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    SLI awards $143,000 this summer for college scholarships, tech

    Sentara Health and F&M Bank help fund health and business career studies;
    JustPax Fund and the Gerald and Paula McNichols Family Foundation support computer awards

    Shenandoah Valley Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) has awarded $143,000 in financial aid to 32 graduating scholars and SLI alumni attending college this fall. These new awards and previous SLI financial support for students since 2012 now total more than $535,000. 

    This summer’s awards include $87,000 for a $6,000 college scholarship and $1,250 computer award for each of the 12 graduating SLI scholars for their first year of college (vasli.org/grads), plus $56,000 in SLI Raíces Brillantes scholarships for 20 SLI alumni. 

    Along with many additional individuals, businesses, foundations, and organizations in SLI’s community of support, scholarship funders include Sentara Health and F&M Bank, and computer award funders include the JustPax Fund and the Gerald and Paula McNichols Family Foundation.

    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. Through collaborations with university and high school staff, faculty, and students, SLI provides college access opportunities throughout high school. 

    SLI financially supports its scholars through college scholarships, computer awards for purchasing technology needed to start college, and tuition assistance for taking dual enrollment college and AP courses while in high school.

    Since 2012 SLI has served 159 scholars, including 46 current and 113 alumni. Before this summer it had already paid more than $392,000 in financial support for SLI scholars, who will now have attended 24 colleges and universities.

    “It is SLI’s honor to support students accessing higher education,” said Fawn-Amber Montoya, Ph.D., SLI board chair and associate dean of the Honors College at James Madison University. “We are proud of our SLI scholars, and grateful for the outpouring of support from Sentara, F&M Bank, the JustPax Fund, the Gerald and Paula McNichols Family Foundation, and so many others in our communities who have generously donated to make these scholarships and technology awards available.”

    Seventeen of the scholarships awarded this summer are in part funded by Sentara, which provided $30,000 for Sentara SLI Scholar College Awards for students pursuing health related studies and careers (vasli.org/sentara). These recipients include:

    • Adriana Irene Gonzalez Salinas (John Handley High School ’22) is studying health information management at Laurel Ridge Community College (vasli.org/adrianags)
    • Amy Jui-Arteaga (John Handley ’21) will study biology and Spanish at Shenandoah University (vasli.org/amyja)
    • Andrea Santiago Calixto (Harrisonburg High School ’23) will study clinical laboratory science at Eastern Mennonite University
    • Axel Vega-Mancinas (John Handley ’23) will study neuroscience/pre-medicine at Harvard University (vasli.org/axel)
    • Consuelo Elizabeth “Elly” Mazariegos Agustin (John Handley ’16) is studying nursing at Shenandoah University (vasli.org/elly)
    • Everth Daniel Hernandez-Ventura (John Handley ’21) is studying nursing at Shenandoah University (vasli.org/everth)
    • Galilea Gallardo-Mena (Huguenot High School ’21) is studying psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University (vasli.org/galilea)
    • Gedalia Garcia (John Handley ’22) is studying nursing and psychology at Old Dominion University (vasli.org/gedalia)
    • Helen Duarte Guerrero (Harrisonburg ’23) will study biological sciences and biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech
    • Helen Rivera Rivas (Harrisonburg ’21) will study health sciences, occupational therapy, and medical Spanish at James Madison University
    • Hillary Dayami Estrada Alvarado (Harrisonburg ’23) will study biology/pre-medicine at University of Virginia
    • Janefer Lobo Funez (Harrisonburg ’22) is studying biology and medical Spanish at James Madison University (vasli.org/janefer)
    • Johana Alvarenga Cruz (Harrisonburg ’22) is studying at Eastern Mennonite University (vasli.org/johana)
    • Kristy Rios Ramos (Harrisonburg ’23) will study nursing at University of Virginia
    • Leydy Ayala Arteaga (John Handley ’20) is studying speech pathology at Laurel Ridge Community College
    • Lindsey Ruvalcaba (Harrisonburg ’23) will study biotech science at Blue Ridge Community College
    • Yeyhlin Velasquez Zavala (John Handley ’23) will study biology/pre-medicine at Hollins University (vasli.org/yeyhlin)

    Three scholarships are funded by F&M Bank, which provided $15,000 for F&M Bank SLI Scholar College Awards for students pursuing business and entrepreneur-related studies and careers (vasli.org/fmbank). These recipients include:

    • Amy Vargas Aguillon (Handley ’21) is studying accounting and philosophy at University of Pittsburgh (vasli.org/amy)
    • Ariana Yoselyn Hernandez Perez (Harrisonburg ’23) will study business and economics at University of Virginia
    • Naomi Rosas (Harrisonburg ’23) will study business administration in marketing at James Madison University

