Meet the Puksta Scholars


University of Colorado




University of Colorado Boulder College of Music

DSC03487-3063213439-OAndrew Hemphill

Hometown: Park Ridge, IL

Major(s): Civil Engineering

Project: I have been working with low-income children in Boulder County to provide academic support, extracurricular enrichment, and life skill training through tutoring, mentoring, and coaching. The goal of my project is to see each student grow in those three areas as they mature and look to accomplish future goals and follow dreams. It is my hope that all children, regardless of their background, can follow their dreams to the maximum extent of their ability.

Future Goals: I would like to continue serving the public both domestically and internationally as much as possible. I plan to work on education policy at some point after earning a law degree. Through policy, I hope to realize my personal desire that all children can follow their own dreams.



Chelsea Canada

Hometown: Lake Mary, Florida

Major(s): Journalism

Project: My project is focused on making sure young women are registered to vote and to encourage them to get more involved in the political realm. It is disheartening to see that women are not as represented in political offices as they should be. I have created an event alongside the CU Women’s Resource Center and New Era Colorado called “Exercise Your Right to Vote.” This event will include three free exercise classes. The purpose of the event is to get women excited about voting in the upcoming election and to remind them of the fight women had to give in order for women today to have the right to vote. This event includes aspects of voter registration, voter-turnout, and encouraging discussions.


Daniel Sharkey

Hometown: Golden, Colorado

Major(s): Neuroscience

Project: My civic engagement project involves researching and coordinating innovative recovery resources for the homeless addict population in Boulder.



DSC03496-3063225515-OKatie Raitz

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Major(s): Women and Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies

Project: My Puksta project is a multigenerational education program that will focus on working with the Lafayette Youth Advisory Committee to create an equitable sex education course for adolescents and their families in the city of Lafayette. This project will also train CU students as teachers of this co-created curriculum and deliver it in select middle schools in Boulder County.


Leonardo Alberto Munoz

Hometown: Cd. Juarez Mexico

Major(s): Anthropology and Ethnic Studies

Project: Unity is a civic engagement project led by Genesis Quinones and I. Our major goal is providing academic support and a community for first-generation diverse student including workshops on relevant topics such as graduate school, studying abroad, and time management.


Vincent Torres DSC03488-3063234366-O

Hometown: Commerce City

Major(s): Sociology

Project: Helping Adams City High Schools students prepare for and attend college









Dylan WhitmanDSC03499-3063232262-O

Major: Economics and Political Science




Juedon KebedeDSC03502-3063237411-O

Major(s): Commnications





Nicollette LarocoDSC03505-3065649027-O

Major(s): Environmental Engineering







Danait AregayDSC03513-3065633493-O

Major(s): Ecology and Evolutionary Biology/Ethnic Studies










Incoming Puksta Scholars

Jamal Gamal

Major(s): Advertising


Chris Klene

Major(s): Public Health


Oluwadara Oloyede

Major(s): Sociology/Ethnic Studies

Maria Ronauli

Major(s): Economics


Balkarn Shahi

Major(s): Business


Selyne Tibbetts-Pagan

Major(s): Biochemical Engineering/Music

University of Denver



Cynthia RodriguezFocusTree-1

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Major(s): Accounting Minor: Legal Studies, and Spanish

Project:      My social justice area is centered around DREAMers and their families. Specifically to help undocumented students reach their academic goals, by mentoring them and showing that college is attainable even for undocumented students. I would also like to implement families especially those who have gone through or are going through a deportation. I would like to focus on those students to make sure that they continue to want to strive for their dreams.
I plan to make this happen by creating a mentorship program to help those students stay on track and not give up on their dreams as well as allow for them to advocate for themselves and become more involved within their communities. I am also planning on continuing to work along side the Keeping the DREAM Alive Conference to keep it on campus and bring more information for educators as to how they can help undocumented students in their schools.

Future Goals: One of my main goals that I plan to accomplish after graduation is to efficiently be involved within my community and continue to help families in order to give back to all the people whom have helped me. Furthermore through my involvement i would like to create my own scholarship foundation. I would also like to open my own accounting firm.


Fatima GulFocusTree-14

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Major(s): Psychology

Project:      My project is on youth and education and I want to specifically work with refugee students who are in high school right now. Of course getting to college is hard if one doesn’t have the proper support. I want to be able to offer extra support to a small group of refugee students who are in need of that extra push. They can decide on where ever they want to go and it doesn’t matter where they choose as long as they go to college after high school. These supports can be shown through workshops and possibly visits. Workshops could include topics like financial aid, interview, and high school preparations like ACT and SAT.

