necessary technology, and are developing modified SLI activities such as online seminars and virtual mentorship strategies to continue providing scholars with college readiness opportunities.
They are also listening even more closely than usual to what students are saying about their own and their families’ health and well being, according to Carlos Aleman, SLI program director and James Madison University professor.
“Most of our students and their family members have been working continuously in essential service roles since the pandemic began, and are at an even higher risk of a toll taken on their minds and bodies than the typical student,” he said. “It’s a source of hope that the broader community has faith in the motivation, strength, and resiliency that characterize all of our SLI scholars.”
SLI supporters are central to making possible SLI’s ongoing mission and support for scholars, said Jason Good, SLI board chair and Eastern Mennonite University vice-president for innovation and student recruitment.
“Donor support of our scholars during these times is more important than ever. I am grateful that our generous donors are continuing to show their trust in SLI as a good steward of their giving and as an avenue for personal impact,” he said.
Contributions to support SLI scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance are accepted at vasli.org/donate or by check mailed to PO Box 2734, Harrisonburg, VA 22834.
SLU alumna Angela (Huguenot High School ‘19) is studying Arts in Media & Communications at Shenandoah University, and recently wrote this:
“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. At the beginning of my freshman year of high school I was concerned that people would look at me differently because I was new at my school, but my main concern was my future, as I thought I was unable to go to college due to the lack of money and my language barrier.
“But 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.” READ MORE