Teens paint bright future

Story and photo by KYLE R WASSON

Youths from five Pima Community College TRiO programs volunteered in assisting the city of Tucson’s ongoing graffiti abatement efforts on Feb. 19.

Pima United TRiO programs such as Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search, and Student Support Services give first generation, low-income teenagers a better chance of not only being accepted to college, but retaining passing grades and graduating.

Students are from high schools all over Tucson including Marana, Ironwood Ridge, Amphi, and Catalina Magnet to name a few. Each program serves roughly 50 students each year.

“We’re kind of like a rich uncle,” joked Lyn Olsen, director of Upward Bound at the Downtown Campus. “We give kids who would not normally have the opportunity, the chance to go to college and be successful.”

Student volunteers teamed up with employees of Graffiti Protective Coatings Inc., and the Tucson Police Department to tackle graffiti throughout the Keeling and Las Vistas neighborhoods in Central Tucson.

Roughly 150 TRiO students and faculty hit the streets for over three hours painting mailboxes, trashcans and utility boxes that had been tarnished by the graffiti.

University of Arizona graduate and Upward Bound coordinator Chase Velasquez attended for his second time in hopes of not only bettering the kids’ lives but contributing to society as well.

“After I graduated from the UA, a counselor recommended this job to me. It gave me the chance to really help struggling teens,” Velasquez said.

“I wanted to be able to give them a chance to accomplish everything that I did. That in itself is a great feeling.”

Patricia Perkins, a Marana Unified School District employee and TRiO volunteer driver started her first day that Saturday morning.

“It’s so good to see them out here helping their community,” Perkins said. “It is truly a touching experience.”

After the volunteers finished their clean-up, all members rallied at Reid Park for a complimentary cookout provided by Sunflower Farmers Market.

Since its inception, Sunflower has stressed the importance of the connection between business and community with their program, Partnership in Giving. The store assists programs that contribute to a cleaner, safer Tucson, a spokesman said.

The giving went even further than just paining. While some volunteers were out cleaning in the Keeling neighborhood, a dog began to follow, and continued to do so for the rest of the day. As they finished up they recognized a ‘lost dog’ poster on a street post.

Amazingly, after calling the number and meeting the people, ‘Spuds’ was identified and safely returned to his family.

For more information on PCC’s United TRiO programs, contact Lyn Olsen at lolsen@pima.edu.

Student Volunteers Maria Delgado, Arely Elenes and Azhar Jamal


Pima United TRiO Volunteer Day, Reid Park

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