Testimonials from scholars

SLI Scholar Testimonials


Harrisonburg High School '22

Read Janefer's letter of thanks

"SLI understands how difficult it is for Latino families to contribute to their children’s education, and produces new opportunities for Latinx students facing struggles during the college process. 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. It is our choice to help, and we do it with much love and dedication."


Godwin High School '22

Read Maria's interview

"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."


John Handley High School '21
University of Pittsburgh '25
(molecular biology)

Watch Amy's interview and read more

"Lots of people think high school is just about going to school and getting good grades, but as a first-generation student, sometimes it’s about building connections. SLI really helped with college especially this year.

I didn’t really know about the whole application process for applying to colleges, and I also didn’t know how early you should start, but [my mentor Damaris] would keep texting me and reminding me.

First we talked about what I wanted to do. She was really helpful with that because I had a lot of ideas circulating, and so we had a meeting and I wrote everything down and she made me take a few personality tests and career tests, and she did research for some of them, and she spent a bit of time differentiating for me what I should major in and what I should just keep as a hobby. We had conversations about how to get resumes done and talked to my guidance counselor and my essays and all that, and she was really good about reminding me to finish it.

She would send me text messages like, ‘Did you finish applying to this school? Did you finish this spreadsheet?’ and those texts – I wanted to respond right away, so I would get on them and finish it, just to respond and say ‘Yeah I finished this.’ She was really helpful with that. I don’t know if she knows that that was pushing me, but it really was, because I felt like someone was depending on me to complete my work. It helped a lot."


Harrisonburg High School '22

Read Alex's interview

"SLI introduced me to ways to give back to the community and help the community become a better place. I didn’t know how to give back to the community when I was a freshman, but SLI introduced me to different things, like volunteering at Waterman Elementary School with Amigos Unidos. That gave me a different view of things, and led me to sign up for more community service opportunities."


Harrisonburg High School '22

Watch Any share

"What keeps me motivated is my future. One day I want to be an independent woman. I don't want to depend on someone else.... I'll be the first child to go to a university for my whole family. I get to experience and face challenges so that one day when my cousins want to go to college, I can be there to support them. And not only that, but I feel like it's going to change my whole family. I'm gonna go out there in the world and explore a little more."


Harrisonburg High School '22

Read Johana's interview

"SLI has created for me a vision for college, how to get into college, how to be a college student but also how to be a better college student. It has also given me a lot of opportunities to be around brilliant people who teach many good things.

It has also given me opportunities to work with my community, the Latinx community. I’m so thankful that I’m in SLI, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things we will do this year."



Hopewell High School '22

Watch Guadelupe share during Meet SLI - Richmond

"We go through life as followers of the knowledge of others, to not expose ourselves to something unknown. None of my older siblings had the opportunity to go to college.... SLI has encouraged me to be independent, the driver of my path and not a follower. It also helps me improve my written skills, and gives me more confidence speaking English, which is not my first language. SLI is a family and we know we can count on each other.

"I will always be grateful for this opportunity and hope one day I will do the same for others."


Harrisonburg Highs School '22

Watch Grisell share

"We learned about how to tell our own stories rather than having someone else tell our stories for us because most of the time, if you aren't the one who's going to be talking about your story and your life and your experiences, and someone else will be doing it, chances are they're not going to go into full detail or they're going to miss points or they're not going to add things that you or I specifically want to be told. My appearance and my background isn't just a stereotype, because although I've been through many similar things as other people, like immigration, discrimination, and stuff like that, I want to be able to say, 'Here are other things about me that makes me different from other people.' SLI has definitely taught me how to explain myself a lot better and tell my own story to other people."


Huguenot High School '24

Read Guadalupe's interview

"This program prepares you for college and how college works. I am thankful for the program, for Professor Kaufman and all the resources associated with SLI."


John Handley High School '21
Shenandoah University '25

Hear Everth share during Meet SLI - Winchester and read more about him here

"Reflecting back on my years at SLI, I believe that there are two things that stand out the most when it comes to how SLI has positively impacted me. The first way that SLI has positively impacted me can be seen financially. One of my goals throughout my high school journey was to take as many Advanced Placement courses as I possibly could in order to finish high school with one year of college done. I couldn't have been able to reach this goal had it not been for SLI. SLI helped pay for some of my AP courses which was not only a relief for me, but it was also a huge financial relief for my dad as he is the one who has paid for my classes. While 'some classes' may not seem like a big deal to others, for me it meant everything, and I will forever be grateful. You never understand the word relief until you live through this experience. It isn't just the fact that SLI helps me financially which makes it so great, it's the fact that they help bring me one step closer to my academic end goal. It's a feeling that you can never truly put into words. The fact that there is an organization who cares so much for the Latino community is mind-blowing.

"The second thing, which I believe holds the biggest impact for me was the pairing up with my mentor Joseph. You have no idea how great it is knowing that you have someone in your corner who supports you in everything that you do. Joseph has taught me so many things that have helped me with making high school easier. An example being that he taught me how to work on my time management, which was something that I struggled on for quite some time. He's always made it clear that he is always there if I ever need him, and just having someone who can help guide you in this new high school-university transition is a true blessing. He's always been there to cheer me on every step of the way, and that isn't something that you can find anywhere. In the short amount of time that we have known each other, he has already had a huge impact in my life, and words will never ever describe just how lucky I am to have a mentor as great as him."


