Scholar Category: Arts and Music

Cesar Rodriguez

Major: Biology/Pre-nursing

Project: I want to create an art exhibition of art that has been made from people who struggle with all sorts of addictions.

Inspiration: Growing up in a household grappling with the challenges of drug issues has fueled my determination to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Inspired by the lessons learned while supporting my family, I am driven to contribute meaningfully, particularly in light of the ongoing homeless crisis affecting communities across America.

Future Plans: I aspire to enlighten individuals on more effective approaches to address drug addiction, while also shedding light on systemic flaws within the American system. Through education and awareness, I aim to contribute to a broader understanding of these issues and advocate for positive change in our societal structures.

Alexis Campos

Major: Entrepreneurship

Project: At the moment, the topics I am circling on are advocating for mental Health Awareness and Artistic Expression. However, I am thinking of merging both because I believe they can both be tied together.

Inspiration: I want to emphasize the importance of self-expression for the well-being of mental health, and a good and healthy way to do so is through art. The core sense of self and art are closely related. Art helps us all. It is very beneficial for us as it is a form of expression that fosters our natural need for self-expression and fulfillment to communicate feelings and sentiments towards anything. The world becomes a better and happier place to live in via the power of art. Art is all around us and open for interpretation, leaving a big void to fill, and allowing us all to get involved.

Future Plans: I consider art to be highly positive and the highlighter on the text of life, so I want to increase the inclusivity of all artists, especially among my community, family, and neighborhood, and immeasurably extend an artist’s standard without limitations. I want to significantly enable art creation as a healthy and accessible outlet of expression and shed new light on the art world.

Gerson Rojas Flores

Major: Journalism

Project: Make a documentary to showcase the struggles that first-generation and undocumented students are faced with when going to college

Inspiration: Family

Future Plans: I hope to increase the support CSU gives its first generations and undocumented students.

Christy Vo

Major: Psychology

Project: I am thinking about spreading awareness about my social justice issue through art. I want to be ablate put murals or create designs to catch people’s attention on the matter.

Inspiration: I have always loved art and want to be able to use it to my advantage to do something about my social issue and what I think is important to talk about and stand up for.

Future Plans: I hope to help with getting people to become more knowledgeable about the issue. I want to eventually work my way up and improve my project to be able to help people in Domestic Violence situations

Felicia “Fifi” (Garcia) Vargas

Major: Music Education

Project: Through the influence of music education, my project will bring a community of children together. My project will provide a program dedicated to bringing music to children where music may not be completely funded. While bringing music to underfunded communities, my project will also help to serve music communities that are lacking in the ability to provide extra personal development for the children who are learning their instruments.

Inspiration: Music Education has been a big impact on my life and I am looking to give back to the community that helped me be who I am today.

Future Plans: I am looking to develop and produce a project that is beneficial and helpful to the community that I can share as developmental research that will follow my degree. It is my hope that once finished with my research and established into my project I will be able to turn it all into words and into an undergraduate thesis that I will be able to share with people for a long time.

Mateo Manuel Vela

Project: My Puksta Project is working to increase access to arts education for low-income youth of color in Denver through providing access to culturally-competent spoken word poetry workshops and performance opportunities. This past summer, I applied and was accepted for a board position for the literary arts organization Sacred Voices, which hosts open mics for Black, Indigenous, and youth of color each month. I am currently helping them expand their board, host their open mics, and generate a long-term curriculum for BIPoC youth of color to be taught in middle/high schools.


Inspiration:  My personal experience as an alumni of Denver’s youth slam poetry team, Minor Disturbance, inspired me to choose my Puksta project. Spoken word has greatly impacted my life, and I feel it is important that students of color are able to engage this art form.


Future Plans for Project:  I hope to accomplish the following from my retreat: a more connected network of youth poets of color in Denver, a safe space for youth of color to articulate their experiences in the current political climate, and the opportunity for students to be connected to the community resources to hone their craft upon returning home.

Leo Andrade

Project: I want to help minority and low-income students attain the resources and skills required to be prepared for a higher education in art related fields.


Inspiration: I was once part of an afterschool art program when I was in middle school. Before I joined I had no idea about what possible career path I would take or how I would get there once I decided. This afterschool program taught me how to use digital computer programs, illustrate, and network so that when I applied and entered college I’d be ready. I want other future students to have access to a collaborative environment similar, my goal is to do exactly that.


Future Plans for Project: I hope to help students find their purpose and let them know that there are people who are there help them succeed. Speaking from experience, minority and low incomes students feel as though the odds are stacked against them. I want them to know that success is possible for them and that they can accomplish it in the arts as well.




Rob Hatcher

Project: He spent the spring semester of 2018 leading poetry workshops at the Community College of Aurora, where he uses creative writing as a means for helping students explore voice and agency. Rob says “What I appreciate about the Puksta Scholars program is that it has allowed me to make an actual difference in the lives of those who really need that extra hand up as they pursue both their academic and personal growth within a junior college environment. None of this would have been possible without the Puksta Fellowship and I am grateful that it has enabled me to have made (and to continue making) an actual impact in the lives of our future leaders.”


Inspiration: My form of activism married to my former community college.


Future Plans for Project: I hope to create active citizens who will harness their own voices to create change in the world.

Alisya Rodriguez

Project: A youth program designed to help children self-identify, raise cultural awareness, and help strengthen creative intelligence through cultural dance and art.

Inspiration: I am a lover of both dance and culture and I believe it is important for people to be sensitive to other cultures. I think the best way to open doors to new worlds is through art and dance. Participating in cultural dances that are different than your own can bring no harm and can spark motivation to dive deeper into learning about ones culture.

Future Plans for Project: I hope to help students become more aware of who they are and be able to explain where they came from and identify what certain traditions, symbols, languages and/or practices that their family participates in. From here I hope these students can compare the differences and similarities between their practices and others with an open and sensitive mind, all while having fun through dance and art.