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Enrollment continues to fall

Enrollment continues to fall



Enrollment at Pima Community College continues to fall despite efforts made by the college to draw in more students.

According to Pima spokesperson Libby Howell, enrollment has dropped down from nearly 63,000 students in 2011 to less than 50,000 students in 2014. That is about a 21 percent drop.

One student, Anna Sánchez has been at Pima on and off since 2007 and can see the drop in student numbers. “ It used to be way more packed,” she said. “Much more people.”

Sánchez had ideas about what the college should do to increase enrollment. “They should be more organized,” she said. “Maybe if tuition was less expensive.”

In 2015, Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal eliminated funding for Arizona’s community colleges, cutting $7 million from Pima’s funding.

The lack of state funding has prompted the college to increase its tuition rate by 8 percent.

In the summer leading up to the 2015 fall semester, Pima did take efforts to create a more robust ad campaign geared towards increasing student enrollment. In September 2015, PCC Marketing & Communications reported that the budget for increased advertisements was $434,700.

The enrollment management program has not stopped working to improve enrollment. Shawn Graham is program manager of the department and works primarily in outreach and recruitment.

“Believe it or not, a lot of people in Tucson don’t know what we have to offer at all,” he said.  “But now that we’re out there, you can tell that they’re starting to notice us.”

The goal of outreach and recruitment is to get the word out about Pima and to increase enrollment.

Outreach events give the department a good sense of what the college needs and, more specifically, what it doesn’t have.

“When we go out we target older and mature adult learners,” Graham said. “We also target underrepresented populations: Native-Americans, Hispanics, African-Americans…” he added.

Graham says that the future for outreach and recruitment is to continue building a relationship with the community, though he is excited about a new Pima application and a student tracking system that will help guide and assist students, which the college is planning to implement.

Jennifer Mendoza has been a Pima student since 2013 and believes enrollment fluctuates from campus to campus.

“It depends what campus I go to. If I go to East Campus they are a lot more helpful in getting me enrolled,” she said. “But when I go to Desert Vista I don’t feel like they like to help people.”

The college has also made external efforts to sustain and increase enrollment, receiving grants to fund specific departments and make certain majors and career paths more intriguing to students.

For instance, a summer 2015 USDA Project AgriPATH grant focused on retention, graduation and transfer rates for students interested in a career in agriculture. It catered to the college’s Desert Vista Campus with its own garden and aquaponics system.

From ad campaigns to receiving grants, the college’s efforts however have fallen short for now. Only time will tell if these efforts will start to gain momentum, or if the college will see a continuing trend in there enrollment and lack there of.

Students line up at the Downtown Campus Student Services desk to meet with advisors and counselors. (Bryan Orozco/Aztec Press)

Students line up at the Downtown Campus Student Services desk to meet with advisors and counselors. (Bryan Orozco/Aztec Press)

Global Peers welcomes fresh foreign faces

Global Peers welcomes fresh foreign faces



Studying abroad can be an enlightening, yet overwhelming experience, particularly in the beginning. Adjusting to the physical and cultural differences can be a challenge. Add some possible language barriers into the mix and it is a potential cocktail for stress.

Luckily for the exchange students starting here this spring, Pima has launched a program to help smooth the transition for many of our new classmates.

The program is called Global Peers and is comprised of Pima students, most of which have been exchange students to some degree themselves. The Peer in Global Peers actually stands for positive, engaging, educational resource.

Each Global Peer plays the role of a mentor are and is responsible for three to four students from various countries.

Though Sheila Solis Arroyo has recently transferred to the University of Arizona, she is a volunteer in the Global Peers Program because she gets to work directly with international students who expose her to new ideas and culture.

“My favorite part is that it’s fun and global peers provides an easy transition for friendships to be made.  It also helps international students feel welcome in a place they may have never been to before,” Sheila said.

This semester alone, students from China, Iran, Palestine, England, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, the Philippines and many others made up 34 different countries represented amongst the Pima student population.

The mentors met the students on Jan. 16 and there was an in-depth, two-day orientation process to prepare the international students for their time here.

