January 21st proved to be an eye-opening experience for various communities throughout the United States due to the Women’s March. One such community that participated in the Women’s March on Denver was the DU Puksta Scholars Program as a result of the annual Puksta Foundation Intercollegiate Retreat taking place that weekend. Scholars from DU and four other universities marched in support of various communities that have been marginalized following events that have taken place over the last couple of months. For many scholars, the Women’s March was their first community action. “It was amazing to be able to see so many people take the time out of their day to come together and express their opposition to the marginalization of various communities,” said Larcy Brooks a fourth -year Puksta Scholar. While for many scholars the Women’s March on Denver proved to be the highlight of the weekend, there was still an entire retreat to attend.
Following the Women’s March, Puksta Scholars from every university came back to the Wells Fargo building on Lincoln Street to partake in various seminars in order to build skills and develop closer relationships with their counterparts from different schools. Roudy Hildreth, the Puksta coordinator for the University of Colorado (CU), officially kicked off the retreat with a seminar challenging every scholar to focus on the story of themselves, their Puksta project and attempting to frame the story in a community perspective. Furthermore, CCESL’s very own Ryan Hanschen introduced scholars to the concept of a One2One and encouraged scholars to engage with their roommates in an attempt to better get to know each other. Finally, Katharine Worms of Colorado State University led scholars in an activity highlighting identity and the idea of socialization throughout one’s own life.
The characteristic that makes Puksta different from other scholarship foundations is the sense of family and belonging. This was demonstrated on Saturday night through the alumni panel which included three DU and one CU alumni who provided current scholars with their insights into “life after Puksta.” This proved to be a useful experience for many first-years, including Oscar Saenz who said, “I am truly grateful and humbled to be a Puksta Scholar after seeing what previous scholars have gone on to do from a community organizing perspective. Puksta really is a lifestyle.” Following dinner, all of the DU Puksta Scholars went to Lucky Strike to play various arcade games, compliments of the Puksta Foundation. Sunday morning had a more somber and relaxed tone due to the fact that various scholars realized that the retreat was coming to an end. A presentation provided of self-care and mental awareness was led by Cody Wiggs, another DU Puksta alumni. This presentation provided helpful insight into how scholars can take care of themselves and channel all of their energy into focusing on the things in front of them rather than getting caught up on things in the future.
Following the presentation of self-care and awareness, Puksta Foundation President John Mulstay addressed the scholars with words of wisdom about the retreat along with the history that was made the previous day at the Women’s March on Denver. Scholars rejoiced and celebrated what was arguably the most successful Intercollegiate Puksta Retreat to date.