Reydesel Salvidrez Rodriguez honored with the Rosa Parks Diversity Award!

Rosa Parks Diversity Awards

This annual award honors faculty, staff, students, and community organizations whose contributions to diversity at CU Denver embody the spirit of Civil Rights pioneer, Rosa Parks.

With the work that Reydesel Salvidrez Rodriguez is doing with his Puksta Project in his community and on campus, Rey was the only student this year to be awarded this honor! Way to go Rey, we are so proud of you!

Reydesel Salvidrez Rodriguez
Puksta Fellow
Student Director| Undocumented Student Services at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
Co-Founder and Historian | CU DREAMers 

Historian | Latinx Student Alliance 

Puksta Alum, Marco Dorado, is proof that sharing your story can have a great impact and reach ears on a national level!

 Nancy Pelosi shared Marco’s story during her eight consecutive hours on the chamber floor, fighting for immigration reform, with a in particular focus on those with DACA.



Pelosi says, “Marco Dorado was born in Mexico and moved to Denver’s Globeville neighborhood at the age of three. After attending Thornton High School as a student in the International Baccalaureate program, Marco attended the University of Colorado Boulder and graduated as student body president with a degree in finance. During his time at Colorado University, Marco received DACA, which has allowed him to begin his professional career while contributing back to his community. Currently, Marco is the program coordinator for the Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Denver.”

After a pause, Pelosi adds: “Beautiful story — once again demonstrating not only a commitment to education, a commitment to become doctors, whatever, but leadership. Every one of these has leadership, whether it’s leadership in the student government, leadership in community activities, leadership on the sports field. Leadership in every possible way. Extracurricular activities and the rest. And certainly Marco has demonstrated that trait typical of DREAMers.” ~ Michael Roberts, Westword

Check out the whole story in this article in Westword.


Incoming DU Puksta Scholar makes the Denver Post!!!

Our incoming DU Puksta Scholar, Alex Aleman, is working hard for his passion… as he has been doing for the last four years already! What a wonderful addition to The Puksta Foundation Family!! So excited to see what the next year holds for our all of our 28 Incoming Scholars! Way to go Alex!!!!

Adams County teen develops and runs free workout program for underprivileged kids in his community

Commercial for his project – Healthy Kids in Action:

Check out his application video for Puksta here!!


Incoming Puksta Scholars/Fellows… Congratulations and Welcome to the Puksta Family!!

UCD – Communication Fellows

Kathryn (Kat) Goldberg: People in poverty have an extremely difficult time getting out of the system of public assistance. I want to be a voice for them as new policies are discussed to help ensure their best interests are in the forefront of any changes.

Erin Roney: High School: Fruita Monument (Fruita, Colorado).  After taking courses in Criminology and Communications, Prison, and Social Justice, my Puksta project goals will focus on helping women who have been incarcerated receive housing and support through the Re-entry Initiative program. The program helps empower women through evidence based methods and spiritual growth to restore lives, help families, and renew communities.

Miranda Johnson: I plan to focus my project on serving populations of underprivileged youth. By building their confidence through empowering leadership roles and mentoring relationships it is my hope that the young leaders of tomorrow will understand how they can make a difference in their communities today.


Claire Shannon: Food is a universally powerful form of human communication. When someone is incarcerated, food becomes much more about control and punishment, rather than restoration, healing, and empowerment. My Puksta project will bring local stakeholders together to explore the implementation of culinary classes, facility gardens, and other restorative food practices in Denver-area prisons and jails.


Jessica Rangel: My project will be working with incarcerated people through letter writing and publishing the magazine Captured Words/Free Thoughts. My hope is that through this work, we will be able to liberate incarcerated people through writing and sharing their experience with others.

