Scholar Highlights

After a successful career in film production, 1970 Boettcher Scholar Lee Gash-Maxey is using her storytelling prowess to help advance black-owned businesses in the State of Colorado. Lee is executive director of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce, a position she has held since April of 2016. In her role, Lee is working to increase membership in the business organization by providing relevant programming and partnering with the business community to create opportunities for African-American students. Lee graduated from East High School in Denver and used her Boettcher Scholarship to attend Colorado State University where she graduated with a degree in radio and television production. She started her career with KOA radio, received her first Emmy nomination at KOA-TV, then relocated to Pittsburgh to work on Evening Magazine at KDKA-TV. Lee returned to Colorado where she began doing publications for the Governor’s Office of Energy Conservation, during the administration of Gov. Roy Romer. (“If you can write, you can work in almost any industry they’ve developed,” she said.) Eventually her role expanded to include creating and managing programs to employ young people in recycling and weatherization work. She was soon pulled back into media, however, when a friend told her that BET was starting a Movie channel in Denver. She was hired as managing producer of BET Movies. She later launched her own media production company, Maxey Media Production Group, and was focused on that when, once again, a friend told her about the opportunity with the Colorado Black Chamber. The organization, the friend noted, could benefit from somebody with her unique skills and connections. The position provided her with an opportunity to serve the black community and small business owners, two groups for which she has a strong affinity. “As a Denver native, the black community is very close to my heart,” she said. “My roots in Denver go deep.” Similarly, her own experience as a business owner gave her a deep understanding of the unique pressures faced by small business owners and the need for an organization to provide value to them. “We need to re-establish the reputation of the chamber, and that’s definitely happening,” she said, adding that small business owners are under extreme time pressure and have little time for organizations that don’t provide value. “We need to make it so small business owners know that we can help them grow their business.” In addition to providing training and resources for small businesses, Lee wants to provide value specifically for the younger generation of entrepreneurs while also partnering with businesses to create job opportunities for black students. The desire to give back is something that has driven Lee, and it is a strength she sees in the Boettcher Scholar community. “I think there is an underlying goal in most Boettcher Scholars,” she said. “They know somebody had the foresight to give something back, and they are thinking about how to give something back or pay it forward – maybe not in the exact way they were helped, but in a way that matters to them.”...

Dan Bishop’s varied career has included roles as a chemist, software entrepreneur, technical writer and college professor. But the common thread that unites those pursuits has always been a love of science and logic. It’s a love that has driven the 1962 Boettcher Scholar since his youth and continues to motivate his work as a community volunteer, lecturer and fundraiser in retirement. Born in Pueblo, Dan moved often during his youth, but he ultimately spent the final years of high school in Denver, where he graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. He recalls coming of age as Sputnik and the resulting space race dominated the American psyche. High-performing students were encouraged to pursue advanced level courses in math and science. It was an area where Dan found a natural aptitude. “My dad worked at Lockheed Martin, and I kept a three-ring binder of all the launches and successes and failures” he recalls, adding that he also served in the corps of young “Sputnik spotters” on the University of Denver campus when he was a junior high student. Dan used his Boettcher Scholarship to attend the University of Colorado, where he earned a degree in chemistry. He spent a few years as a chemist for Sherwin-Williams near Oakland, California, before he decided to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry. He earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Kansas and taught college-level chemistry for several years before developing an interest in computer technology in the late 1970s. “It was just when personal computers were coming out, and I saw an opportunity to write some of the first educational software,” he recalled. Dan started a small business writing software, and his products included some of the first graphical laboratory simulations in chemistry. The software venture dominated Dan’s life until his wife, Ann, was transferred to Fort Collins and he once again returned to academia, this time in the engineering department at Colorado State University. After a brief hiatus, Dan became a technical writer and then a software programmer for a small company in Boulder. He was eventually lured back to teaching, this time in CSU’s chemistry department, where he taught until he retired in 1994. Retirement has been anything but quiet for Dan, who after moving to Salida five years ago, quickly became involved with the Central Colorado Humanists, a group whose philosophical approach to life focuses on science, rational thought and reason. Dan became president of the group and helped grow its membership to 150. As part of his work, Dan occasionally gives community lectures about Mars and other science-related topics, allowing him to rekindle the fascination from his youth. Dan also helps the group with fundraising for its scholarship program. Last year the group raised $7,000 – enough to fund seven scholarships for local graduates. It’s a great way to pay forward his own great fortune as a Boettcher Scholar. “I don’t think there is any way to really describe adequately the effect the (Boettcher) scholarship had on my personal life,” Dan said, adding that neither of his parents had attended college and affording college would have been a struggle for the family. In addition to his work with the Central Colorado Humanists, Dan’s hobbies include watercolor painting, playing the cello (a pursuit he took up at the age of 67) and spending time with his family. Dan and his wife have two daughters and two grandchildren....

