Zuleika – Rising Stars 2020–26

Zuleika Johnson came to the Springs from New York City to live with her older sister, Cinthya Lucas, and for a change of pace. But looking at her résumé, she brought the work ethic and discipline she learned surviving the New York rat race along with her. In a brief two years with UCCS, she’s been promoted from assistant director of development to associate director, thanks in part to a plan she developed to expand the university’s donor base by courting and stewarding a more diverse group of donors.

“Most of the support that I raise is for scholarships,” she said. “I raise support for the college of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which is one of the arts colleges. I’ve been able to grow the number of scholarships available to students within that college, and I’ve done that by connecting to alumni who’ve maybe lost touch with campus. … We have so many alums who, when they were on campus, they received support from faculty that really helped them to succeed, and now they’re able to give back.”

Johnson has worked in the nonprofit sector since she graduated from Connecticut College in 2010. She’s worked for homeless shelters, raised funds for a cancer center, managed appeal campaigns for a girls’ mentoring program, and cultivated ties to corporate donors for a child development organization. But before UCCS, most of her work was with smaller nonprofits.

“I’ve always wanted to work for a larger nonprofit or state entity,” she said, “so when I saw the opening [at UCCS], I applied for it. It’s really given me the opportunity to grow professionally, because it’s a different kind of fundraising from small nonprofits.”

Johnson doesn’t stop there. She also serves as part of the El Pomar Emerging Leaders Development Program as the co-chair of the Hispanic Advisory Council and as a member of three subcommittees. She also mentors a teen through Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentor2.0 program. Big Brothers Big Sisters has an established relationship with Atlas Preparatory School in the city’s Southeast, and Johnson helps her mentee succeed there while preparing her for college and the working world.

“They’ve aimed to pair each incoming freshman at Atlas Prep with a member of the community,” she said. “I’ve been a mentor for my mentee since their freshman year, and they’re a junior now. … Being able to help a 16-year-old who can ask me for advice related to going to college, or filling out a résumé, or personal things — that brings me joy.”

Johnson said organizations like El Pomar Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters were important parts of her support structure growing up. Even now, while she volunteers for El Pomar, they’ve supported her with scholarships and professional development. She feels it’s important to make time to give back, and says the Springs makes it easy to give. She recalls being told, before she moved here, that Colorado Springs locals are philanthropically minded — and she’s found that to be true.

“People are very generous with their time and treasure,” she said.