UCD – Ethnic Studies Fellows

True Apodaca

ETST Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: DACA, Generation Latino

“I was a founding member and Vice President of the Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA@UCD), a student organization that has grown exponentially over the past three years providing a safe space for LGBTQ students to meet, socialize and to create community. During my junior year at UCD, I was introduced to the Executive Director at the Colorado Latino Leadership, Research and Advocacy Organization (CLLARO). She encouraged me to apply for their Capitol Fellow Program, which is aimed at creating a pipeline for students of color to enter the political arena. I was accepted into the program and was paired with State Senator Jessie Ulibarri for the 2015 legislative session. The experience I gained in the program was life changing. I was exposed to state government from the inside and worked diligently to network and to learn as much as possible during the 120 days of the session. The following year Senator Ulibarri asked me to be his Chief of Staff. Since then, I have been a Campaign Manager and a Field Director for several local races. This year I have decided to pay it forward. I am working with Generation Latino to create a similar pipeline into the nonprofit sector. We will be placing 15 students into organizations that do work to improve the health of our community. At the end of this summer our cohort will be able to look back on their experiences and have a tangible example of how they improved the health of Latinos in Colorado. This is only the beginning. I have found my passion working for social justice. The new federal administration has created a climate of concern for my community. Families are being torn apart and hate speech has become once again normalized in this country. As I look ahead I am keenly aware that the next four years will present many challenges and opportunities for me to use the skills I have developed and the network I have cultivated to mitigate the injustices that are on the horizon. While I am an American citizen myself, many of my peers are not. We all went to the same schools, worshiped in the same churches and ate at the same tables. The DACA recipients in this country have done everything right and yet they are being demonized by a type of xenophobia that I once believed was behind us. I would love to work on a social justice program that provides resources to keep families intact, provides a path to citizenship and changes the narrative about people of color.”

Career goals: Law and Public Policy

Additional Information:

  • Chief of Staff Senator Jesse Ulibarri
  • Generation Latino
  • Bilingual
  • First Generation
  • Campaign Manager and Field Director
  • Vice President Gender and Sexualities Alliance
  • Urban Land Conservancy Development Committee
  • Deans Advisory Committee


Binh Phan

ETST,  Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: Mentoring EOP Students

“My parents are Vietnamese immigrants who came to America in hopes that they would be able to provide the opportunities for a better future for their six daughters. My parents worked various low-waged job with limited English so that they could have the means to send all their daughters to college. A future social justice program that I want to work on is opening different types of events to help bring diversity and inclusion into the student body. I want to work through the Educational Opportunity programs to mentor students and plan events that help empower students of color to talk about their experiences as a minority on campus.”

Career Goals: EOP Student Advisor

Additional Information:

  • Vietnamese immigrant
  • Bilingual
  • First generation

Alisya Rodriguez


Social Justice Project: Undocumented Students

“I am the second generation of my family to live in the United States. My grandparents are originally from San Louis Poto Si, Mexico and migrated to Colorado to give myself, my parents and our future generation’s better education and life opportunities. My grandfather studied hard to get here today and has left a big imprint in all of our hearts. I am proud of where I come from as I enrolled in a ballet folklorico dance company at the age of 6. I dance professionally with this company today, Fiesta Colorado, and plan to expand this company into a cultural dance academy alongside the director and founder Jeanette Trujillo- Lucero. I believe it is extremely important to keep your personal heritage alive through each new generation.I will be the second in my family to receive a college degree behind my mother Jessica Luna, who is an activist herself. We both are a part of the DREAMer’s sub- committee taskforce here at the University and take leadership roles every year in the development and fundraising of the DREAMer’s gala, which takes place in October. A social justice project I would be interested in continuing my work on would be undocumented students who are unable to receive higher education. I would like to raise much more awareness on this issue and get people involved in any way they can to help raise funds for the DREAMER scholarships that have begun to be awarded each year. Another main focus here is to raise awareness among undocumented students who would like to go to college but are unaware of the opportunities presented to them.”

