We seek to create educational opportunities for a new generation of Latino leaders in Virginia and aspire to create stronger, more equitable communities in the state.


In 2003, Peter Kaufman, then professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, in collaboration with UNC alumna Eleanor Blake and several UNC undergraduates, set out to address challenges faced by Latino high school students in Siler City North Carolina. There at Jordan Matthews High School, administrators, counselors, faculty colleagues(especially Paul Cuadros, then soccer coach at JM and subsequently a professor of journalism at UNC), supported the initiative that became SLI, the Scholars Latino Initiative (pronounced ‘sly’). Within a few years, SLI was encouraging and assisting first-generation immigrant students from Chatham, Edgecombe, Randolph, Durham, Lee, and Orange Counties to find their ways to higher education.

Soon after Kaufman moved to the University of Richmond to start SLI-VA in 2008, Emily Riehl and Sandy Mercer–with the cooperation of the principal of Harrisonburg’s High School and the new school superintendent–brought Kaufman and SLI to the Shenandoah Valley. They created SV-SLI, which expanded to Winchester due to the interest and efforts there of Paul Burkholder.

Currently, NC-SLI thrives at UNC’s Center for Global Initiatives, under the leadership of its Co-Executive Directors, Ricky Hurtado and Elaine Townsend Utin, recently honored as two of the “30 under 30” educational entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine.

SVSLI’s directors and staff include Professor Carlos Aleman, Hannah Bowman, Phil Helmuth, Paul Burkholder, Tom Robb, and Maggie McCampbell.

For news from these other SLIs and contact to their websites, click on our “Other SLI” tab.

SLI-VA, revived by Kaufman and Melisa Quiroga-Herrera in 2016, assists over 30 Latino students at Huguenot, Wythe, and Meadowbrook High Schools, benefiting from the dedication and energy of site directors Ester Orellana, Mary Stuart Smith, and Kirsten Buist as well as the goodwill and creativity of our mentor coordinators, Annika Sampredo, Madison Switzer, Laura Perez Rondon, and our University of Richmond associate Michele Bedsaul.

College Experience

University of Richmond faculty and staff colleagues work with alumni, parents, and our undergraduate mentors to design and implement activities that encourage SLI participants’ intellectual, cultural, and social development. The SLI high school students collaborate with their UR undergraduate mentors, undertake challenging academic and extracurricular projects, acquire leadership skills, and serve their communities. Activities range from special tutorials, SAT and ACT workshops, sessions supplying information on college admissions and scholarship assistance, concerts and other cultural events, outings to the UR campus, and visits by filmmakers, journalists, business executives, historians, novelists, and public officials. Parental involvement is integral to a successful pursuit of higher education, and participants at both UR and the high schools work towards a strong partnership between parents and students. SLI high school students also complete an early college course, which starts late in their sophomore year and concludes early in their senior year. The mentoring relationship, however, allows SLI to be particularly attentive to the special needs of each high school student.