    Additional SLI college scholarship award recipients include:

    • Adriana Ayala (John Handley ’18) is studying environmental sciences at George Mason University
    • Ariana Perez (John Handley ’23) will study education at Laurel Ridge Community College (vasli.org/ariana)
    • Ariel Morales Bonilla (Huguenot ’20) is studying political science, history, and Spanish at Eastern Mennonite University (vasli.org/ariel)
    • Irais Barrera Pinzon (George Wythe High School ’21) is studying political science/pre-law at Eastern Mennonite University (vasli.org/irais)
    • Israel (Huguenot ’21) is studying criminal justice, homeland security, and political science at Virginia Commonwealth University (vasli.org/israel)
    • Guadalupe Tenorio Ramirez (Hopewell High School ’22) is studying engineering at Eastern Mennonite University (vasli.org/guadalupetr)
    • Jimena Marquez-Marquez (John Handley ’23) will study political science at Dickinson College (vasli.org/jimena)
    • Marvin Alexander Rivera Martinez (Harrisonburg ’22) is studying computer engineering at University of Virginia (vasli.org/alex)
    • Noel Ayala-Gallo (Harrisonburg ’21) is studying foreign affairs, public policy and leadership, and astronomy at University of Virginia (vasli.org/noel)
    • Keiry Lazo (Harrisonburg ’23) will study political science at University of Virginia (vasli.org/keiry)
    • Raquel Perez Torrico (John Handley ’21) is studying computer science and web design at Washington Adventist University (vasli.org/raquelpt)
    • Rosely Alvarado Villegas (John Handley ’22) is studying computer science at George Mason University (vasli.org/roselyav)

  • All Posts,  News,  SLI in Richmond

    Richmond SLI student leaders creating a path to success for Latinx students

    Reposted from urnow.richmond.edu. Pictured: Sofia Ringvald (left) and Sofie Martinez.

    Senior leadership studies student Sofia Ringvald has always been passionate about volunteering, especially with other Latinx students.

    “Coming here from Florida as a Latinx female, I knew I wanted to get involved in a Latinx organization,” Ringvald said. She now serves as co-president of the Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI). She and co-president Sofie Martinez, also a leadership studies major, work with high school students in the Richmond area to help them apply to and prepare for college.

    “This work is important because our program creates meaningful relationships with our mentees,” Ringvald said. “For some of these high school students, SLI is their way to have a future and have a mentor who cares enough to make sure they get to where they want to be.”

    The University of Richmond chapter of SLI pairs Spider undergrads with high school students. They meet at events throughout the year. This month, they answered questions about preparing for college and the application process.

    “I had always wanted to contribute to the greater Richmond area, but never really knew where my time would be utilized the best,” Martinez said. “I see my time at SLI as the most impactful work I have done to serve a community, not because of the impact I have made on the program, but on the ways the members of the program have impacted me. I have met some of the most determined, hard-working, compassionate, funny, and inspirational people in this program.”

    Martinez, the first in her family to attend college, said the world of higher education can sometimes seem daunting.

    “You don’t know the right things to wear, to say, to believe, or to be taken seriously,” she said. “SLI’s main goal is to create a community for our mentees and their families who want to enter into this environment for the first time, and help them through that process.”

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    Partnership awards $1,000 “For Your Success” scholarship for second year

    PHOTO: Micael (bottom left) is the recipient of the 2022 “For Your Success” college scholarship award sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, Sacred Heart Center (SHC), Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), and an anonymous donor. Pictured with Micael are SHC Executive Director Tanya Gonzalez (top left), SHC Director of Programs Carolina Lugo, SHC College and Career Bound Facilitator Selena Pacheco, and SLI Advisory Council Member Lyons Sanchezconcha.

    Micael, a graduating senior of the Sacred Heart Center (SHC) College & Career-Bound Program, has been awarded the $1,000 “For Your Success” scholarship sponsored by Canastas Chicken Restaurants, SHC, Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI), and an anonymous donor.

    “I couldn’t write or speak a single sentence when I got to the U.S in my freshman year, but I was determined to do my best at school as it was always something that mattered a lot to me,” Micael wrote in the scholarship application. “I started on level one of ESL at my school, took the exam, and was advanced to level three in my first year. I strongly believe my effort helped me improve my English proficiency.”

    Now studying in the honors program at the Richard Bland College of William and Mary, Micael has volunteered as an interpreter in hospitals, pharmacies, schools, and elsewhere, and in high school was a member of Rho Kappa, National Beta Club, and Spanish Honor Society.

    The SHC College & Career-Bound Program “was amazing,” Micael said during the scholarship award presentation ceremony. “It introduced me to the college world, and made me understand … that I can go to college.”