The students learned about Pima’s policies and procedures, as well as ways to enjoy the fun side of life in America, like shopping and bowling.

Christian Dorado said bowling was his favorite part because it got everyone together and though the game was really competitive yet really supportive.

“The rest was good, but getting away from the college and all of the other stuff was better,” Christian said.

Peers and students spent the afternoon of Jan. 17 on a private bus taking a tour of Tucson, exploring the new outlet mall and ending the day at Fiesta Lanes with pizza. Many of the students had never bowled before and did quite well.

The Global Peers extend their helping hands to the ESL students as well, who participated in the same activities the following week.

Throughout the semester, the members of the Global Peers program will be expected to stay in touch with all of the exchange students on a regular basis. The mentors are there to take them under their wing and help them make the most of their time here in the United States, as well as make the most of their Pima experience.

The program gives the new students a chance to make friends right off the bat, surrounded by new and familiar peers. It’s like a whole intercultural “melting pot” in itself, providing an enriching experience for everyone involved.

If you want to be involved in a Global Peer program next semester, or have interest in volunteering contact Daisy Rodriguez Pitel in the International Student Services office at 206-6732 or


Peer mentors and international students from Chile gather for a night of bowling. (Aztec Press photos by Moe Irish)

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The peer mentor group represents their Pima pride. Top row: Tien Nguyen, Sofia Hernandez, Fernanda Fraijo, Sergey Harutyinyants, Daisy Pitel. Front row: Raymundo Montes, Alejandra, Fraijo, Monique Irish, Edward Eberbach.

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Peer mentors Fernanda Fraijo, Sergey Harutyunyants and Sheila Solis Arroyo give international students a tour of West Campus.

Success Stories: PCC grad premieres movie at Loft

Success Stories: PCC grad premieres movie at Loft



The red carpet was out and cameras were flashing at the Loft Cinema on Jan. 21 during the premiere of Pima Community College graduate Christopher Carter’s new movie, “Overwatch.”

The event had a Hollywood feel in Tucson, with the stars and attendees dressed up and having their pictures taken.

Like many independent filmmakers, Carter had to fill many roles. He was the writer, director and producer of “Overwatch,” and also acted in the movie.

“You have to be as an indie filmmaker,” he said. “I wrote it with the idea of producing.”

Carter, 36, has made two other feature films and four short films. In March 2015, he received a “Best Cinematographer” award at the Almost Famous Film Festival in Phoenix for his short film, “Devil,” which can be seen on Vimeo.

“Overwatch” tells the story of a group of survivors who band together in a post-apocalyptic world filled with blood-thirsty, infected creatures that prey on the living.

PCC alumna Taylor Plecity stars as a woman struggling to find her will as she holds onto memories of her happy life before the outbreak.

Carter makes creative use of flashbacks to draw the audience into the story.

Plecity, who now lives in Burbank, Calif., made a trip to Tucson for the premiere. “How much fun to come see our film at the local theater I grew up near,” she said.

Approximately one-fifth of the talent involved in “Overwatch” previously attended PCC, Carter said.

He shot all the scenes in Tucson and surrounding areas, including locations on Mount Lemmon and at the Slaughterhouse haunted house.

Carter was born in Redwood City, Calif.  His family moved to Tucson when he was 4 years old, and he has lived in the city since.

He graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1997. More than a decade later, he decided to pursue a degree in journalism and began attending PCC with that goal.

“I wanted to help people and the community through journalism,” he said.

Carter knew while attending PCC that he wanted to make movies, and his last class at the college was an acting class. “As a director, you should know what it is like to be an actor,” he said.

He received an Associate of Arts degree at PCC and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Arizona.

While writing the screenplay, Carter knew he needed to plan for locations that wouldn’t require a big budget. A downtown action scene, for example, would be far too expensive.

“There is no money for that,” he said.

Both Carter and Plecity called the film a collective effort.

“Chris was great to work with, because it was such a collaborative effort,” Plecity said.

