A message from the Puksta Foundation on this week’s rulings by SCOTUS.

As an educational foundation that is intentionally diverse and inclusive, our goal is to foster an environment in which all scholars can have a safe space to learn, grow and empower one another with their work for social justice. We tirelessly work for the ideal that everyone in the Puksta community and beyond are treated equitably.

We are both grateful and enthusiastic to share with you our thoughts regarding the two historic U.S. Supreme Court decisions this week: Monday’s ruling that protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination and Thursday’s decision upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These rulings affirm two populations that the Puksta Foundation has been a long-standing advocate for.

We have many Puksta Scholars and Alumni that are Dreamers carrying the banner for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients nationwide. I would like to take this opportunity to share the words of one of our alumni, Marco Dorado (CU Boulder Puksta Alumni 2014), who has been an unwavering and a vocal advocate for Dreamers both in Colorado and throughout the United States. Marco is now a Fellow at the National Development Council and graduated last week from the University of Washington with a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Click on the link below to listen to Marco’s thoughts about the impact of the Supreme Court’s DACA decision on Colorado: 

https://www.cpr.org/2020/06/18/the-supreme-court-decision-on-daca-is-relief-for-colorado-dreamers-but-advocacy-continues/

As these rulings provide us with a glimmer of hope, the fight is not over, there is still much work to be done. As a Foundation, we are committed to being true to the values of diversity and inclusion that we stand for, creating a more just world for all of us. 

Ways to continue to advocate for DACA and LGBTQ rights: 

  • 1. Contacting their Congressional Representatives and US Senators to ask for a bi-partisan bill that creates a permanent solution for DACA recipients (and opening the program back up for new applicants) 


This is not a moment for silence. The Puksta Foundation unequivocally affirms that Black lives matter and stands in solidarity with protestors in Colorado and across the country in the fight for racial justice.

Over the last several weeks, the systemic violence against Black Americans has risen into the consciousness of our country in a way that it should have many years ago. We mourn the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and countless other Black Americans who are tragic victims of anti-Blackness and White supremacy. Their deaths underscore the fact that racism is deadly, and addressing it must be core to any and all organizing for social justice. We acknowledge that throughout our country’s history, state-sponsored violence and white supremacy have inflected intergenerational trauma and harm on the Black community and have led to large inequities in health, wealth, education, and more.

At the Puksta Foundation, we believe that supporting young people of color is a way to create deep and lasting change in our society. Access to education, especially for young people who have historically had their access obstructed or denied, is a means of creating a more just and equitable society. We stand by our commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and anti-racism because we need the voices of people representing all parts of our community to truly understand how inequity affects us. We commit to amplifying those voices of those who in the past have not had a seat at the table.

In addition, the Puksta Foundation is committed to the ongoing anti-racist work required to bring about positive change. It is our responsibility to examine the ways in which we have perpetuated White supremacy and to intentionally dismantle it in ourselves and our work. We ask that you join us in taking action and hold us accountable.

Lastly, we will strive to ensure that the black students, families, mentors, and staff we serve and work with are always valued, affirmed, and loved as members of the Puksta family.

In solidarity,

The Puksta Foundation

Ways to Take Action


Puksta COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund

What is happening at Puksta?

The impact of COVID-19 on our Puksta Scholars has been devastating.

Several of our Puksta Scholars have lost family members to this virus, many are dealing with the loss of their jobs and income, most have lost their housing and access to food, and almost all have struggled to maintain the support systems they had prior to the pandemic.

In the 20+ years that the Puksta Foundation has been providing scholarships, we have never faced a challenge like we see today to provide our scholars with the programming and support that has proven to be so important to our students who are coming from underresourced and marginalized communities.

What can we do now?

The best action that we can take right now is to reach out to ask for your help in creating a “COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.” The purpose of this fund will be to provide immediate financial support to our Puksta Scholars who are facing growing challenges meeting their basic human needs of food, shelter, access to healthcare, and adequate technology to continue their education remotely.

