Posted on December 11, 2018
His story of resilience and perseverance is truly inspiring!
“I used to be very ashamed of my Dreamer status. I know there are students out there who may feel the way I did. I want to show them there’s no reason to,” ~ Luis Paredes
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The Road to College as a Puksta Scholar
By: Mawukle Yebuah, Puksta Scholar
My passion for higher education access for black males started when I was a senior in high school. I was making the decision on what college I was going to attend and unfortunately, while this would have seemed like one of the happiest moments of my life, it was actually one of the most disappointing. This was around the same time when I found out that some of my black friends were not going to college and I began to notice all the obstacles that many black students and other minority students face when it comes to attending an institution of higher education. For me, this situation was very hard to understand because I always thought that everyone had the same opportunities when it came to getting a college education. Shortly after that time, I began to feel somewhat disconnected from my friends because I had this feeling that our lives were going in two different directions, and I felt that there was nothing I could do to help them.
Now, when I look at the process that took me to get to college I realize that the scholarship that I received from the Puksta Scholars program is one of the main reasons why I am even in college and specifically at DU. The Puksta program has really helped to give me the tools and the support I needed to really chase my passion and strive to make a difference for many black students. One of the main parts of our Puksta program is our projects and currently my project is working with higher education access for black males. I chose this project because the demographic of black males is a group that I identify myself as and the social justice issue area is one that I can connect to many of the experiences that I have had in my life. During my first year, I really had no idea how to start my project and I learned that if you really want to make change you have to talk to the people who you are trying to help and then you find out what they view as the underline problem. So in my first year, I went to South High School every Friday and I mentored a few of the black males. My experience with these males taught me so much about my issue area and it also taught me that there are so many problems that have to be tackled in order to see the type of change that we are all dreaming about. Another part of my project during my first year came when I got the opportunity to sit on the planning committee for the Black Male Initiative Summit (BMIS).
My involvement with BMIS gave me the chance to come into contact with more black males and it helped me to actually have a part of a program that was specifically geared toward my social justice area. While I learned so many things in that first year with BMIS I also knew that there were a few ways that the program could be expanded and improved. So now, during my second year of college, I have been able to work with BMIS to really expand the program. We have added a second day to the annual summit that is held on DU’s campus and we have begun to develop partner school relationships. By adding the second day to the summit we are now able to teach the students and their family what types of questions they should ask colleges and why it is important to actually visit colleges.
I felt that it was important for us to develop this part of the program because I had noticed that many of the black males that I mentored never actually went to visit the campus that they were going to attend.