Production of “Overwatch” lasted 18 months. Carter paid all expenses for the first 12 months, and launched a GO Campaign to help cover the final six months of shooting.

The cast and crew were paid in pizza and drinks. “They chose story over pay,” Carter said.

“As the director, there is a lot of pressure to make sure the people involved in the film are proud of it,” he added. “If I can make the cast and crew happy and everyone else hates it, I will be OK.”

Carter knew scheduling the cast and crew would be a challenge, because they had other obligations, such as working at jobs that pay their bills. This is one reason the production took so long.

Weather provided an unexpected challenge. It rained three of the four times they went to Mount Lemmon for shooting, and the limited budget did not allow for waterproof equipment.

Carter is aware that not everyone will like his film and some may even be harshly critical. He also understands the importance of editing and receiving feedback.

“It is important to show to people you trust,” Carter said.

After Carter finished what he hoped would be the final cut of “Overwatch” the running time was close to three hours. He trimmed an additional 40 minutes.

What are Carter’s hopes for the film? “To present a film stylistically shot, and tell a powerful story,” he said.

He’s pleased with the final cut.

“I think we have a great looking movie,” he said. “Our story is good and compelling.”

Pima Community College graduate Christopher Carter poses beneath the Loft Cinema marquee advertising his movie, “Overwatch.” Carter hosted a premiere on Jan. 21. (Jason Weir/Aztec Press)

Pima Community College graduate Christopher Carter poses beneath the Loft Cinema marquee advertising his movie, “Overwatch.” Carter hosted a premiere on Jan. 21. (Jason Weir/Aztec Press)

Stomping Grounds: Mi Nidito a tasty tradition

Stomping Grounds: Mi Nidito a tasty tradition



I know better than to go to Mi Nidito during lunch or dinner hours if I don’t want to wait 30 minutes for a table. But it is well worth planning my afternoon to arrange a late lunch or early dinner.

Obviously I’m not the only one who loves the food at this historic Mexican restaurant on South Fourth Avenue. Judging by the number of people waiting for a table, you know the food must be very good and worth the wait.

But it is not just the crowds. Yelp reviews give Mi Nidito five stars, with an average of four stars for the full 324 reviews available. Trip Advisor puts it at four of five stars for 358 reviews.

Ernesto and Alicia Lopez opened Mi Nidito, which means “My Little Nest” in Spanish, in 1952. Their son Ernesto Lopez Jr. and his wife, Yolanda, currently own it, and the grandsons, Jimmy and Ernie III, run it on a daily basis.

For three generations, the place has remained in the same smallish building, operated by the same family. Before an expansion in 1984, the place was even smaller than it is today.

Jimmy Lopez, 62, sees neither interest nor motivation for the fourth generation to carry on and keep Mi Nidito viable for a few more decades. “The younger ones are just not interested in the restaurant business, and that is fine,” he says.

Jimmy puts in about 60 hours a week and Ernie about 50 hours. They do get help from Assistant Manager Juan Ruiz.

It’s not just Lopez family members who have been loyal to the award-winning eatery. Some employees have been there for decades as well.

Server Ana Stone has worked at Mi Nidito for more than 25 years. “It’s the family,” she says. “They treat us well and have been the same owners for the whole time I have worked here.”

For loyal customers, Mi Nidito is known as the place to bring the rich and famous, and your Uncle Joe or Tia Elena, when they come to Tucson.

Photos on the walls in the waiting area show a broad spectrum of famous guests from the sports, entertainment and political arenas.

A special combination called the “President’s Plate” was created to commemorate the day President Bill Clinton came to lunch in February 1999. You and your group can even plant yourselves at the very table where Clinton sat for his celebrated lunch.

Melinda Faras is a third-generation customer. “We come here once or twice a week,” she says.  “We always celebrate our birthdays and special celebrations at Mi Nidito.”

Her mother started bringing her when she was a toddler, as her mother’s mother had done. Now she and her husband, Anthony, bring their little ones, the fourth generation of patrons.

