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Degree Programs

Puksta Scholars

Puksta Profiles


Each year, we award the Puksta Scholarship to three first-year students with Colorado state residency and financial need.

The program allows these students to get a college education and develop a civic identity and commitment to service.

Maria Khan

Year: senior

Major: international business

Community partner organization: Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK)

Social justice issue area:
My area of social justice pertains to underprivileged youth. Having had the opportunity to work with these children has really opened my eyes to the struggles that youth face all over the world . Whether it is helping these children gain access to higher education, or simply aiding them in pursing an interest, would be beneficial.

Future goals:
Despite many different aspirations that I may have, I would love to have the opportunity to work abroad and impact a community with struggling youth positively. Having this chance would not only help children in regards to what they enjoy doing, but could potentially alter their lives for the better, which is what I would strive to do for them. The reason I hope to work abroad is to reach out to different types of children, with different types of struggles.

James Lozano

Year: senior

Major: psychology and sociology

Minor: Spanish and biology

Social justice issue area:
Lateral thinking; promoting self-critical analysis to identify areas for personal development with the use of creative mediums.

Through identifying and challenging common beliefs and tendencies that incline people to subconscious behaviors, the goal is for unification and understanding to result.

Future plans:
This past fall, I studied abroad in Costa Rica at Veritas University to experience a different culture while developing my Spanish skills. In regards to post-college, I am looking to enroll in a graduate program.

Brittany Morris

Year: junior

Major: psychology and Spanish

Community partner organization: International Dyslexia Association Rocky Mountain Branch; Project Eye-to-Eye

Social justice issue area:
The social justice area I am working in is the quality of education for students with learning disabilities. I want to make school and life for children who have learning disabilities not as difficult as it was for me as an individual with dyslexia.
One of the best parts about working with the IDA-RMB is a group of kids called the "IDA Ambassadors." This group of kids age 10 to 19, serve as storytellers and knowledgeable individuals who are able to communicate to parents, teachers, and professionals what it is like to grow up and live each day with learning disabilities, using both our own experiences and recent scientific research.

The DU branch of Project Eye-to-Eye is an art-based program centered on sparking a discussion between college students with learning disabilities and middle school students with learning disabilities. The idea is to encourage the younger students to start to own their disability, an essential first step to encouraging self-advocacy.

I find so much inspiration in the idea that these college students take time out of their week to work with students who are going through the same heartache and difficulties that we can relate to each in our own way.

Future goals:
In the coming months, I hope to start my own mentoring group through the IDA-RMB; drawing from my experiences as a Project Eye-to-Eye mentor, a part of the IDA Ambassadors, and a student of psychology. I also have hopes of taking it further, perhaps by -establishing my own nonprofit organization or advocacy group for students with learning disabilities.

Aminta Menjivar

Year: junior

Major: international business

Minor: legal studies

Community partner organization:
I work with high school counselors in the Denver area.

Social justice issue area:
I care about making higher education more accessible for undocumented students. The current immigration system marginalizes undocumented students to the point that college can become unreachable for them. In fact, undocumented students often have to pay much higher tuition rates than traditional students, which often discourages them from pursuing their goals.

In my experience, college is possible for undocumented students, but they have to be very strategic about how they raise the necessary funds for tuition. This experience is one of the reasons why I'm currently mentoring undocumented students. I mentor them because I want to show them that college is possible regardless of the high amount of money that they will have to raise in order to attend it. This encouragement will keep talented undocumented students from giving up on their dreams.

Future goals:
In the next few years, I want to further develop my mentoring program so I can reach more students who need advice about college access. This part, however, is only the early phase of my larger Puksta Project.

I eventually want to start a foundation that will help undocumented students reach their goals of attending college by gifting scholarships. It is unjust to nurture undocumented students' talent to later tell them that college is financially unreachable for them. My foundation will help bring justice to this issue. In essence, my foundation will help to alleviate the financial burden that young undocumented students have to deal with and will be a source of hope for them.

Nyabweza Itaagi

Year: junior

High school: Pomona High School, Arvada

Major(s): international studies and French

Social justice issue area:
My social justice issue area is food justice and how it relates to preventative health care. I have noticed that many common health problems in the U.S. like diabetes and heart disease are caused by poor nutrition.

While there are many effective medications to treat these illnesses, I believe that more emphasis should be placed on preventative health measures such as maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. I hope to partner with an organization that works to educate people on the long-term benefits of proper nutrition, and provide healthy and organic food to those who normally would not be able to afford it.

Future goals:
I want to work for a social business that provides healthy and organic foods for low prices to people with low or no income. I also want to work to educate people on nutrition and how it is an important part of preventative health care.

Ian Parker

Year: second

Major: piano performance community

Community partner organization: Alpen Glow Music Foundation

Social justice issue area:
My social justice area is music and the arts. I am a passionate musician and I believe that music is just as important as any other subject. My project centers around the idea that music is a language that anyone can speak, and anyone can understand.

I realize that not everyone has the ability to interpret written music, but it is inherently part of everybody. We as a society can use that inherent musical knowledge to communicate and express ourselves in a non-violent, creative fashion.

