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Our Story

The Scholars' Latino Initiative (commonly referred to as “SLI”) was founded by Peter Kaufman in 2003. The program began as a partnership between Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City and students of UNC-Chapel Hill, with the mission of improving access to higher education for Latino high school students.

SLI operates on a three-year long mentorship model, for which we select 25 sophomore UNC mentors and 25 sophomore Latin@ high school students each year.  The organization has grown to include nearly 150 high school and college students from across the state.  After the incredible success observed at Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City, SLI expanded and now also partners with Lee High School and Southern Lee High School in Lee County in Sanford, Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, and Jordan High School in Durham (our newest site).  The Scholars' Latino Initiative has had/will have a positive impact at each of these six high schools, especially in regards to promoting a Latin@ culture that strives to attend an institution of higher learning. 

Mentees in SLI participate in a composition course, as well as a college preparation seminar.  They also receive training in skills such as interviewing and resume building, and are required to complete at least 20 hours of community service per year.  Consequently, SLI mentees are often extremely competitive applicants to college.  Once the mentees graduate from the program, SLI provides guidance and access to scholarship funds.

The student initiative inspired and created by Peter Kaufman in 2003 has grown into a major student-led, student-run program of the UNC Center for Global Initiatives (CGI). With foundation resources, board leadership and university support, SLI has expanded its staff capacity by hiring an executive director in 2015 and continues to improve its model and services across the state.  

SLI has a sister organization, SLI-Shenandoah, in Virginia.