    The second-annual scholarship for College & Career-Bound Program graduates was sponsored by:

    • 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 supports Latinos in Richmond through programs such as adult education, family literacy, citizenship classes, and more. 
    • Scholars Latino Initiative supports Latinx high school students with college access through rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, scholarships, and supportive mentorships in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester.
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    Saturday SLI in Richmond: “Why College?”

    SLI in Richmond began the 2022-23 academic year with a Saturday SLI event for scholars and their families that included a “Why College” presentation by University of Richmond’s Edward Peebles, a mentor-mentee goal-setting activity, and lunch. The event was led by UR SLI co-presidents Sofie Martinez (in final photo, left) and Sofia Ringvald (right), pictured with SLI managing director Stephania Cervantes.

    (Photos by curlyheadphotographer)

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    College update: Gabriela, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Shenandoah University ’23 (pre-physical therapy)

    I’ve been part of the SLI program since I was a freshman in high school. In fall 2019, I started my education at Shenandoah University as a freshman, majoring in exercise science with a concentration in biology. I’m now in my senior year, and during my journey as a first-generation student, I’ve been able to learn and grow as a person in ways that only education can give. I’ve been able to make career connections that allow me to become more knowledgeable in the physical therapy field, which is the field I intend to pursue after graduation. 

    I aim to make a difference in my community, and support from SLI is absolutely the difference maker when it comes to affording the education I need in order to do that and give back in the future. My mom is a single mom, as my dad passed away before I was born, and so she is the only one providing for me and my brother. She has done everything she can to support me financially but it’s still not enough to cover my college expenses, so I’ve been always working and studying at the same time to pay for books, room and board, and additional expenses.

    It’s incredible to think that I’m one semester away from being able to graduate. I remember when I attended my first class, terrified because I knew nothing. College has taught me so much, not only about the field I intend to pursue but also about life in general. So far I’ve completed two internships, one in an inpatient clinic and the other one in an outpatient clinic, where I could put into practice all the knowledge I’ve gained during my time in college. I believe this could not have been possible without the help of programs like SLI where dreams come true for hardworking students like me, students who are trying to have a better future. 

    SLI has been quite an awesome experience, empowering and lifting. I’ve been able to learn about my strengths, talents, and weaknesses. I’ve always been a resilient person, always thinking positively, patient, and hard working towards my goals, and I’m totally sure that these strengths are the main factors that have pushed me through everything and got me where I’m today. In the medical field, you have to learn to be patient and positive because you have to be strong for your patients. They rely on you, and the more communication and connection you have with them, the faster they would be able to recover. 

    Helping other people has always been something I truly enjoy. I’ve always been a giver, and since I was little I enjoyed finding ways or opportunities where I could help people without expecting anything back. I think that being so passionate about helping others, open minded, and positive will help me be successful in the field.

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    College update: Katie, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Eastern Mennonite University ’23 (psychology, criminology)

    I’m in my last year of college and this achievement comes from my perseverance and from all the people who have helped me through this amazing experience. As a college student I have learned to not underestimate myself and to see the wonderful things I’m capable of. 

    Being an immigrant student is hard enough, and being a first-generation student as well means I have to work twice as hard – and I have been working hard these past three years in college. I have encountered many obstacles, but I have never given up, and I never will.

    That’s the most valuable strength I have: I never give up. That’s what has gotten me this far, and it will help me to achieve my goal. Sometimes I doubt myself, but then I tell myself to keep trying even if it’s hard, and that I’m capable of doing amazing things, and I have to work hard to get what I wish for. I know that I have to be brave to achieve my dreams, and I think that’s what will lead me to my success. 

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    Meet Osvaldo, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’25

    SLI for me..bundles you up with wisdom. The program is great and provides an enrichment of knowledge and opportunities, some of which would have been unimaginable coming from a first-generation Mexican household. There is a lot to gain from this amazing program, they prepare you to get into college as well as to know how to survive within college, never leaving you alone. Guidance never fails to be present in this program as they always make sure to show you the correct path in all circumstances. I am very thankful for [teacher and SLI program director] Ms. Orellana since she introduced me to this incredible program where I met the charismatic Professor Peter Kaufman [SLI founder and program director]! I am also really thankful for him. Thank you so much to the extraordinary SLI team that made all impossible dreams possible, none of this would’ve been possible without you all.

    After high school I picture myself attending college while taking courses that support my dream of being an actor. I’d also like to take business courses. 

    Well-recognized YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, better known as Mr. Beast, has always been a huge inspiration for me ever since I was young, and is now someone I look up to. He has a lot of given traits that make him someone bright, such as his humorous personality. Despite him being a multimillionaire he gives back to the most needed communities or just complete strangers he finds at any location no matter what. I would also like to open my own YouTube channel in the near future to be able to spread my fun personality along with giving back to those who need help in many communities. 

