Celebrating our Incoming Scholars and Graduating Seniors at Puksta Passages: CSU Edition!

Everyone say, "Puksta!"
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Last Friday, friends, family, supporters, and Colorado State University Puksta Scholars gathered together via video chat to celebrate another *virtual* Puksta Passages event (and Pizza Party)!

The evening began with the introduction of our newest CSU Puksta scholars: Melanin Armendariz, Mariela Paul, Gerson Flores Rojas, Abighail Tekeste, and Bemnet Tefera. We are thrilled to have these amazing individuals join the Puksta Family, and we look forward seeing how they engage with their campus and communities in the years ahead!

The final part of the evening was dedicated to our graduating CSU seniors, Deborah Ilangikwa, Dominica Manlove, and Sabrina Pribyl. In addition to their fellow Pukstas, friends and families joined in as audience members to cheer them on, as well as staff from CSU including: Collaborative for Student Achievement Executive Director Gaye Digregorio, Community for Excellence Scholar Programs Director Taé Nosaka, Community for Excellence Scholar Programs Associate Director Miel McCarthy, Key Explore Community Coordinator Brian Hayes, and Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Access Tom Biedscheid.

Debbie is an International Studies majorAs a Puksta scholar, her work involved supporting ESL students from Fort Morgan High School through the Define Your Success program. Debbie will continue her passion for working with students as a student in the Masters in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at Boston University this fall.

Dominica is an Health & Exercise Science major. She is actively involved in work that promotes self-love and natural beauty. For her Puksta Project, Dominica established Be Yourself and Own It!: A movement designed to defeat the perception of beauty and spotlight the uniqueness in being different and yourself. This movement was particularly based around young women with curly hair, offering demonstrations, activists, and stylists that delved into culture and understanding through workshops.

Sabrina is a Statistics major. Her passion focuses on supporting and advocating for children with disabilities. Through her Puksta Project “Puppy Pals”, Sabrina collaborated with Puksta Alum David Purcella (CSU ’18) to introduce service dogs to help teach and mentor young disabled students through the “Puppy Pals” program. These service animals assist with practicing reading, writing, and speaking skills outside of the classroom, helping students feel more confident entering their classroom.

CSU Puksta Coordinator Sam Desta reflected on the growth of Debbie, Dominica, and Sabrina over the course of their years at Puksta, as well as their ongoing work as change-makers engaging in work to truly make the world a better place for all. A retrospective slideshow of pictures was also shared, with heartfelt notes from fellow CSU Puksta Scholars interspersed throughout.

Presenting senior scholars with a graduation cord is traditional part of Puksta Passages. However, as the ceremony was moved to a remote format, we had to get creative. Executive Director John Mulstay and Director of Development and Community Outreach NiChel Mulstay arranged for Debbie, Dominica, and Sabrina to receive their cords at home, and then virtually presented the cords to the scholars, congratulating each of them on their accomplishments and thanking them for their meaningful work as Puksta Scholars.

We are truly blown away by the level of creativity, compassion, and forward-thinking demonstrated in each of our graduating and continuing scholars’ projects, as well as their continued commitment to having a positive impact on their communities. Our scholars at CSU are mentors, social justice warriors, and advocates for a more equitable world, and we couldn’t be more proud of them!

Thank you to all of the scholars, as well as our supportive attendees, for making this ceremony a success, and for being part of an evening of love and laughter. We’re so proud of all of our scholars– incoming, current, and graduating– and are grateful to have opportunities like this to celebrate, even if it’s virtually for now! This year’s CSU Puksta Passage truly demonstrated that, in spite of the various challenges and uncertainties we’re all currently facing, Puksta is Love.

Best of luck to Debbie, Dominica, and Sabrina in your journeys ahead, and thank you for being a part of our Puksta Family, now and always.