Career Goals: College Professor

Additional Information:

  • Serves on DREAMer’s taskforce at UCD
  • Member of ballet folkloric company, Fiesta Colorado, since age 6
  • Bilingual

Tiffany Tasker


Social Justice Project: Transitional Homes for the Homeless

“In order to be successful there are steps and needed support. I would like to work on adequate transitional homes for the homeless. This idea would aid them in getting a job and helping develop a comfortable lifestyle through practices. They would receive financial education assistance, such as budgeting and planning, continued coaching support after the transition, and referrals for other programs as needed. I’d also like to teach the youth financial education.”

Career Goals: College Professor

Additional History:

  • Aurora Youth Options
  • National Collegiate Society
  • Honor Roll

Yihee Yoon

ETST, Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: Social Justice Through Education

“With my current pursuit of my Masters in the Social Sciences program in Ethnic Studies, I believe that I will only further my commitment to higher education and my passion to become an educator representing women of color in this field. Coming to the United States as a young child from Seoul, South Korea, my single mother has always inspired me to push through limiting social constructs and become a voice for underrepresented communities. I believe that through my Ethnic Studies education, it has prepared me for just that, and therefore, be a strong candidate for the Puksta Fellows Program.”

Career Goals: Work in Higher Education

Additional History:

  • South Korean immigrant
  • Immigrated from Seoul, South Korea as a child with single parent mother
  • First generation
  • Bilingual
  • Dean’s List
  • Asian American Student Services



Miriam Miranda
Major:  Political Science
Social Justice Issue:  As a Puksta Scholar, the primary type of community engagement I am the most interested in, is immigrant and refugee services.  Studies suggest that providing people with resources help them become self-sufficient in their new environment. These resources may include helping them find jobs, become citizens and having English learning classes.
Alexis Robles
Major: Human Performance and Sport
Social Justice Issue:  Helping the Hispanic/Latino community through involvement in health and fitness.  I had great people, most of them which are mentors now, to guide and help my family when we were in need. As a result, I want to give back to the community.
Luis Paredes
Major:  Accounting
Social Justice Issue:  I would like to bring awareness of the harsh effects of alcohol; first within my campus and then throughout my community. I believe that if we are able to bring awareness of the effects of use of alcohol we can see a decrease in alcohol related accidents and other indirect incidents such as domestic violence.
Jawhara Adan
Major:  Nursing
Social Justice Issue:  Working on access to healthcare for immigrant communities.  This kind of work interest me because for one reason I’m a human being and I understand and know how it feels to want people to see you, help you and just be involved with you.


Zahra Abdulameer is an incoming first year student from Denver who plans to major in Biochemistry. Her passion for social justice centers on education and immigration. Zahra plans to create a mentor program to help new immigrant students navigate public schools.

Paola Chavez Arroyo is an incoming first year student from Commerce City who plans to major in Aerospace
Engineering. She is passionate about the social justice issues of access to higher education and community
development. She will join her brother Fernando, along with Selyne and Suyog in developing the Bolder Mentors

Jasmine Tran is a current first year student from Denver who is majoring in Integrative Physiology. Her passion is around issues of equity in health care. Jasmine’s proposes to create or assist programs that help non-native English speakers navigate the health care system.

Marwa Osman                                                                                                                                                            Hometown: Denver                                                                                                                                                                        Major: Biology                                                                                                                                                                              Intended Social Justice Issue Area:Protecting Engangered species / climate chang

 Emmanuel Cooke

Hometown: Littleton
Major: Biochemistry
Intended Social Justice Issue Area:Educational technology for Liberia


Alexander Aleman
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: Westminster High School
Intended Major: Undecided
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Health Care, Education and Youth
Oliver Martinez-Reyes
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: CEC Early College, Denver
Intended Major: Undecided
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Economic Development, Education, Youth and Immigration
Lucia Ramirez
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: John F. Kennedy High School, Denver
Intended Major: Political Science and Accounting
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Education, Youth and Immigration
Lumiere Sidonie
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: High Tech Early College, Denver
Intended Major: International Studies
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Education, Youth, Refugees and Human Rights
Evan Utzman-Nichols
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
High School: Poudre High School, Fort Collins
Intended Major: International Business
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Environmental, Poverty, Homelessness and Affordable Housing, Human Rights and Women’s Rights.
Aliyah Williams
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: Denver School of Science and Technology, Green Valley Ranch
Intended major: Forensic Psychology
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: The treatment of mentally ill inmates in prison, the lack of arts in school, and gender equality.


