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PCC truck driving program has jobs waiting for students

PCC truck driving program has jobs waiting for students



On a chilly Sunday morning, 10 Pima Community College students and instructors gather at a small, empty lot south of Valencia Road.

As an instructor monitors, students take turns slowly maneuvering an 18-wheel tractor-trailer truck though cones to practice parking and driving in reverse.

The students are enrolled in Pima’s Truck Driver Training Program, working to earn a commercial driver’s license.

In most vocational courses, students graduate with certification that lets them apply for jobs. Students in the truck driving program will likely leave with employment already set up.

“There are 157,000 jobs available right now nationwide,” faculty adviser Dan M. Offret said.

The shortage of commercial drivers allows Pima to provide students with two or three prehire letters when they begin training, Offret said. Prehire letters are essentially job offers awaiting students who complete the program.

Students also leave with a sense of kinship, instructor Sandy McCoskey said. After starting the program as strangers, students often end the training with a group barbecue.

“We do a newsletter to keep them in touch,” McCoskey added. “It’s very important to have that identification, to know that Pima is their school.”

The program mirrors the changing world of truck driving, training both male and female students in a wide variety of ages.

Student Maryln Juan said she has always loved driving, and sometimes rode with her trucker brother.

“For me, right now, it was the ability to drive that big truck,” she said of her main reason for joining the training program.

Students should not expect an easy ride.

No financial aid is available, Offret said. That means students must pay $3,200 out of pocket unless they have GI Bill benefits or special grants.

Truck driver training includes both classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Students must pass written and driving tests to obtain their commercial license.

The program is based at Community Campus. For further information, call 206-2744.


Let’s be cautious while driving

Let’s be cautious while driving


By Marie Rodriguez

The other day I left the grocery store and found another car firmly attached to my car’s front bumper.

When I did a quick look-around and damage assessment, I couldn’t find the other driver. Luckily, I also didn’t find any dents.

It’s scary how often drivers forget they’re in charge of heavy machinery.

We see trucks left atop inclines without emergency brakes engaged. Too many drivers forget to signal and brake abruptly to turn. Dare I point out the drivers who can’t put their cell phones down? It’s like that “mayhem” character from the insurance commercial.

There would be fewer accidents if we’d stop trying to multitask behind the wheel.

A few other words of advice:

Parking. There’s a reason for those lines painted on that big slab of asphalt.

Turning lanes. There’s a lane in the middle of most roads dedicated solely to allowing cars to slow down without affecting the flow of traffic.

Common sense. Mirrors, turn signals and your very own eyeballs are all available to assist in maneuvering your way through streets. Give these and some better judgment a try.

Manners. If you wouldn’t cut someone off with your cart in the grocery line, why do it in your car? You can still scream at traffic through the confines of your vehicle but just because you are not face-to-face does not mean you should be devoid of courtesy.

Let’s not forget about pedestrians. They have the right of way, for obvious reasons. Drivers need to watch for pedestrians crossing the street.

However, if I am walking along a road and my skin is the only thing stopping a speeding piece of metal from slamming into me, I’ll look both ways before crossing. Common sense.

Carelessness, laziness, poor mechanics. I’ll never know why my car became the victim in a grocery store parking lot that day, but I’m happy I don’t have to worry about insurance claims.

However, there’s more to good driving than better insurance rates. Personal safety is nice too.

Pay attention people! Drive safe.

Campus president values education

Campus president values education



Once a high school dropout and now Pima Community College’s Community Campus president, Lorraine Morales is a real-world epitome of humble beginnings to meaningful success.

“I dropped out of high school my junior year, just because it wasn’t working,” she said. “I wasn’t getting much out of it.”

She earned her GED high school equivalency a year later.

“I had a variety of dead-end jobs and it was after those jobs that I made the decision to go to college,” she said.

Morales earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Western New Mexico University and a master’s degrees in higher education from the University of Arizona. Northern Arizona University awarded her doctorate in education.

Though she has worked for a variety of universities including UA, she harkens back to community colleges.

“All the time I worked with the universities, I would find a way to connect with the community colleges,” she said. “I always felt like the mission of community colleges more closely aligns with my own philosophy.”

She has worked at PCC for more than a decade.

“We take students where they are and begin the process there, she said. “Universities, in my mind, choose who they are going to educate.”

Community Campus, one of six campuses in the PCC system, serves a primary goal of providing distance education. Lines are short and hallways are not as packed with the hustle and bustle of a student population.

Morales has made it a goal to illustrate to her colleagues how important Community Campus is in terms of bettering a student’s life.

Take high school equivalency, for example. The adult education program awarded 1,578 diplomas last year, leading Morales to joke, “We’re probably one of the biggest high schools in Pima County.” Adult education composes 11 percent of the student population, roughly 6,000 students.

The campus also offers English as a Second Language and refugee programs.

PCC contracts with the state for the refugee program. It aims to acclimate those from war-torn countries and teach them enough English to work at a job.

Community Campus also hosts the college’s largest concentration of work-force training, including truck driving, paramedic and public safety institutes.

Morales has served at four campuses during her tenure at Pima, most recently as vice president of instruction at East Campus. She was named Administrator of the Year for her work as vice president/dean of student development at Northwest Campus.

Her community affiliations include United Way’s Women Leading United, a network dedicated to improving grade-level reading in elementary schools by the third grade.

Morales’ educational journey personifies dedication and the transformative power of learning, Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release announcing her promotion to campus president.

