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Galvanizing Tomorrow’s Civic Leaders: Reflection From a Recent Puksta Graduate

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By: Blanche Ndoutou, Criminology, Puksta Scholars Program

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Students  •

At first, Puksta was just a financial aid opportunity. However, it was not difficult to figure out that Puksta would become my community for the rest of my college career. It was at the biweekly meetings where we would eat together, meditate, and share what was happening in our lives that I grew an appreciation for Puksta. I always knew that I had a space to share my feelings. Whenever something upsetting happened on campus, I could not wait for our Puksta meeting so that I could let out my feelings. It was at the Puksta retreats that I got to meet Puksta scholars from other schools. Each time I heard about the work that they were involved with in their communities, it inspired and pushed me to be more engaged in creating positive changes within my community. 

Puksta taught me how to be a leader. It taught me that it is okay for my passions to change in life. I came into the program wanting to work on helping newly arrived refugees adapt to Denver, however, I realized that although I cared about this topic, it was not my strength. I needed to focus on something that I am passionate about and something that I can be good at. Therefore, I merged my criminology major and my Puksta project. I decided to help educate the youth in my neighborhood of Sun Valley, the poorest neighborhood in Denver, about the realities of the criminal justice system in the United States. I realized that I made the right decision when I saw that the youth were learning something from me that might possibly save their lives. This project became personal and I decided that I will be continuing the project in the future by expanding my project to other underserved neighborhoods in Colorado. 

I was always proud to tell people that I was a Puksta Scholar. Having that title often made me feel like someone believed in me and my strength in the world. I felt proud to tell people that I was part of a group working to create change because I am compassionate and I love justice. 

I am still very proud to be a part of the Puksta community. Puksta has been one of the most meaningful programs in my college career. I am so grateful to the organization and to the people that continue to make Puksta possible.