Mi Nidito’s taste and quality is beyond compare in the local Mexican food corridor, offering Sonoran fare such as burritos, chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas, tamales and chili rellenos.

The woman behind the great taste is the main cook, Maria de la Cruz, who has been in the kitchen for 38 years.

Pg06-Exterior Mi Nidito

Long lines often form at Mi Nidito, which means “My Little Nest” in Spanish. (Aztec Press photos by Nick Meyers)

Pg06-Main Mi Nidito

Customers fill Mi Nidito, a historic family-owned Mexican food restaurant on South Fourth Avenue that has been in operation since 1952.

‘BROADEN THE APERTURE:’ Expressing photography in a new lens

‘BROADEN THE APERTURE:’ Expressing photography in a new lens



A naked woman holds prickly pear pads in a black and white photograph. In another, she caresses a cotton plant along the back of her neck.

Visual artist Karen Hymer, who manages the photo lab at Pima Community College’s West Campus, created the images using photogravure etching on polymer plates.

Her work, images from six other artists, will be on display Feb. 1-March 1 in an exhibit titled “Broaden the Aperture” at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery.

This year would have marked Bernal’s 75th birthday, so Hymer feels especially blessed by the opportunity to show her work.

Other artists featured in the exhibit are David Emitt Adams, Kathleen Spain, Carol Shinn, Karen Strom, Joseph Labate and Alejandra Platt-Torres.

The gallery will hold an exhibit reception on Feb. 11 from 5-7 p.m., with hors d’oeuvres available. The event is free and open to the public.

Gallery director David Andrés said the exhibit showcases how different photographic techniques can be used to create art. He developed the idea while reviewing artists’ work for another exhibit.

“The concept of how contemporary artists use photography kept coming back to me while I was visiting artists’ studios,” he said.

Andrés selected some of the exhibit’s artists by recommendation and others from viewing their work. Many are well-known in Arizona.

Because PCC will host guest speakers from an International Friends of Fiber tour on Feb. 20, Andrés chose work from different mediums, including fibers.

“My desire in exhibiting these artists together was to start a conversation about how photography has influenced these artists, and to cross disciplines and mediums to help educate the Pima students,” he said.

Hymer, who holds degrees in fine art photography, learned photogravure from a PCC printmaking class taught by Andrés, and has been using it in her work for about three years.

“I chose this etching technique because of the way the photo translates into ink on paper,” she said. “The photographic detail is beautiful and the tones are full and rich. Since it is an etching process, I mix the ink to what ever color or tone I like.”

The other artists in the “Broaden the Aperture” exhibit employ a variety of mediums and techniques.

Adams, for example, uses an early form of photography called wet-plate collodion, and attaches the resulting film to rusted objects.

Spain employs the trompe l’eoil style to create an illusion of photographic reality in clay.

Shinn creates objects with thread through photography.

Strom, who died several years ago, used Adobe Photoshop to layer assembled images.

Platt-Torres’ images are striking in color contrast.

Hymer posts informational videos on some of these photographic processes on her website,, so that students can learn more about the work involved.

Bernal Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Fridays. Admission is free.

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Joseph Labate’s “Brush Creek” will be on display at Bernal Gallery.

Pg09-KHymer_Remnants 202, 2014 Photogravure

Pima Community College photo lab manager Karen Hymer uses the photogravure style in her piece, “Remnants 202.” (Photos courtesy of PCC Center for the Arts)


“Broaden the Aperture”

When: Feb. 1-March 1

Where: Bernal Gallery,

Center for the Arts,

West Campus

Admission: Free

Details: 206-6942 or

Track team builds champs

Track team builds champs



The Pima Community College men’s and women’s track teams have garnered an impressive reputation for themselves.

“We aren’t just out here coaching athletes, we are in the business of building champions,” Associate Head Coach Chad Harrison said.

The Aztecs set an impressive 15 qualifying marks to begin the 2016 season at the Puma Indoor Invitational on Jan. 23. The meet was hosted by Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix.