“Dr. Morales’ career at Pima has been marked by a deep commitment to students,” he said. “That dedication, as well as a recognized ability to lead and collaborate in a variety of settings, will make her an important member of the college’s leadership team.”

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Community Campus President Lorraine Morales, who has worked as an administrator at Pima Community College for more than a decade, strolls the campus walkways. S.J. Barajas/Aztec Press

Baseball team looks to improve

Baseball team looks to improve



Pima Community College (7-7, 5-5 in ACCAC) is looking to get back on track after a very inconstant to the season.

With a .500 record, Pima hosted Chandler-Gilbert Community College on Feb, 24. For results go to

Pima would go up to Phoenix square off against Paradise Valley Community College on Feb 21. Pima would earn its first conference sweep, but it would come in consecutive tight games.

Sophomore Trevor Johnson would come up big again this week as he had another game winning hit, as he hit a solo homerun in the top of the 6th. Giving Pima the win 5-4.

Sophomore Marcel Renteria would get the start for Pima, but Sophomore Roy Aguire would pit his third win of season as he closed out the last two innings putting him at 3-0 for the season.

In the second game, Pima would have an even closer call with Paradise Valley. As it would take extras for Pima to put Paradise Valley down. Pima won by a familiar score 5-4 and in 11 innings.

Freshmen Justin Hammergren would start the game pitching five innings. Freshmen Vinnie Tarantola who got his first win of season putting him at 1-1 and sophomore Chris Kucko who would get the save would combine for 6 innings.

In a close game though out, Pima would steal the win after pinch runner freshmen Ryan Ramsower would score off a wild pitch in the top of the 11th. Pima would be forced to string out their bullpen for this game. Having three guys pitch multiple innings.

Pima would square off against Phoenix College on Feb 17, Pima would split games with Phoenix. In game one Pima would win the game dramatic fashion 2-1.

Johnson would hit the game winning run driving in freshmen David Oropesa. Aguire would get the win improving him to 2-0 for the season.

In the second game Phoenix would recover from the heartbreaker and rout Pima 12-1 in eight innings.

Pima couldn’t get it going in the second game, as they only managed four hits in the game and their only point coming in the 7th. Sophomore Ryan Norrix would take his first loss of the season putting him at 1-1 for the season.

Pima would travel up to Mesa face off against Mesa Community College on Feb 14. Pima would split games with Mesa. In the first game Pima would lose a tight one to Mesa losing 1-0, with the only run of the whole game coming in the 4th.

Renteria, who pitched a near flawless game, would drop his first game of the season putting him at 0-1. Renteria would pitch a complete game, with only one earned run on four hits. Renteria didn’t have the run support to match his gem.

In the second game Pima’s nonexistent run support from the first game would come up big with 7. Pima would take the second game 7-4.  Freshmen Al Cruz would come with a nice performance as he had a two RBI game.

Hammergren would pick up his first win of the season putting him at 1-1 for the season. Aguire would get the save after pitching the 9th inning.

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Ivan Estella recoils after being struck by a pitch during a game against Utah State University – Eastern on Feb. 5. Pima went on the win both games in the series. (Caleb Foster/Aztec Press)


Low gas prices help student budgets

Low gas prices help student budgets



As gas prices drop to their lowest level since 2009, Pima Community College students are feeling financial relief at the start of the semester.

“I’m paying for college and insurance, now I feel more independent,” said PCC student Lynsi Hill. She used to spend $38 to fill the tank of her Toyota Tacoma, and now it’s down to $22.

The national average for gas prices hit its highest point in 12 months at $3.56 on July 4, 2014. After more than 100 days of falling prices, the cost began to creep up in early February.

The national average Feb. 6 was about $2.15, according to AAA Arizona. The statewide average on Feb. 6 was $1.98 a gallon, up more than 7 cents from the week before.

The Economist reported that four major factors were driving down prices:

• Low demand

• Uninterrupted oil production despite instability in Libya and Iraq

• America being the world’s largest oil producer

• Saudi Arabia and other gulf nations being unwilling to sacrifice their share of the market to drive up prices.

Low demand for gas has been caused by the switch to fuel sources other than oil, and a rise in oil production efficiency.

Much of that efficiency comes from new techniques in North America — hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling — that make it possible to extract oil from shale rock and low economic activity.

Despite instability caused by the Sunni militant group ISIS, Iraq produced an average of over 3 million barrels of oil per day last year.

Libya, engulfed in tribal warfare, still produces almost 1 million barrels of oil a day in 2014 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The United States has created a surplus abroad by importing less oil, possibly because it is the largest oil producer in the world not exporting crude oil.

Last year the U.S. imported more than 6.5 million barrels of oil per day. That’s down from 12.5 million barrels per day in 2005 according to the EIA.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies could drive up oil prices by slowing down their production but they have little need to do so.

It can produce a barrel of oil for $5 to $6, according to the Economist. With gas prices as low as they are Saudi Arabia is still making extraordinary profits.

After the national average hit bottom on Jan. 26 at $2.02 gas prices have begun to rebound. On Feb. 10 prices reached $2.18.

The Boston Globe reported that the price for crude oil has begun to climb in anticipation of the United States and other oil producing nations cutting production.

Oil rigs that are no longer profitable in the United States because of high extraction costs are being shut down.

With the supply of crude oil going down, prices will continue to climb and gas prices will follow.

The national average will stay below $3 through 2015 for regular gas according to AAA’s national group’s prediction.

Gas prices are also set to go up due to the summer-vacation season and American refineries exporting more oil according to The New York Times.

