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

Everyone say, "Puksta!"
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Last Friday, friends, family, supporters, and Colorado State University Puksta Scholars gathered together via video chat to celebrate another *virtual* Puksta Passages event (and Pizza Party)!

The evening began with the introduction of our newest CSU Puksta scholars: Melanin Armendariz, Mariela Paul, Gerson Flores Rojas, Abighail Tekeste, and Bemnet Tefera. 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 evening was dedicated to our graduating CSU seniors, Deborah Ilangikwa, Dominica Manlove, and Sabrina Pribyl. In addition to their fellow Pukstas, friends and families joined in as audience members to cheer them on, as well as staff from CSU including: Collaborative for Student Achievement Executive Director Gaye Digregorio, Community for Excellence Scholar Programs Director Taé Nosaka, Community for Excellence Scholar Programs Associate Director Miel McCarthy, Key Explore Community Coordinator Brian Hayes, and Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Access Tom Biedscheid.

Debbie is an International Studies majorAs a Puksta scholar, her work involved supporting ESL students from Fort Morgan High School through the Define Your Success program. Debbie will continue her passion for working with students as a student in the Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at Boston University this fall.

Dominica is an Health & Exercise Science major. She is actively involved in work that promotes self-love and natural beauty. For her Puksta Project, Dominica established Be Yourself and Own It!: A movement designed to defeat the perception of beauty and spotlight the uniqueness in being different and yourself. This movement was particularly based around young women with curly hair, offering demonstrations, activists, and stylists that delved into culture and understanding through workshops.

Sabrina is a Statistics major. Her passion focuses on supporting and advocating for children with disabilities. Through her Puksta Project “Puppy Pals”, Sabrina collaborated with Puksta Alum David Purcella (CSU ’18) to introduce service dogs to help teach and mentor young disabled students through the “Puppy Pals” program. These service animals assist with practicing reading, writing, and speaking skills outside of the classroom, helping students feel more confident entering their classroom.

CSU Puksta Coordinator Sam Desta reflected on the growth of Debbie, Dominica, and Sabrina 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 CSU 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 Debbie, Dominica, and Sabrina 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.

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 CSU 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 CSU 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 Debbie, Dominca, and Sabrina in your journeys ahead, and thank you for being a part of our Puksta Family, now and always.


Senior Spotlight: Cicilia Saenez (MSU ’20)

With graduations for university students across Colorado underway, the Puksta Foundation is 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 Cicilia Saenez, graduating from Metropolitan State University!

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 and supporting awareness of suicide prevention resources for youths. Reflecting on her Puksta experiences, Cicilia shared the following:

I grew up in Commerce City and graduated from Adams City High School. As a first-generation high school graduate, stepping into college was going to be scary territory. My journey to Puksta started my junior year, it was a little bit of a mess, I didn’t have much confidence when applying as I had just been rejected from one scholarship. Being accepted into Puksta was and has been one of my greatest success through out my college experience. It has allowed me to grow in ways I did not know I needed. It created a space for me to network and build on skills that I will be able to carry into my profession. It also gave me a platform to talk about the things that are important to me. But most importantly Puksta gave me Puksta love, a place where we can express individuality, a place where we can support each other and build, a place where we can laugh and not be afraid. That is something I will always take with me.  

My first year as a Puksta Scholar my project consisted of creating a space for underrepresented communities to receive information on the benefit of special education services. This included teaching students and parents how to use what was offered to them, and to help improve their academic outcome. The passion for creating this space came from my major and seeing how much parent and student don’t know about what is out there for them. But as my time in Puksta went on, my project changed. In this project my hope was to bring awareness to suicide prevention resources. My goal was to reach the youth and college males, as I feel they are two of the populations that are most at risk in our communities. This was done through posting on social media and becoming more informed myself.

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


Senior Spotlight: Deborah Ilangikwa (CSU ’20)

With graduations for university students across Colorado underway, the Puksta Foundation is 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 Deborah Ilangikwa, graduating from Colorado State University!

