Celebrating our Incoming Scholars and Graduating Seniors at Puksta Passages: CU Boulder Edition!

Everyone say, "Puksta!"
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Last Wednesday, friends, family, supporters and CU Boulder Puksta Scholars gathered together via video chat to celebrate our first ever *virtual* Puksta Passages event (and Pizza Party)!

The evening began with the introduction of our newest scholars, Tiffany Rivera-Campos, Fernanda Maria Cerros, and Emily Rodriguez Aguirre. We are thrilled to have these three amazing individuals join the Puksta Family, and we look forward seeing how they engage with their campus and communities in the years ahead!

Next, our current scholars gave exciting updates on their projects. We were truly blown away by the level of creativity demonstrated in each presentation, as well as the scholars’ continued commitment to having a positive impact on their communities. Our scholars at CU Boulder are mentors, social justice warriors, and advocates for a more equitable world, and we couldn’t be more proud of them!

The final two presentations were delivered by our graduating CU Boulder seniors, Rebecca Robidoux and Jasmine Tran. In addition to their fellow Pukstas, friends and families joined in as audience members to cheer them on, as well as CU School of Education’s Assistant Dean of Advancement, Mia Axon, and Assistant Director of Development, Jeremy Jones.

Rebecca is a double major in Women and Gender Studies and Leadership and Community Engagement. She is actively involved in work addressing issues of sanctuary for undocumented residents and immigration justice. Rebecca’s presentation also explored the importance of acknowledging and navigating positions of privilege in community organizing spaces.

Jasmine is an Integrative Physiology major. Her passion focuses on issues of equity in health care. She has worked with Boulder County to administer and evaluate a nutrition and food assistance program for low-income residents. Jasmine also sought to enhance and expand affordable access to nutritious, healthy, and plentiful diets in mountain communities.

Puksta Coordinators Roudy Hildreth and Allie Van Buskirk each reflected on the growth of both Rebecca and Jasmine over the course of their years at Puksta, as well as their ongoing work as change-makers engaging in work to truly make the world a better place for all. A retrospective slideshow of pictures was also shared, with heartfelt notes from fellow CU Boulder Puksta Scholars interspersed throughout.

Presenting senior scholars with a graduation cord is traditional part of Puksta Passages. However, as the ceremony was moved to a remote format, we had to get creative. Executive Director John Mulstay and Director of Development and Community Outreach NiChel Mulstay arranged for Rebecca and Jasmine to receive their cords at home, and then virtually presented the cords to the scholars, congratulating each of them on their accomplishments and thanking them for their meaningful work as Puksta Scholars.

Thank you to all of the presenters, as well as our supportive attendees, for making this ceremony a success, and for being part of an evening of love and laughter. We’re so proud of all of our scholars– incoming, current, and graduating– and are grateful to have opportunities like this to celebrate, even if it’s virtually for now! This year’s CU Boulder Puksta Passage truly demonstrated that, in spite of the various challenges and uncertainties we’re all currently facing, Puksta is Love.

Best of luck to Jasmine and Rebecca in your journeys ahead, and thank you for being a part of our Puksta Family, now and always.

Health Tool Kit for DACA/Undocumented/Migrant Community

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As a participant in the Metropolitan State University (MSU) Denver DACA/Undocumented Health Career Program, Puksta Scholar Karen Nunez-Sifuentes took part in the creation of a Health Tool Kit for DACA, undocumented and migrant communities. In addition to her work as a MSU Denver Health Scholar, Karen is creating awareness of resources and college opportunities through mentorship as part of her Puksta Project.

“This is not only to bring awareness about the importance of access to health care for these communities, but to address issues that are affecting underserved people,” says Karen. Each fact sheet has a general overview of the topic, steps and solutions, as well as Colorado resources. 

Thank you to Karen and the other members of the MSU Denver DACA/Undocumented Health Career Program for your work on this very important resource.

We hope you’ll find the tool kit helpful and informative (available for download below). Please share this resource with your community.

Senior Spotlight: Angelica Prisciliano (MSU ’20)

In the weeks leading up to the graduation of university students across Colorado, The Puksta Foundation will be featuring “Senior Spotlight” profiles, a special series of posts to celebrate our graduating Puksta Scholars and their projects. We are truly impressed by the work these students have accomplished as Puksta Scholars, and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to share these profiles with the community so you can get to know our Pukstas a bit better.