Although the U.S. does not export crude oil, oil refineries have increased their exports.

The national gasoline stockpile is at its lowest for this time of year since 2011.

With the increase in U.S. oil production and a flood of crude oil in the U.S. market, the low fuel demand in the country has made refineries look elsewhere.

Refineries are selling to countries like Mexico, the Netherlands and Brazil in growing amounts.

Yet, PCC students express little concern with the global affairs of commodities or the long-term economic consequences of low gas prices.

PCC nursing student Ellen Ogley said she hadn’t thought about the negative effects of low gas prices.

“I’m thinking on a small scale, about myself,” she said.

There is cheerfulness about the low gas prices among students.

The price drop comes at a good time with the start of the semester, when expenses for students rise.

Liliana Grijalva, a PCC student whose cost for filling up the tank of her Ford Focus went from $30 to $14, expressed relief.

“With buying books, it’s been a load off, it has been really helpful,” she said.

A student at PCC three years ago, Alexus Navarro, now working at a Circle K said she has not seen an increase in customers since the gas prices went down.

She has seen a new pattern develop since the price drop, with customers who pay in advance for their gas purchase.

“There are a lot of people who pay for too much gas, expecting it’s going to be more and they have to come back,” she said. “They expect it’s going to be $40 and it’s more like $30.”

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Gas prices well below $2 a gallon have been a common sight recently. (Pablo Espinosa/Aztec Press)

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A man fills his truck at a local gas station. The price of crude oil has recently begun to climb once again. (Pablo Espinosa/Aztec Press)


Guest commentary: Visit to Yarnell memorial

Guest commentary: Visit to Yarnell memorial



A storm rolled into the quiet town of Yarnell, Ariz., on the evening of June 28, 2013. Dark clouds filled the summer sky and lightning struck dry, brush-covered hills.

The lightning ignited a forest fire that burned 8,400 acres.

Of the 350 firefighters assigned to the blaze, 20 were elite Granite Mountain Hotshots trained in tactics to suppress wildfires.

Strong winds shifted unexpectedly on June 30, trapping 19 Hotshots. They did not have time to deploy their last-resort emergency fire shelters and the men were killed in action.

This past December, my family and I traveled to our winter break getaway in Prescott. During our stay, we decided to make the 33-mile drive to Yarnell.

After a beautiful drive through canyons and open farmland populated by horses and cattle, we were greeted with a sign welcoming us to Yarnell.

With a population of just 649, Yarnell exemplifies a close-knit community. When we tried to visit the general store, we found the door locked. A flimsy, slightly crumpled paper taped to the window pane said the owner had gone to lunch.

After much driving to find the town’s makeshift memorial, we found it hidden behind the Ranch House restaurant on Highway 89. On a small hill behind the restaurant, three large photo boards stand on burned ground.

The first two boards share stories and photos for each of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots. Mementos left by family, friends and visitors shadow the displays. Especially touching: fire department baseball hats from all over Arizona and the United States.

The last photo board is tucked farther up on a small slope. The hill looks over Highway 89 to the site where the 19 Hotshots breathed their last breath. You can use provided binoculars to see an American flag that marks the area where the 19 Hotshots fell.

The 100 Club of Arizona is an organization that provides financial assistance to families of public safety and firefighters when serious injury, death or life-altering situations occur.

With hard work by staffers and volunteers, the 100 Club raised $2.2 million through donations and fundraisers. The money will be used to meet the needs of those affected by the Yarnell tragedy.

Funeral expenses, memorial services and counseling are just a few items covered by the club with the community’s help.

If you are in northern Arizona, I encourage you to visit Yarnell.

“Yarnell 19” signs can still be seen inside shops and restaurants. Purple ribbons hang from trees and fences.

Seeing the memorials to the 19 Hotshots is an incredibly moving and humbling experience.

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“Yarnell 19″ memorials like the purple T-shirt at the back of this cafe remain on display throughout the town.”
Photo by Amanda Oien

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Amanda Oien is a sophomore at PCC’s East Campus

No break in high prices

No break in high prices



Gasoline prices are going higher each day, and will probably reach $4 per gallon nationwide by the end of April, according to analysts.

“Instead of paying $80 for gas for my truck like I used to, now I’m paying $100,” said Pima Community College student Arcenio Trujillo, who is majoring in physical geography.

Prices have already surpased  $4 per gallon in states like   California, Hawaii and Alaska. Some gas stations in the Phoenix-metro area are also posting $3.99 per gallon prices.

In a March 14 report, the AAA Arizona auto club said prices averaged $3.86 a gallon for regular fuel. The price increased 18 cents in a week, marking the largest weekly jump in four years.

The highest average price was in Scottsdale, at $3.95 per gallon. Tucson had the lowest average, $3.69.

Even though Tucson enjoys lower gas prices, the cost increases still hit many people’s pocketbooks. Students who live far from the campus where they take classes especially feel the pain.

“I work on the weekends and I pay my gas,” engineering student Lindon Claridge said. “Now I have no spending money. Everything goes to gas.”

Liberal arts major Taylor Vaught said she benefits from working just down the street from her home. She has a Chevron card, so has limited location choices when it is time to buy gas for her truck.

Music production major Steven Blackman said gas prices don’t affect him because he takes the bus.

“I would be spending almost $10 a week if I were driving to class,” Blackman said. “High gas prices are better for the environment because more students take the bus, and fewer cars are driven.”

