• SLI Advisory Council

    SLI Announces Advisory Council

    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
  • “Faith in the motivation, strength, and resiliency of SLI scholars”: SLI adapts for COVID-19

    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.

  • Mary

    Meeting Mary

    Educational inequalities and how SLI opens doors

    Scholars Latino Initiative’s director of development Christopher Clymer Kurtz first learned about SLI in 2018 when he interviewed one of its scholars, Mary, for a WMRA report about inequalities in education. He recently reconnected with Mary, and wrote this update. READ MORE

  • Angela

    A Reflection of Gratitude: Angela

    Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) alumna Angela (Huguenot High School ‘19) is studying Arts in Media & Communications at Shenandoah University. She shared about her SLI experiences in a recent virtual meeting (available at vasli.org/richmond) and in the following reflection:

    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. 

    That is something I did not get at home. Because my dad never had the opportunity to go to school and doesn’t know how to read, he was never able to help me fill out important documents for school. But he has been beyond supportive, and I would not be standing where I am right now if it was not for his sacrifice. 

    While I did not have academic guidance at home, I did have it through SLI, thanks to SLI mentors and Peter who took their time to fill out documents I had never even heard of before, like the FAFSA. [SLI founder and Richmond program director Peter Iver Kaufman is a professor at the University of Richmond, where he holds the George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies.]

    Peter taught me how to write 10-page essays and I am grateful for that because if I had not received the help I got from SLI, I would not be where I am today. Thanks to SLI, I have been able to be more confident about my writing, reading, and pronunciation. I’m also able to attend college and achieve my dreams of becoming a communicator and helping my family. SLI has opened doors to places where I never thought I would be.

    Thanks to SLI, I began my education at Shenandoah University in the fall of 2019. As a first-generation college student, the process to get into college was difficult to me at first, but thankfully my SLI mentor guided me throughout the application process and that opened more opportunities to me. 

    When I went to Shenandoah I knew I wanted to study Arts in Media & Communications. This year I took general ed classes as well as Media & Communication classes such as Understanding Media and Communications, Multimedia Journalism, Writing Women, and Role Play and Simulation. I am also taking a summer class (Business & Professional Communication) to keep moving forward with my studies. 

    At the moment I have earned 31 college credits. My plan is to keep going and graduate, to achieve my dreams.

    My priorities are school and to help my mom bi-weekly. I work a full-time job from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday. I try to provide my family in El Salvador with the things they need, as my mother and brother currently have an unstable well-being and I am the only person that can really help them. But as I do that, my priority is also school and being able to keep it going to have a successful future.

    I also have Spanish conversations for the students at Shenandoah who are currently learning the language. I do that as a work study position during the school year and over the summer, but my main purpose of being part of the Spanish conversations is to help students learn the language. 

    I am proud that one of my professors has recommended me to the Honors Program, and I am currently in the process of becoming part of it. 

    This past year I also had the honor of being elected as the student SLI coordinator for Shenandoah University and being a guide to the Handley High School students who are currently enrolled with SLI. As Elly, the most recent SLI coordinator and a great student and person, leaves Shenandoah, I am beyond grateful for this opportunity that has been given to me. This is something I can do to give back to the program that opened doors for my future.

  • Great Community Give and SLI

    Thank you, Great Community Give friends!

    Educators shared why they support SLI, SLI scholars provided testimonials, and donors, eager to empower local Latino/x students who dream of going to college, responded during the 2020 Great Community Give.

    More than 70 people and educators who pledged matching funds donated more than $11,000 (in most cases giving extra to cover platform and payment fees!).


    Ongoing donations are gratefully welcomed at vasli.org/donate.

    Educators pledging Great Community Give matching funds included:

    • Pete Bsumek, Professor, James Madison University
    • Christopher Clymer Kurtz, former teacher, Rockingham County Public Schools
    • Dr. Lara Coggin, ESOL Teacher, Richmond Public Schools
    • Amber Corriston, Dance Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Mike Davis, Executive Advisor to the President, James Madison University
    • Dr. John A. Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College
    • Andrew Dudley Barnes, Lecturer, James Madison University
    • *Jason Good, Vice President for Innovation and Student Recruitment, Eastern Mennonite University
    • *Laura Feichtinger-McGrath, Director of EL Services and Title III, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. Suzanne Fiederlein, Interim Director, CISR, James Madison University
    • MarthaJune Graber, Retired Spanish Teacher
    • Dr. Susan Huxman, President, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Pat Lintner, Chief Academic Officer, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. Fawn-Amber Montoya, Associate Dean of Honors College, James Madison University
    • Jenna Martin-Trinka, Reading Specialist, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Dr. C. Leigh Nelson, Professor, James Madison University
    • *Bryan Pearce-Gonzales, Professor of Hispanic Studies, Shenandoah University
    • *Tom Robb, Math Teacher and SLI Program Director, Winchester Public Schools
    • Kirk Shisler, Vice President for Advancement, Eastern Mennonite University
    • Dr. Ann St. Clair Lesman, Professor Emerita, Shenandoah University
    • Jason Van Heukelum, Superintendent, Winchester Public Schools
    • Anda Weaver, School Counselor, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Philip Yutzy, Spanish Teacher, Instructional Team Leader, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • Margot Marie Zahner, Director, Great Oak Academy, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
    • and anonymous supporters

