• 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

  • 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.”

    READ AND WATCH AMY’S INTERVIEW

    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.”

    ADDITIONAL NEWS:

  • 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.

    >MEET MORE SLI SCHOLARS

  • 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.”

  • New SLI program directors in Winchester

    New SLI program directors help make college “more than a dream”

    Scholars Latino Initiative has welcomed Ileana Escalante (left) and Ruth Espinoza de Arteaga as program directors for its Winchester program at John Handley High School. Escalante and Espinoza are both Spanish teachers at Handley and co-sponsor the school’s student organization Latinos Unidos.

    “I am honored to work with SLI scholars,” said Escalante. “I passionately believe in empowering Latino students to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential. As a result, I know they will bring growth and positive change to their communities.”

    Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SLI creates college opportunities for Latino/x high school students through unique programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia. By collaborating with local university faculty and high school teachers, SLI offers its students rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. 

    Donations from SLI’s community of support allow the organization to offer dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree. SLI has awarded $213,000 in scholarships, $46,000 in computer awards, and more than $14,300 in tuition assistance.

    “My main motivation for taking up this responsibility is to support our Latinx students, making them aware that college is more than a dream but a reality for them,” said Espinoza. “Their future is built always in the present, and we can lend a hand to make this dream come true.”

    Since the organization’s formation, SLI efforts at Handley were led by teacher Thomas Robb, who also served on the SLI board of directors through 2020.

    “lleana and Ruth bring a leadership that builds on the foundation cultivated by Tom and others in Winchester,” said Carlos Alemán, university professor and SLI program director in Harrisonburg. “This is an exciting opportunity that will benefit students, and all of us at SLI welcome their energy and vision, expertise, and wisdom.”

  • SLI board of directors welcomes Fawn-Amber Montoya

    The Scholars Latino Initiative has announced the appointment of Fawn-Amber Montoya, Ph.D., associate dean for diversity, inclusion and external engagement at James Madison University, to its board of directors.

    “Dr. Montoya is an incredible leader and we are honored to have her join SLI,” said Jason Good, board chair. “Her experience and expertise add immense value to our organization and our community.”

    Montoya was nominated by Karina Kline-Gabel, vice chair of the SLI board and of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, who noted her “action-oriented commitment to improving college accessibility for Latino/x students in our community.”

    Before assuming her role at JMU in 2019, Montoya directed the Honors program at Colorado State University-Pueblo, where she received awards for service, advising, and mentoring and was a professor of history who taught courses in race, ethnicity, and gender, and focused on Mexican-American history. She has consulted on numerous museum exhibits, co-authored Practicing Oral History to Connect University to Community, and edited Making An American Workforce: The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company’s Construction of a Workforce during the Rockefeller Years.

    “I am excited about joining the board because my experience interacting with SLI students has always been inspiring,” she said. “They are motivated individuals that are ready for successful experiences in higher education.”

    Established in the Shenandoah Valley in 2012 and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SLI creates college opportunities for Latino/x high school students through unique programs in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia. By collaborating with local university faculty and high school teachers, SLI offers its students rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships. 

    Donations from SLI’s community of support allow the organization to offer dual enrollment tuition assistance, computer awards, and college scholarships that further empower its scholars as they pursue a college degree. SLI has awarded $213,000 in scholarships, $46,000 in computer awards, and over $14,300 in dual enrollment tuition assistance.

  • Careers Panel Discussion highlights possibilities for SLI scholars

    Moderated by Karina Kline-Gabel, vice chair of the SLI board of directors and of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, this Scholars Latino Initiative presentation for SLI scholars and additional student groups in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester featured leaders sharing about their careers and professional experiences.

    Panelists included:
    *Maribel Castañeda, Director of Appointments and Director of Latino Outreach, Governor Ralph S. Northam
    *Kevin Gabel, Director of Construction Management, Lantz Construction
    *Silvia Garcia-Romero, Cultural Diversity Manager, Sentara RMH
    *Patty Gavilan, RN, CMI – Manager, Language Services Department, Bon Secours Mercy Health
    *Tanya Gonzalez, Executive Director, Sacred Heart Center
    *Charles A. Martorana, Valley Region President, Blue Ridge Bank

  • Winchester SLI celebration

    Winchester SLI celebrates 2021 graduates

    The Winchester SLI recognized its graduating mentors and seven graduating scholars at a celebration this month featuring guest speaker North Carolina SLI alumna Rubi (seventh from left), who shared about her own SLI/college journey. Graduating scholar Jennifer (fifth from left) and mentor Damaris (third from left) shared brief reflections about how SLI has shaped them, and SLI program director Karen Cornejo Guillen (fifth from right) presented graduating scholars and mentors with a small gift. SLI program director Ruth Espinosa (far right) read a poem and said a few words of encouragement to the graduating group and rising seniors.

  • Great Community Give ’21

    Thank you, Great Community Give!

    Sixty-six donors gave $15,246 to help Scholars Latino Initiative provide college scholarships, computer awards, dual enrollment tuition assistance, and college opportunities for Latinx students.

    As SLI alumna Elly said recently: “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!”

    Thanks to the Give, SLI’s community of support is growing – which means greater impact for SLI scholars like Elly.