    Since day one my family has always been beside me pushing me to strive for the best. I have learned how to be an individual full of discipline, respect, and humbleness thanks to my parents. I have and continue to receive a bundling amount of motivation throughout my academic journey which really reflected the support my family has always carried on me. Though I make mistakes, a lot of them, I am reminded to try to perform the best I can even when committing tiny errors. Fun is a must when my sisters and I do anything together. My family constantly emphasizes how they are my biggest fans when it comes to my dream of being an actor. I will continue to work hard to make them proud.

    My parents immigrated from Mexico to Richmond, Virginia, where I was born. I am Mexican-American as well as the only male child in my household. Anytime I get stressed I head for my soccer ball. Playing soccer outside is also one of my get-away passions.

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    College update: Angela, SLI scholar

    Huguenot High School ’19
    Shenandoah University ’22 (communication media, Spanish, cinematography)

    Read Angela’s reflection of gratitude here

    Three years ago I was a girl with many ambitions and visions in mind. Today I am just months away from achieving that beloved goal that many of us set for ourselves but not all of us have the opportunity or the discipline to finish: to have a university degree, to have a different future from our immigrant parents. 

    Originally I was supposed to graduate one year from now, but thanks to my commitment I have been able to advance in certain classes, which will allow me to graduate early with a double degree. 

    As a university student, SLI has been a fundamental program in my life, since it has obviously given me support in every way and has helped me develop many areas of my life, both academically and personally. At the beginning of my career one of my goals was always to finish everything that I started, from assignments to internships. I challenged myself to improve my English, and I was able to attend tutoring. 

    I am extremely grateful for everything I have achieved both in my academic life and in my personal life. As an independent student, I have faced a difficult financial situation that has pushed me to leave my comfort zone and work daily to be able to keep up with my university and personal expenses. 

    I am motivated to stand out from the ordinary. My verbal skills have allowed me to communicate with character when asking for help or advice. My early maturity and independence have taught me to appreciate the smallest things in life. 

    Being independent at such a young age is difficult, but it is a great blessing to feel proud of myself and of everything I have achieved, and of what I am about to achieve.

    Angela also shared about her SLI experiences in virtual Meet SLI events in 2020 and 2021, and in this reflection of gratitude.

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    College update: Irais, SLI scholar

    George Wythe High School ’20
    Eastern Mennonite University ’24 (political science/pre-law)

    College comes with many challenges and opportunities and also many experiences. I have learned many things in college, but the most important is that our actions determine our results, and that the future we create depends upon the choices and actions we take today. 

    I am thankful for all the help I have received from SLI. Everyone has dreams and goals, and SLI scholarships make things easier for many students. 

    I want the opportunity to give my best to the people I will help in the future after I graduate from college. Life sometimes can be hard but I always try to find solutions to the problems and to stay motivated when things get difficult. I believe that this always helps me and will help me in the future if I face a problem. 

    I have a strong character that helps me in tough situations and this helps me to help others. I like to read and write articles about the issues that the world faces daily. This can have a big impact on people, and I can have the opportunity to further develop this talent by taking English writing courses.

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    College update: Guadalupe, SLI scholar

    Hopewell High School ’22
    Eastern Mennonite University ’26 (engineering)

    Going to a university is the way to prepare me intellectually and socially for my future career. I hope it will help me develop skills and give me experiences that will lead me to find my interests and motivations to become a better version of myself.

    My dedication and responsibility have always been my forte and have led me to be the best in my class. They have taught me not to give up in any area and look for all possible solutions to a problem.

    I have always been a reserved girl, and sometimes I’m afraid to leave my trust zone, but that’s because that’s how I’ve been raised, in a humble and somewhat conformist family. My father, the sole breadwinner for a family of six children, never demanded a penny from me and much less pushed me to get a job. However, more than anything I knew that one day I would be an adult and would have to fend for myself. 

    Ever since I was in elementary school, I knew that my goal was to go to college and get a career. I tried hard to be the highest average and I did it. Neither of my parents finished high school so they couldn’t help me with my homework but with my effort and dedication, everything went well. 

    Coming to the United States complicated my life a bit, not only because of my lack of understanding of the language but also because I became my parents’ translator in areas I didn’t know, like health care, school, and laws. I was afraid of failing them or giving wrong information. It was more difficult because sometimes I had to leave my own responsibilities to help my family. 

    I am now an adult, and as difficult as it is to separate from my parents, I know that I need to find myself and finally complete my dream. I have made an effort and I hope the finances are not a problem because I really think I deserve it.