Incoming Puksta Scholars/Fellows… Congratulations and Welcome to the Puksta Family!!

UCD – Communication Fellows

Kathryn (Kat) Goldberg: People in poverty have an extremely difficult time getting out of the system of public assistance. I want to be a voice for them as new policies are discussed to help ensure their best interests are in the forefront of any changes.

Erin Roney: High School: Fruita Monument (Fruita, Colorado).  After taking courses in Criminology and Communications, Prison, and Social Justice, my Puksta project goals will focus on helping women who have been incarcerated receive housing and support through the Re-entry Initiative program. The program helps empower women through evidence based methods and spiritual growth to restore lives, help families, and renew communities.

Miranda Johnson: I plan to focus my project on serving populations of underprivileged youth. By building their confidence through empowering leadership roles and mentoring relationships it is my hope that the young leaders of tomorrow will understand how they can make a difference in their communities today.


Claire Shannon: Food is a universally powerful form of human communication. When someone is incarcerated, food becomes much more about control and punishment, rather than restoration, healing, and empowerment. My Puksta project will bring local stakeholders together to explore the implementation of culinary classes, facility gardens, and other restorative food practices in Denver-area prisons and jails.


Jessica Rangel: My project will be working with incarcerated people through letter writing and publishing the magazine Captured Words/Free Thoughts. My hope is that through this work, we will be able to liberate incarcerated people through writing and sharing their experience with others.

UCD – Ethnic Studies Fellows

True Apodaca

ETST Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: DACA, Generation Latino

“I was a founding member and Vice President of the Gender and Sexualities Alliance (GSA@UCD), a student organization that has grown exponentially over the past three years providing a safe space for LGBTQ students to meet, socialize and to create community. During my junior year at UCD, I was introduced to the Executive Director at the Colorado Latino Leadership, Research and Advocacy Organization (CLLARO). She encouraged me to apply for their Capitol Fellow Program, which is aimed at creating a pipeline for students of color to enter the political arena. I was accepted into the program and was paired with State Senator Jessie Ulibarri for the 2015 legislative session. The experience I gained in the program was life changing. I was exposed to state government from the inside and worked diligently to network and to learn as much as possible during the 120 days of the session. The following year Senator Ulibarri asked me to be his Chief of Staff. Since then, I have been a Campaign Manager and a Field Director for several local races. This year I have decided to pay it forward. I am working with Generation Latino to create a similar pipeline into the nonprofit sector. We will be placing 15 students into organizations that do work to improve the health of our community. At the end of this summer our cohort will be able to look back on their experiences and have a tangible example of how they improved the health of Latinos in Colorado. This is only the beginning. I have found my passion working for social justice. The new federal administration has created a climate of concern for my community. Families are being torn apart and hate speech has become once again normalized in this country. As I look ahead I am keenly aware that the next four years will present many challenges and opportunities for me to use the skills I have developed and the network I have cultivated to mitigate the injustices that are on the horizon. While I am an American citizen myself, many of my peers are not. We all went to the same schools, worshiped in the same churches and ate at the same tables. The DACA recipients in this country have done everything right and yet they are being demonized by a type of xenophobia that I once believed was behind us. I would love to work on a social justice program that provides resources to keep families intact, provides a path to citizenship and changes the narrative about people of color.”

Career goals: Law and Public Policy

Additional Information:

  • Chief of Staff Senator Jesse Ulibarri
  • Generation Latino
  • Bilingual
  • First Generation
  • Campaign Manager and Field Director
  • Vice President Gender and Sexualities Alliance
  • Urban Land Conservancy Development Committee
  • Deans Advisory Committee


Binh Phan

ETST,  Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: Mentoring EOP Students

“My parents are Vietnamese immigrants who came to America in hopes that they would be able to provide the opportunities for a better future for their six daughters. My parents worked various low-waged job with limited English so that they could have the means to send all their daughters to college. A future social justice program that I want to work on is opening different types of events to help bring diversity and inclusion into the student body. I want to work through the Educational Opportunity programs to mentor students and plan events that help empower students of color to talk about their experiences as a minority on campus.”

Career Goals: EOP Student Advisor

Additional Information:

  • Vietnamese immigrant
  • Bilingual
  • First generation

Alisya Rodriguez


Social Justice Project: Undocumented Students

“I am the second generation of my family to live in the United States. My grandparents are originally from San Louis Poto Si, Mexico and migrated to Colorado to give myself, my parents and our future generation’s better education and life opportunities. My grandfather studied hard to get here today and has left a big imprint in all of our hearts. I am proud of where I come from as I enrolled in a ballet folklorico dance company at the age of 6. I dance professionally with this company today, Fiesta Colorado, and plan to expand this company into a cultural dance academy alongside the director and founder Jeanette Trujillo- Lucero. I believe it is extremely important to keep your personal heritage alive through each new generation.I will be the second in my family to receive a college degree behind my mother Jessica Luna, who is an activist herself. We both are a part of the DREAMer’s sub- committee taskforce here at the University and take leadership roles every year in the development and fundraising of the DREAMer’s gala, which takes place in October. A social justice project I would be interested in continuing my work on would be undocumented students who are unable to receive higher education. I would like to raise much more awareness on this issue and get people involved in any way they can to help raise funds for the DREAMER scholarships that have begun to be awarded each year. Another main focus here is to raise awareness among undocumented students who would like to go to college but are unaware of the opportunities presented to them.”

