Engagement. Leadership. Drive. The Puksta Scholars Program at the University of Denver requires its scholars to focus on three core concepts: building public relationships, embodying civic leadership, and devoting themselves to public work.
The Puksta Scholars Program is a four-year developmental civic program that awards scholarships to first-year students who show commitment to community work, development of civic skills and the creation of sustainable community partnerships, mentor relationships and public work projects. Each scholar is asked to identify a community issue or and to develop a project to address the root cause of that issue. Scholars are responsible for implementing their projects and developing a plan for the project to continue once the student is done
Perhaps no one was more committed to building a communal foundation than Harry and Eva Puksta. They were a strong and compassionate couple who valued honesty and a work ethic, sharing a love for Denver and the state of Colorado. Once Eva was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1999, the couple established their estate with John Mulstay, their financial advisor, requesting only to build a foundation and serve the “good kids of Colorado, so they could be afforded the chance to go to college.”
The day after Eva passed, Harry followed. Mulstay kept his promise and fulfilled the couple’s wish. In 2001, he founded the Puksta Scholars Program, providing financial opportunities, mentorship and experiential community engagement for students at the University of Denver, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado-Boulder. At DU, an academic course is built into the program. During each quarter of the Puksta students’ first year, they take a course related to their community development/social justice work in the Puksta program. The curricula cover community organizing, Denver policy, and school-based engagement at elementary schools.
One of DU’s Puksta Scholars is Zac Roberts, of Monument, Colo. His project focuses on the rights of LGBTIQA teens, specifically middle- and high-schoolers. He plans to create an educational blog where youth can find history, facts, health/sex tips and personal stories. Roberts says that “one of the biggest issues growing up gay was facing that ‘all alone’ feeling.”
Roberts’ goal now is to show kids that they are not alone.