Many factors affect the cost of gas, including the always-changing market price of crude and growing global demand for oil.

There are also concerns that Iran, a major oil exporter, might cut off supplies amid tensions over its nuclear program. Speculators who try to profit on margins by betting on price increases for oil also play a role in rising prices.

As oil prices rise, retail gasoline prices do the same.

“This really puts a burden on college students like myself and American families, plus the rumor of gas going to $5 a gallon, the future looks scary.”Said Kenna Hoffman, PCC student. “I predict that online classes will become more popular as an attempt to save money. I currently rely on the ‘Gas Buddy’ app to help find the cheapest gas in town.”

She also says that the high fuel prices makes getting her college degree more difficult.



PLAYOFF UPDATE: Softball ends season one run from Nationals

PLAYOFF UPDATE: Softball ends season one run from Nationals


Stories and photo by JAMES KELLEY

The Pima Community College softball team suffered a heart-breaking loss to the hometown Region 1 championship favorites, and then Yavapai College ripped the Aztecs’ hearts out.

Second-seeded Pima (51-14) could not take advantage of a one-game cushion as it lost both Regional championship games in Prescott, Ariz.

The Aztecs lost the first game 3-2 in extra innings, as the top-seeded Roughriders (62-4) scored in the bottom of the ninth to break the tie.

Freshman Mari Contreras (30-3) suffered the loss despite throwing a seven-hitter and striking out eight in her third start in two days.

Freshman utility Jessica Schneider went 2-3 with a home run.

In the second championship game, sophomore Adriana Garcia (15-6) started her first game of the tournament. She gave up seven runs before Contreras returned to give up five runs in the 12-3 loss.

Sophomore infielder Katie Asher went 2-3 with a double.

It was the third year in a row that Yavapai knocked out Pima in the Region championship game and claimed the sole Nationals spot. It happened in Prescott in 2009 and 2011, and in Tucson in 2010.

Yavapai is headed to Nationals for the fourth year in a row.

Softball advances to championship

It took a full seven innings this time, but Pima Community College earned another blowout win and a spot in the Region 1 championship game.

The second-seeded Aztecs (51-12) beat fourth-seed Arizona Western College (35-25) in Prescott, Ariz., 11-3 on May 7 thanks to 16 hits, including five home runs. Pima scored five runs in the seventh, while AWC scored two.

Sophomore infielder Mercedes Garcia went 3-4, hitting homers in three straight at-bats and driving in five RBIs.

Freshman utility Erika Tapia went 3-4 also, with two dingers. Sophomore catcher Charissa Ballesteros went 3-4 with two RBIs. Sophomore infielder Jacqueline Deen went 4-4 with a double and two runs.

Freshman Mari Contreras (30-2) struck out 10 Matadors.

PCC will await the winner of AWC and top seed Yavapai College (59-4), the hosts, in the championship game Saturday afternoon. AWC or Yavapai must beat Pima twice, but the Aztecs need only one win to go to Nationals.

Softball dominates Regionals opener

The Pima Community College softball team is sitting pretty after a pretty-much perfect day.

The second-seeded Aztecs (50-12) opened play in the Region 1 tournament with an 11-1 five-inning mercy rule over third-seeded Central Arizona College 46-17) on May 6 in Prescott.

Mari Contreras

Freshman Mari Contreras gave up one run on three hits and struck out seven Vaquera batters. Injured sophomore infielder Katie Asher hit a home run and two RBIs, and scored three times against No. 19 Central.

Freshman leadoff hitter and outfielder Nicole Rascon went 3-3, with a double and four RBIs.

Freshman utility Jessica Schneider went 3-3 and scored three runs. Freshman utility Erika Tapia went 2-3 with a triple.

In other action in Prescott, top seeded and No. 1 ranked Yavapai College (58-4), the host, was upset by bottom-seed Arizona Western College (35-24).

On May 7, Pima faces Western in the semifinals at 9 a.m., needing only two wins Saturday to advance to Nationals. Yavapai will need to win three times Saturday.

The championship game will be 1 p.m., with a rematch at 3 p.m. if necessary.

Follow us on Twitter for sports news and scores.

On a road to recovery, one step at a time

On a road to recovery, one step at a time



Sept. 24, 2006 started like any morning for Pima Community College student Kay Mitchell. By sunset, her life was irreversibly changed.

Mitchell and her husband Kevin decided to take advantage of fall weather for a motorcycle ride.

“The weather was great and we decided to take a ride up to the top of Mount Lemmon,” Mitchell said. “We never made it.”

As they crested a hill on Skyline Road, the Mitchells realized a car they were approaching had stopped in their lane.

At that location, Skyline is two lanes each way, separated first by painted double yellow lines, then by a raised cement median.

Riding on the inside of the left lane, Kevin crossed the center line and lay down his bike on the center median. He stopped just before driving into oncoming traffic.

Mitchell, riding on the right side of the same lane, was not so lucky.

“Kay was riding about 15 feet behind me on my right and I think she saw me start to brake but she didn’t realize why,” Kevin said. “I wanted to warn her but there was no way and no time.”

Mitchell had to make a choice: hit a large truck in the lane next to her or impact the stopped car.

She tried to brake and put her bike into the car sideways but time, distance and luck ran out.

The right side of her body hit the trunk. Her helmeted head struck the rear window and roof, breaking her neck on impact and obstructing her airway. She rolled over the car and was thrown 30 feet into oncoming traffic.

