Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Axana Soltan wants to give a voice to the voiceless and advocate for those who have no champion.
“I am so fortunate to be here,” said the native of Afghanistan, who came to the United States eight years ago with her family. “I am blessed to be a citizen. This country has given me so many opportunities, and I want to help those who aren’t as fortunate.”
This country has given me so many opportunities, and I want to help those who aren’t as fortunate.
Soltan, a criminal justice major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, aspires to a career in law. “I’m interested in working with juveniles or international law. I’m inspired by prosecutors who stand up for justice and help people.”
The Honors College student, who describes herself as focused and motivated, has a 3.9 GPA and typically carries 17 to 19 credits a semester. She hopes to graduate in under four years this December. She’s the president of the Pre-Law Society. When she is not studying or working as a teaching assistant in the Department of Statistics, she is preparing for her LSAT exam.
She credits the Wilder School’s professors and their passion for learning as a key factor in her academic success. “My professors inspire me. They’re also so friendly, kind and willing to help.”
Nancy Morris, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice, described Soltan “as a pleasure to have in the classroom. I am confident she will be successful in her future academic and professional endeavors."
Soltan, who was recently honored with the Wilder School’s Excellence in Virginia Government Awards Undergraduate Student Scholarship, already boasts an impressive resume.
During her senior year in high school, she worked as a legal assistant at ReidGoodwin PLC in Richmond. She has interned at the state Secretary of the Commonwealth office and the Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. A graduate of Midlothian High School with an advanced diploma, she also earned a certificate in legal systems administration from the Chesterfield Technical Center.
“I’ve studied different areas of the law, and I find everything fascinating,” she said. “I wanted to learn about the concepts and applications of law, and I enjoy my classes in criminal justice.”
Three years ago she founded a nonprofit organization, Enhancing Children’s Living, that seeks to help children around the world who are living in poverty. Earlier this year, the group bought 150 pairs of shoes for children in Afghanistan, which was featured in February on WTVR-TV.
Soltan is truly a global citizen — besides English, she is fluent in Dari-Persian and Russian and has a basic command of Spanish.
When she was a baby, her family moved from Afghanistan to neighboring Uzbekistan to escape the repressive regime. In their native country, her mother was a biology professor who was not allowed to teach. Her father was an art instructor in high school.
They lived in the central Asian country for 10 years before emigrating to the U.S. eight years ago, seeking educational and economic opportunity. She entered school here as a sixth grader, not knowing a word of English.
“My parents had a vision. They wanted us to have a bright future,” Soltan said. “In Afghanistan, girls were not allowed to go to school. There were so many restrictions.”
While Soltan’s eye is on law school, her older sister, Wajma — a VCU graduate — attends medical school.
“I was raised in a family that values education,” she said. “In Afghanistan, there were so many injustices. It was risky to go to school. Here there is opportunity, and I embrace it.”
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