Scholarships & Awards

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Crimson & Gold Awards

CCESL honors outstanding students by nominating an undergraduate and graduate student in the following categories annually: Public Good Student of the Year, Service Student of the Year, and Community Organizer of the Year. These students are recognized through the university-wide Crimson & Gold Award Ceremony put on by the Office of Student Engagement.

  • Public Good Student of the Year

    This award honors a student who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the public good by applying their knowledge and intellectual resources to enhance social capital and community development.

    • 2023 Winners:
      • Graduate: Jenna Wyatt, Environmental Policy & Managemen | Jackie Tran, Social Work
      • Undergraduate: Eli Zehe, Geography, Political Sciences, and Geographic Information Sciences
    • 2022 Winners:
      • Graduate: Jessica Villena Sanchez
      • Undergraduate: Brandon T
    • 2021 Winners:
      • Graduate: Mandeep Karki
      • Undergraduate: Kelly Bonk  
    • 2020 Winners:
      • Graduate: Farduus Ahmed
      • Undergraduate: Margarita Soltero
  • Service Student of the Year

    This award honors a student who has demonstrated passion and dedication to service, reflecting critically on their experiences and addressing root causes of community issues through service.

    • 2023 Winners:
      • Graduate: Ashton Mach, Viola & Music Theory
      • Undergraduates: Seraphina Loukas, Molecular Biology
    • 2022 Winners:
      • Graduate: Derek Brannon
      • Undergraduates: Megan Holiday & Sarah Schuller
    • 2021 Winners:
      • Graduate: Meghan McCarroll
      • Undergraduate: Mawusi Danso
    • 2020 Winners:
      • Graduate: Emily Leeper
      • Undergraduate: Isaac Vargas
  • Community Organizer of the Year

    This award honors a student who has demonstrated outstanding community organizing skills and leadership by organizing others to take action on a critical social justice issue in the DU and/or Denver community.

    • 2023 Winners:
      • Graduate: Mona Moayedi, DU/Iliff Joint Program in Religion
      • Undergraduates: Will Sciepko, International Studies & Public Policy
    • 2022 Winners:
      • Graduate: Bert Evans-Taylor
      • Undergraduates: Daniela Chavez & Marissa Martinez Suarez
    • 2021 Winners:
      • Graduate: Dilkush Khan
      • Undergraduate: Elsa Dienema  
    • 2020 Winners:
      • Graduate: Josie Ampaw
      • Undergraduate: Samantha Helgeson

Puksta Scholars

The DU Puksta Scholars Program is an enriching four-year scholarship program and community open to Denver high school students who have been accepted to the University of Denver and who have an interest in social justice.

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Kimmy Foundation Community Service Professional Award

The Kimmy Foundation's mission is to support youths who exhibit creativity, character, and compassion in keeping with the life and ideals of Kathryn Dougherty Galbreath. This award, given to a graduating senior from DU’s traditional undergraduate program, highlights the Kimmy Foundation's efforts to support those who give to others and lead the way toward helping their community.

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Scholar Development & Fellowship Advising

CCESL student programs enhance student's competitiveness for external fellowships. The Office of Scholar Development & Fellowship Advising (SDFA), established in 2022, can further support students and recent graduates from across the university in their development as scholars through pursuit of external awards. In most cases, external awards are funding and programming to help pursue a purposeful activity beyond DU, such as research, language study, or public service. The Office of Scholar Development & Fellowship Advising can help students build on their work at DU and pursue external awards that can maximize their impact as well as their professional, scholarly, and personal growth.

  • Newman Civic Fellowship

    The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program that recognizes and supports student public problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. DU may nominate one fellow each year based on their potential for public leadership and their work with communities. Throughout the fellowship year, Campus Compact provides fellows with opportunities to nurture their assets and help them develop strategies for social change—creating a network of connected and engaged student leaders who can support one another in making positive change. 

    2023: Daniela Chavez 

    2019: Amanda Wittebort 

    2018: Liliana Diaz-Solodukhin 

  • Truman Scholarship

    The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation awards merit-based scholarships to support graduate study leading to a career in government or elsewhere in public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities, and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government. DU may nominate up to 4 eligible juniors each year.  

