Senior Spotlight: Jennifer Cassidy (MSU ’20)

Graduation season may be wrapping up, 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 Jennifer Cassidy, graduating from Metropolitan State University Denver!

As a benefactor of the TANF Gateway program, Jennifer sought to ensure that others have the ability to better control their future by soliciting and donating computers, and related gear, to the very people and communities that often have the most difficulty in getting these much-needed tools. We are so proud of Jennifer’s passion for this work, as well as her courage in taking on this project and navigating adversity, unpredictability, and other challenges. She shared the following reflections about her Puksta experience and journey as a student:

When I became a Puksta scholar, my goal was to get people who had experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) back out into the workforce with confidence. I found this feat to be overwhelming. So, I scaled down my project to supplying computers to IPV shelters. During the time that I was collecting old and broken computers, I was also educating people on the 4th congressional districts access to IPV resources. The 4th congressional district covers most of the eastern portion of the state (from I25 to the Kansas/Nebraska border). In that district there are 9 IPV shelters. Out of those nine, only four have access to job search coaching, and only three offer job training. In the northeast is Stirling and Greeley the home to two of three facilities, and Trinidad which is in the central southern part of the state. My goal was to offer those in the middle of the state, such as Hugo, an opportunity to help the clients of their facility. Knowing that these shelters so not receive the resources or the funding, that others in a more diverse population would receive, I thought this could be where I can make the most impact. To give a family the opportunity to work from home with a computer while tending to the needs of their dependents.
I did not meet that goal. I was able to collect several computers, and repair a few (or so I thought). I need to replace batteries and have the software activated, which there is no funding available. With the COVID-19 outbreak, that made things much more difficult. Completing school was a top priority for me, and unfortunately my project went on a back burner. I have over come many personal challenged during the past few years that have made this journey increasing more difficult. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of mental health and IPV.

When asked what Puksta means to her, Jen shared the following:

Navigating through college can be like walking in the dark, especially when you are trying to find your place in this world, but Puksta is a guiding light through difficult navigation. Knowing that you others accept you for who you are and having others believe in what you want to do to help better your community is what the Puksta family is all about, and it is an honor to be part of that family.

Congratulations on the completion of your degree, Jen, and thank you for your truly meaningful and impactful work in the community! We invite you to learn more about Jen and her project in the video below.