While COVID has prevented all of us from gathering in person, it certainly hasn’t stopped us from connecting and sharing meaningful moments with each other, even if it is virtually. Normally around this time of year we’d be packing our bags to hit Estes for our annual retreat, but this year we decided to keep things physically distanced and do our first ever online Puksta Scholar Spirit Week instead. In true Puksta fashion, we all got together in the spirit of education, civic engagement, and family bonding.
We kicked off Monday’s events with a session on voting led by Jessie Jennett from IGNITE the Vote. For many of us, this election is the most important time in our lives to step up and be active citizens. We talked about our passions, frustrations, and what keeps us hopeful about the country we live in. Most importantly, we learned about our powers and capabilities to actually created change in the civic sphere. One of our own scholars Oliver Martinez-Reyes shared his experience of testifying in the state legislature and helping a bill passed to increase access to concurrent enrollment, proving that even as students, we still have power.
Tuesday we took things in a different direction and looked more inward as individuals. As civic minded young leaders, it is often too easy to get buried in all the problems of the world around us, without taking enough thought to ourselves. Riana Mitchell led our session, appropriately titled “All the Cares in the World… but who Cares for YOU?” The topic of self care has rightfully gained more widespread attention recently, and we haven’t needed it more than we’ve needed it this year. We learned how to take in deeper appreciation for the little things, not get crushed by the big things, and most importantly, give ourselves the chance to take a break and think about nothing every once in a while. Thanks to Riana we were able to equip ourselves with more tools to really examine and nurture our emotions and wellbeing in order to stay in the fight for justice.
For our next session we were so delighted to be led by two of our own alumni, Nick Martinez and Felipe Vieyra, as they talked about education equity and how to continue civic engagement during COVID-19. Although this pandemic has taken away many of the activism activities we’ve grown reliant on, it has presented new tools for us to use. As Nick pointed out in our session, there’s no reason why a district administrator shouldn’t be able to get on a zoom with 50 community leaders that have questions about the education system. Regardless of what we’re facing, there’s always an opportunity to connect, and there’s always a way to exercise our power as young leaders to demand change.
Thursday we went back to the world of self-help and self-improvement through a conversation with Charline Burgess from Morgan Stanley on financial literacy and financial health. For many of us, knowledge about personal finance was the kind of education we were missing the most. We asked tons of questions about budgeting, saving, and how to use credit especially. Like any other kind of wellness plan, we learned how to monitor our finances and identify areas that needed to be changed and improved.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the week was our daily zoom lunches. We gathered around the virtual dining table to connect with friends old and new from across all of our campuses. Whether it was with Scattergories, charades, or just talking about our days, we had tons of fun just getting to be in each other’s virtual presence. The lunches also offered a chance to really vent and talk to other student activists about all the trouble we’re experiencing in our own lives and in the world around us. In times like these, we are incredibly thankful to be able to lean on our Puksta family for hope, support, and inspiration.