Sophomore Mckenna McGrath took first place in the women’s high jump with a mark of 5 -feet, 7.25 inches, as well as placing second in long jump event with a mark of 17-11.

Sophomore Meghan Sweeney completed the high jump 5-5.25 earning herself a second place finish and a qualifying mark for her team.

Freshman Hannah Bartz had a long jump of 18-9.25 that put her on the podium in first Bartz also had success in the 4×400 relay team with fellow freshman Amber McCroskey, Melissa Cotsonas and sophomore Marisa Lemus finished with a qualified time of 4 minutes, 06.69 seconds earning them a third place finish.

In the women’s 3,000 meter race, freshman Kelsey Montano took third with a time of 11:04.59 with while fellow freshman Katy Loyd finishing the event with a time of 11:08.99.  Sophomore Elizabeth Deaton closed out the event for Pima earning herself a ninth place finish.

Sophomore Juliette Cossey placed second with a 36-0 mark in that event and freshman Grecia Catillo-Villegas took third at 34-7.75.

In men’s competition, 2015-2016 Cross Country First Team All-American, sophomore Amanuel Logo took first place in the 1000 meter, qualifying with an indoor time of 2:33.20.

In the men’s 3,000-meter race, freshman Ahmed Mohamed, finished with a qualifying time of 8:50.67 for the first podium position. Cross Country All-American Mark Bennett took third with a qualifying time of 8:55.39.

“I worked really hard and showed I can compete at this level in college,” Bennett said.

Freshman Sam Shoultz finished first in high jump with a mark of 6-10.75.

Sophomore Tyler Johnson placed second in the long jump with a qualifying mark of 23-3.25.

Freshman high-jumper Sam Shoultz bends around the bar during practice. Shoultz is currently ranked third in the nation. (Mickey Lamb/Aztec Press)

Freshman high-jumper Sam Shoultz bends around the bar during practice. Shoultz is currently ranked third in the nation. (Mickey Lamb/Aztec Press)

Pima plans new weapon policy

Pima plans new weapon policy



A temporary weapon policy has been put into place by the Pima Community College Board of Governors that will require the storage of firearms in a locked motor vehicle for anyone on  Pima campuses.

The board adopted a policy in a Nov. 18 meeting that restricts weapons from being brought into buildings on the campuses.

This was in response to recent shootings across the nation that have taken place at colleges, such as Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, where a gunman killed eight students and one instructor on Oct. 1.

The Pima Student Code of Conduct already provides a provision for students in possession of a weapon, but the proposed policy would also cover guidelines for visitors on the campus.

“Until the temporary policy was put in place, the college had only mandated a weapons ban in the student code of conduct and we wanted to make sure and close any gaps and provide a policy that covers everyone on our campuses,” said Fiscal Analyst Michael Smith in a Dec. 1 email sent on behalf of Vice Chancellor of Facilities and College Police Bill Ward.

“The college has been working on safety and security improvements since 2013 and spent over $2 million toward this endeavor,” Smith wrote. “The college is also charged with reviewing our policies on a regular basis and current events can always direct a focused review.”

The policy doesn’t completely ban weapons.

According to Arizona Revised Statute 13-3102.01,“Storage of deadly weapons,” if the institution were to do so then it would require the college to provide a place of accessible storage for the firearms.

Due to the high cost of such a system, as noted by Ward during the meeting, the policy only requires that the firearm be locked motor vehicle which is acceptable under ARS 12-781, “Transportation or storage of firearms.”

Ward said that campuses targeted for mass shootings had tighter restrictions than those the board was proposing and those the State of Arizona allowed.

“The research that we did, most of these places where there were school shootings, they had very strict policies and not only did they have policies, their gun laws were way stricter than what ours are,” Ward said.

Arizona state law allows the open or concealed carry of a firearm by a person 21 years of age or older, with no license needed.

District 4 Board Representative Scott Stewart pointed out that without a locker provision, the proposed policy keeps people who use alternative transportation from having a secure place to store their weapon.

“It doesn’t provide a mechanism for those who ride their bike, which I often do or take the bus, which last I checked it was still legal to have a weapon on the bus,” Stewart said.