Future goals:
My goals for the future include starting a music camp to bridge the gap between the Latino population and the predominantly white population in my home community.

There is a rather large rift between the two demographics. I am also pursuing a bachelor's degree in piano performance, a minor in Spanish, and potentially a master's in education.

Savanna Uland

Year: second year

Major: international studies or film studies and production

Minor: Spanish, Japanese, intercultural global studies

Social justice issue area:
Religion and culture; you don't have to live long to see people—religious, atheistic, and everything in between—who don't know how to make basic, sincere friendships with different people, and/or who are ignoring their inmost questions and doubts. What misery these two problems cause. I want to see more people trying to figure out the answers to their spiritual/religious questions or challenging their spiritual/religious stances, and taking the time to figure out where dissenters are right.

Future goals:
I want to help people of all backgrounds and belief systems explore their spiritual questions and doubts, because living out unexamined ideologies can cause great hurt. I'd like to help fellow Christians build diverse and genuine friendships, and help individuals of any worldview (including Christian) explore the points of other people and of their own spiritual suspicions, questions, problems, and doubts.

I believe completely, from my own ongoing experience, that it is completely worth it. And at any rate, it's time for these topics to be a source of peace, not of isolation and wounds.

Fatima Gul

Year: second year

Major: undeclared

Minor: Spanish

Social justice issue area:
My social justice area are immigration, refugee, and international issues. My family immigrated out of Afghanistan when I was a young, so issues like immigration, being a refugee, or anything related to Afghanistan have always interested me.

I thought that my project coming to Puksta would be to continue to work with House of Flowers, an orphanage in Afghanistan. I started to fundraise for this orphanage during my sophomore year of high school, so I wanted to continue with it once I get to college.

As for my high school project, I worked with the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) campuses in order to get the most amount of aid. Therefore, I wanted to continue this relationship with DSST and expand it to other possible sources. At the same time, my focus has slightly shifted to women and children's education in Afghanistan.

I am still going to be in contact with the orphanage since it is a school based on Montessori style of teaching.

Future goals:
My future goals are to first figure out a definite project. Next would be to find a community partner and mentor. If I was to continue to work with the orphanage, I would love to be a working staff member at the orphanage one day. I think it would be a great experience to work with these children and finally meet them after working for them after a couple years.

As part of Puksta, through our bi-weekly meetings, I would like to develop skills that are going to help me out through the rest of my life.

Zac Roberts

Year: first year

High school: The Classical Academy, Colorado Springs

Major(s): history and international studies

Minor(s): Japanese and Chinese

Social justice issue area:
My social issue area will focus on social inequality and discrimination at DU and throughout the Denver community. I want to focus specifically on gay rights and gender inequality.

Future goals: Through participation in the Puksta Scholars program, I hope to learn how to build community relationships and grow as a community organizer. From this, I plan to build a sense of equality and understanding of diversity here at DU, and to use these skills to enact change in communities.

Cynthia Rodriguez

Year: first year

High school: Lincoln High School, Denver

Majors: accounting and finance

Minor: Spanish

Community partner rganization: Together Colorado

Social justice issue area:
My social justice issue area is immigration and education. I would like to help families become more educated about immigration resources available to them in case anything was to happen to family members.

I would like create my own organization or support system that would help out students and families to find hope. I would also like to help students like myself who believed college was not accessible due to financial problems. I want to be an example to show that college is possible and encourage students who think like I once did.

Future goals:
One of my major goals throughout college and in the future is to learn how to be involved within my community and to be the actual founder of an organization or a movement. I also intend to open my own accounting firm or a business of my own someday.

Haseeb Rahat

Year: first year

High school: Overland High School, Aurora

Major: biology

Minors: leadership and international studies

Social justice issue area:
Having experienced education inequity in both Pakistan and the United States, I have learned the importance of equal education and equal opportunity to success as a student. No matter what your socioeconomic, racial, and geographic background is, I believe every student should have the opportunity to a successful life.

I want to be there for younger students like my teachers were there for me and to help student be successful. Being impacted personally and seeing others impacted by the health care disparities that exist in our communities, I believe everyone deserves access to a doctor without worrying about the cost or receiving low-quality healthcare.

As an aspiring doctor, I want to focus on giving everyone access to health care.

Future goals:
I aspire to gain a top-rate education and experience that will help me grow as a student, as a person, and as a leader. I aspire to gain experiences that will prepare me for a meaningful career.

I aspire to gain experiences that will give me the opportunity to give back to my community, impact my community, and make a difference in peoples' lives.

Mawukle Yebuah

Year: first year

High school: South High School, Denver

Major: international business

Minor: French

Social justice issue area:
My social justice issue areas involve immigration and financially disadvantaged families. As an immigrant from Ghana, I have experienced the journey of coming from a foreign land and the hardships that come with adjusting to a new society. Also, through my personal and first-hand experiences I can relate to financially disadvantaged families.

Future goals:
My future goals are to excel academically and graduate with a bachelors and an MBA. My goals of community organizing and service learning are to find an organization that I can identify with their cause and take a lead role in one of their programs.

Also, I would like to volunteer at my former high school's Future Center and help our international and/or financially disadvantaged students find scholarships and affordable ways to attend college.