Virginia Braxs

In 1988, Virginia Braxs immigrated to St. Louis from Córdoba, Argentina in order to pursue a Master’s degree in Spanish Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. During her first several years in the United States, Virginia experienced firsthand the difficulty of learning English and acculturating within the United States. Despite her success as a graduate student, Virginia realized that there were thousands of Latino immigrants who did not have access to similar educational and economic opportunities. Since joining the WUSTL faculty as a Senior Spanish Lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in 1997, Virginia has dedicated herself to making higher education and health care more accessible to Latinos in the United States. As the Spanish Language Volunteer Programs Coordinator at WUSTL, Virginia provides students with opportunities to use their Spanish-speaking skills in a service-learning environment.

Her most exemplary work is in her leadership of Niños and Cambios, Latino youth mentoring programs serving at-risk St. Louis children ages 6-19, and motivating them to excel in their academic and personal lives. Rather than merely fulfilling professional responsibilities, Virginia takes a personal stake in ensuring the growth and success of each student who is touched by these programs. She works tirelessly with individual students to arrange college visits, find scholarship opportunities, schedule ACT exams and communicate with parents to make certain that all students can pursue their dreams. She truly believes that every child has the ability to pursue higher education, regardless of race, language barriers and citizenship status.

Additionally, Virginia works to promote the excellence of Hispanic heritage and culture in St. Louis. As the Vice President of the Hispanic Arts Council of St. Louis, she coordinates and organizes concerts, shows, art exhibits and educational programs with Hispanic artists in partnership with The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries. She is also the managing director of the Upstream Theater, a professional production company dedicated to presenting the works of diverse cultures.

As Grace Van Voorhis, a sophomore at WUSTL and Secretary of Cambios, stated, “Virginia improves people’s perceptions of St. Louis by working to improve health care, education, and cultural opportunities for people of all races and classes. She has inspired hundreds of WUSTL students to dedicate their time and energy to the greater St. Louis community and she truly believes that together we can overcome the obstacles that many people face in their everyday lives.”