Puksta Coordinator Spotlight: Kathleen Ferrick

Serving the University of Denver, Kathleen is program coordinator for CCESL (D.U.’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning) and has also been working with the Puksta Scholars for nearly two years. A Denver resident since two, Kathleen attended East High School where she was an “East High Angel” and grabbed the occasional bite at the famous Denver eatery: Pete’s Kitchen. After graduation, she temporarily left the noise and congestion of Colfax and Denver for the wooded hills and quiet canyons of Boulder where she attained a B.A. in Psychology at C.U. It’s there where her interests in social justice started to come into focus when she attended an ethnic and gender studies class.

With her B.A. secured, Kathleen then returned to her beloved Denver where she attended D.U. and achieved a Master’s degree in Social Work. The days of skiing the Rockies and eating the sopapillas of Casa Bonita now long behind her, she began formally working for D.U. and is currently helping Pukstas achieve their dreams where Kathleen works hard to foster “spaces where student’s voices are heard.” She’s a vegetarian who enjoys pad thai, greek veggie omelets, and the occasional scoop of coffee ice cream. An aspiring home chef, she loves to cook and can often be found creating meals from one of her many vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. Sitting down with a bowl of steaming hot noodles and veggies, she likes to relax with an episode of HBO’s Succession and enjoys old episodes of Game of Thrones where Cersei is one of her favorites.

When not trecking through the numerous trails around Golden, she can be found listening to Indie 102.3, sitting at the benches by the Evans Chapel, waiting for her order at the Jerusalem Restaurant, or steeping her tea at Hooked on Colfax. Kathleen envisions a long future in higher education and intends to continue supporting students while working to increase the anti-oppression sentiment on her campus. She looks forward to her weekly meetings with the D.U. Puksta Scholars and dreams of vacationing in Colombia someday. Kathleen is a powerhouse of intellect and enthusiasm, dedicated to helping all the students (but especially those of the Puksta Scholar Program) achieve their dreams. Her hard work and diligence help to ensure their continued and future successes. Cheers to you Kathleen!

Puksta Self-Care: Phone Home!

Image result for image of student calling home

The time is almost here. Fall is fading away and winter is right around the corner. Many of us will soon be traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles back to our families for the holidays and reconnecting with parents, siblings, relatives, and old friends in a far more intimate manner than we might expect. For some, the five-minute phone calls of the regular semester are a perfect way of getting in touch without things getting “touchy”. Checking-in and sometimes reassuring those who care, without an extended conversation, can be a great way of creating “snapshots” of your lives and keep you all up to date without the perils of falling into long conversations, debates, and (sometimes) arguments that family gatherings can sometimes elicit. Not only is this stress-inducing for all, but it can prevent (or at least create a major obstacle against) getting the rest, relaxation, and bonding students and family members usually seek during these cherished and rare times.

University life is a time for personal discovery and transformation and it can sometimes be challenging for everyone concerned when the “new you” goes back home. Maybe your politics have changed, or your diet, or your religious views, or whatever. Unveiling your personal growth and achievements are something to always be proud of, however, there are ways of being yourself and expressing yourself that can be more effective and mindful than others. Remember that these are the people who have cared for and loved you through all the time before (and during) college and your academic and personal journey doesn’t need to be a potential catalyst for discord. Apply the discipline and thoughtful applications that you’ve learned in school towards having the most rewarding holiday experiences possible. Some of this can be achieved through a simple call home in advance of your travels. In addition to finalizing travel details (very important), it can be a means of preparing both your family and you so that you can all make the best of the time you have together.

Tips for the Call:

-Don’t Just Text or Email: Though texting and emails can be a quick and easy means of communication on campus and in private life, simple messages can’t convey the genuine you or allow others to do the same. Don’t expect your parents and family to adequately decode your textual shorthand or emojis like your university friends. If a phone call won’t work maybe a Skype or Zoom session would be perfect. Either way, try to make the connection and conversation as productive and beneficial as possible.

-Set Aside More Time: This isn’t the time for that five-minute check-in. Set aside an hour, if possible, and try not to rush through things and listen. This might seem a bother, but it’s likely you’ll both get more quality from an organic (not scripted) conversation and help ensure a positive visit. In addition, you might get valuable insight for the next tip.

-Get an Idea of What to Expect: Who is planning to stop by? Who will actually be there during the time or on holiday(s)? Who might be expecting you to reach out to them? Will you be able to sleep in your old room? Are there any struggles or challenges that you might need to prepare yourself for? It can be tricky and you have to be careful about prying too deeply, but there might be details and information that you can obtain and process in advance that will give you a better idea of how to conduct yourself and live with those you’ll be with.

