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Agency Spotlight: Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis

Josh Walehwa, PhD, assistant dean for student affairs, supports Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis through service opportunities.

Lived Experiences Instills Continued Giving from WashU’s Josh Walehwa

“It takes a village to raise a child” isn’t a proverb that’s lost on Josh Walehwa. His family moved to the United States when he was an infant and settled in Southern California. He watched his mother work hard to support him and his siblings, and they embraced their new community, who also welcomed them. He worked hard throughout school, attending a college preparatory high school in California before beginning his undergraduate at the University of Iowa. He then pursued and obtained his master’s and doctorate degrees.

As a first-generation college graduate, Walehwa, has a unique perspective and appreciation of higher education. His family endured poverty and acclimatization to a new country, yet he and his family embraced the new opportunity with gratitude and persevered to overcome the challenges.

Now, as the assistant dean for student affairs at WashU’s Brown School, Walehwa, helps to provide perspective and encouragement to students and colleagues. While his positions have changed over the years – working in residential life, admissions and recruitment, and career services to name a few – he finds time to give back to the St. Louis community, just as he remembers his community doing in his family’s time of need.

“The one thing about this life is that none of us does it on our own,” Walehwa said. “We all thrive when we support friends and even strangers. I’ve learned that when I’ve focused on giving (time, resources, service), my needs somehow are met in return in all those ways and more.”

As a former program director for Boys Hope Girls Hope of St. Louis, a United Way of Greater St. Louis agency, Walehwa stays connected through civic engagement opportunities. Boys Hope Girls Hope is a national non-profit that focuses on youth development, college access and beginning a career. Students, referred to the program by their schools or community members, may be accepted into the program as young as middle school and continue until college graduation. Each scholar has access to academic, emotional and spiritual support in the program. In addition, scholars receive help with life skills and civic engagement responsibilities.

Walehwa reflects on the parallels between his life and the mission of the organization. “[Boys Hope Girls Hope] allows deserving, smart, and talented youth access to education and resources with the potential to make a difference,” Walehwa said. “They are doing their part to impact lives and strengthen our community.”

Boys Hope Girls Hope supports youth throughout many critical milestones in a youth’s development, giving them hope and strength for a meaningful life and future.

Walehwa knows from experience the positive impact that a community can provide to others. He encourages his students, colleagues, friends and family to support both the university and the larger St. Louis communities.

“I love being a member of such a generous community as St. Louis,” Walehwa said. “It’s a collective win when those in our community in the most need can find the support to thrive. We each can do a little bit to raise up our region.”

 WashU encourages you to give back to St. Louis organizations you support through giving and/or service opportunities. To support the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the 164 agencies in our region they partner with, donate online today. If you’re interested in sharing your Caring for the Community story, please contact