Sabrina Pribyl

Deborah Ilangikwa

Dominica Manlove

Alumni Appreciation: Mawukle Yebuah – Scholar – Entrepreneur – Advocate – Rockstar

Entrepreneur, Advocate and all around an upstanding young gentleman. Mawukle Yebuah graduated from the University of Denver in 2016 with a business already in motion, with it’s feet on the ground and starting to run. Flare and Square. This isn’t his only big accomplishment though, during his time in the Puksta Scholar Program Mawukle worked with the Black Male Initiative Summit and the Crowley Foundation to help encourage and promote higher education access for young black men. This year he also graduated with his Masters in Marketing from DU – Only to marry the love of his life the very next day!!!

Mawukle was born in Accra, the capital of Ghana. His father was a PhD candidate and was sponsored by professors from DU to come to the US when he was only 6 years old. As a senior at South High School, he received the news that he was accepted into the Puksta Scholar Program at DU.

What was your project, and how did you implement it?

“It was access to higher education for young black males. It was implemented through a community partnership with several organizations mainly the Black Male Initiative Summit, as well as the Crowley Foundation, which is non-profit, started by a black couple.

So, through that I just began my first year really doing research, getting to know the organizations, getting to know what they do, and really how I could help them. And then my second year with the Black Summit, I helped them implement a scholar’s program and then that was really where my project really took off was with our Scholar’s Program. And then with the Crowley Foundation, I helped them grow their Boys to Men workshop. With that workshop, they get young professionals and college students and do workshops with the young black men that they work with. So that was a really cool opportunity for our troop. The Crowley Foundation is specifically high school. But the Black Summit, we’ll do seventh to tenth grade, so kinda the middle school and high school grades.”

Do you see a difference in the age group you target?

“Yes, there’s a huge difference.

I think with the younger folks, it’s really more, when we talk about black male identity with the younger boys in middle school, it’s really just kind of on the basis of them understanding that society does have this negative view of you. But it’s not what you have to be accustomed to. Whereas, with the older black males in high school, with them it’s they’ve kind of already experienced some things, and so for them it’s really analyzing…

Well how do you move past this? And how to use it for a better, for a positive outlook?

And also how do you use it to help you get to college?

So for them, we really focus on kind of their future after school, whereas with the middle school boys, we really want to help them set a positive foundation so they can be successful in high school. To understand that it happens in all parts of society, so which is something that you’re going to have to handle, and move through, essentially.”

Were these programs in the same school districts?

“Yeah, at first, it was mostly Denver Public Schools, but last year we were able to expand to and formed a partnership with Cherry Creek School District and so that was a huge point for our program.

And with that, we ended up getting over 200 young black men to come to the Black Male Initiative Summit, which was our biggest conference yet to date. So now, we’re trying to build on that and include Aurora Public School District as well.”


Do you stay involved with your project?
Yeah, I stepped down as the co-chair, but I’m still on the planning committee, the committee for the scholar’s program, as well as our marketing. The beauty of it was that they allowed it to be student led while I was there, and they saw how it really changed how I was interacting, as well as the professional experience I was getting.
I was telling them that we could really get that same opportunity to another black male after me. We now have a sophomore who’s now leads the planning committee. So he kind of took over my spot and with the hopes that by senior year, he’ll get to be the chair of the program as well.
I tell him, him and I are going to head to Scholar’s Program and so he can really take on the same role I had.  He’s there to kind of run a minor part of it for at least a few years. So now I’m working with him kind of helping him to go along until he’s ready to take on the full program.”

How has being a Puksta Scholar impacted your life?

