Graduation season may be ending, but we’re still celebrating! The Puksta Foundation is featuring “Senior Spotlight” profiles, a special series of posts to honor our graduating Puksta Scholars and their projects. We are truly impressed by the work these students have accomplished as Puksta Scholars, and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to share these profiles with the community so you can get to know our Pukstas a bit better.
Please join us in congratulating these students and wishing them luck in the future!
Today our featured Puksta Senior is Blanche Marie Ndoutou, graduating from University of Denver!
Through her Puksta Project “Know Your Rights, Save Your Lives”, Blanche developed a program to educate and mentor students from the Sun Valley community about their rights in interactions with law enforcement. Blanche was particularly driven to launch this program due to the disproportionately negative effects the criminal justice system has on communities of color, particularly youths in low-income neighborhoods. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience:
Hello, my name is Blanche Ndoutou and I am an alumni at the University of Denver with a double major in Criminology and Spanish, and a minor in Leadership Studies. As a Puksta scholar, I learned about my ability to create positive change. Being a scholar motivated me to take actions in order to dismantle issues that I am passionate about changing; such as juvenile justice.
In the past few years as a University of Denver student, I noticed that fellow students went into my neighborhood of Sun Valley, the poorest neighborhood in Denver, to give out food and volunteer for the residents. However, no one had ever taught the children about the criminal justice system. I found this mind-blowing because most of the children in the neighborhood are people of color and according to criminologists, they most likely to be negatively affected by the criminal justice system.
Therefore, as a criminology major, I came to the realization that I should be the person to bring awareness about the justice system to these children. I wanted to prepare for any negative law enforcement interactions, especially because of the issue of police brutality. I created a program called “Know Your Rights, Save Your Lives”. It is a 2 to 3 hours event in which I bring together the youth in my neighborhood and I teach them about their rights. I also provide food and drinks with the help of my Puksta Stipend. The children who have attended this event have given me feedback that they hope I continue with this project. I plan to make my project longterm by hosting 2 to 3 events per year concerning the justice system in the U.S. with the Sun Valley youth while expanding the program to other underserved neighborhoods in Colorado.
Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Blanche, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work advancing equality and empowerment in the community!