She suffered many more injuries, including facial and skull fractures, a dislocated eye, pulverized shoulder, broken right collarbone and arm, partially detached ankle and tibia/fibula. Six ribs broke at the sternum, and a femur fractured so badly that a third of it had to be removed.

The police investigation determined the driver of the parked car was a lost German tourist. She was in her car, talking on her cell phone and reading a map, when the impact occurred.

Mitchell’s invisible injuries were even worse. She had massive brain injury to both frontal lobes and to the left cerebral cortex, and lost almost all vision in her right eye.


Kay Mitchell stands by the motorcycle, now repaired, that she was riding the day of her 2006 accident. She hasn't ridden the bike since. Photo by Judy Augustine


Luck be a Lady

Her survival had more to do with luck than any safety equipment she was wearing.

A truck that narrowly missed Mitchell when she was thrown into oncoming traffic slid sideways, blocking other cars from running over her body. The car immediately behind that truck was driven by a University Medical Center trauma nurse.

When the nurse stopped to render aid, she recognized Mitchell’s neck injury and took drastic action. She grabbed the back of the shattered helmet and pulled it up, shifting the dislocated vertebrae into alignment and restoring Mitchell’s airway.

By pure luck, three fire rescue rigs happened upon the scene without being dispatched. Paramedics radioed for a helicopter, cleared traffic and prepared Mitchell for flight.

Trauma professionals refer to the “golden hour”—a critical 60-minute window after a severe injury. The clock starts ticking at the moment of injury, but lives can be saved with emergency treatment.

A medivac helicopter landed Mitchell at UMC 14 minutes after the accident.

Nobody knew at the time the life-altering damage that Mitchell had suffered.

She, like U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, became one of an estimated 1.7 million people who suffer traumatic brain injuries annually. The Centers for Disease Control estimate 292,000 of those injuries are from motor vehicle accidents.


A Family Affair

Mitchell has seven children who were impacted greatly by their mother’s injuries. Her daughter Kelsey was 11 years old when the accident occurred. “My mom died that day,” Kelsey said.

“Kelsey’s right,” Kay said. “The person I was died in the accident. We have all had to get to know a brand new me.”

Mitchell’s son Korban was 8 years old. “We didn’t get to see our mom for a long time,” he said. “Dad said she was in the hospital and getting better but I thought she died and I was scared.”

To this day, Korban dotes over his mother a little more than his siblings, and always tells her to be careful when she goes out. “I already lost her once, I don’t want to lose

her again,” he said.

Before the accident, Mitchell worked full time as a design engineer, drawing architectural plans for high-end art fairs all over the world. She holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Palm Beach State in Florida.

Damage to the mathematical reasoning center of her brain, as well as to areas that produce speech, language, processing and high-level thinking, kept her from returning to that career field.

“The company kept me on payroll for 18 months after my accident. They were really great,” Mitchell said. The company finally let her go when she was still unable to perform her duties full time.

Mitchell was unable to remember much of anything until about seven months after the crash.

Her damaged short- and long-term memory receptors affected how she recalled old memories and stored new memory. She did not recognize anyone, including Kevin and their children.

“Imagine waking up with all these people around you telling you how much they love you, doing everything for you, and you have no idea who they are,” Mitchell said. “That was probably the hardest thing to deal with in the very beginning. Everyone was a stranger, including me.”




Road to Recovery

It took Mitchell 7½ months before she could speak in stunted sentences. It took 10 months to follow basic conversations, 14 months to walk on crutches, 2½ years to write, 3½ years to read.

“Reading is still a slow process for me,” she said. “There are still words that I see, that I know I know, and can’t recall what they mean so I have to look them up. It’s frustrating.”

Kevin did not work for two years after the accident so he could care for his wife and children.

“He is just the kindest man I have ever met,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without him.”

At the time of the accident, Mitchell already had orthopedic issues from a skydiving accident during an Air Force training jump.

Her injuries include a leg paralyzed from the knee down, and she retired from the military with disability benefits.

Mitchell has had 23 orthopedic surgeries since the motorcycle accident and needs several more.

“I know I need to get more work done, like so my shoulder doesn’t dislocate all the time and so my knee stops dislocating, but as long as I can stand the pain I won’t get it done,” she said.

“I’ve had enough surgeries already. It takes me back to a day that will forever haunt my mind.”

The brain injuries are by far the worst part. Although no one can tell by looking at her, she still struggles at times.

She has undergone thousands of hours of physical and emotional therapy. She has seizures and vertigo due to nerve injuries in her brain, neck and right eye, and has post-traumatic stress disorder.


Defying the Odds

It has been a long road back for the entire Mitchell family. Doctors told Mitchell she would only attain whatever level of functioning she had at the one-year mark. She has defied those odds, and is still making noticeable progress 4½ years later.

Against the advice of almost everyone, she enrolled at PCC in Spring 2009. She is majoring in criminal justice, and carries a 3.52 GPA.

She was recently accepted for transfer to Northern Arizona University’s bachelor degree program studying administration of justice. She starts this summer.

Her goal is some type of probation/parole or counseling position after graduation, and she may pursue a master’s degree in criminal psychology.

She wants to help other people and give them a second chance, much like she has had.

If you see Mitchell around campus (she’s the one wearing the NAU T-shirt), give her a smile or say hi. Just don’t tell her there is something she can’t do.

You’ll lose that bet every time.


Freshman proving to be a Jill of all trades for softball

Freshman proving to be a Jill of all trades for softball


Story and photo by JAMES KELLEY

Freshman Jessica Schneider has had a memorable couple of weeks for the Pima Community College softball team, pounding the ball and even catching for the first time.