Future Goals: In the future, I plan on continuing with Psychology as my major. I definitely do not intend on stopping after finishing my bachelor’s degree. I might take some time off before going to graduate school and during that time, I hope to somehow work with high school/refugee students. I hope to help students in need, as working with students has always been one of my biggest goals. It would be great if I can continue to work in the youth and education area since that is my social justice issue for my Puksta Project. I hope that through my work, during my remaining time at DU, I can help other refugee students achieve their dream. I know education is very big for refugee parents, as it was for my parents, so making that dream come true is going to be something I hope to accomplish.


Haseeb Rahat

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Major(s): Biology

Project:       As an aspiring doctor, I want to help children overcome their health challenges that hold them back from achieving their daily goals and lifelong dreams. As we know and as various studies have proven time after time, that there are direct correlations between what we eat and one’s short-term and long-term health status. What one consumes in, has a direct correlation with various diseases and disorders like exercise intolerance, diabetes, colon cancer, risk for various join diseases, fractures, hernia, stress incontinence, chronic inflammation, stroke and many as 26 more disorders and diseases. Preventing diseases and disorders by changing our eating habits is a lot easier then treating those diseases and disorders later on in our lifetime. Also, I realize that a school plays a critical role in the prevention aspect of this issue because it can establish a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools should and can provide opportunities for students to learn about healthy eating practices and better physical activity behaviors. This is why I want to educate the youth about what impact does the food we consume in have on our bodies and our health.

Future Goals: In the future as a undergrad student, I aspire to look for opportunities that will give me opportunities to grow as a student, as a person and as a leader. I look forward to getting involved in the community locally and globally. After graduation, I aspire to attend a medical school of my dreams. I want to help local and global community overcome their health challenges.


Ian Parker

Hometown: Frisco, CO

Major(s): Piano Performance, Spanish

Project:       I believe that music is as important (in some cases, more important) as any other subject in school. Not only can it provide a fun, creative outlet for pent up energy, frustration, etc., it is also a great brain exercise tool. There are countless examples of how musicians outperform their non-musical counterparts even in fields that, presumably, have nothing to do with music.

The basis of my project is to provide a music education to anyone and everyone who wants it. My model is the Venezuelan program called El Sistema. El Sistema is a youth orchestra system developed by economist and musician Dr. José Antonio Abreu. His idea was to put at-risk kids into orchestra programs to keep them off the streets, out of gangs, and in school. It worked. Now there are over 72 countries with model programs. The United States alone plays host to over 60 different programs. I want to start my own program in my home community. Currently the only real music program is that of the public schools. It’s decent, but there is so much more that could be offered.

Future Goals: After graduation, I would like to attend grad school in one or more subjects ranging from Piano Performance to Spanish to Education. I have already been in contact with the principal of my old high school and he has said to me that if I continue with my current academic plan, he will do his best to hire me when I am done. My district is becoming completely bilingual, from preschool through 12th grade and as such, they will need teachers who can teach in both English and Spanish. I will be able to do this. Also, with a job in the public school system, most likely as a music teacher/band director, I will be in a perfect position to run my own El Sistema program.Obviously there is a lot of time between now and then, but the next couple years will be devoted to establishing the requisite connections and building relationships such that when the time comes, it will be easy to implement my plans.


Mawukle Yebuah FocusTree-3

Hometown:  Denver, CO

Major(s): International Business

Project:       Working for an improvement in Higher Education access for African American males. I have mentored African American males in order to not only help them understand the importance of their education but to also understand how to get to college. I have been part of the Boyz to Men Workshop through the Crowley Foundation. I visit South High School and mentor African American males at the school. I am also on the planning committee for the Black Male Initiative Summit, which is a program that works with Black Males and Higher Education access.

Future Goals: My future goals is to not only help all the African American seniors I am working with get to college but to also establish the Black Male Initiative Summit as a program that follows the black males all the way through high school and to college. For the future, I hope to educate these black males so that they understand the importance of helping younger black males get to college and how to help them.


