• Thank you! SLI’s 2021 year-end campaign for college access raises $58k+

    Scholars Latino Initiative closed 2021 with a record-setting year-end campaign in which more than 80 individuals, organizations, foundations, and businesses gave more than $58,000 to support Latino/a/x students who dream of going to college.

    Campaign matching funds were generously provided SLI Board of Directors chair Jason Good and member Fawn-Amber Montoya and Cecilia Barbosa (cBe Consulting), Janette Gallardo (Vitta Solutions), and SLI’s founder.

    SLI’s mission is to support Latino/a/x high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. It serves young people who experience unique circumstances as first-generation college students; as talented but often invisible individuals; as children from families that are disproportionately under resourced and disenfranchised; and as members of a growing population in Virginia and the U.S. that is underrepresented on college campuses.

    With the support of generous donors, SLI has already awarded its scholars more than $375,000 in scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition support, helping them attend more than 20 colleges and universities.

    While this campaign has ended, you can still join in this exciting mission today by making a donation to SLI at vasli.org/donate or with Apple or Google:

    Mail a check:
    Scholars Latino Initiative
    PO Box 2734
    Harrisonburg, VA 22801

  • Meet Any and Grisell, SLI scholars

    Watch Any and Grisell share about their educational paths and goals – and about how SLI at Harrisonburg High School is helping them tell their own stories. They spoke during a virtual meeting of the Rockingham Rotary Club.

  • Cargill 2021

    Cargill makes donation to Scholars Latino Initiative

    PICTURED: Scholars Latino Initiative Director of Development Christopher Clymer Kurtz and Board Treasurer Evelin González with Cargill Virginia HR Leader Stephanie Arnold and Dayton Complex General Manager Andrew Friedman.

    HARRISONBURG, VA – Cargill has announced a $10,000 donation to Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) to create college access opportunities for Latino/x students.

    “Cargill’s generous gift is a huge vote of confidence in the young people who are SLI scholars,” said SLI Board Chair Jason Good. “By funding SLI programming and financial awards, Cargill is investing in our communities’ future leaders.” 

    Cargill, whose purpose is to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, has 155,000 employees in 70 countries. Its support for SLI includes a $5,000 event sponsorship and a matching grant from Cargill Cares, which provides corporate support to select national and global nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations that serve communities in which Cargill has a business presence.

    “We are delighted to partner with SLI to positively impact our community,” said Stephanie Arnold, Virginia HR Leader for Cargill. “Cargill is committed to helping the world thrive, and we truly stand by that commitment. We are inspired by the work SLI is doing to provide educational opportunities for students in our community, and honored to be a partner in building strong and thriving communities.”

    A 501c3 nonprofit organization, SLI supports Latino/a/x high school students in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships. Its alumni have attended 21 colleges and universities.

    “When I was in high school SLI allowed me to make connections I would’ve otherwise not made,” said SLI scholar Kellyn, a Harrisonburg High School graduate now studying at Virginia Tech. “I had the opportunity to talk to many college professors, work with JMU students, and 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].”

    Since 2012 SLI has awarded its scholars more than $375,000 in college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance. 

    For more information, please visit vasli.org or contact SLI Director of Development Christopher Clymer Kurtz at christopher.clymerkurtz@vasli.org.

  • Noche de Salsa ’21

    A celebration of college access opportunities for Scholars Latino Initiative scholars, COVID-conscious Noche de Salsa ’21 at Steven Toyota in Harrisonburg featured a Latin-flavor drive-thru dinner & margarita with park & watch live Salsa dancing and an online raffle. WATCH THE SLI APPRECIATIONS VIDEO.

    Thank you to each guest, event partner, sponsor, and raffle prize donor for making the evening a successful benefit for SLI scholars! SEE DETAILS

  • Notes of gratitude

    When you donate to Scholars Latino Initiative, you are supporting SLI scholars directly through college scholarships, computer awards, and dual enrollment tuition assistance – in addition to helping to make possible SLI’s collaborations with university and high school faculty and students that provide mentorships and other valuable college access opportunities.

    SLI scholars are grateful for these opportunities! READ MORE THANKS

  • Maria

    Meet 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. READ THE INTERVIEW

  • Graduating SLI scholars name university picks

    PHOTO: Harrisonburg SLI’s graduating scholars are (from left) Savannah, Lisbet, Eliana, Leslie, Helen, Jennifer, Luisana, Jan, Noel, and Daniella.