Margaret Myers, a 1968 Boettcher Scholar from Denver South High School, worked her way up the ranks of the U.S. Army, ultimately retiring from the Army Reserve as a colonel. Now the director of the Institute for Defense Analyses Information Technology and Systems Division, Margaret is no stranger to high-profile jobs. She’s also no stranger to being one of only a few women in a male-dominated industry. “I had several jobs where I was the only woman in the room,” Margaret said, describing it as being one of the biggest challenges of her career. “I learned that you have to do your homework and be prepared so that when you do have the opportunity to speak up, you know what you’re talking about and people realize what you have to offer.” That’s why Margaret has made it a point to look out for other women—and men—in her career. “When one wins, we all win,” Margaret said. But when she followed her husband to Fort Bragg and joined the military in the seventies, there were very few women to look out for her. Despite this, Margaret served on active duty in the military, was a director in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I) and acted as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3I Acquisition. Margaret is the recipient of three Presidential Rank Awards, as well as the Defense Department Distinguished Civilian Service Award and is a Volgenau School of Engineering Distinguished Alumni from George Mason University. Although she has made many career moves and received numerous accolades since, Margaret is grateful for having received the Boettcher Scholarship, which allowed her to attend Colorado College. “I decided early on in my senior year of high school that I wanted to go to CC, but it was too expensive. I didn’t even apply until after I found out I had received a Boettcher Scholarship,” she recalled. Margaret credits CC with exposing her to a liberal arts education, even though she was a math major, and giving her critical thinking skills that she has continued to use ever since. Her college education as well as the early years in her career taught Margaret to take risks—something she now encourages others to do, especially women. “When you want something, it’s always worth asking,” she advised. “Get over the fear and intimidation and think ‘why not? All they can say is no.’” This advice has proved effective in her own life and career. When she was a new second lieutenant, Margaret really wanted to do a different job than the one she had been assigned. So, she asked the colonel. He was impressed with her courage, and ultimately, Margaret got to do the job she wanted, which has led her to each subsequent job. In her current role, Margaret focuses on cybersecurity and other cyberspace challenges of national and global significance. When she’s not working, Margaret likes to travel to Colorado to ski. “A few years ago, I realized that wherever you go, you should always be a good ambassador for Colorado,” Margaret said. “Even though I no longer live in the state, I try to be a good ambassador.”...