Zac RobertsFocusTree-95

Hometown: Monument, Colorado

Major(s): Biology

Project: My Puksta project is focused on the rights of LGBTIQA teens and their role in middle and high schools. Looking back at my own experiences from growing up in a small town just north of Colorado Springs, I remember facing intolerance, misunderstanding, and hatred. I remember feeling so alone that the thought of continuing on seemed impossible. Fortunately, I did make it, but without the help of the school officials or the educational institution. I realized now how exclusive our education system is. Queer health is not taught in any of our health and sex ed classes: there is not much offered that teaches about gay history or the strides our community is making in an environment that has a tendency to belittle and degrade minorities. Since it is the youth that are the most affected by this blatant discrimination, I believe queer teens should be the number one focus of education reform.

Future Goals: In the future, my plan is to create a blog for teens to go to for educational purposes. On the blog, there will be history, cool facts, health and sex tips, and my own personal stories. I know that the one of the biggest issues growing up gay is facing that “all alone” feeling. The number one purpose of this blog is to show kids that they are not alone. That they have potential to do great things and experience life in a way that they could never imagine. Everyone always says “It gets better”, well, this is what better looks like.

Larcy BrooksFocusTree-12

Hometown: Pueblo, Colorado

Major(s): English, Film Studies & Production

Project: Thanks to volunteer work that I did in high school at a struggling women’s health clinic, I have a passion for protecting access to reproductive health care for women and preventing gender-based violence. It seems to me, as with many issues, the root of the problem comes from a lack of education and preparation at a young age. For this reason, I want to target this from the root of the problem – inadequate sex education. The kind of program I want to create will come from three main ideologies – contraception based, consent (YES!) to prevent sexual assault, and inclusion of LGBT+ identities.
In taking action, I will be going into a Denver Metro high school to observe their sex education program, talk with students, and hopefully recruit interested students that can help spearhead the efforts so that the students have a say in the new program. The end goal of the first phase will be a presentation for parents and administration with all of the research and information that I have compiled. This will give me a sense of where to move forward in actually implementing a program.

Future Goals: In the realm of my career, I am following my dreams and looking to become a screenwriter for television. I have always loved writing and storytelling, and this is my favorite medium for it. I hope to continue my education in a masters program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for Screen and Television Writing. Many of my favorite screenwriters have graduated from this program, and I know that it will give me the education, training, and connections to help me achieve my dreams.
Combining my love of storytelling and characters with my passions for social equity has led me to see following my dreams as a way to actually create social change by creating media that represents and includes diverse people in respectful and varied ways. My goal isn’t to create “strong” female, queer, or of color characters – it is to expand what these groups are represented as in television! I even hope to use the community organizing skills learned here in Puksta to help me build diverse communities of writers and creators with a passion for equity and change.

Liren “Michael” ChenFocusTree-5

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Major(s): Finance

Project: My project involves Special Olympics and spreading the awareness about Special Olympics and the mentally disabled. My involvement with Special Olympics started in my high school career and has blossomed to be what my Puksta Project will be. There are a number of things I envision my Puksta Project to be.

Firstly, I would like to host the campaign “Spread the Word to End the Word” on DU’s campus. Secondly, I would like to perhaps host a summer olympics even on DU’s campus, being able to involve the entire DU community, regardless of his or her role on campus. Thirdly, I would like to be published in a newspaper or magazine with an article about my experience. Lastly, I would like to invite the entire Puksta staff on a trip to the annual Summer Olympics opening events in Greeley, CO.

Future Goals: My goal is to be able to successfully complete my Puksta Project with my major and being able to be successful in society. I want to be able to complete my visions of many different parts. It is of utmost importace for the organization to have, of the goals set, all of the goals completed. I believe that by completing all the goals, a person will be able to have a deeper understanding of the issue. My plans after graduation will eventually involve children and helping those who are underrepresented. It is most definitely a great experience to be in Puksta!


Laleobe OlakaFocusTree-13


Major(s): Biology

Project: My plan for the first quarter is to focus on researching different shelters around the Denver area. Through this research I hope to find a community partner shelter that I could volunteer with the next shelter. For winter quarter I hope to spend this time interviewing and volunteering at my chosen community partner. Spring quarter my goal is to take everything I have learned to create a mural that reflects what it feels like to live in a shelter and the dreams of those living in that shelter.

Future Goals:   As a first year puksta scholar my plan is to focus on the shelter aspect of poverty. The first year I will focus on the shelter aspect of homelessness. The second year I will focus on food. My junior year will be focused on policy and the final year will be putting all of the knowledge that I have acquired over the first three years in order to make a non profit my senior year.

