D.J. Close

Scholarship Builds Leadership and Service

Written 9-1-2009

D.J. CloseD.J. Close found a whole new world at DU. Growing up in the small town of Durango, Colorado, D.J. always knew that he wanted to get out of the small town and experience what else was out in the world. I have a great family, one sister who goes to CSU and a mom and dad I can always count on.

"My mom was the only one to go to college and it was hard to convince my dad that getting a costly education, even at a great school like DU, was something I could really benefit from." D.J. was very involved from elementary school all the way to High School in various activities and made a promise to himself not to sacrifice his education because of money. "I worked very hard in school to get good grades as well as within the community. My true passion is working with people. I love exploring what it means to be a true leader and how I can help people."

This passion has led D.J. to interact within the community. "I have been working more and more in trying to develop sustainable projects which help empower the people I work with to find their own solutions."

One of his most recent and rewarding projects has been at South High School as a hurdles and sprint coach. "I get to work with a wide array of students who have had very different opportunities and stories from me." Through his coaching position he has been slowly working towards developing a mentor program with some of the students. "This mentor program has enabled me to help them apply to college and also take them out into the community and open their eyes to what goes on in the greater Denver Community." D.J.'s goal is to get them involved in South High School's community and to take a more proactive role in addressing student issues.

D.J. considers himself a very lucky and fortunate person, but just like everyone else he has been through some hard times and has learned a great deal. "Without the support of my parents and friends I would not have the strong persevering attitude I have today."

As a recipient of the Puksta Scholarship, D.J. has had the opportunity to pursue a college education and develop a commitment to citizenship, leadership, and civic engagement. Puksta Scholars are selected based on their financial need, academics, passion for a core issue area, and prior demonstration of outstanding service and commitment to the community. The Puksta Scholarship was established in 2000 by the estates of Harry and Eva Puksta. It was their desire to build a foundation to assist Colorado students, who were involved in helping the community, assistance in going to college.

After a study abroad language intensive program in Beijing, China, D.J.'s eyes were opened to a whole new world. "Living with a Chinese family and experiencing the culture was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I feel like I have a second family over there."

"I have loved my experience at DU. My motto here has been to experience and get involved as much as possible. I don't take my education for granted and really want to get the full experience out of college and life. I think that DU offers its students so much but it is also our responsibility to make the most of our academic careers." His freshmen year he ran and won Freshmen Senator, joined a fraternity, have heard speeches from Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and other important political leaders, is part of the Pioneer Leadership Program, and it doesn't stop. "I don't think of myself as an average student at DU. I want to show the people who have put me here in college that I am taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way!"

DJ has also worked for Student life on the DU Involvement Team, is currently working with CCESL and Greek life to build a bridge between the fraternities and sororities on campus and get them more active within the community. This means re-shaping the culture at DU of how Greek life does community service and philanthropy. In his spare time he loves to hang out with friends while snowboarding in the mountains or going downtown.

"I will graduate next winter with a Major in Political Science and a double minor in Chinese and Leadership. I hope to go to grad school to pursue Organizational Development." With this he plans on helping teach leadership and communication models to businesses, non-profits, school districts and make their organizations more proficient. "I believe in a bottom up model that creates buy in on all levels because they feel they have a voice in the organization."