-Be Careful with “Bombshells”: Revealing a big secret at the Thanksgiving dinner might be great drama for movies and tv, but often doesn’t have the beneficial impact that one might expect. “Ripping the bandage off” might seem the only way to tell others about some of the details of your life and facets of who you now are, at first glance, but usually doesn’t allow others the time to process the new information and productively respond. This can create situations and responses that are more reactionary and emotional than might actually be good for anyone. Using the call as a way of gauging what you unveil about yourself (and maybe when you should) can be very helpful. If you’re concerned about how your family might respond or are unsure how to communicate something, consider a drop-in session with a school mental health counselor who might be able to give you some additional tips or help you figure out how to proceed.

-Remember that You are Now an Adult: Adults get to decide what they do and don’t reveal about themselves and when to offer any of it. Be aware that your parents might feel entitled to certain information (especially since they care about you and might also be giving you financial support) so keep this in mind and reveal/impart information accordingly.

Some articles that might help:
https://www.bravotv.com/personal-space/how-to-avoid-fighting-with-family-over-thanksgiving or
https://www.scholarships.com/resources/campus-life/college-lifestyle/college-students-returning-home-for-the-holidays/ or
https://yourteenmag.com/teens-college/college-life/parents-college-students-home-holidays or

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: James Artis III

James is fighting for equality. Having experienced a tragedy within his own family, this DU student has taken it upon himself to be seen for something more than for his color, especially by law authorities. James is working to mend the relationship between law enforcement and African-American communities through a number of efforts intended to prevent the phenomenal number of fatal shootings that have been leaving families in tears and creating an ever-widening rift between the two within this nation. Wishing to act as a catalyst that will empower the black community to become more central in law enforcement policy and practice, he has been a mentor for the Excelling Leaders Institute and has been working with the Cherry Creek School District towards their Brotherhood efforts. After graduation, he intends to take down the walls of misrepresentation by creating a nonprofit that works towards this while working with low-income communities of color. Through sponsorship, partnership, and collaboration, James is working to ultimately make America a place that is safer and much more just. Keep working towards your goals James! Puksta is here to give you the support to help your vision (and the vision of so many) become a reality.

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Blanche Marie Ndoutou

Blanche wishes to make America more of a place of refuge for refugees. Having sought this nation as an alternative to the strife where she previously lived, she is now active on the DU campus with her co-created organization: African Students United and is seeking partnerships and guidance from both her university and local community colleges to better help others just like her. An ardent student, she is also conducting research on the refugee population in Denver while working on ways of easing the transitional obstacles and stress that is often experienced by those also seeking peaceful and productive lives by coming to this country. Though she is active in these efforts, she doesn’t see herself as an activist but prefers to think she’s just a human being caring for others. Your cause is a noble one Blanche and Puksta is here to help you make your dreams a reality. Keep up the hard work and remain determined, for we are proud to have you within our ranks!

Puksta Self-Care: Treat Yourself!

Image result for images of people getting pedicure

Whether it’s that sinful dessert you’ve been denying yourself or that spa treatment you’ve been yearning for, occasionally rewarding yourself can be a great way of celebrating the small milestones that comprise a semester.
Pukstas are well-aware of the stresses of University life and it can sometimes feel that the immediate and often intangible rewards of academic achievement do little but point you to the next obstacle or task to be overcome. Stressing over a paper or studying for that big test? Sometimes setting up a self-reward system can become a great motivator and help give you that extra boost to the finish line. Not only can these little pleasures become a small respite from the rigor, but they also serve as a means of you honoring the most important person in your life. Because if you don’t love yourself then how can you love and help others?

Tips on Treating Yourself:

Make Achievements Realistic-Try not to become focused on achieving the highest GPA in the class or the best grade for an assignment. Students sometimes set themselves immediate goals that seem far in excess of true success in retrospect. Nobody is an instant expert, so don’t put the weight of the world onto yourself to be perfect. Remember that you’re a human being and humans are imperfect. This isn’t to say that striving for greatness is bad, far from it, but we can sometimes believe that we have to run before we learn to walk. Superheroes are great for print and film, but real superstars have many setbacks and obstacles along their paths and many even have failures when they’ve achieved what others consider perfection.

Spread Things Out-Don’t just plan a reward for getting an A at the end of the semester, decide on some smaller rewards that are significant enough that they’ll motivate you through the weeks and months until winter/summer break. Maybe getting your nails done for finishing that big assignment or that game for getting an A on that daunting test? Save getting the full spa treatment day, the new game system purchase, or maybe taking that trip for when the semester is over and you can truly rest your mind for a month, really relax, and appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

Make it Personal-Tell yourself that you love yourself with something that really matters. Have you been craving that really good sushi from your favorite restaurant or denying yourself that pair of shoes that would really make you feel like you shine? These are great ways of applying a little self-congratulation for all the hard work that only you know you’ve been applying.

