Nicholas Kukucka

University of Colorado Boulder - 2014

My Puksta project changed and developed over the years. In my first year as a Puksta scholar, my mentor connected me with Mike Johnston's office, who at the time was serving as a Colorado state senator and was passionate about issues revolving around education in Colorado. Working with the senator, I helped organize constituent committees to help advise Johnston on important issues in Colorado. I also helped establish the Kids at the Capitol program that provided students across the Denver area with he opportunity to join Johnston on the senate floor and connect with him over lunch. In my second year I worked with an organization called Educate!, which was a rapidly expanding organization that worked to empower young people in Uganda. Working with Educate! I got a glimpse into the world of non-profits, learned about grant writing, and met some awesome people. In my final year as a Puksta scholar, I had become increasingly passionate about education and in my senior year it all came together. I was taking Public Achievement, a class where we worked to implement curriculum that empowered young people to become active members of their communities. For my Puksta project, I brought that curriculum to my old high school, DSST Public Schools, by taking over an elective class which I taught twice a week. Through the class, students identified and addressed social problems in their communities. This is what ultimately led me to my current career.

After graduating from college, I was immediately hired as an apprentice teacher at DSST Public schools. However, I remained in this position for only a few months before being asked to teach the Spanish for Native Speakers II (SNS II) course at our school. In my second year at DSST I continued to hone my abilities as a teacher by teaching SNS II as well as American History. However, in my third year teaching, I was asked to assume the role of Assistant Director of our growing Entrepreneurial Studies (E-Ship) course at DSST. The course had been established just a few years prior and had grown into a senior intensive course serving about 15 seniors each year. However, we wanted to scale the program to serve 100 9th graders and 160 8th graders. In my role, I develop and implement curriculum to empower young people to create meaningful impact by identifying and solving real world problems in their communities. I also strategize to continue to scale the program and dramatically increase impact. We also are working on a number of projects that run alongside the main E-Ship program including a study abroad program with students and foreign partners in East Africa as well as a podcast titled We Must Start.