  • Other External Awards

    Learn more about external awards: there are so many awards out there! SDFA can help you think through what opportunities might be the best fit for your goals and interests.  

Community Engagement Photo Showcase

Each year, students, faculty, and staff from across campus are invited to submit a photo and a written statement reflecting on the impact community engagement has had on their experience at DU. Photos and written statements are then displayed in the Community Commons Art Gallery from May to June. Awards are presented to those whose entries best illuminate the CCESL pathways below. 

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    Recognizes submissions that exemplify the pursuit of knowledge to inform action, such as being able to contextualize a social justice issue, understanding of civic and democratic processes, and/or the various ways of working for social change.

  • people icon


    Recognizes submissions that exemplify artist’s ability to develop relationships rooted in reciprocity, mutuality and collaboration committing to act for the public good. 

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    Recognizes submissions that exemplify the artist’s understanding of their place within the community and their responsibilities with and to others.

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    Recognizes submissions that exemplify the artist, becoming a skillful agent of change, such as applying an anti-oppression analysis to inform community-engaged activities or working collaboratively for social change.

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    This award is the highest honor, demonstrating an integration of the four pathways, Think, Connect, Act, Reflect, accompanied by creative, high-quality imagery that captures the artist’s engagement.

2023 Photo Showcase

  • Student Winner: Jay Keodonexay
    Stamp negative of two hands holding eyeballs and words "Can you see me now?"

    Am I Visible Enough? 

    Since moving to Denver, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a diverse range of people with different backgrounds, identities, and experiences. Through these connections, I’ve come to understand how essential it is to be visible and present for those who are not able to do so. As a transgender man, bisexual, and biracial individual, I’ve been fortunate enough to be visible and use my platform to advocate for my community. To further this mission, I’ve recently started creating art again, with the goal of creating pieces that make people feel seen and heard. I’m also in the works of opening an online store, artloveshard, to sell art that celebrates diversity and authenticity. I plan to donate a portion of proceeds to organizations that support my community and create a space for others to be themselves. Additionally, the name artloveshard comes from my long-held motto of “love hard,” which means to put your all into everything you do, including loving everyone as much as you can. The pictured piece was created for Transgender Day of Visibility to highlight the importance of visibility in our society. Although visibility can be a privilege, it should not be taken for granted. Rather, it should be used to empower those around us and create a sense of acceptance and understanding. Through my art and online store, I hope to create a space where people can feel seen, heard, and respected, regardless of their identities or expression. Through meeting people from all walks of life, I’ve learned more about myself and my community than I ever could have imagined. This newfound knowledge and growth has enabled me to continue creating a space for people to connect and be themselves. Through my art, online store, and advocacy, I strive to create a safe and accepting environment where everyone can be proud of who they are and embrace their identity. I hope to continue to be a source of support for my community and to work towards a future where everyone is accepted and celebrated for who they are. 

  • Student Winner: Samantha Rodriguez
    Large billboard on building reading "We Show Up"

    In the photo the billboard is captioned, " We Show Up. For our patients, for our communities, for each other". Currently working with the underserved community in Aurora, I am constantly showing up for my patients, for the community of Aurora, and for one another. This community work has demonstrated to me that a bit of work can go a long way. Everything started with the vision of wanting to help others. This is such a broad topic that needed to be defined. I want to be a doctor and began by making connections and finding people that could connect me with the right set of individuals. In that case, I found an internship with Dawn Clinic to help patients when they are getting medical care. I have joined a community that is determined to help as many patients as they possibly can when it comes to healthcare. no matter what your background is or who you are, we all deserve adequate healthcare, compassion, and to be told that we matter. 

