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Galvanizing Tomorrow's Civic Leaders: 2020 Virtual Puksta Passage

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By: Rosie Contino, Economics Major, Puksta Scholar

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On Tuesday, May 19th, University of Denver Puksta Scholars, along with their families and friends, celebrated the annual Puksta Passage. The Puksta Passage is a celebration of the incredible social justice work that Puksta Scholars have done throughout their time at the University of Denver. It is a time for fellowship, fun, delicious food and good memories. Despite the current COVID-19 crisis, the amazing Puksta staff (including Kathleen Ferrick, John and Nichel Mulstay, and CCSEL staff) ensured that all the Pukstas could congregate via zoom to once again celebrate the amazing community work that our fellow scholars have achieved! 

This year’s event, despite its virtual nature, was just as exciting, tear-wrenching, and heart-warming as an in-person Puksta Passage. The event began with scholar introductions, so that the families and loved-ones of Pukstas could get to know other scholars and the breadth of social-justice work being done. A highlight of the event was a heart-melting speech by John Mulstay, executive director of the Puksta program. John welcomed five incoming scholars to the Puksta community with open arms and described to them just what to expect from their Puksta experience. John also welcomed each of our four graduating Puksta seniors, Oscar Saenz, Chhorda Vuth, James Artis, and Blanche Marie Ndoutou, into the exciting Puksta alumni community, assuring them that this is not the end, but the beginning. To close off the ceremony, graduating Pukstas each gave a speech describing their Puksta experience and what their community work has meant for their personal and civic development. As a second year Puksta myself, the senior speeches are the best part of any Puksta event. It inspires me to continue work on my project and reminds me of the incredible work-ethic and innovative spirit of my peers! 

When the formal event had concluded, new and old Pukstas alike stayed on zoom to reminisce about the highlights of this year in the Puksta program. Weekly meetings (and the delicious food that accompanies them) and the exciting Winter Retreat in Estes Park were at the top of the list of “best memories”. When all was said and done and we each closed our computers (returning to our quarantine quarters), one couldn’t help but feel less alone—even in these trying times—because we have our Puksta family.