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Degree Programs

Puksta Scholars

Puksta Profiles

Puksta15-16

Each year, DU awards the Puksta Scholarship to six 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. 

Larcy Brooks

Year: Senior

Major(s): English; Spanish

Social Justice Issue Area: LGBT Well-being

Puksta Project Focus:

In order to help young people in the LGBT community develop a stronger sense of connection to their community and past, I am creating a curriculum on LGBT history and culture to be used by Gay Straight Alliances. I plan on spending this year sharing the resource out to different groups who can use it by various means - conference presentations, direct contact with school groups, and internet outreach. When I was younger and realizing my gender identity and sexuality, the most difficult thing to deal with was feeling like I didn't have a future because I had trouble finding examples of adults with my identities who were happy and successful. In the end, I turned to the history of my community, and I found creativity, resilience, love and hope.

Laleobe Olaka

Year: Senior

Major(s): Biology

Social Justice Issue Area: Healthcare Education

Puksta Project Focus:

I work with the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students to address the need for minority students on campuses to feel like they have an equal opportunity of getting into medical school compared to their white counterparts. This will lead to more students of diverse backgrounds applying and getting into medical school.

Aaqil Anwar

Year: Junior

Major(s): Finance

Social Justice Issue Area: Islamophobia within Higher Education

Puksta Project Focus: 

I am creating systems through which people are able to learn about Muslims and Islam from an objective and non-biased perspective so that they can come up with their own perceptions individually. Being a Muslim American, I feel like it is my duty to speak out against Islamophobia as it spreads because it affects various communities and not just Muslims.

andrea bonilla

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Psychology; Criminology

Social Justice Issue Area: Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

Puksta Project Focus:

I am bringing awareness to high school students through presentations so they can go into college knowing about the effects and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence. I have been working in a police department for a long time and have seen the impact it has on survivors of abuse.

daniela medina caro

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Business Management

Social Justice Issue Area: Undocumented Students Accessing Higher Education

Puksta Project Focus:

I am working with low-income and/or undocumented high school students to establish relationships that focus on their emotional/mental health needs when accessing higher education or military service. My own background as an undocumented student inspired me to choose my Puksta Project because I could have used a mentor to guide me on the emotional aspect of accessing higher education.

brendan teck

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Game Development & Emergent Digital Practices

Social Justice Issue Area: Access to Higher Education

Puksta Project Focus:

I am analyzing the barriers of access to higher education for Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Historically, higher education and pop culture has undermined the need to understand AAPI students due to stereotypes of AAPIs as model minorities who achieve great academic success. These stereotypes cloud the ethnic diversity within the AAPI group and perpetuate the idea that AAPI students succeed at higher rates than other racial groups and are not in need of additional support, rendering their experiences invisible.

allison grossberg

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Psychology; International Studies

Social Justice Issue Area: Education 

Puksta Project Focus:

I am gathering as much research as possible about the benefits and biological underpinnings of curiosity as well as its connection with human compassion and empathy. I hope to share this work in an effort to increase peoples' ability to be curious and compassionate global learners and citizens who give more to the world than they take.  

Ciera blehm

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Socio-legal Studies; Business Information and Analytics

Social Justice Issue Area: Women's Rights

Puksta Project Focus:

I am working towards establishing changes to existing sexual assault processes and procedures in university settings, as well as establishing a network of other universities that could implement/engage in these changes to improve students' experiences. 

emina mujezin

Year: Second-year

Major(s): Accounting

Social Justice Issue Area: Healthcare

Puksta Project Focus:

I am promoting healthy living and preventative care for refugees and migrants through partnerships with doctors and community hearth screenings. I also hope to expand my knowledge of the healthcare system and explore more ways of helping all people be able to afford reasonable healthcare.

james artis III

Year: First-year

Major(s): Hospitality Management

Social Justice Issue Area: Criminal Justice

Puksta Project Focus:

I am passionate about ending all kinds of violence whether that be black on black, police, or street violence. This year I'm getting in contact with the Black Lives Matter organization and any or all organization that aim toward limiting violence in our community.

ismaat klaibou

Year: First-year

Major(s): International Studies

Social Justice Issue Area: Rights for Muslim Women

Puksta Project Focus:

I'm focusing on Muslim women being more active/engaged in their communities and building relationships and space to not be judged. I just want to make a small enough difference in someone's life that it inspires them to help someone else and continue the cycle. I want to be the beginning of a domino effect of amazing work by youth and others for years to come.

oscar saenz

Year: First-year

Major(s): Marketing

Social Justice Issue Area: Education Barriers for Low-income and Immigrant Families

Puksta Project Focus:

I'm focusing on Muslim women being more active/engaged in their communities and building relationships and space to not be judged. I just want to make a small enough difference in someone's life that it inspires them to help someone else and continue the cycle. I want to be the beginning of a domino effect of amazing work by youth and others for years to come.

blanche marie ndoutou

Year: First-year

Major(s): Criminology 

Social Justice Issue Area: Refugees

Puksta Project Focus:

I plan to work with refugees in Denver. I want to hear their experiences coming to the US and to help them better adapt to the US. I came to the US as a refugee. I experienced the difficulty of waiting for so long in a country at war just to get travel papers. I also know the difficulty of moving to an unfamiliar place with strangers and a different culture. I noticed that many refugees I lived with back in my country did not get help from the government. Also, in the US, my family was left alone after three months; we had to take care of ourselves even thought we didn't speak English.

chhorda vuth

Year: First-year

Major(s): Undecided

Social Justice Issue Area: Immigration and Education

Puksta Project Focus:

I am creating a mentorship program for immigrant students to help them adapt and learn English faster. I experienced the same challenge that many recent immigrant students face which is adapting to American culture and learning and communicating in English. Five years ago, I wished that I had a mentor or a support program to help me with my challenges, but unfortunately, I had to figure out how to help myself on my own. I want to help immigrant students with those challenges.

elias vanloo

Year: First-year

Major(s): Political Science; Publc Policy

Social Justice Issue Area: Racial Equality/Justice

Puksta Project Focus:

I am raising awareness, organizing and inspiring people, and disrupting current systems of inequality and the complacency within them. This stems from a history of experiencing discrimination firsthand, years of studying historic and still-pressing injustices, and a belief that I can make a difference.