Career Goals: College Professor

Additional Information:

  • Serves on DREAMer’s taskforce at UCD
  • Member of ballet folkloric company, Fiesta Colorado, since age 6
  • Bilingual

Tiffany Tasker


Social Justice Project: Transitional Homes for the Homeless

“In order to be successful there are steps and needed support. I would like to work on adequate transitional homes for the homeless. This idea would aid them in getting a job and helping develop a comfortable lifestyle through practices. They would receive financial education assistance, such as budgeting and planning, continued coaching support after the transition, and referrals for other programs as needed. I’d also like to teach the youth financial education.”

Career Goals: College Professor

Additional History:

  • Aurora Youth Options
  • National Collegiate Society
  • Honor Roll

Yihee Yoon

ETST, Masters of Social Science

Social Justice Project: Social Justice Through Education

“With my current pursuit of my Masters in the Social Sciences program in Ethnic Studies, I believe that I will only further my commitment to higher education and my passion to become an educator representing women of color in this field. Coming to the United States as a young child from Seoul, South Korea, my single mother has always inspired me to push through limiting social constructs and become a voice for underrepresented communities. I believe that through my Ethnic Studies education, it has prepared me for just that, and therefore, be a strong candidate for the Puksta Fellows Program.”

Career Goals: Work in Higher Education

Additional History:

  • South Korean immigrant
  • Immigrated from Seoul, South Korea as a child with single parent mother
  • First generation
  • Bilingual
  • Dean’s List
  • Asian American Student Services



Miriam Miranda
Major:  Political Science
Social Justice Issue:  As a Puksta Scholar, the primary type of community engagement I am the most interested in, is immigrant and refugee services.  Studies suggest that providing people with resources help them become self-sufficient in their new environment. These resources may include helping them find jobs, become citizens and having English learning classes.
Alexis Robles
Major: Human Performance and Sport
Social Justice Issue:  Helping the Hispanic/Latino community through involvement in health and fitness.  I had great people, most of them which are mentors now, to guide and help my family when we were in need. As a result, I want to give back to the community.
Luis Paredes
Major:  Accounting
Social Justice Issue:  I would like to bring awareness of the harsh effects of alcohol; first within my campus and then throughout my community. I believe that if we are able to bring awareness of the effects of use of alcohol we can see a decrease in alcohol related accidents and other indirect incidents such as domestic violence.
Jawhara Adan
Major:  Nursing
Social Justice Issue:  Working on access to healthcare for immigrant communities.  This kind of work interest me because for one reason I’m a human being and I understand and know how it feels to want people to see you, help you and just be involved with you.


Zahra Abdulameer is an incoming first year student from Denver who plans to major in Biochemistry. Her passion for social justice centers on education and immigration. Zahra plans to create a mentor program to help new immigrant students navigate public schools.

Paola Chavez Arroyo is an incoming first year student from Commerce City who plans to major in Aerospace
Engineering. She is passionate about the social justice issues of access to higher education and community
development. She will join her brother Fernando, along with Selyne and Suyog in developing the Bolder Mentors

Jasmine Tran is a current first year student from Denver who is majoring in Integrative Physiology. Her passion is around issues of equity in health care. Jasmine’s proposes to create or assist programs that help non-native English speakers navigate the health care system.

Marwa Osman                                                                                                                                                            Hometown: Denver                                                                                                                                                                        Major: Biology                                                                                                                                                                              Intended Social Justice Issue Area:Protecting Engangered species / climate chang

 Emmanuel Cooke

Hometown: Littleton
Major: Biochemistry
Intended Social Justice Issue Area:Educational technology for Liberia


Alexander Aleman
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: Westminster High School
Intended Major: Undecided
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Health Care, Education and Youth
Oliver Martinez-Reyes
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: CEC Early College, Denver
Intended Major: Undecided
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Economic Development, Education, Youth and Immigration
Lucia Ramirez
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: John F. Kennedy High School, Denver
Intended Major: Political Science and Accounting
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Education, Youth and Immigration
Lumiere Sidonie
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: High Tech Early College, Denver
Intended Major: International Studies
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Education, Youth, Refugees and Human Rights
Evan Utzman-Nichols
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado
High School: Poudre High School, Fort Collins
Intended Major: International Business
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: Environmental, Poverty, Homelessness and Affordable Housing, Human Rights and Women’s Rights.
Aliyah Williams
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
High School: Denver School of Science and Technology, Green Valley Ranch
Intended major: Forensic Psychology
Intended Social Justice Issue Area: The treatment of mentally ill inmates in prison, the lack of arts in school, and gender equality.


Sabrina Pribyl

Deborah Ilangikwa

Dominica Manlove