“Huge, I mean, I always tell people that one, without I wouldn’t have gone to DU. I wouldn’t have been as successful at DU. I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did, it really facilitated my out of class learning, which to this day has been more valuable than what I’ve learned in class. Which, not to discount what I’ve learned in class, but just being part of the Puksta community and providing me with skills to show how to really look at problems.

To look at them from a point of an organizational level and not just kind of a activist awareness level that makes noise. Connected me with great folks, it has been so amazing. It just showed me showed me that there were good people in the world, that really do kind and good work and that alone feeds my passion.

I think sometimes when you’re in the work, you get caught up and just, it can drain you out. But seeing other people still keeping the energy going, it’s pushed me to find, and to bring that passion and energy even to our corporate environment and even to my classroom.

It’s meant so much to me, and even helped me with the business too, just teaching me how to connect with what I was doing in the community with our business. So yeah, it’s awesome.”

What advice would you have to anybody coming into the program, or thinking about coming into the program?

“That’s a good question. I kind of talked to James (second year scholar at DU) about this, and I think the first thing I told him was, you need to realize the skill set you have, and realize the amazing person you are, because I think when you first start, it’s very overwhelming and you’re like, man, all these people are doing these amazing things, what am I gonna do?

And I told him, develop that confidence in yourself first because you realize there’s a reason why you’re here. And the fact that you got into this program speaks the world of what you can do and what you will do. So I told him, enjoy that fact now, and then realize that just take it one day at a time.

Really seek to do the good work, and not for any reasons, just do it because of your passions, and that’s gonna help you through it. And so, at the end of the four years, you’ll look back and you’ll realize that while you were doing your project, you’ll look back and realize that the impact was greater than what you’ve even imagined.”

Read more about Mawukle and his entrepreneurial spirit with his business Flare and Square

Meet Future Entrepreneurs Distinguished Finalist: Mawukle Yebuah



Dances for Solidarity – Patrycja Humienik

Patrycja has created a Denver chapter of Dances for Solidarity. A project connecting with incarcerated people in solitary confinement through letter writing and dance. DFS-Denver is modeled off of DFS out of New York.

From the six by nine foot cell, smaller than the average parking space, where he is confined 22 to 24 hours a day, A.H. writes, “I would add a scream. A soul-searching, gut-wrenching, and purifying cry.” The letter’s stamp reads, “Forever USA,” where, according to the Prison Policy Institute, approximately 1 in 100 adults are incarcerated.

The scream is an addition to the list of movements that my pen pal received from Dances for Solidarity-Denver. I host meetings for the local chapter of Dances for Solidarity, a national initiative sharing dance through letter writing with people in solitary confinement. The written list, which begins by inviting the recipient to close their eyes, is comprised of a ten-step movement sequence open to interpretation. The collaborative project invites pen pals to expand upon, and share their reactions to, the dance list. A.H. writes that, after the scream he adds between steps 9 and 10, “The entire unit goes silent.” Read More….

