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


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

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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!


Senior Spotlight: Blanche Ndoutou (DU ’20)

Graduation season may be ending, but we’re still celebrating! 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 Blanche Marie Ndoutou, graduating from University of Denver!

Through her Puksta Project “Know Your Rights, Save Your Lives”, Blanche developed a program to educate and mentor students from the Sun Valley community about their rights in interactions with law enforcement. Blanche was particularly driven to launch this program due to the disproportionately negative effects the criminal justice system has on communities of color, particularly youths in low-income neighborhoods. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience:

Hello, my name is Blanche Ndoutou and I am an alumni at the University of Denver with a double major in Criminology and Spanish, and a minor in Leadership Studies. As a Puksta scholar, I learned about my ability to create positive change. Being a scholar motivated me to take actions in order to dismantle issues that I am passionate about changing; such as juvenile justice.

In the past few years as a University of Denver student, I noticed that fellow students went into my neighborhood of Sun Valley, the poorest neighborhood in Denver, to give out food and volunteer for the residents. However, no one had ever taught the children about the criminal justice system. I found this mind-blowing because most of the children in the neighborhood are people of color and according to criminologists, they most likely to be negatively affected by the criminal justice system.

Therefore, as a criminology major, I came to the realization that I should be the person to bring awareness about the justice system to these children. I wanted to prepare for any negative law enforcement interactions, especially because of the issue of police brutality. I created a program called “Know Your Rights, Save Your Lives”. It is a 2 to 3 hours event in which I bring together the youth in my neighborhood and I teach them about their rights. I also provide food and drinks with the help of my Puksta Stipend. The children who have attended this event have given me feedback that they hope I continue with this project. I plan to make my project longterm by hosting 2 to 3 events per year concerning the justice system in the U.S. with the Sun Valley youth while expanding the program to other underserved neighborhoods in Colorado.

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Blanche, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work advancing equality and empowerment in the community! 


Senior Spotlight: Jennifer Cassidy (MSU ’20)

Graduation season may be wrapping up, but we’re still celebrating! 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 Jennifer Cassidy, graduating from Metropolitan State University Denver!

As a benefactor of the TANF Gateway program, Jennifer sought to ensure that others have the ability to better control their future by soliciting and donating computers, and related gear, to the very people and communities that often have the most difficulty in getting these much-needed tools. We are so proud of Jennifer’s passion for this work, as well as her courage in taking on this project and navigating adversity, unpredictability, and other challenges. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience and journey as a student:

When I became a Puksta scholar, my goal was to get people who had experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) back out into the workforce with confidence. I found this feat to be overwhelming. So, I scaled down my project to supplying computers to IPV shelters. During the time that I was collecting old and broken computers, I was also educating people on the 4th congressional districts access to IPV resources. The 4th congressional district covers most of the eastern portion of the state (from I25 to the Kansas/Nebraska border). In that district there are 9 IPV shelters. Out of those nine, only four have access to job search coaching, and only three offer job training. In the northeast is Stirling and Greeley the home to two of three facilities, and Trinidad which is in the central southern part of the state. My goal was to offer those in the middle of the state, such as Hugo, an opportunity to help the clients of their facility. Knowing that these shelters so not receive the resources or the funding, that others in a more diverse population would receive, I thought this could be where I can make the most impact. To give a family the opportunity to work from home with a computer while tending to the needs of their dependents.
I did not meet that goal. I was able to collect several computers, and repair a few (or so I thought). I need to replace batteries and have the software activated, which there is no funding available. With the COVID-19 outbreak, that made things much more difficult. Completing school was a top priority for me, and unfortunately my project went on a back burner. I have over come many personal challenged during the past few years that have made this journey increasing more difficult. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of mental health and IPV.

When asked what Puksta means to her, Jen shared the following:

Navigating through college can be like walking in the dark, especially when you are trying to find your place in this world, but Puksta is a guiding light through difficult navigation. Knowing that you others accept you for who you are and having others believe in what you want to do to help better your community is what the Puksta family is all about, and it is an honor to be part of that family.

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Jen, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work in the community! We invite you to learn more about Jen and her project in the video below.


Senior Spotlight: James Artis III (DU ’20)

Graduation season may be wrapping up, but we’re still celebrating! 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 James Artis III, graduating from University of Denver!

James is a Business Management major with a Business Information Analytics minor. He is actively involved in work that empowers and promotes justice for low-income communities and communities of color. His efforts as a Puksta Scholar include seeking to address issues surrounding the relationship between law enforcement and Black communities. He passionately engages in social justice work to make sure voices of individuals belonging to marginalized identities are heard, recognized, and represented. Additionally, he has been a mentor for the Excelling Leaders Institute and has worked with the Cherry Creek School District towards their Brotherhood efforts.

At DU, James co-facilitated The Black Male Initiative Summit, in addition to helping to welcome prospective students to the DU Campus as a Program Visit Intern at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. James has also contributed to the community as an Assistant Basketball Coach for AAU Premiere Basketball Club, Youth Pastor at Balm of Gilead, Brotherhood Publicist at Overland High School, and Volunteer at Operation Christmas Child Warehouse and Food Bank of the Rockies.

To learn more about James’ Puksta Project, check out the poster below.

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, James, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work advancing equality and empowerment in the community!