Giving students the opportunity to serve as catalysts for change in their communities, the Puksta Scholars program at CU Boulder is a competitive scholarship supported by the Puksta Foundation.
For me, the Puksta Scholars program provides a beautiful look into the compassionate side of our humanity as the community comes together each and every day to try to make our world a better place to live in and work in."—John Mulstay
Founded in 2001 and named after Harry and Eva Puksta, the Puksta Foundation provides scholarships, mentorship and experiential community engagement training for undergraduate Colorado students. Before their deaths, the Pukstas entrusted financial planner John Mulstay to design and carry out their dream to help “the good kids of Colorado, so they could be afforded the chance to go to college.”
“For me, the Puksta Scholars program provides a beautiful look into the compassionate side of our humanity as the community comes together each and every day to try to make our world a better place to live in and work in,” said Mulstay, the executive director of the foundation that he leads with his wife, NiChel.
As part of the Puksta program, students develop a yearlong intensive civic engagement project addressing a social problem they feel passionate about. Based in CU Engage, the Center for Community-Based Learning and Research in the School of Education, the program supports students from all majors who are united by their interests as change-makers.
If you want to empower young people interested in creating a more just and equitable society, Mulstay has learned to “light the match and walk away, because the outcomes are often more powerful and brilliant than anything you had ever imagined.”
For Marwa Osman, joining the Puksta Scholars program created multiple leadership opportunities and lifelong connections.
Acknowledging my in betweenness allows me to exist freely. We wanted a space that honors us entirely, essentially celebrating in betweenness is an act of reclamation and liberation."—Marwa Osman
“Through the Puksta program, I have developed an incredible intercollegiate network of friends and fellow change-makers, which are what I consider to be my strongest assets when working to discover new ideas and reimagining a more just and sustainable world,” she said.
Osman’s Puksta project, combined with her work in the INVST Community Studies leadership program, culminated in launching “The in between: A Digital Media Platform Made by and for Womxn and Femmes of Color.” She developed the website with fellow INVST students Hailey Breaker, Mable Sanders and Nirguna Poudyal.
“Our goal was to create a digital space where womxn of color, femmes and nonbinary folxs could share their art, writing, stories and interests on their terms,” Osman said.
For Osman, the “in between” celebrates her identity as a Somali-Muslim-American woman, an identity she has rarely seen represented, which led her to feeling she “fit in” neither Somalian nor American culture.
“Acknowledging my in betweenness allows me to exist freely,” she said. “We wanted a space that honors us entirely, essentially celebrating in betweenness is an act of reclamation and liberation.”
Osman, a CU Boulder senior, will continue the work with the in between by working on a physical publication of a series of interviews and conversations, as well as creating a micro-grant program for community members doing similar work.