Schneider is listed as a first baseman and third baseman on the roster and was named Region I, Division I Batter of the Week for the week ending Feb. 27.

“The first time catching was pretty cool,” Schneider said. “That is the first time I have ever caught in my life.”

Schneider donned the “tools of ignorance” on March 8 when the Aztecs’ regular catcher, sophomore Charissa Ballesteros had to miss the double header against Phoenix College to be with her grandfather, who was on his deathbed.

Jessica Schneider

No. 12 Pima (25-5, 17-3 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) run ruled Phoenix 12-1 in the first game and beat the Bears 10-3.

Freshman Mari Contreras (16-1) threw a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and freshman outfielder Nicole Rascon went 3-4 with two runs in the first game.

Freshman outfielder Kat Banks went 2-2, hit a double and drove in four RBIs. Freshman outfielder Aubrey Baldwin and Schneider also went 2-2 with Baldwin hitting two RBIs and Schneider three.

“We’ve been so up and down all year and (March 8 ) we played two really good games, minus one bad inning, but I thought they played really, really well and showed a lot of perseverance in coming back,” head coach Armando Quiroz said. “I was very happy with today, it has been a long time coming.”

In the second game against Phoenix, Schneider and sophomore infielder Katie Asher went 2-3 with a pair of RBIs. Freshman infielder Jessica Sipe blasted a three run homer over the right-center fence.

“Phoenix is a great program, they have like 10 national championships so any time we can beat a team like that, we are on our game,” Quiroz said. “I have a lot of respect for them.”

Quiroz said Schneider had played catcher in practice, but she admitted she “was a little nervous” and that it is “way different” than first or third base.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Schneider said.

Pima split a double header at Chandler-Gilbert Community College on March 3, earning a five-inning mercy rule 11-2 win in the first game, but dropping the second 4-3. Two errors in the bottom of the last inning in the nightcap led to a walk-off loss.

Ballesteros went 5-8 in the doubleheader, scoring two runs and driving in two RBIs. Sophomore first baseman Mercedes Garcia went 4-8, hit a pair of doubles and scored twice and Schneider went 4-7, scored a pair of runs.

“I think we are doing good, we are playing well as a team,” Schneider said.

The Aztecs had their eight game winning streak snapped on Feb. 26 at the hands of Arizona Western College, but rebounded to salvage a split.

Pima dropped the first game 2-1 in 8 innings. Freshman Mari Contreras (13-1) suffered her first loss of the season despite striking out 13 Matadors.

In the second game, Contreras got the 12-11 win after relieving sophomore Adriana Garcia. Schneider went 3-3, including her bottom of the seventh walk-off home run. Ballesteros went 4-4, drove in three RBIs and hit a solo homer.

On Feb. 22, Pima swept a doubleheader against No. 6 South Mountain Community College. Contreras picked up both wins.

The Aztecs run ruled SMCC 10-1 in the first game. Contreras threw a five hitter and struck out nine Cougars.

Sophomore shortstop Katie Asher hit a three run dinger, only to be bested by Schneider’s grand slam. Freshman outfielder Nicole Rascon went 3-3, scored two runs and drove in one RBI.

In the nightcap, Contreras came in relief of freshman Ariel Silva to shut the door on South Mountain with 2 2/3 innings of shut out ball in a 6-4 win. Schneider went 2-2 and drove in two RBIs, while Garcia went 3-3, hit a double, scored a run and knocked in two RBIs.

The Aztecs, two games behind No. 2 Yavapai College in the standings, will host their archrival YC on March 12 for a doubleheader starting at noon. Yavapai knocked Pima out of the playoffs the last two years.

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ONLINE EXTRA: Football shows promise despite losses

ONLINE EXTRA: Football shows promise despite losses


By Narciso Thomas Villarreal
Photo by Ed Adams
Scottsdale Videos by James Kelley

The Pima Community College football team has lost three games in a row, but that includes a close call to an undefeated team and a deceiving score against the preseason No. 1 ranked team.

The Aztecs (2-4, 0-3 Western States Football League) lost their third consecutive game after being beat 32-13 by the No. 8 Arizona Western College Matadors on Oct. 9 at home. Pima was close early on, but Western pulled away in the second half.

“That’s a great football team we just played, and I thought our kids gave every ounce of effort they could,” head coach Patrick Nugent said after the game. “We just fell a little bit short tonight.”

The Aztecs struck first after sophomore defensive back Michael Holloway intercepted the ball and took it 11 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

The first half ended with Pima trailing 18-7.

Pima would only muster six more points after sophomore running back Auburá Taylor had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

“It was good to finally get back there,” Taylor said. “I ain’t been starting back there all year. Our starter went down. I felt like it would be a big chance to step up there and definitely make a big play and keep the team in it.”

Taylor had 107 total punt return yards in four attempts. He also had four kickoff returns totaling 101 yards.

“I think we can definitely make some big plays,” Taylor said about the team’s overall performance on special teams. “As long as they keep kicking it to me, I’m going to do the best I can.”

Pima’s special teams also prevented AWC from scoring a two-point conversion and blocked two point-after-touchdown attempts.

The Aztecs’ true freshmen pair of quarterbacks threw for 80 passing yards in total, with Zander McKean taking most of the snaps.

McKean went 7-20 for 75 yards. He was picked off once and sacked twice.

Zach Schira completed one pass in six attempts worth five total passing yards. The Matadors intercepted two of his passes and sacked him five times on the other hand.

