Archives: Scholars

Scholar / Project

Marissa Alejandra Martinez Suarez

Project: Textbook racism is a big issue in education that subconsciously affects youth and makes them feel ashamed of their identities. As a result, students experience internalized trauma where they do not see themselves succeeding because history does not show people like them achieving great things. I want students to feel empowered and unafraid to be themselves, so for my Puksta project, I am going to find ways to bring more representation in the school’s curriculum and potentially create a program that teaches students how to embrace their cultures.


Inspiration: Throughout my education, I never once had a Latinx teacher around to respond to my cultural necessities. Although the teachers I had were great individuals, none of them could understand how discouraging it can feel to look inside a textbook and not see anyone that matches your ethnicity, to read about the alleged heroes who murdered those who looked like you, and to never once be taught the positive impacts your community has made. Understanding the negative impacts of these one-sided portrayals, I want to empower students by teaching them about their powerful and dynamic cultures through history.


Future Plans: By bringing more representation in the school’s curriculum, I wish to motivate students in their studies and future successes to get them to a place where they are not only learning about history but creating it as well.

Dhiona Carter Jaramillo

Project: Immigrants tend to have an extremely difficult time accessing resources in regards to their mental health. Most times, this is due to the language barrier and common cultural taboo about discussing traumatic topics that have negatively impacted their mental wellness. I want to find a way to make these resources more accessible to the immigrant community through analyzing surveys, finding local English learning classes, and communicating more information about mental health to immigrant communities.


Inspiration: I come from a family of immigrants and I admire the sacrifices they make to build a life in the U.S. so their children can attend better schools and have larger accessibility to resources and opportunities, in comparison to what they might have had in their country of origin. The difficulties of securing jobs and houses, facing cultural and language barriers, and accessing services are not easy tasks to face, it is inspiring to me that my family and others have overcome those (and more) challenges.


Future Plans: I hope to make living in America a bit easier for immigrants. It can be uncomfortable living in a community where you feel as if you do not belong, it should not be that way and by providing resources I think it would make it slightly easier to settle into their communities.

Sunjoi Gandhi

Project: My project is increasing voter participation of women across Colorado by making the information more accessible.


Inspiration: Voting is a part of our duty as citizens and is one of the best ways for our voices to be heard. If we want change to occur, it is dependent on us.


Future Plans: I hope to increase voter participation and make access to education regarding voting and the issues at hand easier.

Manna Lee Naumann

Project: Working with police to create more comprehensive training in order to bring down the number of unnecessary violent incidents.

Inspiration: The police are currently in a crisis and have not been handling the situation well. I believe that American society has to create a better police force soon or risk more unnecessary violence.

Future Plans: I hope to create a more prepared police force that is taught more than shoot first and ask questions later.

Christy Vo

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 peoples 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 knowledgable 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

Emily Rodriguez Aguirre

Project: The Puksta Project I hope to develop is a interactive and expressive space where minorities impacted by discrimination can communicate with others about their experiences; the implementation of a community like this allows minorities a source of support from other with similar struggles.


Inspiration: What inspired me to choose this Puksta Project was a community event that I attended recently this summer. It was amazing the impact someone’s story could have on a group of people. Everyone built relationships from the shared experiences.


Future Plans: What I hope to accomplish with my community engagement work is to make people aware of the micro-aggression present in all areas of life for certain people. I want people to be able to communicate their stories and share them with others in a safe environment.

Emanuel Walker

Project: My Puksta Project focuses on the racial disparities amongst students of color regarding retention and college completion. I’m currently developing a one-year comprehensive program for full-time African American freshmen that emphasizes experiential learning, research, multicultural engagement, and personal development. It includes a reward and accountability system to track academic performance and encourage students to explore pathways and careers early on. We would be helping students establish their “why” to have the motivation, leadership skills, college readiness, and confidence they need to land internships and be successful in the rest of their academic career.


Inspiration: My personal experiences and data are what inspire me. From my personal life, I am a student who used to struggle in school. I graduated high school with a 1.6 GPA and attended a college that did not help me succeed. It wasn’t until I attended a Community College that led me to a first-generation leadership program that equipped me with the skills to graduate top of my class and speak at graduation. I’ve seen many of my fellow African American students disappear, dropout, and end u lost due to lack of support and information. Schools take pride in their diversity, but some lack the data to back it up from what I’ve seen on the state level. The data shows that African American Studen Retention is down 12% for second years at MSU Denver. It also shows that African American students are least likely to take advantage of school resources, internships, and other programs designed to help them succeed. However, on the contrary, students of color who are engaged in clubs or take a multicultural class, engage in a research project, internship, or study abroad are twice as likely to graduate and stay in school than their peers.

Future Plans: I┬áhope to set a foundation for real equity and student empowerment. I want to create a program that fosters the next generation of MSU Denver Leaders and puksta scholars, doctors, mayors, and lawyers. I would like to see an increase in African American 2nd to 4 Year retention and African American Graduation rates starting the beginning of this program. MSU Denver is one of the most diverse campuses in colorado, with students from all walks of life; it’s time for us to pour into our diverse pipeline so they can pour into our local communities and ultimately back into us. I hope to set a statewide precedent of what it looks like to take an underrepresented group of students and transform them into scholars and leaders in their future industries.

Abighail Menghisteab Tekeste

Project: For the upcoming academic year, my project entails creating a solid system of workshops that navigate how to make higher education accessible for senior students in ESL (English as Second Language) classes at Fort Morgan High School. The workshops will entail instruction on how to apply for higher education (technical school, community college, 4-year university etc.) as well as different ways to help alleviate the financial burdens that come with it.


Inspiration: Working with Fort Morgan High School in my first-year with Key Communities, I was made aware of the lack of certain amenities that students in the ESL classes were faced with along with the burdens that already came with being minority students (language barriers, legal status, academic history). I resonated with a majority of the students as I had also been in ESL classes before and I was better able to communicate and empathize with them. Whereas I lived in the Denver metro area and was blessed to have many opportunities easily attainable, the students of Fort Morgan lack that. This ultimately compelled me even more to work with them.


Future Plans: With my community engagement work, I hope to not only be a resource for the students but also help build their confidence in their abilities and demonstrate that their obstacles they face in their educational journey can serve as an advantage.

Bemnet Belachew Tefera

Project: Help families and single-parent households battle homelessness by providing workshops that help them learn about technology, resume building, job searching, and provide opportunities to build profiles.


Inspiration: Communities around me that are actively making an effort for social justice inspired me to make a change and help others. Poverty in America has been increasing as of late and communities need as much help as they can get.


Future Plans: I hope that in Fort Collins there will be families and individuals that will be positively affected by my project. I would like to see a drop in the percentage of homeless individuals and help people find housing and jobs.

Mariela Irene Paul

Project: My project works with children experiencing homelessness in the city of Fort Collins. I plan on working with an organization for homelessness, Family Housing Network, as well as CSU student to become mentors and a support system for these children. We will assist the children in the program with school work and do different fun activities to engage with each child.


Inspiration: Key communities at CSU has inspired me to choose my project. During my first year at CSU I had the pleasure to connect with the Family Housing Network through my Key Cluster(Service). Volunteering at this organization made me want to further my contribution by working with the children in homelessness.


Future Plans: Through my project, I hope to involve and educate other CSU students about homelessness. I also hope to accomplish my goal of making the children feel like they are capable of pursuing a higher education and have the support of CSU students throughout their journey called life.