Bill Shrum (CU Boulder, ’14) was a Puksta Scholar for the final 3 years of his undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Environmental Design with an emphasis on Urban Planning. Being an older returning undergrad and the first in his immediate family to go to college, there was a strong desire to help students from challenging backgrounds find the way through high school and go on to college. Teaming up with Juedon Kebede, (CU Boulder, ’15), Bill and Juedon started “Impact the Youth” as their collaborative Puksta project, a non-profit peer mentoring program bringing high school freshmen and sophomores to CU Boulder to pair up with current undergraduate and graduate students. The peer mentorship was complimented with academic and programmatic deep dives into disciplines on campus including aerospace, biology, architecture, performance, sociology, computer science, and more. The program saw more than 30 high school students participate, and all were admitted to college after graduating high school.
The Puksta Scholars program was the most impactful program for Bill as an undergraduate, above and beyond student government, academic clubs, Greek life, and social interest clubs. The collection of students in the Puksta program were all tremendous leaders on campus and in the community, and the ability to work with and learn from these students was invaluable. Puksta helped Bill expand his community work and outreach on several projects including student government, town-gown relations, peer mentoring, and student organizing.
These skills were directly relevant to Bill’s academic career path, earning a Masters of Communication (CU Boulder, ’18) and soon to graduate with a Masters of Public Administration from CU Denver in 2020. As the Assistant to the Town Manager in Eagle, CO, much of my daily work is community relations, staff and volunteer management and mentoring, and project management. Bill is also an Emerging Leader within the Colorado City and County Manager’s Association and assists CCCMA in communication, outreach, and programming. He has used these skills to lead outreach and project management to help start a Municipal Broadband network, Recreation Center master planning, Economic and Business Development, and other social and equity programs within the Town.
Reflecting on his Puksta experience, Bill shared the following:
My advice for current and future Puksta Scholars is two-fold. First, cherish and nurture the relationships and connections you can make with other Puksta Scholars, on your own campus, and across the state. Puksta has a knack for gathering and empowering civic-minded leaders, and your peers will be confidants, colleagues, and mentors during your academic and professional lives. You will be hard-pressed to find a better community, so invest and take advantage of the Puksta community while you are a part of it. Secondly, many Puksta Scholars do not understand that the skills they learn through Puksta, as well as the moral and ethical compass scholars have for civic life and justice, empowers you to be effective leaders immediately. I have seen more capacity for leadership and effective community service from undergraduate Puksta Scholars than students in an MPA program or even tenured professionals in local government. Do not wait to be “more qualified” or to get “more experience” to unleash what you are already capable of. Many of our civic and social issues are urgent needs, and they need an urgent response.
Bill appreciates the incredible people leading Puksta Scholars, on campus, and in the foundation. Their enduring work is helping to build one of the best scholastic and citizen communities in Colorado. He is honored to be a member of such a great community and hopes current and future scholars can gain as much as he has from the program.