Incoming Puksta Scholars

Aaqil AnwarFocusTree-2

Major(s): International Business










Caitlin BaumFocusTree-15

Major(s): Film Studies and Production










Ramona MillerFocusTree-97

Major(s): Undecided











Colorado State University


Enrique CarbajalDSC03497-3063227006-O

Hometown: Riva Palacio, Chihuahua

Major(s): Criminal Justice and Arabic

Project: Mentoring 8th grade students at Lincoln IB Middle School. Preparing students for academic success and teaching them college readiness skills. Bridging the gap between the university and the Fort Collins community.








Guillermo RamirezDSC03460-3063162401-O

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Major(s): Business and Spanish

Project: Dreamers, the mission is to provide a role model for undocumented high schools students who are in the process of applying to college. The mentoring program supports students on multiple levels, as well as, connects them to resources. As part of this commitment, students will be introduced to Deferred Action and Together Colorado.






Juan Flores-RamirezDSC03509-3065640792-O

Hometown: Commerce City, Colorado

Major(s): Construction Management

Project: My Project is to host registry drives for, The National Marrow Donor Program, at the university and the community. My goal is to register as many people as possible, with a special focus on minorities. My hope is to educate people about bone marrow transplants and the ways they can be involved.








Melessa StarbuckDSC03528-3065652834-O

Hometown: New Castle, Colorado

Major(s): Health

Project: My project focuses on the promotion of health and wellness of adolescent girls in the Fort Collins community. The goal is to encourage participants to be physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually, and environmentally healthy in a safe and supportive environment. It aims to empower and educate girls to make healthy choices and avoid engaging in risky behavior. Through experiential curriculum, it aspires to instill joy, confidence and health in these young girls’ lives.





Sophia VelezDSC03471-3063210937-O

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Major(s): Political Science

Project: To establish a program that resembles a mentoring program but focuses on assisting undocumented youth in pursuing a higher education by helping them earn their high schools diploma or GED. TO volunteer with The Family Center/La Familia and participate in their Adult Education and Read Learn Explore! Programs. Also to inspire and encourage undocumented youth to value education.






Tyler CoxDSC03526-3065650465-O

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Major(s): Mechanical Engineering

Project: My project is to serve as a resource for students, providing them with information advice or a listening ear. My goal is to inspire students to pursue a successful career after graduation, whether college is part of the picture or another option. Secondary education, while great, is not always for everyone.







Chand Jiwani







Maggie LuehrsDSC03468-3063184435-O











Alejandra Cardona-Lamas

Major(s): Social Work

Tim Gold

Major(s): Sociology


Incoming Puksta Scholars


Seth Noel

Major(s): Undecided

Diondres Morales

Major(s): Sociology/General Sociology

Jesus Ochoa Mendoza

Major(s): Undecided

Joeylyn Corder

Major(s): Apparel and Merchandising/Merchandising




Puksta Fellows

University of Colorado Denver






Alex Landau:

working with the NAACP, where he is organizing a campaign to stop police brutality in Denver.

Jeremy Make:

working on the Anschutz Medical Campus, where he uses digital storytelling to support end-of-life patients.

Shelby Anne Nichols:

working with local public relations firm, where she uses her Spanish to help craft culturally-sensitive messages for globalizing markets.

Alicia Lucero

working with the STRIVE program, where she is advocating for educational justice for Latino/a youth. 


Metropolitan State University




Christina Castaneda

Major(s): Biology, Political Science, Chicano Studies

Project: Bringing art back into public schools through an extracurricular dance class

Katia Delgado

Major(s): Political Studies

Project: Working with her old High School, George Washington, to help with translation and English speaking skills

Jose Parra Gonzalez

Major(s): Biology

Project: Working with undocumented youth to attend college

Violet Gorrell

Major(s): Criminolgy/Criminal Justice

Project: Human trafficking research in Denver area

Avery Kirk

Major(s): Intergrative Therapeutic Practice

Project: Working with at risk youth with a special focus on foster kids who kicked out of the system once they are 18.

