The Scholars Latino Initiative (SLI) is a 501(c)(3) public charity, nonprofit organization whose mission is to create college opportunities for first-generation Latino/x high school students in Harrisonburg, Richmond, and Winchester, Virginia. SLI offers computer and college scholarship awards and, in collaboration with university faculty and high school teachers, opportunities for rigorous academic challenge, leadership development, and supportive mentorships.

First in Virginia in 2008 at George Wythe and Huguenot High Schools in Richmond, then in 2012 at Harrisonburg High School and 2013 at John Handley High School in Winchester, SLI scholars have participated in college-level writing and analysis seminars taught by university faculty members, college-readiness programming, leadership and service partnerships with community organizations, and leadership and networking retreats held on university campuses.

As early as in their first year of high school, students who apply to become and are selected as SLI scholars to:

  • Accept new academic challenges and leadership responsibilities that empower their paths to higher education, with guidance from SLI high school teachers and mentors;
  • Develop personal statements and goals, evaluate careers and majors, apply for college admittance, and seek financial aid, all with the help of faculty mentors; and
  • Receive friendship, social support and help for navigating the challenges that come with being a Latinx college-bound student.

In addition, SLI offers the following support:

  • Dual-enrollment course tuition relief for eligible SLI scholars taking college courses while still in high school. These courses improve college readiness, enhance academic portfolios, and may reduce the number of credit hours needed in college.
  • SLI $1,000 computer awards that help eligible SLI scholars purchase the technology they need to start college.
  • SLI college scholarship awards of up to $5,000 that support eligible SLI scholars who are admitted to two- or four-year colleges.
  • Help accessing additional scholarships and funding for college.

SLI was initially modeled after NC Sli (now LatinxEd) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded by Peter Iver Kaufman.