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Members of the ScholarsХ Latino Initiative who traveled to Washington included, from left, Juan Lopez, Stephany Celaya, Raul Medina, VotoLatino Campaigns Manager Danny Navarro, Karla Lerma, Cassandra Mendoza, Monica Salazar, Arturo Macedo and Clara Salazar.

Contributed photo

Members of the ScholarsХ Latino Initiative who traveled to Washington included, from left, Juan Lopez, Stephany Celaya, Raul Medina, VotoLatino Campaigns Manager Danny Navarro, Karla Lerma, Cassandra Mendoza, Monica Salazar, Arturo Macedo and Clara Salazar.

Latino students tour nation's capital

From Contributed Reports

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Eight Nash County high school students who are enrolled in the Scholars’ Latino Initiative, a college preparatory program for high-achieving Latino students, recently toured Washington, D.C.

The students were guided by N.C. 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 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 U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District, to ask questions about issues facing the Latino community in Eastern North Carolina.

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 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 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.”