“We definitely had a chance in that ball game,” Schira said. “They were a hell of a football team. They’re big, they’re strong and they’re fast. We were real close. We got a few breaks here and there. We minimize a couple mistakes, and we’re right in that ball game.”

Ricky Solomon

Pima rushed for 65 total yards with freshman receiver Ty Minkin leading the team with 34 yards in three carries. Sophomore running back Andy Garcia finished second with 28 yards in six carries.

“We moved the ball,” Nugent said. “We just had some mess-ups down in their zones. We just couldn’t put it in the end zone.”

Nugent said he thought the team got some decent yardage, but they just couldn’t score.

Pima had 80 total receiving yards with sophomore receiver Scott Campbell making four catches worth 41 yards.

As of Oct. 11, Western is ranked third in the National Junior College Athletic Association in total team defense.

The Matadors had 366 total yards of offense in the game. AWC is also ranked seventh in the NJCAA in total team offense.

Pima had two interceptions in the game, including one by sophomore defensive back Ricky Solomon, who leads the team this season with four.

On Oct. 2, the Pima football team overcame an early 14-0 deficit to Scottsdale Community College but couldn’t hold on to their brief lead on a rainy night.

The Aztecs fell to the then undefeated Fighting Artichokes 26-20 at home. Scottsdale quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but PCC soon answered back.

“Another tough loss two weeks in a row,” Nugent said after the SCC game. “We gave up points early.”

Pima freshman running back Damion Bracy scored a 33-yard rushing touchdown to get Pima on the board in the second quarter. The Fighting Artichokes struck back instantly though.

Scottsdale blocked the extra point attempt and returned the ball 90-plus yards for two points to give the Fighting Artichokes a 16-6 lead.

The last time Pima played SCC at home, in 2009, the Aztecs missed three extra points and the Fighting Artichokes won on a last second field goal 35-32.

SCC was driving down the field in the last minute of the first until sophomore linebacker Justin Kitchen got an interception.

“I just read it and cut across in front of him and picked it off,” Kitchen said. “I tried to return it like Reggie Bush.”

In the third quarter, McKean threw an 86-yard touchdown pass to Campbell. This time the extra point was good, and the third quarter ended with Scottsdale leading 16-13.

“We battled back. It was a great comeback for our guys to get out,” Nugent said.

In the fourth quarter, Pima took its first lead after Schira threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Minkin. The score was 20-16 after the extra point.

Zach Schira

Scottdale came back by scoring a touchdown and a field goal that put them up 26-20.

“We gave up a bad touchdown in the fourth quarter,” Nugent said. “We just can’t figure out a way to find a win. We just got to keep battling.”

In the game, Pima had 277 total offensive yards, with 159 passing yards and 118 rushing yards.

McKean and Schira again split time behind the center. McKean went 3-10 for 94 passing yards while Schira went 4-10 for 63 passing yards.

Schira lead the Pima rushing game with 62 yards in eight carries. Bracy finished the game with 37 rushing yards in three carries.

Campbell led Pima in receiving with 99 yards in four catches.

On the defensive end, Pima allowed 415 yards.

Pima’s Solomon had two interceptions and six solo tackles. Kitchen also had four solo tackles.

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Online Extra: Softball fights with weather, wins nine in a row

Online Extra: Softball fights with weather, wins nine in a row


By James Kelley
Photo by Daniel Gaona

It seems like the weather is only thing that can stop the Pima Community College softball team.

The Aztecs (25-3, 11-1 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) won nine games in a row and have lost just one game in the last 12. However, their last two doubleheaders have been postponed because of rain.

“We’re in a good frame of mind, the girls are very confident,” head coach Armando Quiroz said. “The girls are chomping at the bit, we feel really good right now.”

On March 10, the Aztecs scored two 8-0, five inning mercy rule wins over Delta College. Sophomore Jordan Trujillo (13-1) threw a no hitter in the first game and sophomore Iliana Teran (2-0) threw a two hitter

On March 6, Pima completed a season sweep of Mesa Community College on the road. Jordan Trujillo struck out seven and gave up one hit.

“Jordan’s pretty dominating, I feel like she is the best pitcher in the conference,” Quiroz said.

Sophomore shortstop Kaity Ingram and sophomore outfielder Claudia Nunez both went 2-3, with doubles, at Mesa. In Game 2, Nunez again went 2-3, hitting a home run, scoring two runs and driving in two.

Adrianna Garcia

On March 4, the Aztecs dominated Central Arizona College on the road. Pima run-ruled the Vaqueras 9-1 in five innings in Game 1, but then lost 9-6 in Game 2 in extra innings.

Jordan Trujillo pitched a gem in the first game, getting seven strikeouts and only giving up one hit. Sophomore infielder Domonique Marquez and freshman infielder Vanessa Arandules both went 3-3 and had two RBIs. Sophomore catcher Melina Trujillo went 3-4, scored two runs and drove in two.

In Game 2, Jordan Trujillo returned in relief but picked up her first loss. Freshman utility Charissa Ballesteros hit a two-run homerun. The game-winning hit came on a “waste pitch,” Quiroz said.

“It was a pitch that was designed to go over the batter’s head and she hit it, not a whole lot you can say, she hit a pitch she wasn’t supposed to swing at,” Quiroz said.

On March 2, Pima swept South Mountain Community College 5-1 and 7-3 at home. Ingram highlighted the evening, coming close to hitting for the cycle. She led the game off with her first home run ever, then followed with a triple that also almost went out. She later hit a single.