There were times in college and even in her early career when 1988 Boettcher Scholar Carina Raetz felt directionless. Carina attended the University of Colorado Boulder and was involved in various activities, including serving as a Certified Nursing Assistant for Alzheimer’s patients and as a radio DJ for KUCB.  She switched majors from engineering, to business and ultimately, to English and anthropology. After graduating, Carina moved to California, worked as an advertising specialist at two different radio stations and married her husband, Ed, whom she’d met at CU. Carina began volunteering with various children’s organizations and substitute teaching, which is where she finally found her niche working with children with special needs. “Working with students finally gave me direction” Carina said. After deciding to pursue teaching, Carina attended California State University and received her Master’s of Education with a special education concentration, along with credentials in Clear Cross-Cultural Language Academic Development and Mild-Moderate Disabilities Teaching. “To teach children with special needs or who speak a different language, you have to really understand students and how to reach them,” said Carina. “I’ve always liked that challenge, and I love forming relationships with people. I also believe that diverse students are an asset to the classroom.” Carina excelled in the classroom, earning multiple accolades in California, including California State University’s Leader in Education and a recognition for her class’ achievement growth in English test scores. In 2003, a death in the family prompted Carina to move back home to Colorado, where she landed a role as the special needs teacher in the small town of Ellicott, about 30 miles east of Colorado Springs. Committed to serving the community, Carina also became the dean of students, the school assessment coordinator and served on administrative and advisory committees. While there, she created the Dean’s Award to recognize kids for positive behavior and received a special recognition from the school board. Soon after, she started working closer to home and began the English-as-a-Second-Language Program (ESL) at Carver Elementary, where she has continued to work for the past nine years. Under her guidance, Carina’s students started “Student Power!,” an effort to encourage staff and students to save energy. As a result of this work, Carina’s students had the opportunity to present to world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. “Meeting Dr. Goodall and watching my students present their ideas to her was one of the highlights of my career,” said Carina, who had idolized Jane Goodall since learning about her as an anthropology major at CU. She also initiated two programs at Carver to bring together ESL students and their parents to participate in language and learning activities. Carina is a member of the Colorado Chapter of the National Teachers of the Year, where she works with a group of teachers to positively promote education, something she says is critical to do in the U.S. right now. And if that wasn’t enough, Carina is also working with the deputy superintendent to solve the problem of teacher retention in Colorado and recently was a finalist for the 2017 Colorado Department of Education Teacher of the Year. “I think for some reason it’s my calling to help students overcome obstacles.” It’s that calling that continues to motivate Carina to find new teaching methods and new ways of encouraging the potential of the next generation....

Floyd Pierce rushes into a downtown Denver restaurant for lunch, frenzied and apologizing for being late—on his way he was stopped by an excited fan who begged to take a photo with the reality TV star. Despite earning the moniker of “fan favorite” and a being a member of “Team Fun,” Floyd is still getting used to his newfound fame. “It’s been crazy to watch myself on TV,” said Floyd. “It took about three weeks to get used to it, but by then strangers started recognizing me and even stopping me while shopping at Target.” Two months ago, the 29th season of the CBS show The Amazing Race was about to air, and we had a chance to chat with Floyd, a 2013 scholar and one of 22 competitors on the show. At the time, Floyd had completed filming but was not allowed to discuss many of the details, including who his partner was, where he traveled and how far he made it in the race. Finally, the show has finished airing, and Floyd, now a pro at world travel, can talk freely about his experience, his partner, being a fan favorite and the devastating episode in which he was eliminated. Floyd has been surprised to hear how many fans he has, but early on, he and his partner, Becca, established themselves as one of the most likeable and competitive teams. This season of The Amazing Race was the first in which partners were assigned at the starting line, so Floyd had no idea who he might end up with, which is why he feels lucky to have found the “perfect” partner. “My first impression of Becca was that she seemed fun and looked like a stereotypical Boulder hippie,” Floyd remembered. “But when we took our first taxi together to the Los Angeles airport, I knew we had something special.” It was quickly clear that Floyd and Becca were well-matched, assuming the title of #TeamFun. Not only did they encourage each other