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

Everybody say "Puksta!"
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Last week, friends, family, supporters, and Denver 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 DU Puksta scholars: Sunjoi Gandhi, Dhiona Jaramillo, Christy Vo, and Marissa Martinez Suarez. 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 DU seniors, Blanche Marie NdoutouChhorda Vuth, James Artis III, and Oscar Saenz. In addition to their fellow Pukstas, friends and families joined in as audience members to cheer them on, as well as staff from DU.

Blanche studied Criminology, as well as Spanish and Leadership Studies. As a Puksta scholar, she collaborated with African Students United, a campus organization she co-created, in order to reach out to African Community Center and work with them. As someone who came to the United States as a refugee, Blanche also dedicated herself to working on ways of easing the transitional obstacles and stress often experienced by Denver’s refugee population.

Chhorda is a Biology major. As a Puksta scholar, her work involved supporting high school students facing obstacles as immigrants adjusting to new environments. The desire to help these students came from her own experiences with the process of moving to a new country and starting all over with schools and culture. For her project, she hoped to implement a mentorship program for newly arrived immigrant students to help them learn English and ease into the American Culture faster.

James is a Business Management major with a Business Information Analytics minor. He is actively involved in work that empowers and promotes justice for low-income communities and communities of color. His efforts include seeking to address issues surrounding the relationship between law enforcement and Black communities. Additionally, he has been a mentor for the Excelling Leaders Institute and has worked with the Cherry Creek School District towards their Brotherhood efforts.

Oscar studied Strategic Communications and Marketing. For his Puksta Project, Oscar returned to his former school, Munroe Elementary, to develop a parent engagement and education program. Engaging in the community that he grew up in, Oscar has worked to advocate the importance of pursuing higher education.

DU Puksta Coordinator Kathleen Ferrick reflected on the growth of Blanche, Chhorda, James, and Oscar 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 DU 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 Blanche, Chhorda, James, and Oscar 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 DU 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 DU 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 Blanche, Chhorda, James, and Oscar in your journeys ahead, and thank you for being a part of our Puksta Family, now and always.