    Title & Community Partner(s): We show up; Dawn Clinic 




  • Student Winner: Sunjoi Gandhi
    People sitting on grassy hill with demonstration signs

    After a long, long day of rallying with the community for the protection of women's reproductive health outside of Colorado, students in the Leadership Out Loud Program by Girls Inc of Metro Denver felt empty. Despite the passion we feel to stand with our community in times of crisis, the exhaustion of social justice work can and will wear on you. In order to protect and take care of others, we must learn to take care of ourselves. Without taking moments to take care of yourself, a moment to eat, hydrate, rest, recenter, etc. we are unable to continue to fight for others. These students demonstrate taking care of oneself in order to take care of others within the community. 

    Community Partner(s): Girls Inc of Metro Denver 



  • Faculty/Staff Winner: Matthew Taylor
    Two people standing next to one another outdoors and talking

    Working alongside Guatemala's Indigenous communities to understand how climate changes impact their natural resources takes time. Time to trust each other. Time to listen. Time to think. Time to make plans for more work. Time to think how we can better the world for future generations. Time to learn from each other. 

    Community Partner(s): The people of the Mam communities of Todos Santos, Huehuetenango, Guatemala 








  • Anna Marlow
    Sandy area with mountains in background

    The Alpine Club has provided me with great opportunities to experience the outdoors here in Colorado by exploring places I have never been to before. I have met so many great people through this community, and I have made some very close friends out of these trips as well. When I brought my camera on this trip, I was able to photograph so many DU students while gaining important community connections with them as well. I was able to see somewhere I had never thought to go to before, while sharing the experience with so many new people who also encouraged me to try new things, like taking up climbing. I think that the DU Alpine Club does an excellent job of bringing so many people of different groups together, connecting with one another through the shared love of the outdoors. 

    Community Partner(s): Alpine Club


  • Ashton Taylor
    People tending to garden beds

    A quick photo I snapped while working at a D.U.G. in Montview Aurora. 

    Community Partner(s): Denver Urban Gardens 








  • Brandon Arneson
    People at tennis courts

    When I joined my high school's tennis team, I was the only one who had ever previously participated in organized tennis programming. This unfamiliarity was reflected in the size of the team, as we struggled to reach the minimum roster of ten players year after year. When I graduated, my Minneapolis neighborhood had only one youth tennis program available to its nearly 50,000 local residents. This singular program capped their registration at 20 people and cost $50 per week, presenting a financial barrier for a community where 75% of students receive free or reduced lunch. This was not an issue of interest; it was one of opportunity. Drawing on my community-engaged learnings and experiences at the University of Denver, I returned to my Minneapolis community last summer to organize a free, beginner tennis event for local youth. I partnered with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation to promote the event in both English and Spanish, as well as arranging for current players from my alma mater's tennis team to serve as coaches. With the aid of the University of Denver Passport Fund grant, I purchased balls and racquets for participants to keep – breaking cost barriers for entry into the sport. Over 60 youth attended the event and spent the day learning the basics of tennis and building community. Many of my former teammates, who never had the opportunity to play tennis before high school, brought their families and younger siblings.  

    This photo shows a group of participants and coaches on the day of the event. The fence in the foreground represents the obstacles to tennis access that youth in my community have faced. The courts in the background, which used to be cracked and unusable, are freshly laid and painted by the City. The sky is blue. The future, if only by just a little, is brighter. 

    Community Partner(s): Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, Edison High School 

  • Clayton Kuklick
    Person standing wearing red University of Denver polo shirt

    Flipping Technology and Giving Voice 

    Serving on the CCESL committee has afforded me the opportunity to explore various ways in which faculty members across disciplines engage community-engagement research projects. In this way, new ideas, networks, and approaches are generated for solving practical problems through impactful community-engaged research. Statement 2: A critical aspect of community-engaged scholarship is the communal agreement of a shared problem to solve. In our community-engaged scholarship, led by a student in the MASC (Master of Arts in Sport Coaching) program, we sought to explore a common problem for how sports technology creates and reinforces coaches' disciplinary practices (surveillance, control, etc.), which can unknowingly lead to athlete docility, amotivation, and a host of performance issues. Through community-engaged scholarship, we explored a potential solution to the problem by creating a technology that allowed for anonymous feedback to be provided to the coach from athletes which gave athletes a voice. Our findings highlight how the anonymous use of technology disrupted disciplinary practices used by the coach, empower athletes, and provided oodles of information to the coach that otherwise would never have been uncovered by technology. 