to slow down and appreciate the race, but they also pushed each other to keep a sense of humor. “A year ago today we were strangers, and now she’s my best friend,” Floyd said. Even though there were dramatic moments and the teams were racing against each other for the $1 million prize, Floyd had nothing bad to say about his competitors. In fact, the group of 22 became very close and have since traveled to Las Vegas and LA together, with more trips planned in the future. While on the race, Floyd and Becca made it to the top five, visiting a variety of countries and often leading the pack. “Norway was my favorite,” Floyd said. “It’s unreal how beautiful it is—straight out of a fairy tale.” He also enjoyed skydiving, drumming with a samba band in Brazil, building desks for school children in Tanzania and running through the streets with a giant ladder, clogging up traffic in Vietnam. Speaking of Vietnam—that was the final country Floyd and his partner visited before being eliminated in what was considered a heartbreaking episode. Becca and Floyd were first out of five when they began that fateful challenge in Vietnam, in which Floyd had to bike one mile carrying more than 120 large, wicker shrimp traps. Floyd experienced several setbacks during that challenge, including suffering from severe heat stroke. What viewers did not see is that after attempting to complete the challenge three times, the heat stroke caused Floyd to hallucinate, at which point the paramedics stepped in and Floyd and Becca were eliminated. “Going into Vietnam, Becca and I were so used to being in the front of the pack,” Floyd said. “After arriving at the challenge first, I got too focused on beating Matt [who arrived second], when I should have just worried about taking my time and beating the other teams further behind us. I also regret not trying to ride the bike more, and instead walking with it, which took more effort.” And yet, Floyd hopes to one day return to Vietnam, and try again to successfully bike with shrimp traps in one try. In addition to his unshakable perseverance, Floyd became more confident during the race. He also learned something about his leadership—that you need to know when to step up and when to follow, and you don’t always have the luxury of time. Back in Denver, Floyd recently graduated from the University of Colorado and started working as a recruiter at Insight Global, a s staffing services company. In the future, Floyd hopes to continue embracing surprises and opportunities as they arise. As we finish lunch and discuss what lies ahead, Floyd smiles and says “Becca and I would definitely compete in The Amazing Race again if offered the opportunity to return.” Who knows, perhaps these fan favorites will be returning to primetime one day?        ...

As a city attorney with decades of experience, 1972 Boettcher Scholar Doug Marek has helped set policy and guide legislation in both Colorado and Iowa. But before Doug was an attorney, he was a teacher.  He received both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Arts in teaching from Colorado College, and began teaching at a middle school in Colorado Springs. A few years later, Doug and his wife moved to Ames, Iowa, where he taught middle school, coached sports and ultimately decided to attend law school at Iowa State University. “For three years we were both in grad school and living in student housing,” Doug recalled. “We were both career-driven and focused on the next step in our lives.” After passing the bar exam, Doug channeled his background in teaching and became a professor of law at Drake University. He was later offered a position at the Iowa Attorney General’s office, where he reported to Tom Miller—the longest-serving Attorney General in the United States. In 2005, Doug become the City Attorney for Ames, Iowa—a university town with 62,000 people, half of which were students. “I loved being involved in legal decisions that improved the residents’ quality of life and in the development of public policy that shaped the town,” said Doug. Despite his success in Iowa, a trip home to Colorado for his 40th high school reunion ended in a job offer to be the Greeley City attorney, a position he’s now proudly held for seven years. “One of the luxuries of being a public practitioner and representing government entities is that we have more discretion on what position to take,” said Doug. “That’s different than a private practitioner who has an ethical obligation to pursue the position taken by their client.” As an advisor to elected city officials, Doug is able to recommend and steer some of the key positions that Greeley takes on litigation and local legislation. “It’s rewarding to see how you can improve the lives of people, either through litigation or long-range planning,” Doug said. Looking back at his career, Doug acknowledged that it has been the personal relationships that he’s created and carefully maintained which have led to his success. “I still contact people I worked with more than 20 years ago to ask for their advice or just check in,” said Doug. When he’s not in the courtroom, you’re likely to find Doug skiing, snowshoeing or cycling —“Pedal the Plains” is an annual favorite of his. Doug is also an avid supporter of arts and music in Greeley, serving on the Dean’s Community Arts Advisory Board at the University of Northern Colorado....