Huguenot High School '21

Watch Israel share during Meet SLI - Richmond

"That's a very good thing about SLI: You're never alone. You always have somebody to rely on if you need help of any kind. SLI is not just about learning about college skills and getting into college. It's also about having a family and a sense of belonging and people who are there to support you in everything that you do."


John Handley High School '21
Laurel Ridge Community College

"Ever since I was a child my mother has encouraged my brothers and me to get an education even though we had little money and few options. She instilled within us the importance of education.

I struggled a lot with English when I first arrived in the U.S., which caused many issues as I couldn’t understand what was going on in class. However, with time and lots of hard work I overcame that barrier and got straight A’s for the majority of my classes. 

One of my favorite parts of being in SLI was going to read to little kids who were struggling with reading. It felt amazing to be able to help the kids, as I had once been one of them.

I’m currently studying for a computer science degree, as programming has always been a topic of great interest for me. Thanks to your support, SLI has greatly helped many of my classmates and me be able to pay for college."


Huguenot High School ’20
(shown with SLI mentor Jared)
Eastern Mennonite University '24

Read a letter of gratitude from Ariel, and listen to Ariel and other SLI alumni talk about their SLI experiences.

“As a Latino, as a minority, you face a lot of issues and difficulty. Thanks to SLI and my mentors, I was able to develop a particular interest in the political field and get into college.”


Huguenot High School '19
Shenandoah University '23
(arts in media and communications)

Hear Ángela and other SLI alumni talk about their SLI experiences during the Meet SLI - Richmond events in 2020 and 2021.

"SLI 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...." READ MORE


John Handley High School '19
Lord Fairfax Community College '20
Shenandoah University '22
(business administration and information systems and technology)

“I am so grateful to SLI for helping me in my academic career to this point....SLI is important to me because it has helped shape me into a leader I am today. SLI is a way for students to feel like they have people who believe in them and are there to push them to their highest potential. With SLI I have been able to critically think beyond an education that high school offers. SLI has helped me believe in myself to achieve my dreams and make them into reality despite any obstacles that may come my way. I have learned to not only be a responsible leader for myself but for my community as well. Before I started SLI I was very active in community service but my passion for helping others has grown from the very moment I initiated my intellectual growth in SLI. Throughout my years in SLI, I have been able to grow academically through college seminars. I am a huge supporter of these seminars because it allows students to analyze and comprehend education apart from what your regular high school classes offer. With college seminars, I have been able to learn valuable skills that I will definitely carry with me for the rest of my life.”


Huguenot High School ’19
Shenandoah University '23

Gabriela participates in the Honors program, SLI, and the Leadership and Educational Development Fellows program at SU.

“SLI has helped me a lot. Thanks to SLI, I’ve been able to be prepared for college, be competent and have confidence in myself.”


John Handley High School '19
University of Virginia '23
(chemical engineering and environmental science)

Jaime is a peer mentor for incoming Latinx students transitioning to college and serves on the executive board of the university’s Latinx Leadership Institute.

"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."


Harrisonburg High School ’17
Bridgewater College '21
(Spanish, family and consumer sciences, child development, and family life education)

Lupe has made the Dean’s List for all six consecutive semesters.

“[SLI was] a support group who are like me and have the same motivation to succeed. My experience as a SLI scholar has only affected my life in the utmost positive ways and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

John Handley High School '16
Shenandoah University '20
Elly is a medical Spanish interpreter and a COVID vaccine distribution and health clinic volunteer. She is pursuing a graduate degree to become a physician assistant. Read more about Elly here.
"SLI was a very eye-opening program for me. I had amazing mentors who guided me in my educational path, as well as that 'push' to keep me going. From not believing I could obtain a college degree to now working on my graduate degree is honestly a huge blessing and a great honor to my family!"

John Handley High School ’19

“With the college preparation and mentorship, SLI has helped me feel more confident in taking initiative on my own. The college assignments handed to us helped me achieve more in my regular classes by analyzing more thoroughly based on what I had learned from SLI. The community that SLI helps bring together among the Hispanic students, over all, inspires me to become an example for all first generation immigrants that are in my position. By helping me acquire resources, such as college trips, informational programs about college, and helping us discover our passion, SLI helps me set the example of a first generation scholar.”


Harrisonburg High School ’18
Virginia Tech '22
(human development, Spanish, and chemistry on a premedical track)

Kellyn has made the VT Dean’s list every semester, is preparing for the MCAT, and is earning EMT certification.

“When I was in high school SLI allowed me to make connections I would’ve otherwise not made. I had the opportunity to talk to many college professors, work with JMU students, and I was able to be part of many informational retreats. All the information that I learned while being a SLI student helped me prepare for college as a minority student at a PWI [predominantly white institution]. My mentors, Carlos Alemán and Hannah Bowman, definitely always helped push me to give my best and I am so thankful they did because it has helped me these past few years.”


John Handley High School '17
(civil engineering)

“One of the most important things SLI gave to me was a window to the college world and showed me that it was an option. I, as a Latino, still have the option to pursue my education and dreams. SLI has always encouraged me to push myself for those harder challenges in the classroom and out. Talking with people that come from the same place as you really makes you realize that you aren’t alone and makes you more comfortable with your own voice. Being comfortable with who I am and where I come from boosted my confidence alongside my ability to lead and represent. SLI gave me the opportunity to ask questions and interact with college students and professors. For a lot of people the transition from high school to college can be somewhat scary. SLI removed that fear because I was already familiar with how to tackle the college transition and life. Taking that fear away is a huge step in moving forward in the pursuit of your education.”