  • Derek Brannon
    Two people posing together

    Understanding and Supporting Environmental Education: A Qualitative Study of Teachers and School Administrators

    This photo was taken during the National Communication Association's 108th conference. Dr. Christina and I had just presented our work, a conference presentation sharing our findings from a study we had conducted in partnership with Denver Public Schools. This study explored how teachers naturally integrate ecological education into their day-to-day practices, despite doing not being a district mandate. This study has informed our current project, developing an ecologically-minded staff professional development program for and with DPS. 

    Community Partner(s): Denver Public Schools



  • Dhiona Jaramillo
    Screenshot of Sustainable DU Instagram post of people posing around a table together with the caption "We want to give a huge thanks to all the performers who participated in our Energy Challenge Open Mi...

    This is my attendance to a sustainability event that is another scope of projects that I have been looking into. It was an open mic night to raise awareness about energy and climate change. While this event was not directly related to my project I am working on now, I think it is important to be open-minded to new projects that I can participate in! I also love learning new things and sustainability is an important problem our world is facing right now. 

    Community Partner(s): Puksta, DAWN Clinic, Red Equity 








  • Jackie Tran
    People wearing backpacks standing along roadside

    How Is Community Built?

    This past year I've been exploring the meaning of community, particularly in organizing, mutual aid, and civic engagement spaces. It has been a year of learning and unlearning from others. The most salient lesson has been that advocates can - and should - be anybody. The work should be driven by frontline voices, the people most impacted, whether they are youth (as shown in this photo), immigrants, unhoused, or beyond. It has been amazing to see community members rise up, make demands, and advocate for themselves, their peers, their larger community. The system often feels broken in many ways, but by holding space together, by recognizing each other's strengths, by seeing where we can support and work collaboratively and collectively, that is where change happens. Perhaps, by doing this work together and centering youth voices we can make headway in protecting the nation's kids and not guns. 


    Desk with posters, MP3 players, and markers

    Lifespan Local CE Fellows Project: How is Community Built? 

    The Tower of Babel: The Babel parable describes how humankind came to speak multiple languages and became separated, as a punishment from God, because they were trying to "do the impossible." The devices shown are used to provide language accessibility at community listening sessions with English and Spanish speakers. It allows people to understand each other in near real time. When people understand each other and have shared "language," whether literal, emotional, intellectual, they build connection. This connection then provokes thought and reflection and ultimately, action. The realm of the possible grows. Change becomes more tangible and power is built. 



  • Jenna Wyatt
    Screenshot of community members celebrating at Denver City Council meeting

    It took two years for this moment to happen. The moment in which Denver City Council unanimously passed the "Naming Of An Unnamed Park At Bryant & Ellsworth In Valverde." This unnamed pocket park, now called Ulibarri Park, honors the legacy of the diverse, often marginalized neighbors who have significantly contributed to community life in Valverde.

    I have always been a sucker for family and community-building. In college, my peers and I would use any justification to host and create a safe space to gather - 'It is Tuesday, summer is almost over, I have this green shirt that would be perfect for a green-themed dinner....' Fixstated on community and safe spaces, I was shocked to learn that redlining of the 1930s resulted in Valverde not having a grocery store, library, church, and limited gathering space for community members. Yet, in the face of oppression, residents like Fred and Elaine Ulibarri fought for social justice using the Unnamed Park At Bryant & Ellsworth to gather and center their community's needs. Inspired by Fred and Elaine Ulibarri's stories and hoping to embody their legacy, I became a co-conspirator in the naming of Ulibarri Park. The Valverde Neighborhood Association has and continues to welcome me in as a co-conspirator to their ongoing efforts to build community health and wealth in Valverde. Working in stride with this group of neighbors has undoubtedly been a gift. 