    *Member, SLI Board of Directors

  • Meet SLI in Richmond (2020)

    Meet the Scholars Latino Initiative in Richmond in this June 2020 Zoom meeting hosted by Cecilia Barbosa, chair of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board:

    Guests and Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) board of directors chair-elect Karina Kline-Gabel and member Chris von Rueden heard from:

    • Peter Iver Kaufman, SLI founder and program director in Richmond; Professor, George Matthews & Virginia Brinkley Modlin Chair in Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
    • Angela, SLI alumna, Huguenot High School (’19); rising sophomore at Shenandoah University
    • Ariel, SLI alumnus, Huguenot High School (’20); entering Eastern Mennonite University
    • Blanca, SLI alumna (North Carolina, ’09); University of Richmond and Texas A&M alumna (master’s degrees in public health and biomedical sciences); student affairs, Texas A&M
    • Laura, SLI mentor, University of Richmond (’20); Richmond Award and LeSane-Malone Award recipient
    • Christopher Clymer Kurtz, SLI Director of Development
  • Generous donors meet Giving Tuesday Now goal

    Thanks to many generous people in the SLI community, donations of more than $5,000 plus $5,000 in matching funds surpassed the Giving Tuesday Now goal of $10,000, which will support two SLI scholarship awards!

    This campaign has ended, but gifts of support for SLI scholarships are welcome anytime at vasli.org/donate.

    Thank you!

  • Cheer for SLI scholars

    Intense grit and determination are staple attributes of SLI scholars, to an inspiring degree. In this pandemic, perhaps all of us need more of these – along with copious amounts of moral support and friendship. 

    You are invited to cheer for SLI scholars here – or learn more:

    Even as schools are closed for the academic year and college admissions offices are figuring out how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, SLI is committed to its scholars. 

    Until we can again serve our scholars in person, we’re doing what we can – through social media and online writing and reading assignments, for example. And donors continue to step up to fund the college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance that SLI scholars are counting on for this fall.

    A Zoom session for Winchester SLI scholars and mentors

    Cheer for SLI scholars by writing words of encouragement to them in the comments for this Facebook post. Maybe you know what it’s like to be the first in your family to pursue higher education. Maybe you admire determination. Maybe college was a life changing experience for you, and you wish the same for SLI’s graduating seniors. 

    Your heartfelt words will be meaningful. Go for it.


    P.S. Want more ideas for helping SLI?

  • You have been on our minds: A letter from the SLI Board of Directors

    Estimados Participantes de SLI, Alumnos y Donantes,

    Mientras que nos encontramos en esta época de pandemia, la junta directiva de SLI ha estado pensando mucho en todos ustedes. Esperamos que sus familias estén bien de salud y les deseamos lo mejor durante esta crisis.

    Queremos saber cómo están y qué necesitan durante esta época difícil. También les animamos a ser líderes en sus comunidades y compartir la información sobre la pandemia con sus familias y su comunidad. Dado que ésta es una situación que evoluciona rápidamente, la información se irá actualizando a medida que se encuentre disponible. Para ver la información más reciente de nuestro estado y de la Organizacíon Mundial de Salud, visiten los sitios https://vlab.virginia.gov y https://www.who.int/ para leer sobre las recomendaciones de controlar la propagación del virus COVID-19 y dónde se pueden encontrar programas estatales y federales con recursos de préstamos o beneficios de desempleo.

    Las metas de SLI son aún más urgentes durante esta crisis y la interrupción por COVID-19 ha creado situaciones graves para muchas de nuestras familias. Queremos comunicarles que aunque los esfuerzos de recaudar fondos se han tenido que suspender esta primavera, las donaciones generosas de nuestros donantes de SLI sostendrán todos los compromisos financieros a nuestros participantes de SLI.

    Recuerden que aquí estamos para apoyarlos en cualquier manera que podamos.

    La Junta Directiva de Scholars Latino Initiative

    Dear SLI scholars, alumni, and supporters,

    As we each face challenges in this time of pandemic, you especially have been on our minds. We hope for good health for you and your families, and for renewed energy for pursuing your goals.

    We invite you to be in touch with us, to let us know how you are doing and what needs you are facing. We encourage you to be leaders in your community during this time. Please share resources with your friends and family to stay updated on the most recent recommendations to collaboratively help stop the spread of COVID-19 and seek economic relief from federal and state programs. For information in English and in Spanish, please visit Governor Northam’s Latino Advisory Board website and the World Health Organization website.

    SLI’s mission is even more critical in light of the COVID-19 disruptions to the educational pursuits of SLI scholars. Although spring fundraising events have been postponed, we are grateful for SLI’s many supporters whose generous financial contributions will sustain SLI’s commitments to our scholars.

    The Scholars Latino Initiative Board of Directors

    Jason Good, chair, and Karina Kline-Gabel, chair elect