Our goal is to raise $50,000 which will be set aside and made available for our current Puksta Scholars to apply for on a case-by-case basis with any funds remaining when the immediate need subsides being made available for scholarship funding.

None of us knows where this pandemic will take us, but we do know that our students have a need today that is far above our normal funding for scholarships, programming, and community projects, and, we want to be there to help them through this time.

We do hope you will partner with us in our effort to raise the Puksta Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

With gratitude,

John Mulstay

President/Founder

Puksta Foundation


Reflections From Puksta Graduate Blanche Ndoutou (DU ’20)

DU Puksta Scholar Blanche Ndoutou (’22) recently wrote a thoughtful piece discussing her journey and experiences as a Puksta Scholar through the DU Center for Community Engagement to Advance Scholarship and Learning’s “Public Good Impact” newsletter. Reflecting on the evolution of her Puksta project, Blanche explained,

Puksta taught me how to be a leader. It taught me that it is okay for my passions to change in life. I came into the program wanting to work on helping newly arrived refugees adapt to Denver, however, I realized that although I cared about this topic, it was not my strength. I needed to focus on something that I am passionate about and something that I can be good at. Therefore, I merged my criminology major and my Puksta project. I decided to help educate the youth in my neighborhood of Sun Valley, the poorest neighborhood in Denver, about the realities of the criminal justice system in the United States. I realized that I made the right decision when I saw that the youth were learning something from me that might possibly save their lives. This project became personal and I decided that I will be continuing the project in the future by expanding my project to other underserved neighborhoods in Colorado.

We’re so proud of the positive impact of your Puksta Project on the Sun Valley community, as well as your inspiring leadership, Blanche! Thank you for your beautiful words and reflections on your tremendous journey as a Puksta Scholar. We’re so grateful to be part of this family with you.

Read the full article in the “Public Good Impact” Newsletter:


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

Greeting our MSU Puksta family and catching up!
« 1 of 8 »

Last week, friends, family, supporters, and Metropolitan State University Puksta Scholars gathered together via video chat to celebrate another *virtual* Puksta Passages event (and Pizza Party)!

The celebration began with the introduction of our newest MSU Puksta scholars, Emanuel Walker and Manna Naumann. We are thrilled to have these amazing individuals join the Puksta Family, and we look forward seeing how they engage with their campus and communities in the years ahead!

The final part of the MSU Passage was dedicated to our graduating MSU seniors, Jennifer Cassidy, Angelica Prisciliano, and Cicilia Saenz. In addition to their fellow Pukstas, Puksta Coordinators and MSU staff joined in as audience members to cheer them on.

Jennifer completed an individualized degree program in Women’s Studies. As a benefactor of the TANF Gateway program, Jennifer sought to ensure that others, specifically people who have experienced interpersonal violence, have the ability to better control their future. For her Puksta project, she explored ways to get computers and related gear to the very people and communities that often have the most difficulty in acquiring these much-needed tools.

Angelica majored in Political Science with a concentration in Public Affairs. She is actively involved in work that empowers and advocates for students regardless of immigration status. 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. Angelica’s Puksta Project built a strong, student-led network of higher education resources for DACAmented/undocumented communities through United Leaders in Higher Education.

Cicilia majored in Special Education with a concentration in CLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education). She spent her time as a Puksta working to improve special education outcomes for underrepresented communities. This included teaching students and parents how to use what was offered to them, and to help improve their academic outcome. Cicilia’s Puksta work also supported awareness of suicide prevention resources for youths and college males in particular.

MSU Puksta Coordinator Alyssa Marks and former Coordinator Tim Meeks reflected on the growth and accomplishments of Jennifer, Angelica, and Cicilia 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. Fellow scholars also shared favorite memories and moments of our graduating seniors.

Presenting senior Puksta 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 Jennifer, Angelica, and Cicilia to receive their cords at home, and virtually presented the cords to the scholars, congratulating each of them on their accomplishments and thanking them for their meaningful work as Puksta Scholars.