    Community Partner(s): Valverde Movement Project and the Valverde Neighborhood Association 

  • Kristen Park
    Person installing exhibition titled For My Asian Sisters

    This photo was taken the night before the "For My Asian Sisters," art exhibit that I collaborated with the Margo-Okazawa Rey Foundation and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. The art was created through a community-based, participatory-action framework, which integrated aspects of social justice, multi- racial solidarity, and feminism. Asian American women from multiple generations shared their stories, voices, and experiences to be included in this exhibit. Aligned with CCSEL's ACT Pathway, the art exhibit was centered around understanding the strengths, challenges, and desired social change from the perspectives of Asian American women across multiple generations. My deepest love and gratitude to the women who shared so vulnerably with me during this process. 

    Community Partner(s): Margo-Okazawa Rey Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice 

  • Kristopher Tetzlaff
    Children standing in front of art

    A democratic approach to enhanced community listening

    I am interminably grateful to CCESL and DU Grant Challenges for funding and elevating this transformative community-based participatory research (CBPR) endeavor in partnership with students, families, and staff at You be You Early Learning (YbY)–Colorado's first and only mobile preschool and teacher-led cooperative. CBPR effectively positions teachers, students, and families as co-researchers and is commensurate with humanizing and culturally responsive approaches to community-engaged teaching and learning. Thanks to the generous ACE Student Scholar grant, I was able to cocreate an evidence-based photovoice protocol in collaboration with community researchers and gatekeepers at YbY. This Autumn, the protocol will be leveraged as a data collection tool to examine the perceptions of young children vis-à-vis the humanizing pedagogical practices implemented at YbY. Great thanks to the University of Denver and CCESL for making this possible! 

    Community Partner(s): You be You Early Learning 

  • Luke Wachter
    Students walking through building with sign reading "Joy Burns Plaza" overhead

    This photo show students entering the building for the Newman Center's student matinee series presentation of ArtistiCO, Colorado's premier ballet folklorico dance company. The student matinee series provides low cost and free performing arts experiences for metro area students which feature both local artists who reflect student's cultures and lived experiences as well as world renowned musicians such as the Mingus Big Band and The Dance Theatre of Harlem. These shows help student make connections between their communities and the larger artistic universe in the beautiful spaces of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. 

    Community Partner(s): AristiCO student matinee featuring ArtistiCO dance company, and student from Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools. 



  • Madalyne Heiken
    People holding dragon head puppets with glowing eyes peaking from behind curtain

    These dragon heads are a testimony to our tenacity as theatre makers. We have spent countless hours rehearsing our play and building these puppets and much more. The Tiamat (a nasty, five-headed dragon) challenges the main character and she fights back wholeheartedly. We fought any adversity we faced by leaning on each other, connecting with each other, and reflecting on our humanity. This show is a labor and symbol of love. 

    Community Partner(s): DSST: Byers Middle & High School The Power of Youth Artivism 





  • Marissa Martinez Suarez
    Group of people wearing matching shirts posing together

    The following image captures a conference hosted by my sorority Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc. "Empowering Our Women of Tomorrow." Sisterhood, education, unity, and the preservation of Latina culture were all reasons why Pi Lambda Chi was founded at the University of Colorado at Boulder on March 5, 1994. Many young women, drawn together by their common need for a unique support system specifically geared to support, preserve, and teach Latino culture and history formed a union, on the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus. The impact that this community engagement work has had on me is immense. Many of the students who attended this conference are the same students I work with on a daily basis as a student teacher. To be able to see them at the University and for them to know that there is a space for them on this campus is one of the biggest joys that I cannot quite put words to. 

    Community Partner(s): Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc., DMLK Early College, South High School, "Empowering Our Women of Tomorrow" 

  • Mona Moayedi
    People sitting on couches in a circle

    #Woman, Life, Freedom: Iran Today; a two-months exhibition of digital artwork made on women's right, social justice, and the women-led uprising in Iran for human rights. It engaged DU art students, and Iranian, and non-Iraian artists around the world. The photo is related to one of the events held during the exhibition which was a hybrid panel with the artists whose work was shown in the gallery. It was an open discussion between the artists, students, Iranian community, and faculty. 