Robert “Skip” Seward has spent the last four decades ensuring that the food we eat is safe. A 1970 Boettcher Scholar, Skip has led food safety at Fortune 500 companies like ConAgra Foods Inc., Oscar Mayer Foods and McDonalds. Skip attended CSU and later Oregon State University for his master’s in microbiology. Less than glamorous, he got his start in research by studying the growth of algae on pig manure. “Needless to say, I was not very popular at the greenhouse,” Skip said with a chuckle. Soon after, he took his first job as a bench microbiologist at Del Monte Corp.  “I’ve always credited what I’ve done to good mentors, and I had two of them at Del Monte who helped me decide that I needed to go back and get my Ph.D. at University of Wisconsin,” Skip said. At the time, Skip studied modified atmosphere packaging—placing fresh fish in packaging without oxygen for consumers to purchase—while also preventing the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the cause of foodborne botulism. He then launched into his career, moving from a bench researcher to directing food safety and eventually to serving as vice president of global food safety at ConAgra Foods. Skip spent decades working hard and advancing research, but he has kept in touch with his mentors and professors along the way, citing their influence as the reason he landed where he is today. “You find inspiration in someone, and they set you in a direction,” said Skip. “That’s why I tell people, ‘don’t forget who helped you along the way, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to give back, do it.’” Along the way he also met his wife, Dee, who ignited his passion for giving back. After receiving her teaching license in six different states as Skip toured the country with different companies, Dee retired from teaching first grade. She and Skip moved to Washington, D.C., where she became very involved with the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which supports residents and preserves the history of Capitol Hill. “My wife has always promoted giving back, and has really taught me the value of helping others,” Skip said. “And when you give back, it sure makes you feel good. It makes the world seem a little bit smaller and little more purposeful.” He’s also kept in touch with the Boettcher Foundation, looking for opportunities to give back and pay forward his scholarship to the next generation, including naming the Boettcher Foundation in his will. Skip now owns Seward Global Consulting, which helps companies comply with the latest government regulations in food safety. He says that generally, companies want to do the right thing and produce safe food, they just need a little help sometimes. Nominated by his peers, Skip is currently in his fourth two-year term serving on the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. This committee is sponsored by and works to advise the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defense. When he is not working, Skip and Dee enjoy travel. In fact, when a coconut water project recently took him to Thailand for four months, he and his wife took the opportunity to travel throughout Southeast Asia and China where they hiked the Great Wall for several weeks. Skip has already accomplished so much in his career, but he remains excited by the opportunities still to come. “I am still stimulated by my job and helping food companies improve their food safety. There are always new challenges associated with emerging pathogens. I have enjoyed going to work each morning because I enjoy what I do and interacting with new and old friends along the way. And it all goes back to the great opportunity that the Boettcher Foundation gave me in 1970.”...

Chelsea Carr lives three lives. A 2006 Boettcher Scholar and recent graduate of the University of Colorado Law School, Chelsea is working as a law clerk in the 19th Judicial District. After hours and on weekends, however, Chelsea becomes either Svara or Sveni, twin brother and sister from the Viking-age trading town of Birka, circa 850 to 900 AD. Chelsea is an active member of the Fjellborg Vikings, a historical reenactment group dedicated to the accurate portrayal of the Viking age. The group conducts reenactments at festivals and educational events throughout the state. During those events, Chelsea dons hand-sewn clothing and historically accurate battle gear as she teaches visitors about the backstories of her two characters. The Fjellborg Vikings will be on one of their biggest stages soon as the group has been called on to assist with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s upcoming exhibition “Vikings: Beyond the Legend,” which runs March 10 through August 13. ”It’s a recognition of how far we have come as a group and that we are committed to this level of historical accuracy,” said Chelsea, who also serves on the Fjellborg Viking executive board. The group, which includes approximately 30 members, will perform at VIP opening events and family days, and they have contributed their own handmade, historically accurate materials, including a lute and Viking boat, to expand the exhibition. They are also