Debbie spent her time as a Puksta working to support ESL students from Fort Morgan High School. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience:

My name is Deborah Ilangikwa and my project is called Define Your Success. We work with students who are in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at Fort Morgan High School to encourage post-secondary education.


About me: I recently graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Legal Studies. Puksta has supported me a lot these past few years and I will forever be grateful that I was a Puksta Scholar. 


As I move forward: Being a Puksta Scholar and working with students in my project has helped me find my passion for continuing my work with students. I will be attending Boston University in the fall to get my Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. 


Advice to Puksta Scholars: Don’t forget to be a Student FIRST!

We invite you to learn more about Debbie and her project in the video and poster below. Debbie prepared this presentation as part of CSU’s Puksta Showcase in February 2020.

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


Senior Spotlight: Rebecca Robidoux (CU Boulder ’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 Rebecca Robidoux, graduating from CU Boulder!

Rebecca has spent her time as a Puksta working to support the Sanctuary Movement and undocumented women and families living in Boulder, CO. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience and her work within social justice movements and community organizing:

A bit about me: 

My name is Rebecca, and I recently graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in Women and Gender Studies, and I am the first student to graduate from the Leadership and Community Engagement major. My time as a Puksta Scholar has been transformational and full of personal and professional development.   

As I move forward:

My hope is that other students and young people will consider the time in which we are living, during economic turmoil, in the wake of Trump’s decision to cancel green cards, and with an impending wave of climate refugees. I hope they feel both an urgency for justice and a pull towards the warmth and community I have found while working with the Sanctuary Movement over the last 8 months, because it is evident that there are connections to be made and victories to be had that could shift the way our country, our state, our community, values all of us.

Advice:

Identify the relationships in your life that give energy back to you and make you happy. Social justice work can be exhausting and bleak, and as important as it is to build strategic relationships, make sure to protect the ones that just feel good, because you’ll need them.

We invite you to learn more about Rebecca and her journey Puksta in the retrospective video below. Rebecca produced this video as part of CU Boulder’s Puksta Passages ceremony earlier this month.

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


Practice Wellness Wednesday With “Walking Meditation”

Feeling like you need a break as we reach mid-week? Take some time for mindfulness and check out this latest guided meditation from Calming Bells. The Puksta Foundation’s Director of Development and Community Outreach NiChel Mulstay is a certified Practitioner/Instructor of Meditation, as well as a certified Reiki Master. NiChel launched the “Calming Bells” podcast to offer our scholars guided meditation and promote personal health.

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

Hi Puksta Peeps! I have been meaning to get this out to you now that the weather has turned nicer… I know meditation is sometimes the last thing we want to do when we are overloaded with virtual events and stuck in our homes. So, I thought why not include a meditation that can get you up on your feet and hopefully outside a bit.

Meditation and mindfulness are not only for when we are physically still. If you are a person that can’t sit still and find traditional meditation to be quite difficult or maybe you want to shake up your meditation practice a bit, walking mediation may be the answer. Walking meditation is a great meditation technique. It grew out of monasteries where Buddhist Monks used to sit for hours and hours to meditate. They were looking for ways to keep on meditating while moving their body, and the walking meditation became an obvious and beautiful option to implement that experience of presence while moving.

We normally walk from point A to point B while thinking about other things, which means, in other words, we’re not present. We’re not in the moment. In the moment, being in the moment, being present would mean being with the sensations in the body as we walk, being very connected to the views around you, being connected to your breath, right? These are potential focal points in the moment for presence. So if you engage with any of those, fully focusing on that particular focal point you’ve chosen, while not reacting to it, then you’re meditating while walking. Walking becomes a meditation technique.

I hope you enjoy! FYI If you go to the sound cloud link you can download the app and play it from your phone while you walk!


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

Karen Nunez Sifuentes (MSU '21)
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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/