    Community Partner(s): Du community (Emergent Digital Practices Program), Iranian community 



  • Rediet Ayanaw
    Child posing wearing backpack and face mask

    In this photo is a kindergartener on their first day of school at an Elementary in a nearby district. This time was around Covid, and when everybody had to move online- it was really hard for a lot of families around this time period, and especially for children who had to learn through a screen. After quarantine, the number of online resources increased dramatically- possibly due to the demand of having online classes. These resources improved majorly, but there are some resources that haven't so far. Resources are very important for every student to have accessible to them, and it's only right that students have an equal amount of resources. These resources include things like after school help, direct one on one assistance, etc. We know now after quarantine that these resources are out there and can be given if asked, which is what we need to start doing- asking for and creating these resources. 



  • Santo Fothergill
    University of Denver athletes hugging people

    Before coming to college many people told me the importance of joining some sort of community. As a way to meet people and make friends, either ones like minded or diverse. For many people like me that group they join is a fraternity. While the brotherhood aspect of a fraternity was something that appealed to me, it was never thought it was something that was quite right for me. But then I discovered the Club Rugby Team here at DU. The mix of the brotherhood and playing a sport was the community I was looking for. Joining this community was the best decision I've made since joining college, as I've made bonds that will last me a lifetime and have become a better person from it. This photo has pictured members of the team celebrating our win after our final 15’s games of the season. Last season they had beat us in the national final, and we came into this game as underdogs. Through a lot of hard work, and sacrifice by our team we were able to squeak out a win, and emotions were high because of it. That's why this is one of my favorite photos that I took this season, while other photos' technical attributes may be better none of the other photos I took really capture the love and passion we have for each other on the team, nor what makes our community truly special. 

  • Shubham Sapkota
    People standing watching construction equipment

    This is the road to the community in Nepal with whom I did field work for during my 2nd year of CCESL. Even though I have loved doing community engaged work, the hardship of rural communities is real and very difficult to see. Most people take paved roads and infrastructure as granted. Though, that is not the case for most across the globe, especially in rural parts. This picture shows road construction in ongoing traffic road for which, all vehicles are stopped for several hours so that the work can be done. During road projects, roads being closed for 5-6 hours a day is very normal. As you can see, everyone is eager to see what is going on, despite it blocking and halting their day-to-day lives. 




  • Theo May
    People on stairway with post in notes on the wall

    This is a photo of a Lennon Wall in Hong Kong. These post-it note collages are a way for people to freely expresses their views in a way they can't do anymore because of the crackdown on protests. Through my experiences with this, and at DU I've learned that we need to protect freedom of expression in order to ensure our democracy. Faces are scratched out in order to ensure the safety of those in the photograph. 





  • Zoë Stelzer
    University of Denver student on soccer field with children

    Sports and outdoor activities are incredibly important for children. Not only do they provide opportunities for physical exercise and development, but they also offer a range of benefits for mental health and social skills. Through both, they can learn teamwork and perseverance and can foster a sense of curiosity and appreciation for nature. These opportunities shouldn’t just be for privileged children, and I want to help expand DU PASS Camp to be more accessible to every kid in Denver and the surrounding areas. 




2022 Photo Contest Winners

  • Exemplary Engaged Pathways Award: Conner Goode
    people marching

    "Less Talk More Action"

    This photograph is a photo of strength, resistance, and unity. As institutions of oppression continue to threaten the necessity of education, lifelong learning, and curiosity, it is more imperative than ever to push back towards equality and equity for all. This photograph symbolizes the bravery, strength, and courage of graduate student within the Graduate School of Professional Psychology as they protested against an unjust system of privilege. Different programs including masters and doctoral students, alongside supportive staff and faculty, marched against the deep injustices imbedded within this institution. This photograph, deprived from color, symbolizes the times this institution is living in, one of the past and not of the future. The diverse faces marching as one shows a front that cannot be divided when faced with such daily difficulties. Hopefully, this photograph will instill a sense of combatting feelings within the audience. Feelings of hope and sadness, alongside feelings of pride and anger, all working together to rebuild this institution into what it should be, a place of learning and growth for all.