We are truly blown away by the level of creativity, compassion, and forward-thinking demonstrated in each of our graduating and continuing scholars’ projects, as well as their continued commitment to having a positive impact on their communities. Our scholars at DU are mentors, social justice warriors, and advocates for a more equitable world, and we couldn’t be more proud of them!

Thank you to all of the scholars, 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 MSU 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 Jennifer, Angelica, and Cicilia in your journeys ahead, and thank you for being a part of our Puksta Family, now and always.


Remembering Harry Puksta ~ December 30th, 1922 – July 4th, 1999

While we celebrate the holiday weekend, please take a moment to celebrate the life of a true hero and gentleman to the end, Harry Puksta. He lost his sweetheart, Eva, July 3rd, 1999 and died of a broken heart the next day. He never her left side and died on the 4th of July, a day fit for a World War II veteran who served his country with honor. Harry was a salt of the earth man who enjoyed an honest day’s work, watching the rockies and making wine in the basement. Their final wish was to help the the “good kids of the community go to college.” This gift has changed over 300 lives and will continue for many more. The  Puksta Legacy will live on in the hearts and actions of the “good kids” they have supported.  Thank you Harry — We will all be forever grateful.

When Harry and Eva expressed their simple desire to leave something behind that would help deserving students in Colorado access higher education, they never could’ve predicted the outcome. Now, over twenty years later, the Puksta Foundation has grown to become a family of over 300 current Puksta Scholars and Alumni. In addition to providing the financial support needed to attend university, Harry and Eva’s wish has also brought individuals together and helped them to become compassionate members of their communities and leaders for positive change. “Puksta” has come to mean so many things to our scholars: it’s a community of support, a passion for making a difference, an opportunity to grow, and much more.

All this is possible because of Harry and Eva. 


Celebrating the life of Eva June Puksta ~ Dec 22, 1920 – July 3, 1999

21 years ago today we lost a beautiful farm girl from Albion, Nebraska.


She moved to Denver after the war to work at the Veteran’s Affair’s office in Denver. Where she met the love of her life, Harry Puksta.


She was a knitter of owls


She was the bookkeeper for the Puksta’s


She was a warm soul


Now she is the angel watching over all of her Puksta Family.


Thank you Eva, you will never be forgotten!

When Harry and Eva expressed their simple desire to leave something behind that would help deserving students in Colorado access higher education, they never could’ve predicted the outcome. Now, over twenty years later, the Puksta Foundation has grown to become a family of over 300 current Puksta Scholars and Alumni. In addition to providing the financial support needed to attend university, Harry and Eva’s wish has also brought individuals together and helped them to become compassionate members of their communities and leaders for positive change. “Puksta” has come to mean so many things to our scholars: it’s a community of support, a passion for making a difference, an opportunity to grow, and much more.

All this is possible because of Harry and Eva. 

« 1 of 14 »


Senior Spotlight: Chhorda Vuth (DU ’20)

With summer underway, we have one final graduating Puksta to celebrate!

The Puksta Foundation is featuring “Senior Spotlight” profiles, a special series of posts to honor 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 Chhorda Vuth, graduating from University of Denver!

As a Puksta scholar, Chhorda’s work involved supporting high school students facing obstacles as immigrants adjusting to new environments. The desire to help these students came from her own experiences with the process of moving to a new country and starting all over with schools and culture. For her project, she hoped to implement a mentorship program for newly arrived immigrant students to help them learn English and ease into the American Culture faster. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience:

My name is Chhorda Vuth and I just graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with minors in Chemistry, Psychology, and Sociology. I grew up in Cambodia and moved to Denver at the age of 14. The first few years of my education in the U.S. were really challenging and I wished that I had a mentor to guide me through the process. My experience as an immigrant student motivated me to start researching and implementing a mentorship program for newly arrived immigrant students.