Stewart was the only member of the board to vote against approval of the policy.

“It’s important when you’re going from home to someplace else, traveling through a fair amount of territory,” he said. “You shouldn’t be disarmed just because of the destination or the mode of transportation you’re taking.”

District 5 Board Representative Martha Durkin was hesitant in her deciding vote to push the policy forward.

“My only concern about the weapon policy is that it was adopted as an emergency policy instead of through the regular channels,” Durkin said. “It is clear that we need to address safety concerns on all the PCC campuses and this is a good beginning.”

Because ARS 13-2911, “Interference with or disruption of an educational institution” allows the board to adopt rules to maintain public order, firearms are recognized as a disruption to the educational institution under this policy within the confines of ARS 12-781 and ARS 13-3102.01.

One citizen, Ken Rainier, took issue with this categorization during the public comment portion of the board meeting.

“How does a holstered firearm, especially concealed, disrupt the public order at PCC?” Rainer asked. “Is it disorderly conduct just to carry a holstered firearm?”

The citizen noted that the firearm on its own did not cause a disruption, but the action of the individual who possessed the firearm.

At the Umpqua Community College, firearms weren’t banned and a law passed in Oregon in 1989 protects those with a concealed carry permit from being restricted from traveling with their gun.

In the Dec. 1 email, Ward acknowledged that it’ll take more than just a notice at the entrances of Pima’s campuses to deter would-be shooters.

“Policies alone are not going to make the college safer,” Ward wrote. “It will take the continued dedication of the college police, staff, faculty and students to keep our community safe.”

Pima student Trevor Will believes that allowing firearms to stay in the possession of those responsible with their weapons will keep the campus safer than taking the guns away.

“People who go through actually getting concealed weapons permits, not that they need them but people still go through the process of learning to carry their gun safely, they’re not the people that are going to be doing shootings,” Will said.

“It’s going to be people that shouldn’t have a gun in the first place,” he said. “If people should have their guns, because they’re responsible with them, they should be able to have them because they could save people.”


Tech Corner to expand in Spring

Tech Corner to expand in Spring



Pima Community College will soon provide a space for students and faculty to get help with their computer and technology based problems.

After a successful trial run of Tech Corner at Downtown Campus, administrators decided to add them to all PCC campuses Spring 2016.

“We are in the hiring process and we would like to have it up and running by sometime in February next semester,” said Chris Williams who is an IT specialist and a Tech Corner employee at the Downtown Campus.

Tech corner is a service where specialists are expected to help students with their technology-based problems such as software, Pima email, and maneuvering online classroom sites, Williams said.

“I think it’s cool that they can help with our computer problems,” said Celeste Perkins, a PCC student.

Perkins looks forward to getting some more help maneuvering through technology with the assistance of Tech Corner.

“I always had trouble sending word docs that my teachers can open since I have a Mac, it was cool to sort that out,” Perkins said.

According to Williams, the most common assistance was needed when dealing with malware and virus problems. On an average week, Tech Corner sees between 15 to 50 students according to both Williams and Long.

The technology space, although successful in Downtown Campus, isn’t known across the PCC student body.

“I think if I had known about this service I would’ve taken better advantage of it,” said Anselmo Rascón, PCC student.

Although Tech Corner isn’t well-known, it’s sparked interest in students throughout PCC. West Campus student, Stephani Tucci said she was excited for the center to come to her campus.

“I think I’m a pretty tech savvy person, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to use my online chemistry class,” she said. “If I had known about this service earlier I would’ve gotten the grade I wanted.”

Williams said he predicts the same success experienced at the Downtown Campus at other Pima campuses.

Soon the program will be up and operational at the other campuses, Williams said. They’ll be hiring and training employees during winter break in hopes to have it ready for students. The IT department mainly runs the Tech Corner along with three federal work study students.

The vast technology experience of Williams and his co-workers are sure to supply the demand for help in that growing field. From malicious malware problems to online chemistry courses expect to get help from a Tech Corner at a PCC campus.