  • Connect Award: Mi Nai San
    Two people serving food

    "Serving looks and Iftar"

    During the month of Ramadan a lot of Iftar dinners were hosted but the most memorable one to me was this one. The South Asian Student Alliance and the Muslim Student Association came together and did a collab together. MSA brought their dates to break fast while SASA got Indian food catered. Both of my world's/identities collided and came together which made it memorable for me. In this picture me (left) and Shreya (right) the president of SASA posed before serving food to those who fasted and those who didn't. A woman can't fast while menstruating so it felt nice doing a good deed by serving others, something Ramadan is all about.

  • Connect Award: Marissa Martinez Suarez
    collage of different civic engagement activities

    Featuring work with Access and Transitions, Latine Student Alliance, Latinos in Heritage Congreso, and Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc.

    Throughout my triumphs, victories, and failures, I have never forgotten my Latine community. My community has taught me so much through their dynamic personalities filled with self-expression, fearlessness, and resilience. I have learned through them what it means to be part of a whole. I understand that the connection we share is one where we look out for one another. The emotional support they have provided me through hard times has allowed me to get where I am now. This year through the platforms offered by community partners, I have been able to engage with my Latine community, grow in my cultural identity, and define what being a Latina means to me. The following collage reflects events I've gotten to host with my community and opportunities I've gotten to engage in. From spending the day learning about the conservation of Latine Heritage in Denver, CO, and the efforts being put forth to working with different organizations in the promotion of cultural awareness and inclusivity, I've been able to see and promote the representation I lacked growing up. Together with my community, we've been able to create spaces for mutual empowerment.

  • ACT Award: Sunjoi Gandhi
    11 people demonstrating for reproductive rights

    Featuring work with the Girls Inc of Metro Denver, Leadership Out Loud program

    After the Texas Heartbeat Act, communities across the nation came together to show support for those seeking abortions without appropriate access. In Denver, various organizations came together to demonstrate how easily accessible reproductive health resources are to show support to women in Texas. Girls Inc of Metro Denver brought our advocacy and activism high school students to the rally for them to experience community coming together and how advocacy can take various different forms, one being protest.

  • Act Award: Dhiona Jaramillo
    students packaging period products

    Featuring work with the Red Equity Coalition

    This picture demonstrates a period packaging day for the Red Equity community. This represents the connect pathway for CCESL considering we brought a group from the Denver community together to give high school students volunteer hours as well as help those who are in period poverty. Period poverty refers to those who can’t afford menstrual products including tampons or pads and those who may not know how to use these products or the dangers (like toxic shock syndrome) of them. From this packaging day, the packages went to Afghan refugees who had fled their country to Denver shelters.

  • Think Award: John Macikas
    white board with writing

    "Gun Control Under Control"

    The work of community organizing in Public Achievement requires centering youth voice, knowledge and experiences. Creating contexts in which youth can authentically share their ideas and experiences can often be a challenge. However, there was one particular moment when I felt that students realized we took their ideas seriously.

    Each student had reflected and written on an issue that was important to them and their self-interest with respect to the issue. When we asked for students to share what they wrote, they were hesitant to volunteer. So, we simply went around and shared in a circle. As the students shared their issues, I decided in the moment to take out a marker and write the issues on a white board. It was at this moment that I believe the energy in the room changed. When I started writing down their ideas, the youth began to sit up, and they studied the issues on the white board with intent. As each student shared, they became more animated and interested in what they had written and what they wanted to say, and the others listening leaned in further. In short, it was as if students realized in this moment that what they had to say was not going to be minimized but rather centered in consideration of issues present in their community. When we asked what themes they saw from what they shared, students closely observed the concepts on the board and made connections, and more students began to freely volunteer their thoughts. I believe that writing ideas on the board showed the youth that we were less interested in mere answers to our questions and more interested in their lived experiences and what those meant for their public work. As we continued to discuss over the remaining weeks, I felt an authenticity and sense of ownership in the room as students began to process their thoughts about the root causes of the different issues we were exploring. 