For more on the benefits of treating yourself visit Psychology Today at:

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Cicilia Saenz

Cicilia has a broad smile and even wider aspirations. While at MSU, this Puksta star is shining both in the classroom and within her local community where she is working to create an afterschool program that specifically works with and benefits special education. During her time with Puksta, she has learned self-reliance and to collaborate with others, having worked closely with CUE 21st Century, in addition to her local community. After graduation, she hopes to continue her efforts by teaching and working more closely with a segment of the student population that is often ignored and neglected in society. Her efforts will no doubt bring many more smiles and brighten many futures. Puksta is proud to celebrate you Cicilia and all of your great work!

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Chhorda Vuth

Chhorda is on a journey. Having emigrated to this country, she understands the stresses, trials, and challenges of preserving her culture while learning to work within another. That journey not only brought her here but enabled her to recently travel to India where she enjoyed yet another culture. While there, she strengthened bonds with a fellow Puksta and gained a better appreciation for those who accompanied her. While attending DU, Chhorda is working to help high school students through the same obstacles she once experienced and hopes to extend this assistance even further when she graduates. More than helping to write essays and fill out college applications, Chhorda is making friends and providing an invaluable link for those who might feel lost and alone in a new and foreign country. She is working hard to help others achieve greatness and Puksta is proud to have her within its ranks. Keep up the hard work on your journey Chhordra!

Puksta Self-Care: Make Your Free Time an Art!

Image result for images of people doing art

Many of us don’t consider ourselves artists. Especially if we are pursuing scientific pathways, art can sometimes be seen as a kind of dirty word. However, being able to creatively express oneself is often considered a much-needed means of both therapy and problem-solving. Being artistic doesn’t mean having to create your own Sistine Chapel paintings or you becoming the next Banksy, it can just mean learning a song or just doodling. Human minds can’t just be contained in a world of pure science and linear thought. Often, some of the greatest discoveries and innovations have required approaching problems from different angles and utilizing unique methods that only creative minds tend to achieve. One thing to consider is that many art forms rely heavily on science and mathematics, so art can (in some ways) be seen as a form of science. So next time your studies are done and you have a few hours to yourself, consider something creative and expressive to give your mind and your body some new challenges.

Tips on Art:

-Art doesn’t have to be public. What matters is that you enjoy it and that can happen in your bedroom, at the library, or even on the bus. The whole world, if you can devote the time and attention, can be a place where art can happen. Your art can be both personal and private. If you want to share it then all the better!

-Art doesn’t have to be good. The quality of your art does not matter. The idea of “good” is completely subjective anyway, so as long as you are enjoying yourself then you are doing your art right. Some art forms do require some training (if you have specific goals for it) but as long as you find it fulfilling then that is what matters most.

-Art doesn’t have to be costly. Some kinds of art do require supplies and some expense, but now that we have a multitude of art/craft supply stores (not to mention online stores) one can often secure these supplies at minimal expense.

-Art forms can be combined. Do you like painting and poetry? Then maybe painting poems onto an object or canvas is what will bring you fulfillment. Street artists are often known for combining art forms to create certain works and that means you can do likewise.

For more on the benefits of art or creative expression visit this link:

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Karen Nunez Sifuentes

Equipped with a tough work ethic and a pioneering spirit, Karen is hard at work achieving an education in the sciences while breaking barriers and expanding perceptions. Approaching life and her future with optimism and a will to work with others from diverse, and sometimes conflicting backgrounds, she understands that not everyone has to be the same in order to work towards a common goal. By becoming a mentor to younger women who are experiencing repression and under-appreciation, she hopes to lead by example and encourage others to see beyond the framework others might have set for them and to seek a university education as a means of reaching for their dreams. Fly high and proud Karen. Puksta will be there to support you while you enable others to soar and succeed!

Puksta Scholar Spotlight: Dominica Manlove

Dominica makes no apologies for being who she is. With curly hair and a wide smile, this CSU student is working with young women and girls to promote self-love and respect. Once overly concerned of what others thought of her looks, her glasses, and especially her hair, she has learned to embrace her natural appearance and to make others aware that true beauty is far more than skin deep. Developing the Be Yourself and Own It campaign, she is collaborating with activists, bloggers, and stylists to create safe places where individuals can be appreciated and accepted for who they are. After graduation, she plans to seek a higher education in the medical field and intends to assist her community in numerous ways. Dominica is making great strides towards creating a future where people don’t rely on the acceptance of others in order to love themselves. Keep making those efforts Dominica. Puksta will be there to support you in every step along the way!