Please join us in congratulating these students and wishing them luck in the future!

Today our featured Puksta Senior is Angelica Prisciliano, graduating from Metropolitan State University Denver this spring.

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Angelica shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience and her work as an advocate for Colorado students regardless of immigration status. This work has particular relevance and importance as DACA students await the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Trump’s 2017 order to rescind the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently allows around 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors to live and work in the United States.

My name is Angelica Prisciliano, and I am a Senior at MSU Denver completing a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Public Affairs. I grew up in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico with my mother and moved to Colorado when I was twelve. After finishing high school I moved to Denver to pursue higher education in hopes to broaden my opportunities in this country. As an immigrant and first-generation student in the United States, I experienced many obstacles while navigating higher education. Unfortunately, resources for Dreamers were very limited and confusing to access. Through my Puksta Project I want to have a long-lasting impact on my community’s experience navigating higher education. 

My Puksta Project is designed to build a strong network and provide higher education resources for Colorado students and professionals regardless of immigration status. Along powerful community members, we built a team that strives to build meaningful coalitions, organize resourceful events, and actively advocate for equitable policy. In 2017 we officially named our community organization, United Leaders in Higher Education. We build our team with strong leaders in their universities or colleges and continue our work as a collective statewide. 

One of the many challenges of this project was to reach institutions outside the Denver Metro Areas, vicinities, and popular university cities like Colorado Springs and Boulder. As all of this work is volunteer based, we managed to organize and carry out two large conferences hosting folks from all over our state, Michigan, and California. 

Additionally, our work reflects in the efforts to hold institutions accountable for serving their undocumented students in a adequate and equitable manner. We each have assisted our institutions in creating, hosting, and promoting undocupeer trainings modeled after work that United We Dream and other folks have built for the community. At MSU Denver, we are beyond fortunate to have the Immigrant Services Program (ISP) which actively advocates vocally on and off campus for the 357 ASSET students that the institution serves (MSU Denver’s Census Fall Student Profiles). 

Lastly, with our strong leadership we have worked on advocating for a national comprehensive reform and statewide policies that directly impact the life of Dreamers/undocumented/DACA students in Colorado. Our board members have organized local actions and traveled to Washington D.C. to demand a solution to the President’s order to rescind DACA. His action was challenged, and we currently await a U.S. Supreme Court opinion expected to be delivered soon. This decisionhas the potential to heavily impact the lives of 14,700 DACA holders and their families in Colorado (Migration Policy Institute). Our board members have also testified before legislative committee on behalf important bills such as HB19-1196 that extends eligible undocumented students’ access to state financial aid. 

As other fellow Puksta Scholars, I have had the fortune to be able to connect my Puksta Project with my individual work at the university and with my community. I want every young person that decides to pursue an education to have access to the guidance and clarity that I couldn’t have when I was growing up. As I continue to be an active voice in my circle, I hope one day I can give back to the programs like IPS and Puksta that have supported and believed in my work. I will forever be grateful to John and NiChel, Tim and Alyssa, my mentor, and my fellow Puksta Scholars for providing me with a space to grow, create, and be myself. I envision that my experiences and what I have accomplished will translate into a successful career path in policy advocacy.

Angelica also shared the following resources with us:

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Angelica, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work in the community!

Saturday 4/25: Dance-Improv with Puksta Alum Patrycja Humienik

Looking for a fun way to get moving? Puksta Alum Patrycja Humienik (CU Denver ’17) is offering “Moving Toward,” the first workshop in a three-part dance improvisation series via Zoom this Saturday, April 25 at 10 AM.

As a Puksta scholar, Patrycja combined her passion for dance with social justice advocacy by developing the Denver chapter of Dances for Solidarity, a national initiative sharing dance through letter writing with people in solitary confinement.

We’re so grateful to Patrycja for facilitating this virtual workshop, and we look forward to exploring dance improvisation with her!

Here is a detailed description of Moving Toward from the event page:

Let’s dance together, from wherever we are. You are invited to *Moving Toward,* the first in a series of 3 virtual improvisation-focused workshops: Moving Toward, Moving From, Moving For. Moving Toward explores invocation, where we are going or hope to go. What are we moving toward?

All levels welcome, whether or not you identify as a ~dancer~.

Class will start with a short freewrite before warming up and moving together a la Zoom. We’ll play with repetition, imitation, softening, and pause. No dance class experience necessary.

