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Local Latino Students Visit Washington with Professors

Members of the Scholars’ Latino Initiative who traveled to Washington included, left to right, Juan Lopez (Southern Nash), Stephany Celaya (Southern Nash), Raul Medina (Southern Nash), Danny Navarro – Campaigns Manager at VotoLatino, Karla Lerma (Nash Central), Cassandra Mendoza (Northern Nash), Monica Salazar (Southern Nash), Arturo Macedo (Southern Nash), and Clara Salazar (Southern Nash).

Rocky Mount, N.C.—Eight Nash County high school students who are enrolled in the Scholars’ Latino Initiative (SLI), a college preparatory program for high-achieving Latino students, toured Washington, D.C., April 17-19. The students were guided by North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Dr. Marjon Ames, assistant professor of history, and Dr. Molly Wyatt, associate provost and associate professor of sociology.

The Scholars’ Latino Initiative originated at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill to provide and encourage higher education opportunities for Latino youth in North Carolina. Wesleyan has operated its own SLI program for the past two years, thanks to funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Wesleyan’s program is coordinated by Dr. Ames.

The students toured the U.S. Capitol, walked the National Mall, and visited several monuments along the way, including the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. The group toured the American Indian Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and even got a peek at the White House.

Other highlights included a visit to the office of Congressman G. K. Butterfield to ask questions about issues facing the Latino community in Eastern NC. The students also met with a representative from VotoLatino, an advocacy group whose mission is to empower Latino millenials in the political process. VotoLatino charged the SLI students with collectively getting 80 people to register to vote by September. VotoLatino tweeted and posted a picture of the student group on Facebook, and it has become a symbol of VotoLatino’s target audience for the VotoLatino Leadership Summits to be held this summer.

Celebrity actors Rosario Dawson, Wilmer Valderama, and America Ferrera are spokespersons for VotoLatino’s youth leadership movement—a topic featured by the Latin Post with the NC Wesleyan SLI students’ picture.

Filmmaker Ken Wyatt of Wyattworks also accompanied the group to produce a short video of the trip.

Southern Nash High School senior Monica Salazar said the experience was “shocking” in a powerfully good way. She will be attending NC Wesleyan in the fall to study biomedical science.

Cassandra Mendoza, a junior at Northern Nash, wrote: “The diversity of cultures in this city is astonishing as well as its historical buildings and sights.”

Northern Nash junior Karla Lerma described her experience as “the most rewarding and productive trip ever.”