“She just wants to hit the ball hard,” Quiroz said. “She’s a senior leader and just having a great, great year.”

On March 1, Pima drowned Lake Michigan College 18-1 in five innings in Game 1. Teran started Game 2, which the Aztecs won 8-2. Teran gave up two runs on five hits, and earned her first win of the season.

Ballesteros was perfect on the day from the plate, going 8-8. She also scored four runs and drove in four RBIs. Ingram went 5-8, scored four runs and drove in three RBIs.

On Feb. 27, Pima swept ACCAC contender Arizona Western College. They played without Quiroz, who was in California to see his son, Armando, a Marine. Armando was shipping off for his second tour of duty, this time to Afghanistan after going to Iraq last time.

“My team and my staff really picked me up,” Quiroz said.

Quiroz is also content with the team’s performance at the plate.

“I really like the way we are swinging the bat,” Quiroz said. “It’s the old saying, hitting becomes infectious. The great part about this is every game, every day, somebody else is hot and picks us up.”

From March 12 to March 14, Pima will play in the Phoenix College Tournament, a 22-team tournament that features 11 out of-state teams.

“We get a lot of games in three days and we play teams we don’t normally see, which is good for us,” Quiroz said.

On March 21, Pima will play three games in the Tucson Invitational Games at Lincoln Park near the East Campus.

Athletic Voice: Tucson enters final season of Spring Training

Athletic Voice: Tucson enters final season of Spring Training


By David Mendez

The first official pitches of Cactus League baseball in Tucson will be thrown next week. Those pitches will be the beginning of the end of Spring Training baseball in Tucson for the foreseeable future.

Next year, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies will move out of their Spring Training homes, Tucson Electric Park and Hi Corbett Field, respectively, for a brand-new facility on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Native American Community land near Scottsdale.

What this means is that Spring Training baseball, which had been an annual event in Tucson since 1946, won’t be back next year.

So who’s to blame?

One can point to the Chicago White Sox, whose decision to jump north to join the Los Angeles Dodgers in their new facility near Glendale motivated the Colorado Rockies to start looking for new facilities.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks, of course, point to this as the major motivating factor. Both teams expressed displeasure being the only two teams training in Southern Arizona.

Playing against only each other puts the two teams at a competitive disadvantage because both teams reside in the National League West.

If I were the manager of a professional baseball franchise, I certainly wouldn’t want to be training day in and day out against my team’s division rivals.

Both teams also complained about the Spring Training tactics of their other Cactus League rivals.

Most teams tend to keep their star players or those with slight, nagging injuries from making the arduous two-hour trek to Tucson. Instead they opt to play split-squad games and send only half of the roster to play in Tucson while the other half stays in the Phoenix area.

In a sports world dominated by ticket sales, sponsorship dollars and luxury seating, the Rockies and Diamondbacks quickly realized they had potentially struck gold by creating a situation where they could build new stadiums elsewhere and reap the benefits of brand new, state-of-the-art facilities ripe with new fans eager to walk the grounds of the new training complexes.

The Rockies, after all, were dying to have Pima County renovate Hi Corbett Field and their training grounds, creating a plan with costs ranging from $10 million to $20 million in upgrades.

Honestly, I can see why the Rockies would want to leave, as they felt they were getting burned on their lease with poor landlords. I can also understand the Diamondbacks wanting to skip town, as the majority of the team’s fan base is in central Arizona.

I’m certainly not happy about it, as one of my major motivating factors for moving to Tucson was to catch some D-backs Spring Training games. Unfortunately, baseball is as much a business as any other in this day and age.

What bothers me is the lackluster effort Pima County made not only in regard to their attempts to retain these teams, but also in regard to competing with those in central Arizona to lure franchises to train in Tucson.

Within the last 10 years, the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers decided to join the Cactus League and make Arizona their Spring Training homes, with most of those stadiums being built on the fast-growing western edge of the Phoenix area.

Why hasn’t Pima County made an effort to bring any of those teams, or for that matter, any of the other major league teams, to roost here?

For those who understand the rigors of traffic in the Phoenix area, it’s not much of a stretch to say that driving from Scottsdale Stadium (home of the San Francisco Giants) to Camelback Ranch (home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox), would take just as much time to travel in peak conditions as it would to make the trip to Tucson.

The only issue would be the sustainability of ticket sales in Spring Training beyond the first few years, and the ability to make use of these sports complexes during the summer, fall and winter months, and that’s where Pima County would falter.

Look at the Tucson Sidewinders, for instance. During the peak years of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system, the Sidewinders won the Pacific Coast League Championship as well as the unofficial Triple-A Championship, beating the International League Toledo MudHens 5-2 in a one-game playoff. Tucson fielded some of the most impressive minor league talent collected on one team.

Yet, the Sidewinders constantly played to a half-filled stadium.
It lost so much money that the team’s ownership group, Tucson Baseball LLC, sold the Sidewinders to SK Baseball LLC in 2007. Those owners eventually moved the team to Reno, Nev.

To be honest, Tucson just can’t support baseball. That’s a terrible shame considering the passion that exists in the hearts of many fans in southern Arizona.

So, to those who love Spring Training baseball and baseball in general, enjoy this next month. Skip a class, take a day off and sit in the shade of a half-empty stadium watching sub-par talent pass their time away against professionals who just seem bored.

As for me, I’ve got better things to do. Why would I want to spend my afternoon out in the sun anyway, right?