By donation (Venmo @Patrycja-Humienik), $1-25 sliding scale. 50% of proceeds go to the Seattle Artist Relief Fund Amid COVID-19. Please RSVP here; you will receive Zoom info about the class via email.:)

Moving From, part 2, is about digging in, getting curious, investigating from where we move. In Moving For, third in the series, we will play with movement as dedication, devotion, honoring. Join for 1 or all.

Register for “Moving Toward” here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/moving-toward-a-virtual-dance-offering-tickets-102036758692

We hope you’ll attend!

Tune into Clinton Global Initiative University at Home!

As COVID-10 continues to affect lives around the globe, we look forward to joining Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) for an important conversation on ways that student leaders can help help address the pandemic and support communities in need. Hope you’ll follow along. 

Building on the successful model of the Clinton Global Initiative, President Bill Clinton launched the CGI U in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.

This year, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis, CGI University will host a virtual program focused on how young people can lead through this crisis. All are invited to tune in!

Learn more and sign up for the event here: https://events.clinton-foundation.org/cgiu2020/

Mid-week Meditation

Our Director of Development and Community Outreach, NiChel Mulstay has another guided meditation podcast episode to help bring you some moments of mindfulness this week. NicChel is a certified Practitioner/Instructor of Meditation, as well as a certified Reiki Master to help with energy healing. NiChel launched the “Calming Bells” podcast to offer our scholars guided meditation and promote personal health. With the many upheavals to our personal and professional lives resulting from the COVID-19 situation and it’s implications, we’d like to share this podcast with our extended Puksta community, as well. We hope it will bring a sense of calmness, relief, and mindful connection.

Below is a note from NiChel that accompanies the latest episode: “Lovingkindness Meditation.”

Hi Everyone,

I think it is important while we are practicing physical distancing that we make sure we are sending out thoughts of love and compassion to ourselves and others, this is why I chose to create this LovingKindness Mediation for you this week. Make sure you have at least 20 minutes to devote to this meditation.Lovingkindness meditation stems from is a Buddhist prayer (Metta Bhavana) and is a technique with which you can create feelings of love and kindness, warm feelings that make your inner world a place of compassion.

This is first practiced toward oneself since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Then it slowly ripples out to the world.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.May you be filled with lovingkindness… May you feel connected and calm… May you accept yourself just as you are… May you be happy and well… May you be safe… May you be peaceful and at ease.

We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for anyone and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe. ― Amit Ray, Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style

I have also included Solfeggio music in the background (frequencies known to help bring our bodies, cells, and DNA back into resonance and health.) This one, in particular, is called Tender Love (639 Hz), tuned at a frequency associated with opening and healing your heart chakra. It is the Marimba Meditation Music album by Meditative Mind.

I hope you enjoy and that it may bring you some peace and comfort.

Congratulations to Puksta Scholar Rob Hatcher!

We’re celebrating Rob Hatcher and his successful defense of his MA in Communication project last week!

Rob was awarded our Puksta Foundation Fellowship at University of Colorado at Denver in 2018-19. For his project, Rob spent the spring semester of 2018 leading poetry workshops at the Community College of Aurora, where he used creative writing as a means for helping students explore voice and agency. His hope was that it would create active citizens who could harness their own voices to create change in the world. 

After his fellowship was complete, Rob continued contributing his time and skills to Puksta as an intern for two consecutive semesters during the summer and fall of 2019. His talent for communication greatly benefited our community engagement. One of the Puksta Foundation’s goals has been to expand our outreach and share the stories of what our scholars are doing in the community. Rob was able to do this for us in a truly remarkable and powerful way.

Director of Development and Community Outreach, NiChel Mulstay shared the following about Rob:

It is very obvious to me and everyone who comes into contact with Rob that he is committed to helping people find their voice. With his spirit and persistence, he doesn’t stop once the requirements are met and the day is over. To this day he still is very generous with his time and artistry, as someone who is always willing to help where needed and lend a hand. We were extremely lucky to have had him in both capacities as a Puksta Fellow and our Puksta Intern.

Congratulations, Rob, and best of luck to you in your future work!

Puksta Family Game Night: PJ Party Edition!

We gathered for our first virtual Puksta Family Game Night last Saturday evening! The “Pajama Party” theme had us sporting our finest cozy fashions. Before jumping into a game of Scattergories, we practiced mindfulness and wellness through guided meditation and stretches. Thank you to everyone who was able to join for bringing smiles and fun, positive energy.