I started this project during my senior year of high school. I went to my previous high school to interview immigrant students and ESL teachers to gain more insight on how I could best support newly arrived immigrant students. I continued to work on this project until my second year at DU. Toward the end of my first year at DU, I started mentoring a newly arrived immigrant student on how to adapt to the culture, school system, and the language.

At the end of my second year at DU, I partnered with DSST public schools on a college access mentorship program. This program matched mentors (college students) with mentees (high school seniors) based on their interests. The high school students were mostly first-generation students who come from a low-income family. I served as a mentor to four students and they are now sophomore at universities. During my junior year, I served as a coordinator for another branch of DSST schools. I worked with the mentors, students, and the school counselors. My responsibilities included advising students on their college essays, applying for financial aid, choosing the right university etc. I also worked with the mentors and the school counselors by sending weekly emails to remind them about our weekly focus and tasks for the students. I received a lot of support from my mentor/teacher during my senior year of high school and I am glad that I could offer the same support to my mentees through this project.

Overall, Puksta has provided me with so many opportunities that I will be forever grateful for and I am so honored to be a part of a passionate and loving community.

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


Alumni Scholar Spotlight: Marco Dorado (CU Boulder ’14), Sets the Pace!

We’re recognizing Puksta Alumni Marco Dorado (CU Boulder ’14) for his recent graduation from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington with a Masters of Administration with an emphasis on Social Policy. Additionally, Marco was nominated to deliver remarks as a student speaker at the virtual commencement ceremony earlier this month.

We invite you to view Marco’s speech discussing his passion for public service and emphasizing the implications of policy actions on communities impacted by pressing social, political, and economic challenges. Reflecting on the role responsibility of doing right by the communities he and his fellow graduates intend to serve, he shared the words of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson: “The privilege and the penalty of our education means that we’ll be the pacesetters for political and social thought in our communities. We may not accept this responsibility, but that makes no difference. We’ll still be pacesetters.”

Congratulations, Marco, and best of luck as you continue your truly meaningful and impactful work! 


Alumni Scholar Spotlight: Nicholas Kukucka (CU Boulder ’14)

Nicholas Kukucka (CU Boulder ‘14) is excited to have accepted a position as the Director of Programs at the Watson Institute – a reimagined model of education for next-generation innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs – at Lynn University in South Florida. He also recently launched Wanderspark Travel, a blog to inspire others and equip them with the tools to travel with confidence. However, he attributes much of his success to the support he received as a Puksta Scholar.  

Nicholas’ Puksta Journey

Puksta played a fundamental role in Nicholas’ personal and professional development. While majoring in International Affairs and Spanish Language & Literature with a minor in Education at CU boulder, Nicholas was welcomed into the Puksta community in his second year of college.

During his 3 year tenure as a Puksta scholar, he worked on a variety of projects that pulled him closer to education. He started work in Colorado State Senator, Mike Johnston’s office as his Outreach Coordinator. Later, Nicholas worked as a Development Coordinator with Educate! before teaching a Service Learning Elective at DSST Public Schools in his final year as a scholar.

Nicholas felt as if he spent most of his time in class learning about all the problems in the world, but didn’t feel like he was equipped to address the injustices he was learning about. Puksta is special because it’s built on the idea that you don’t have to wait until you graduate or until you settle into your career to dedicate yourself to your mission and make a difference. 

Nicholas felt like education was crucial to our progress as a society, so he began his career teaching high school at DSST Public Schools in Green Valley Ranch. In his 5 years as a high school teacher, he taught 11th grade Spanish for Heritage Speakers and American History for two years, before jumping into a role teaching DSST’s Entrepreneurial Studies program, to leverage entrepreneurship as a vehicle to equip students with critical skills and position them to lead.

Launching the Wanderspark Travel blog

At the end of the 2019 academic year Nicholas left DSST to take the Entrepreneurial Studies curriculum to other schools outside of the DSST network, but had to pivot. Having also earned his MBA in November, 2019 from UNC Chapel-Hill’s online MBA program, Nicholas decided to take the opportunity to pursue one of his passions outside of work: Travel. 