Dances for Solidarity-Denver Updates:
  • Thanks to recent donations, we were able to send Flikshop postcards with photos out to many of our pen pals (Flikshop is an app that allows families & friends to send photos & messages from their phones to prison).
  • We are going to ramp up fundraising efforts; be on the look out for two fundraising events if you’re in Colorado, at least one of which will involve dancing.:) We plan to raise money for ongoing needs (basics like stamps & envelopes), as well as for our spring 2018 performance project, for which we are committed to paying our collaborators including artists on the inside. We intend to involve & pay some formerly incarcerated artists in the Denver area. Stay tuned! And please contact me if you are interested in helping to make this happen!
  • Our first exciting step in this regard, re: $upporting or penpals, was to pay Patrice a small thank-you for his generosity in giving us permission to share and use any of his writings for any purpose. THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE PEOPLE WHO DONATED TO MAKE THIS POSSIBLE!! DFS-Denver uses Patrice’s writings to promote our project, and the least we can do is get money to his commissary account. I have attached one of Patrice’s poems here. Feel free to share any reactions so we can pass them on to Patrice.:) You can also check out our FB page for excerpts of writings from pen pals.
A Few Requests:
  • Please follow us on our FB page, invite friends to like our page, and like our posts! It sounds trivial, but this helps us boost visibility. Consider bringing a friend to the next meeting. 🙂 We hope to bring on more letter writers so we can reach more people in solitary.
  • If you are interested in being a part of the performance project efforts, get in touch with me.
  • If you know anyone who might be willing to fiscally support our efforts, please share our DFS-Denver Fractured Atlas page, where folks can make tax-deductible donations. A breakdown/ some language re how $ helps us out:
do you want to support the Dances for Solidarity-Denver project? $1 helps.
a $1 donation = 1 flikshop postcard with a photo to a pen pal!:)
$10 = a booklet of 20 stamps
$16 = 20 Flikshop postcards to pen pals
$20 = a huge box of envelopes
$100 = cards for our next holiday cards to solitary event
$500+= getting closer to our dream of collaborating with our penpals on a performance project & paying currently and formerly incarcerated artists for their contributions
$1 helps. thank you.
we hope to see you at the next letter writing meeting.
Dances for Solidarity at-large updates:
  • Sarah Dahnke, who started the project, is in New Orleans right now where DFS has a show– literally right this very moment!– with choreography by pen pals on the inside performed by women who have experienced incarceration. If you have friends in New Orleans, they can also see the show tomorrow. A note: DFS is committed to paying artists and collaborators, including our pen pals on the inside, for their work; we look forward to raising more funds to making this happen on the Denver chapter side.:)
  • Sarah D & I Skyped into Laurel Butler’s Arts in Corrections class at UCLA; students tried out movement from the inside, including Dushaan (one of the NY pen pals in solitary)’s choreography, and sent pen pals few letters. We hope an LA chapter will be springing up this year…! The more chapters, the more folks we can connect with in solitary confinement.
  • In June, DFS will be Skyping into Janice Ross’ class on Dance & Prisons at Stanford, and hope to engage students in the project there in a meaningful way– we hope we’ll be able to get a Stanford chapter going as well…

Family Reunification Event – Sarah Sunderlin

On March 10, 2017  I—along with assistance from fellow Puksta Scholar, Patrycja Humienik—hosted a special reunification event at the Colorado Correctional Center (CCC) in Golden, Colorado. For the past two years, Patrycja and I have been volunteer co-facilitators with an organization called Democratic Communication Workshop. This program brings communication-based education to institutionalized men, women, and youth across five facilities in Colorado. While the needs and goals of our students all differ, we all share one goal—to use communication to connect, encourage, and facilitate safe and open discussion. At CCC, what this looks like is consistent creative writing development, practical public speaking skills, and the development of critical thinking skills through both creative and academic readings.

Teaching in a prison facility requires an awareness of the realities of institutionalized life; this includes the overwhelming and chronic isolation from loved ones. Family involvement during incarceration can be transformative and is a consistent theme that comes up during in class discussions and individual writing. However, some feedback we consistently get from our students is that routine visitation limits their ability to have quality family interaction. Therefore, my goal in organizing a family reunification event for my Puksta Fellowship project was to give our students the platform to practice practical communication skills that we work on in class while also being able to interact with their loved ones in a fun, relaxed, and welcoming environment. This full day event focused on celebrating the creative work produced by the men in our class and giving them the opportunity to share it with their loved ones.

On the day of the event, we had family from across Colorado arrive at CCC to share a catered lunch, play yard games, and to hear letters, poems, skits, and short stories prepared especially for them. There are not enough words to describe the significance of this day for our students and their families. As the wife of one of our students said, “this day made us feel like a regular family again”. I want to warmly thank each of the family members in attendance for their commitment, strength, vulnerability, and support of both their loved one and of our program. We were honored to be a part of your family for a day.

Sarah Sunderlin

Puksta Fellow, 2017

University of Colorado Denver