helping to prepare the museum’s on-staff historical reenactors for their own roles in the exhibit. “We are helping them to create their own historically accurate ‘kits’ that will include everything from clothing to shoes to the details of their lives,” Chelsea said. While historical reenactment may seem like a fun opportunity to get dressed up and play a role, participants are obsessively committed to historical accuracy and setting the record straight when it comes to misconceptions about the Vikings A big one for Chelsea is the fact that Vikings didn’t wear the horned helmets frequently associated with them. “The beards are real; the horns are not,” she said, explaining that a pamphlet promoting an opera in the 1800s is responsible for popularizing the false characterization. Chelsea’s connection to the Fjellborg Vikings started when she was an undergraduate at CU, majoring in English and journalism and minoring in geology and Nordic studies. The Fjellborg Vikings would visit campus to participate in a Nordic market day and conduct occasional combat demonstrations. Chelsea stayed in touch with the group and joined after graduation, but she wasn’t able to commit significant time to the pursuit until she graduated from law school. “It was a way to stay active in something I really loved and keep doing something I enjoyed even though my life was taking a different path,” she said. In addition to maintaining a connection to her Nordic studies minor, Viking reenactment provides a link to Chelsea’s youth. “I grew up in the country in a small town,” she said. “I grew up making butter and sewing things.” One part of Viking life that wasn’t part of Chelsea’s youth: combat. The Fjellborg Vikings have twice-monthly training sessions where they work on their battle techniques. They are frequently assessed on their battle styles and have to pass tests before they are allowed to practice combat in front of people. The bows and arrows used by the Fjellborg Vikings are modified so they’ll never strike their target with force harder than a paintball. The group also uses handmade shields and swords that are not sharp but are heavy enough to inflict serious bruises. For her part, Chelsea prefers to do battle with an axe, and she’s hoping to become certified as an archery instructor for other historical reenactors. As Chelsea contemplates the path her life has taken since becoming a Boettcher Scholar, she’s certain that her life as Svara and Sveni – or as a law school grad – wouldn’t have been possible without the Boettcher Foundation’s support. “Getting a Boettcher Scholarship changed my life,” Chelsea said. “I came from a big family in a small town that did not have the money to send me to college. While Chelsea figured she’d find a way to pay for college, she had her sights set on a less expensive college, and she certainly didn’t consider law school a possibility. The Boettcher Scholarship also allowed Chelsea to study abroad in Sweden, helping to cement her interest in Nordic studies and the Viking Age.  ...

How does an economics major from Littleton, Colorado become the director of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan? In her own words, “by continually taking on new challenges and pushing myself to try new things.” Mary Dixon has spent two decades working for the largest coffee chain in the world, but before that, she was a 1986 Boettcher Scholar who attended Colorado College. “I remember that moment of opening the envelope—it was so thin I thought it must be bad news—but when I saw that I’d received the scholarship, it was such a moment of pride,” Mary recalls. “It was in my nature to be involved in academics and in my community, and Boettcher validating those attributes strengthened my resolve to continue being of service to others.”  Serving others is what led Mary to her current role, directing Starbucks’ college reimbursement program for any employee who works at least 20 hours a week. Committed to its community, Starbucks aims to graduate 25,000 employees by the year 2025. “We’re constantly thinking about how we can make this program better, or what’s the next thing we can offer to our partners that grows both the organization and each of them individually,” Mary explained. Over the years, Mary has held several positions at Starbucks, ranging from retail to global responsibility, and though it may not seem like a traditional path, Mary credits her liberal arts education for the career she has today. “The jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist yet today, so it’s more about teaching critical thinking,” Mary said. “My liberal arts education gave me that base, and I’ve felt comfortable taking on new challenges because of that. It also gave me communication skills that are useful in any job.” After graduating from CC, Mary worked with foreign exchange students in Boston and Australia. From there, Mary realized she was ready for a new challenge and wanted to be back on the west coast working in the food industry. “A friend told me about this little company called ‘Starbucks’ that had a few hundred stores,” Mary remembers. She researched the company and liked