On his most recent trip, he spent 100+ days traveling across 2 continents (Asia & Oceania) and 12 countries. Today, Nicholas is grateful to have had the privilege to have visited 39 countries around the world. However, he recognizes that many people aren’t so privileged. 

Yet, Nicholas believes that even though the barriers to travel are real, travel is becoming more and more accessible to people everywhere. Having played such a crucial role in his life, Nicholas loves to encourage others to have their own global adventures.  Thus, upon returning from his trip, Nicholas decided to launch the Wanderspark Travel blog

This is a tough time to start a travel blog because of COVID-19, but Nicholas has been trying to center his articles around relevant topics regardless. Find a few of his first articles here:

Taking it all full circle at the Watson Institute

The same week he launched Wanderspark Travel, Nicholas began a new job with the Watson Institute at Lynn University, a reimagined model of education for next-generation innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs, where he’ll serve as the Director of Programs. 

As everything seems to come full circle, the founder of the Watson Institute was also the co-founder of Educate!, Nicholas’ junior year Puksta project!

Nicholas is excited to have the opportunity to work with Watson’s incredible students, social innovators and leaders from across the globe. Similar to what Puksta did for him, Nicholas is excited to serve the Watson students as they build careers that align with their values and contribute to solving the toughest challenges facing the world.

Stay in touch!

Nicholas would be happy to connect on LinkedIn especially if you would like to learn more about the Watson Institute and how you might get involved. We invite leaders, entrepreneurs, and practitioners to teach Master Courses. We’re also always happy to connect students with mentors or internship opportunities, and we’re in the process of building a career network for our students as they graduate in 2021. 

If you want to join the Wanderspark Travel community, subscribe to Nicholas’ newsletter here. You can also find Wanderspark Travel on Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube.

Thank you Nicholas for sharing these exciting updates with us– we wish you best of luck in your journeys ahead!


Senior Spotlight: Oscar Saenz (DU ’20)

Graduation season may have come to an end, but we’re still celebrating the Class of 2020! The Puksta Foundation is featuring “Senior Spotlight” profiles, a special series of posts to honor 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 Oscar Saenz, graduating from University of Denver!

Oscar studied Strategic Communications and Marketing. For his Puksta Project, Oscar returned to his former school, Munroe Elementary, to develop a parent engagement and education program. Engaging in the community that he grew up in, Oscar has worked to advocate the importance of pursuing higher education.

In recognition of his strong academic performance, leadership, community service, campus involvement, strong character, and pride in the University, Oscar’s was honored as an Outstanding Senior Student for his strong academic performance, leadership, community service, campus involvement, strong character, and pride in the University with DU’s Crimson & Gold Award. His growth into “a compassionate and conscientious leader focused on centering community voices,” as well as his consistent willingness to mentor and extend support to younger Scholars were both noted in the awards announcement.

At DU, Oscar’s campus involvement also included being a member of the Excelling Leaders Institute Class of 2016, President of Beta Gamma Nu, and participant in the Volunteers In Partnership program.

Reflecting on his Puksta experience, Oscar shared the following:

Puksta has taught me the importance of being involved with my community. Change happens with action, no other way around it!

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Oscar, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work advancing positive social change and empowerment in the community! 


DU Crimson & Gold Awards Honor Three Puksta Scholars

« 2 of 3 »

Congrats to three of our graduating Univerity of Denver Puksta Scholars on being recognized as outstanding senior students with the Crimson & Gold award. This award honors individuals or organizations for their continued efforts during their time at DU rather than just over the past year. Recipients of the Crimson & Gold Award demonstrate strong academic performance, leadership, community service, campus involvement, strong character, and pride in the University.

This year, recipients of the Crimson & Gold Award for Outstanding Senior Students including Puksta Scholars James Artis III, Blanche Marie Ndoutou, and Oscar Saenz.

Again, congratulations to James, Blanche, and Oscar on this well-deserved recognition of your work!