Scholar Category: Education

Anthony Salazar

Project: My project concentrates on helping students specifically seniors navigating the financial aspect of college. Getting in is one step but anybody hardly talked about how to make it a financial reality which seems far out of reach for most students.  This tends to be the case a majority of the time. Although the thing really preventing students from coming to a University is a lack of education on how to make college a financial reality.


Inspiration: Coming from a low-income neighborhood there was an immense need for post-secondary option transition coaches. I only knew of one from my district who was hard to get help from. Seeing this as well as my peers struggle joking but being serious on how much harder it is to pay to college not get that acceptance letter. Inspiration sparked in me to help make a change to this.


Future Plans for Project: My main goal is to help the seniors in my current school and I hope it’ll have a ripple affect on upcoming seniors so they can see college is an obtainable goal.


Lluvia Macias

Project: I have been able to join a research lab through the Renee Crown Wellness Center through CU. As a team we were looking at feelings of trust or distrust between hispanic families and the school district. I worked on translating and transcribing interviews as well as coding them.


Inspiration: CU has a growing population of Undocumented students and must have a support system for them.


Future Plans for Project: I hope to gain Faculty/student/administrative support and get funds to retain undocumented students on campus.


Sana Zulali

Project: I decided to focus my project on working with high school students and their parents understand the college process which includes, financial aid, applications, GPA, SAT scores, and other resources necessary. My goal is to help underrepresented students. First generation or immigrant students are lacking support and are underrepresented students. Creating this project will allow me to show the importance and opportunity available for these students. After having guidance, I hope to see students feel prepared about the future. Volunteering with Adelante! at Boulder High School will allow me to use the activist intellectual tradition to give back to my community.


Inspiration: Due to the recent political debate on children being taken away from their families and lifestyle, I decided to choose this as my Puksta Project because this is a major problem happening in the United States that will affect globally. As a result, less immigrants will get the opportunity to have basic human rights.


Future Plans for Project: I hope that I accomplish change in my community that will spread to others who hear our voices. I think that anyone can create change and I hope to spread awareness in order to make change.

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.

German Treto Esparza

Project: Help high school seniors explore DU and guide them through the application process.


Inspiration: My own background as an immigrant and my struggles to get where I am today, have pushed me to want to make a difference in peoples lives.


Future Plans for Project: I would like for students and parents to feel more confident making a decision when it comes to their future.


Sophia “Rosie” Contino

Project: Publishing research to make sexual health curriculums more accessible to students with intellectual disabilities. Hoping to use this research to develop a tool/resource for caregivers and parents to use when engaging in conversations about sexual health with their student. All in all, my goal is to help eliminate the stigma attached to “sexuality and intellectual disability”.

Inspiration: I was inspired to pursue this project initially through my work with the Sexual Assault Victims Advocate (SAVA). In my time at SAVA, I was made aware of a disturbing statistic: Children with disabilities are four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children without (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000). After more research, I discovered that this issue is not only disturbingly widespread but also devastatingly underreported and virtually unknown to the general public.
Once I became aware of this issue, I could not stop thinking about it. Since my own brother was born with Sotos Syndrome, I have an understanding of just how vulnerable people living with developmental disabilities can be. I continued to learn about this problem and came to the conclusion that people with disabilities are subject to abuse primarily because the majority of them have no sexual health education; if they were to experience sexual abuse, they couldn’t report it because they themselves are not sure what happened.


Future Plans for Project: I want to empower people living with both developmental and physical disabilities by  providing them with an individualized sexual health education so that they are less vulnerable to sexual abuse.



Jessica Rangel Leon

Project: Currently working to create a curriculum that focuses on undocumented high school students and their experience. In this curriculum, the goal is to guide these students towards higher education specific to their needs and experiences.


Inspiration: As I have seen firsthand how immigration policies and laws tear undocumented families apart, I was inspired to help those who don’t have resources or outside support.


Future Plans for Project: I hope to educate my peers and those who are unwilling to accept immigrants into the US about why America thrives on immigration and what the lives of every undocumented person truly means.

Dom Baca

Project: For my project I will learn more about the inner workings of the Restorative Justice disciplinary system and use my knowledge to start by educating first my high school about this process and work to help the implement it. Then after I will begin to reach out to other schools and do the same so that way I may have a bigger impact. This in turn will be my way to combat racism and the school to prison pipeline by decreasing suspensions and law enforcement action taken against students. This, in the end, help create a better future for minority students through equality.

Inspiration: As a high school student I noticed that when going to a minority school and talking to members of my community my school was often seen as the ghetto or the bad school. I was always confused by this because my peers were such compassionate and loving people. I then began to notice where this ideology was coming from. It came from how the students reacted to being mistreated by the faculty of the school. This is what the community saw. This ideology became real for me when I was sitting in class one day. As I sat at my desk, I noticed a teacher put in a new policy in their class that I did not agree with. I began to question why the teacher put in this new policy. I also found loopholes and pointed them out to the teacher. Later that day, I was taken out of class by security which brought me to the assistant principal’s office and told that I was going to be suspended for being disrespectful and talking back to a teacher. This did not sit well with me because I was a 4.0 gpa student and was seen as one of the leaders of the school. Luckily, I managed to get out of the suspension. This situation had always seemed injust to me. The pure fact that I was almost suspended for asking a question that a teacher did not like came from how some of the teachers and administrators at the school views and mistreat the minority students. Now that I am in college I now see how that would have affected my ability to get into college and I realized that many students fall victim to this. I would like to now go back and discuss with the faculty how their treatment of the students is not only affecting them, but it is affecting the school’s reputation in the community. This is where I got my idea for my community engagement project. I want to stand up for the social justice of the students and show the faculty why what they are doing is wrong and how it can be improved.

Future Plans for Project: With my civic engagement project I plan to accomplish my goal of implementing a more equal and fair system for dealing with behavioral issues. If I could spread this ideology to schools all through out the Colorado area I know I will have an impact on the improvement of the lives of minority students.


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.




Senika J. O’Connor

Project: Education equity as it relates to pedagogy: concentrate on the social, economic and academic challenges black and brown students face. She will research the intersections of race, culture and microaggressions as it relates to education and work towards fostering inclusivity.  In the following year, she intends to gain experience working with K-12 students in the Denver Metro area. Furthermore, she plans to work closely with students, parents and educators, promoting culturally responsive teaching, encouraging a culture of restorative justice and equity in education. She hopes to ultimately pursue a career in education policy, as it pertains to the disproportionate rates of academic success for black and brown students.


Inspiration: Growing up I often found myself in a classroom where no one looked like me. The history books only reflected faces similar to my own when we learned about slavery in America. It was challenging to navigate and make sense of who I was in relation to these environments.

When I was old enough to work inside the walls of public education, I noticed that there were students who sat in the same lonesome position as I once had. Seeing these students made me want to rectify the unspoken and spoken injustice of being a minority student. I ultimately chose my project because education equity is incredibly meaningful to me. I believe that one of the best ways a teacher can be intentionally inclusive is to value culturally responsive teaching for all students.


Future Plans for Project: I hope to engage in meaningful work that has the ability to make someone else’s life experience better.