Academics and Research

First-year Puksta scholar sets sights on bettering the community

First-year student Laleobe Olaka is one of three 2013 Puksta Scholars at DU. Photo courtesy of Laleobe Olaka.

Laleobe Olaka knows she wants to make a career out of helping people, and she knows that a University of Denver education will help her reach her goal.

Olaka, a 2013 graduate of the Denver School of Science and Technology, entered DU in September as a first-year student and one of three 2013 Puksta Scholars. The Puksta program, run through DU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, helps fund students interested in working for the public good.

“It’s a program that helps to further and better the community, and I’ve always wanted to do that,” says Olaka, a Nigerian native who moved to the U.S. with her family at age 6. “Puksta also has a project that a Puksta scholar has to do, which for me is another stepping stone to opening a nonprofit.”

Already Olaka volunteers with Colorado Uplift, a nonprofit that teaches leadership and life skills to urban youth in Denver, and at Children’s Hospital, where she works with kids at risk for HIV. Eventually she would like to open a nonprofit that addresses poverty or hunger.

“I really enjoy helping people out, and I really enjoy spending time with people and seeing the difference my work does to their lives, whether it’s in a small way or a big way,” she says.

At DU, Olaka plans to study biology as a lead-in to a graduate degree in nursing. There’s a personal connection there, as well — Olaka’s little sister is quadriplegic, and Olaka has helped with her care for most of her life.

“She was born that way, and the doctors said she’s not going to live past the age of 5,” Olaka says. “She’s constantly proving them wrong. She’s 12 right now, and I wanted to go into the medical field because I knew the first thing I wanted to do was help her out. I always thought I wanted to be a neuroscientist and do surgery on her, but that’s kind of extreme. I wouldn’t want to mess up.”

In addition to her work in the Puksta program, Olaka says she is looking forward to studying abroad program. She also sees the University as a place where she can begin to make connections that will help her for the rest of her life.

“I know DU tries their hardest to be diverse,” she says, “and they’re really connected with the world and other universities and organizations.”



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