Sarah Elizabeth Price

Major(s): Social Work

Richard Ramunno

Major(s): Aviation and Aerospace Management

Project: Working with homelessness

Marian Vasquez

Major(s): Integrative Therapeutic Practice

Project: Working with access to healthcare and minorities







University of Colorado at Boulder Alumni

William Shrum – 2014
Nicholas Kukucka – 2014
Marco Dorado Arrendondo – 2014
Elsa Asfaw – 2014
Blythe Hawthorne-Loizeaux – 2013
Steven Kluck – 2013
Lamya’a Dawud – 2013
Kim Chin – 2013
Jihyun “Jasmine” Kim – 2013
Eva Warner – 2013
Genesis Quinones – 2013
Chelsea Maciel – 2013
Makenzie Schrag – 2012
Elisabeth Long – 2012
            Elizabeth Fryberger – 2012
            Paige Bennett – 2012
            Nicholas Martinez – 2011
            Kathryn McLachlan – 2011
            Razan Naqeeb – 2011
            Caroline Clark – 2011
            Bryant Mason – 2011
            N’yKeyia Chambliss – 2011
            Mark Arnoldy – 2010
            Stuart Hayden – 2010
            Stephanie Rodriguez – 2010
            Ruth Steinmetz – 2010
            Matthew Trujillo – 2010
            Caroline Wilson – 2010
            Joseph Ayoub – 2009
            Ashley Tillman – 2009
            Catherine Engelhart Fowler – 2009
            Andra Wilkinson – 2009
            Vicki Van Antwerp – 2009
            Lilia Justman – 2009
            Matthew Bloise – 2008
            Diana Silva – 2008
            David Chiu – 2008
            Daniel Epstein – 2008
            Erin Fischer – 2008
            Adam Gibbons – 2008
            Julie Hayes – 2008
            Admira Makas – 2008
            Caitlin Merrell – 2007
            Alyssa Rezendes – 2007
            Jennifer Young – 2007
            Michelle Stavros – 2007
            Raven Semien – 2007
            Sean Sheppard – 2007
            Matthew de Caussin – 2006
            Erin Fischer – 2006
            Amy Hutmacher – 2006
            Katie Krohne – 2006
            Erin Kummer – 2006
            Regan Walton – 2006
            Courni Frank – 2006
            Kovi Bessoff – 2006
            Evan Thomas – 2006
            Stefan Awad – 2005
            Sharon Bates – 2005
            Shannon Coffey – 2005
            Josh Lathan – 2005
            Nicole Loya – 2005
            Travis Macy – 2005
            Amina Nawaz – 2005
            Ageno Otii – 2005
            Matthew Abosedra – 2004
            Elke Goldstein – 2004
            Meg Lally – 2004
            Erin McEachren – 2004
            Sheryl Nguyen – 2004
            Sarah Schupp – 2004
            Amy Weiner – 2004
            Diana Wick – 2004
            Christina Zigler – 2004
            Adam Kay – 2003
            Jasmine Hites – 2003
            Alexandra Taylor – 2003
            Ty Hampton – 2003

 University of Denver Alumni

Nyabweza Itaagi – 2014
Aminta Menjivar – 2014
Brittany Morris – 2014
Maria Khan – 2013
Savanna Uland – 2013
James Lozano – 2013
Taylor Rowe – 2012
Felipe Vieyra  - 2012
Jennifer Armstrong – 2012
Hannah E. Evans – 2011
Jessica Y. Choe – 2011
Cameron D. Lewis – 2011
Ericca L. McCutcheon – 2011
Cody C. Wiggs – 2011
Kali Smith – 2010
Ally J. Veneris – 2010
Douglas J. Close – 2010
Charla L. Agnoletti – 2009
Ara E. Ogle – 2009
Kimberly K. Roesch – 2009
Shantel E. Jones – 2008
Sarah E. McCauley – 2008
Emily R. Pierce – 2008
Kaylan M. Fillingham – 2007
Abigail A. Gilbertson – 2007
Adrienne K. Mondragon – 2007
Sarah E. Neyman – 2007
Lauren A. Beede – 2007
Kathryn L. Gibson – 2006
Ryan C. Marks – 2006
Megan E. Filbin – 2005
Patrick C. Parrish – 2005
Dustin M. Lindahl – 2004
Ruth L. Overlease – 2004
Joseph M. Campe – 2004
Judy Estrada  – 2003
Lindsay J. Ternes – 2003

Colorado State University Alumni:

Bralia Fortune – 2014
Greg Shields – 2014
Vera Asuamuzuah – 2013
Velia Munoz – 2013
Edna Munoz – 2013
Alfred Castillo – 2013
Matthew Creighton – 2013
Aleshia Jaramillo
Cesar Morales
Ruben Martinez
Ashley Griffin
Juliana Velez
Kayla Huddleston
Janu Cambrelen
Esme Rodriguez
Amber Altwine-Gomez

University of Colorado at Denver Alumni

Misty Saribal – 2014

Benjamin Swales – 2014

Amira Aletebi – 2014

Lakeisha Ashley – 2014

Mouath Baesho – 2014


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