Looking forward to the next one!

Puksta Alum Spotlight: Bweza Itaagi (’14)

Bweza Itaagi was a Puksta scholar during her last two years at the University of Denver (2012-2014). Her Puksta project focused on food access, urban agriculture, and food justice in the Denver area. She began the Puksta program after spending a quarter studying public health and development in Senegal, West Africa in the fall of 2012. In Senegal, she learned from health officials, professors, and farmers that food access is a pressing issue in global public health. Upon returning to Denver and planning out her Puksta project, she began to research more about how barriers to accessing healthy and affordable food impacted a large number of Denver residents as well. Through Puksta she was able to connect with Denver leaders who were committed to growing fresh food in the city for the residents who needed it most. As a result, she was hired by the GrowHaus for the summer of 2013 to co-lead a program for Denver high school students. In the program she taught classes focused on personal nutrition, urban agriculture, and community activism.

The Puksta program was foundational in her career path post college. It was a catalyst for sparking her passion in addressing health through food. While developing her Puksta project, she realized that she wanted to focus her work and life on addressing food access issues through urban agriculture. She moved to Chicago in 2015 to pursue a master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Development from DePaul University. After finishing her master’s, she met with several organizations focused on urban agriculture, community empowerment and food justice and ultimately was hired by a non-profit organization called Grow Greater Englewood (GGE). GGE works with Englewood residents and developers to create profitable community owned farms to promote community health and economic development. In her role as the Sustainable Program Steward/Program Manager, she co-leads a network of Black, Brown and Indigenous urban farmers on the south and southwest sides of Chicago. The network works as a collective to create and support initiatives that address inequities in Chicago’s food system.

Outside of her non-profit work, she owns a pop-up shop for houseplants and succulents called Ebimera Vines (follow them on Facebook and Instagram! – @ebimeravines). She grows plants and sells them at various events throughout the Chicago area. She also does plant installations, hosts workshops and leads demos on various topics related to growing indoor plants.

She is forever grateful to John, NiChel, and the Puksta Foundation for enabling her to pursue her passion for food justice work and urban agriculture. She appreciates their genuine kindness and commitment to all scholars even after graduation. Some advice she has for current scholars includes the following:

First, realize that your Puksta project can continue after you finish the program. View your project as a stepping-stone to something even greater. Second, you can always reach out to your Puksta family at any point in your professional life. John and NiChel are always available to give career advice or connect you with other Puksta alumni if you move to a new city. Third, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my work or if you’re interested in learning more about urban farming!

The Puksta Scholars Program is always close to her heart and she is very thankful to have been a part of such a great program.

We’re so greatful to Bweza for taking the time to share her updates and reflections with us! If you’d like to be featured in a future Puksta Spotlight post, email Sarah Thomas at sthomas0519@gmail.com.

Work Out at Home with Puksta Scholar Kelly Stone!

In addition to being a Puksta Scholar, Kelly Stone (MSU ’23) is also a personal trainer!

To help the Puksta Community stay physically active at home while gyms are closed, Kelly recorded a video for three cross fit bootcamp-inspired workouts, including demonstrations of the correct form for each movement and different options for various levels of athleticism. Thank you for sharing this fun way to keep ourselves moving, Kelly!

Once you’ve got the moves from the video down, turn up the volume on your favorite workout jams and try out these other exercise programs provided by Kelly:

Upper Body
50-100 reps each (choose how you want to split this up)
Jump Squats
Step Up
Donkey Kicks
Clam Shell
Hip trust (1 legged)
Copenhagen hip adduction
Leg Raises

Lower Body
Do each exercise 50-100 reps
Pike Pushup
Tricep dips
Reverse Angels
Power focused punches (your choice of combos)
Pseudo Pushup
Door Frame Rows
Elbow Lifts
Plank hold as long as possible (shoulder taps, plank walk downs and wide plank)

Full Body
AMRAP (as many reps as possible) #1: 10 minutes
5 (1 rep is a push up and 4 mountain climbers)
10 Pike pushups
15 Jump Squats

AMRAP #2: 10 minutes
10 Tricep Dips
20 Jumping Lunges (total)
30 High knees

AMRAP #3: 10 minutes
5 Plank Pull Throughs (each side)
10 Step Ups (each side)
15 Burpees