  • Think Award: Meghan McCarroll
    collage of images

    Engaging Decision-makers with Campus Water Literacy


    Last year’s Water Literacy photovoice project demonstrated that while college students have strong interests and concerns about water resource sustainability, they often feel left out or neglected in water management processes. But where do we go from there? How can college students share their water-related needs and concerns with local water managers and decision-makers? And how can we expand the reach of a standalone photovoice project to maximize its impact and allow project results to live on? Our reflections on these questions, paired with discussions from local community partners and water educators, led to the creation of a story map centered around the Water Literacy Photovoice project. The goals of the story map are threefold: to continue to share the photovoice project results well beyond the final exhibit; to invite broader participation of DU’s student body by allowing them to share their own water-related thoughts and photos; and to provide an interactive tool to local water decision-makers that helps them to understand and engage college students and their various water literacies.

    Pictured here is the team of student scholars who assisted with the creation of our story map (Photo A – Scholars Juanlin Liu and Katie Yocum with Fellow Meghan McCarroll. Missing Caroline Daley). The process required learning technical knowledge about ESRI products and spatial data displays (Photo B – Katie Yocum and Juanlin Liu collaboratively work on building a map of water resources). The end result is a beautiful, engaging and interactive story map (Photo C – a screenshot of the story map, with a picture showcasing the photovoice project participants and their photo displays at the final exhibit) that can be shared on indefinitely with both DU’s student body and local water decision-makers.

  • Reflect Award: Jessica Villena Sanchez
    Collage of images and map

    Featuring work with the Valverde Movement Project

    I joined the Valverde Movement Project (VMP) in February 2021. This project seeks to bring community health and wealth to Valverde, a historically marginalized and redlined neighborhood in west Denver. Through several community engagement events and constant communication with community leaders and members of the Valverde Neighborhood Association, VMP has worked to empower this community by uplifting their stories of resiliency, strength, and hope for a brighter future. VMP has also created a hub site where Valverde's stories of past promises, present opportunities, and future hopes are shared in the form of story maps. More recently, VMP is supporting Evon Lopez, a local community activist, in naming a pocket park located in Valverde in celebration of her parents who were also community leaders and, among other things, participated in Denver's Chicano Movement and founded "Servicios de la Raza", an organization that provides mental health services to Latinx communities.

    Personally, being a part of CCESL's Fellow program helped me realize how relevant it is do work that actively engages disadvantaged communities and uplifts their stories. CCESL creates a wonderful space to discuss the relevance of community engaged work that seeks to create more just communities by, for example, undesigning previous redlined constraints. As a Geographer, as an immigrant, as a Mexican scholar, I see how much we need to not forget about the history of our cities, listen to people's stories, and build trust with community members. I loved being a part of the VMP and CCESL's Fellow program, my only complaint is that I didn't join sooner!

  • Reflect Award: Calvin Lee
    people posing with joined hands over a cake with candles

    Featuring work with The Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of Denver (TCCD) and The Empress Seafood Restaurant

    This is surely a blurry photo, but my favorite nonetheless. This photo was taken last night at the local Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of Denver annual fundraiser and celebration event hosted at The Empress Seafood Restaurant. The TCCD is a coalition of local Taiwanese and Chinese community leaders, teachers, and business owners that gather to discuss ways of increasing community engagement in the local Denver community as well as bolstering economic pathways between Denver and the country of Taiwan.

    Not only does the TCCD bring together various organizations, businesses, restaurants, and community members, but also bridges intergenerational gaps as well with the onboarding of new members, such as myself. This photo showcases a traditional Chinese custom of community cake cutting (which includes many photos taken for memories). Here, I am holding the cake knife with various community figureheads: TCCD board members, entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, school district board members, teachers, and more as we also celebrate the upcoming May birthdays and change into a new cycle in the Lunar calendar. This cake-cutting custom, as well as the event itself, signifies not only an expansion of community engagement across the Taiwanese and Chinese communities in Denver, but takes a step in ensuring that torch is passed down intergenerationally.