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DSST alum moves on to run organization that focuses on giving all students critical networking stills and more

DSST is built on a foundation of educational equity, something which alumni and former DSST teacher Nicholas Kukucka has worked to incorporate into his life and career.

Nicholas graduated from DSST: Montview in 2010 as part of the third graduating class, and started his career as an American History and Spanish teacher at DSST: Green Valley Ranch. However, he spent most of his time at DSST as the assistant director of E-Ship, which is a program meant to teach students critical skills like collaboration, creativity and many others.

“When I started, E-Ship had only piloted its program with a few small groups of 15 seniors at GVR” Nicholas said. “By the time I left, we were serving 600 students from sixth to twelfth grade across multiple campuses.”

Nicholas said having been a student and then a teacher at DSST has given him a unique perspective about what makes the organization stand out.

“I think having a staff that cares deeply about the students is truly special. While the students work hard, the teachers are right there working just as hard if not harder,” Nicholas said. “DSST is by no means a perfect institution. However, having seen it grow and develop since I started at DSST in 2006, I greatly appreciate DSST’s constant willingness to hold a mirror to itself and have the courage and humility to ask ‘How can we do better?’” 

Through his experience at DSST, Nicholas developed a passion for education and making sure diversity and equity were promoted in the school-to-career pipeline.

It is that passion that helped him end up as the Executive Director for The Ganas Network -- which “strives to equip early professionals with the critical skills that ensure they thrive in their personal and professional lives while organizing, nurturing, and amplifying their voices as charter school advocates to lead conversations on education policy.”

Nicholas is a firm believer that networking is a huge part of the professional world, but it is a “vital skill that is often left out of core curriculums at traditional education institutions.”

“When we put the responsibility for learning critical skills like networking entirely on our students, we do the majority of our students a disservice,” Nicholas said. “The students who are most likely to pick up those skills on their own are those who are privileged to have access to parents who are familiar with skills needed to succeed in white-collar professions and we perpetuate the status quo.”

Nicholas and The Ganas Networks are working to break the status quo and give all students an equal chance at developing critical skills they will need in corporate America.

While he may be making an impact in the education space, Nicholas said his greatest pride is his former students. 

“I’m most proud of my former students. It would be ridiculous to take credit for all their accomplishments, but no matter what they’re doing today, to have had the opportunity to share a classroom with them, get to know them and watch them flourish over the years is probably one of my favorite things,” Nicholas said. “I have no doubt that my life would be significantly different if I hadn’t attended DSST.”