    This year’s 22 graduating Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) scholars – 10 in Harrisonburg, five in Richmond, and seven in Winchester – have announced their higher education plans. They will attend:

    • University of Pittsburgh
    • University of Richmond
    • University of Virginia
    • Virginia Commonwealth University
    • Virginia Tech University
    • Virginia Union University
    • The College of William & Mary
    • James Madison University
    • Eastern Mennonite University
    • Bridgewater College
    • Blue Ridge Community College
    • Lord Fairfax Community College
    • Northern Virginia Community College

    “These scholars represent a positive future for our communities,” said Carlos Alemán, university professor and SLI program director in Harrisonburg. “We’re proud of them and look forward to hearing about their successes in college and beyond.”

    SLI supports Latinx high school students through college access program opportunities and access to dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships, awarding $364,800 in direct student support to date.

    In addition to providing direct financial support, SLI collaborates with local university faculty and high school teachers to offer its scholars rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships, all of which help prepare students for college.

    “I am a first-generation student,” said Amy (Handley High School ’21) in a recent interview. “Lots of people think that it’s just like going to school and getting good grades, but sometimes it’s about building connections.” 

    Her SLI mentor “really helped me a lot,” Amy said. “I didn’t really know the whole application process and I didn’t know how early you should start, but she would keep texting me and reminding me.”


    With her new university experiences beginning in just weeks, Amy is looking forward to building new connections.

    “I hope I have a good first day, because I’m going to be meeting a lot of people, a lot of teachers, and trying to get my way around,” she said. “But I’m excited.”


  • Amy, SLI scholar

    Meet Amy, SLI scholar

    Amy’s parents loved taking the family on mini-vacations – so her dad worked extra hours to make them possible. “If you have a good education, you can get good money and you can do these fun things,” he told her. Now Amy (John Handley High School ’21) will study molecular biology at the University of Pittsburgh, thanks in part to help from her SLI experiences. She talked with SLI about the challenges of being the first in her family to go to college. READ MORE AND WATCH THE INTERVIEW

  • SLI scholar interview: Guadalupe ’24

    Richmond SLI scholar Guadalupe ’24 enjoys photography, baking, and school – and “will work hard” in SLI toward a professional career.

    What are some of your interests? 
    I enjoy listening to music, as well as working with photography (see above) during my leisure time. Occasionally I am found in the kitchen baking. I enjoy baking brownies as they are a joy to eat and the process is easy. I love attending all my classes, personally I enjoy English and Career and Technical Education classes.

    What would you like to share about your family? 
    I am the oldest daughter of three children. I live with both my father and mother as well as my siblings. My parents have always been supportive of my decisions and have helped me grow as a person full of respect, discipline, and humbleness. I have lived in Richmond ever since I was born.

    What are your college and career goals? 
    I aspire to attend college because I would like to be open to opportunities that can help me enter a professional career. Lawyers and business leaders have always been top interests for me.

    How did you learn about SLI, and why did you decide to join? SLI site coordinator Ms. Orellana introduced me to SLI. 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. I hope to learn a lot from this program and will work hard.


  • Partnership with Sacred Heart Center Names Scholarship Recipient

    PHOTO: Elizabeth (second from right) is the recipient of the 2021 “For Your Success” college scholarship award sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, Sacred Heart Center (SHC), Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), and an anonymous donor. With her are (from left) Elizabeth Solano, youth programs coordinator at SHC; Lyons Sanchezconcha, a member of the SLI Advisory Council; and Ever Guevara Rodriguez, Canastas owner.

    A 2021 graduate of Huguenot High School in Richmond is the recipient of the 2021 “For Your Success” college scholarship, sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, Sacred Heart Center, Scholars Latino Initiative, and an anonymous donor.

    Elizabeth was selected to receive the $1,000 award. She plans to study business at Virginia Commonwealth University and become a Realtor.

    “There should be no obstacles in life to prohibit you from doing what you really want to do,” she wrote in her scholarship application. “I want to be able to help people find their economical and comfortable home for their future family. In order for me to be able to help out I will have to study very hard and be focused in school.”

    Students in the Sacred Heart Center College & Career-Bound Program were eligible to apply for the scholarship, whose sponsors included:

    • 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 (SHC) supports Latinos in Richmond through programs such as adult education, family literacy, citizenship classes, and more. 
    • Scholars Latino Initiative supports Latinx high school students through college access opportunities, with programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester.

    “Along with our partners, we are delighted to support our determined students,” said Elizabeth Solano, youth programs coordinator at SHC. “We look forward to Elizabeth’s success in college and beyond.”