the fact that it was centered around a mission and a set of core values. Shortly after Starbucks became a publicly traded company, Mary was hired into the manager training program in retail in San Francisco. In fact, Mary was part of the team that helped Starbucks expand into Colorado and several other states for the first time. She then became the director of global operations and helped Starbucks expand internationally, opening stores in 17 new markets, throughout Asia and Europe. “There are amazing people that work here, and we get to do amazing work—we are always pushing forward, giving back and thinking about what is the role and responsibility of a public company,” Mary said. After living in Amsterdam, opening stores throughout Europe, Mary returned to Seattle with her husband and infant son, transitioning into a role focused on corporate social responsibility. She helped to connect partners on a global scale and emphasized community service around the time of Starbucks’ 40th anniversary. “Helping others and connecting people to opportunities just seemed to be the way I’ve approached life” said Mary. That “way of life” has been present throughout Mary’s journey. Serving others helped her to earn her Boettcher Scholarship, and it’s also a large part of her current role where she gets to pay it forward to the next generation of students, and help them attend college debt-free. After 23 years with Starbucks, Mary continues to seek out new challenges, and is ever-appreciative to be in a place that remains driven by a mission and values that align with her own....

When a recent trip to visit her ailing grandmother meant traveling to Iraq, Laveen Khoshnaw, a 2015 Boettcher Scholar, used her time to reconnect with family and while helping the local community. Laveen was born in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. Her family fled the region in 1998 after her father’s work with an American humanitarian organization caused him to be targeted by Saddam Hussein’s regime. After spending time in Guam, the family relocated to Colorado Springs where Laveen grew up and graduated from high school. As a sophomore at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Laveen is majoring in biomedical sciences and minoring in biochemistry, political science and leadership. She plans to attend medical school and harbors a dream of becoming the U.S. Surgeon General, although her more practical ambition is to practice medicine and help repair the Middle East. “It’s such a rich, wonderful place that’s just in the wrong hands,” she said. Because she still had family in the region, Laveen has had the opportunity to return to Iraq to visit her family in recent years. But her most recent trip, prompted by her grandmother’s stroke last year, quickly evolved into a humanitarian mission and an education on Iraq’s health care system and how that system is being impacted by refugees from southern Iraq and Syria. “There are so many families in the streets, and the public hospitals are completely packed,” Laveen recalled of her summer in Iraq. “There is no shelter or housing (for refugees), so they seek refuge in the hospitals. They’re just looking for a place to sit and get out of the heat.” When describing the hospitals, Laveen, who is a Certified Nursing Assistant, is quick to note that they are nothing like American hospitals. In addition to less sanitary conditions and overstretched staff, she noted that patients’ families are expected to fulfill many responsibilities, like feeding and cleaning up after their relatives who are hospitalized. Seeing the need, Laveen and her family began working to help stock the hospitals and provide better supplies. They brought in basics like bottled water and disposable sheets they obtained via an uncle in Switzerland. Similarly, the family went into refugee communities and brought in supplies to help them build better shelters. “It was so heart-wrenching to see the situation and not be able to do even more,” she said. Laveen returned from her summer in Kurdistan with a new resolve to help people, especially refugees in the Middle East. She and her friends are planning to host a fundraising gala to help Syrian refugees. Laveen is also considering a second journey to assist struggling health care systems. This time, she’ll be headed to Nicaragua with members of Global Medical Brigades, an on-campus organization of pre-med students that provides medical support in struggling countries. In addition to her work with Global Medical Brigades, Laveen is an associate chief justice with UCCS’ student government association and is active in the pre-health society, while also working at a local optometrist’s office. “I’ve always wanted to go back and make change in the Middle East, but now it is more focused on the health care system,” she said, adding that she expects she will practice medicine in the United States but start or work with a group of people to effect change in the Middle East as well. “I know I’m not going to be the one person who changes, it, but if I can get a team of likeminded people – as cheesy as it sounds – I think we can make a difference.”...