• 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.”


    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

  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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
  • SLI scholar profile: Everth

    Even though soccer had always been a big part of his life, the suspense was nerve wracking. SLI scholar Everth had never before tried out for a school athletic team, and that February night, along with 60 or 70 hopeful peers, he watched as the coaches filled their rosters. READ MORE

SLI year-end campaign