Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Marika Fama

University was an awakening for Marika. As her mind expanded, her eyes opened to the injustices and struggles of the world. Embracing her heritage and her identity as a first-generation student, she looked towards assisting others in helping them regain their cultural connections through food. Not only did her work bring home to the table of many estranged from their native lands, increasing awareness of food sources also served a dual purpose in alleviating food insecurity for many. She plans to attend graduate school where she’ll focus on food communication where she intends to further close the distances between nations and perceptions through the kitchen. You have given the Puksta organization a feast of achievements to celebrate Marika and today we offer you praise!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Tara McMurty

A champion of social justice issues, Tara is determined to assist those negatively impacted by the city’s recent growth and development. Focusing primarily on transportation, this CU Denver Master’s grad worked diligently to advocate for the rights and access of residents in the Globeville/Elyria-Swansea areas while demonstrating Puksta values and encouraging the youth of these areas that an “I can” attitude can have a phenomenally positive impact upon their neighborhoods and their futures. She collaborated with both the Sierra Club and Project VOYCE to create educational videos that addressed the I-70 expansion and heartfully promoted growth programs with compassion. She intends to continue this work and seek additional collaborators and methods of offering a voice to those often driven to the margins of society by the forces of rapid development. Tara, your diverse skills and great efforts are the reason why your work is so impactful and the Puksta family is proud to celebrate you and your achievements. You deserve hearty congratulations for what you have accomplished. Hooray to you!


Class of 2019 Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Bonilla

Andrea has worked for those who have often not known how to advocate for themselves. Spending two years within a police department, she witnessed the struggles of victims of domestic violence and sought ways to educate the public and improve their lives. Through data analysis and by creating The Source Summit event for marginalized high school students, Andrea gave a voice to the silenced and hope for the hopeless. She now works in a position where she can continue her work by engaging both victim advocacy organizations and law enforcement. We wish you success and happiness in your new life Andrea. We are certain that you will make the world a better place for everyone. Congratulations!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Cone Vaughan

For many underprivileged youths, the outdoors are something considered more accessible by those with wealth. Cone spent most of they’re undergraduate years addressing this and opened pathways to a natural world of wonder and exploration. By working with nonprofits with a similar focus, Cone was able to make Colorado’s bounty of camping, hiking, and outdoor sports a reality for children that were more familiar with their game systems, tv’s, and the occasional rec center than lakes, mountains, and trees. Cone’s passion for the outdoors continues as they intend to continue this work with the intent of creating a nonprofit that will expand on this concept, enabling many to enjoy nature and discover a confidence in themselves that the urban world usually affords the wealthy. Amazing work Cone and we celebrate you and the good work you’ve done!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Kevin McQuirk

Mentorship is no light task and Kevin proved more than up to the challenge. Creating the Impact the Youth mentorship program, he was able to work with numerous high school student who came from socio-economically disadvantaged origins, Kevin was able to reveal the path to prosperity through higher education in university and community college. Having benefitted from a similar mentorship program from CU Boulder, this CU Denver grad endeavored to make scientific methods and an academic future more accessible for students who wouldn’t have otherwise had such aspirations. Your hard work and great achievements are why we are proud to celebrate you and your status as a Puksta Alumni. Well done Kevin!


Class of 2019 Alumni Spotlight: Emma Piller

Emma brought the power of her education to work for the labor sector. Inspired by the INVST!!! program, this CU Boulder grad spent her undergraduate years championing the rights of the service industry, especially those who faced language and cultural barriers. Through political activism and working with the legal community, Emma worked in both the political and community outreach spheres where she advocated for the undocumented. Wishing to even the scales of injustice for working men and women, she now intends to go into education and later pursue a path in becoming an attorney. Well done Emma. Your hard work and determination are surely hallmarks of the amazing things you’ll do in your future. Simply fantastic!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Brendan Teck

Discovering community has been a quest of Brendan’s. Through research and project development, he aspired to create a community for fellow Asian American refugees that provided resources and support for those seeking to achieve a college education. Working both independently and collaborating with a diverse group of uniquely skilled colleagues, Brendan’s undergrad project-based strategy promised to clear the often cluttered road to higher education that has often proved impossible for so many to overcome. Through these efforts, Brendan wrote a new and more optimistic page in his family’s history. As he moves beyond graduation his project will shift from research to reality as he plans to extend this community and increase scholarship access and college admission support. As he realizes the community he has striven for, his work will create a clearer path towards academic excellence and future prosperity for many. You are truly a jewel in the Puksta crown Brendan and we celebrate you and your work! Congratulations!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Helina Zemede

The future is online and those who either lack access to it, or who don’t have access to the necessary tools within it, will struggle to raise themselves up and find fulfillment. Helina combated homelessness with technology by constructing a resource database that assisted the impoverished and helped to provide structure and stability for many. Having graduated, she plans to continue expanding this work and bringing her energy back to the Puksta Boulder family in a variety of ways. Helina, the light you bring to those who are constantly confounded by darkness makes us proud that you are a star within our Puksta family. We raise our glasses to your achievements!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Jhovani Becerra

Barriers have always been a problem for Jhovani. Barriers that stood in his way during his journey to this country and those that threatened to prevent him in his quest for an education. Having been an undocumented immigrant, he was exposed to the obstacles and challenges that many are unaware of and vowed to make things better for this silent population. During his time in university, Jhovani worked to tear these barriers down for not only for himself but for those who have also shared his experiences. Working in high schools to advocate for and guide younger students, Jhovani encouraged a path towards higher education and endeavored to assist and empower those who joined him on campus as fellow college students. Having graduated, he intends to continue his journey within institutions where skewed cultural traditions have created a disciplinary disparity for many who are simply seeking a better life. You have and continue to make us proud of your work and achievements. Congratulations and best wishes to you Jhovani!


Class of 2019 Puksta Alumni Spotlight: Rob Hatcher

Very little could be considered traditional about this non-traditional future graduate of CU Denver. Having a background in media and nonprofit work, Rob spent his undergraduate years working on achieving a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Event Management. His second love, however, became his driving passion as he realized that he could bring his non-traditional perspectives to the people through performance poetry. Working towards engaging bias and enlightening minds on a more personal level, Rob endeavored to connect with his fellow students and the Denver public through expressive art. After graduating with a Masters in Communication, he intends to either work in the nonprofit sector or pursue his newly discovered passion for teaching. Congratulations Rob!