Chris Williams and Steven Long troubleshoot problems with computers for students. (David Pujol/Aztec Press)

Chris Williams and Steven Long troubleshoot problems with computers for students. (David Pujol/Aztec Press)

Los cambios que vienen con la industria de marihuana

Los cambios que vienen con la industria de marihuana




Estamos llegando a un momento que muchos no pensaron posible. La legalización de la  marihuana se está haciendo realidad, pero su reputación sigue ambivalente.
David Aguirre, 24, estudiante en la Universidad de Arizona, vivió la mitad de su vida en EEUU y la mitad en México, principalmente en un pueblito del estado de Chihuahua. Aguirre, quien prefirió usar su segundo nombre, notó que en México la gente no siente que hay la misma libertad con la marihuana que uno siente en EEUU.
“En México es un historia completamente diferente”, dijo Aguirre. “Vas a estar expuesto a mucho peligro porque hay muchos narcotraficantes”.
Explicó que en México, con el acto de solo comprar la marihuana uno se expone a problemas con el crimen organizado.
“Expones las vidas que aquellas personas que están a tu alrededor”, expresó Aguirre. “Eso es el riesgo que se corre en México. Y lógicamente es un riesgo que aquí, la gente no se expone este riesgo porque es una cultura muy diferente”.
Hay evidencia que muestra el tráfico de marihuana por los carteles está bajando, y parece conectada con la legalización de marihuana en partes de EEUU. Según las patrullas fronterizas de EEUU, están incautado paquetes de marihuana cada vez con menos cantidades, desde 2.5 millones de libras en 2011 a 1.9 millones en 2014, indica la investigación, “Legalización en EEUU de marihuana ha afectado los comercios transfronterizos de los carteles Mexicanos comercio transfronterizo”, de 8 de Abril, por la revista norteamericana Time.
El mismo reportaje explica que hay un descenso en la cantidad que encuentra el ejército de México, en 2014 hubo una reducción de 32 por ciento en comparación del año anterior. Esto indica que los carteles tienen menos dinero para gastar en armas. Desde que ha comenzado la legalización en 2011 en EEUU, la violencia en México ha bajado, incluyendo los homicidios por un 32 por ciento en reducción, según Time.
Además, la industria de la marihuana recreacional y medicinal es el negocio con el más crecimiento en EEUU. Ha incrementado por 2.7 billones de dólares a la economía del país en 2014, según el reportaje de Time.
Aparte de quitarle un poco de poder a los narcotraficantes en México, en EEUU la industria de marihuana está abriendo oportunidades en asuntos de negocios familiares, salud y recursos de comunidad.
Lisa, quien no quiso usar su nombre verdadero por el estigma que todavía tiene la marihuana, tiene seis años trabajando en varias posiciones en la industria de marihuana en Arizona. Es mamá soltera con dos hijos de 6 y 13 años y también es estudiante de negocios.
“Está difícil trabajar en esta industria porque no es completamente aceptable socialmente, pero lo hago porque está ayudando a la gente y cambiando las opiniones”, explicó Lisa, en inglés.
En el país hay 23 estados que permiten el uso de marihuana con receta médica, incluyendo Arizona. El uso recreacional es legal en los estados de Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregón y Washington D.C. En Uruguay fue legalizado en 2013. En Chile ya se permite cannabis medicinal en algunos casos, y la Corte Suprema de Brasil ya está en pláticas de legalizarla.
Actualmente parece que México va rumbo a la legalización, ya que el 2 de noviembre la Corte Suprema de México votó en favor al derecho de crecer y distribuir marihuana para el uso personal. Aunque la decisión no quita las leyes que ya están implementadas, es un comienzo al camino de cambio.
Según el ex presidente de México, Vicente Fox, dijo que la legalización de marihuana en México traerá recursos para el gobierno que ahora los narcotraficantes tienen.
“Es una alternativa de solución a la violencia, de financiamiento a la información, la educación, la prevención, porque los gobiernos captan grandes cantidades que hoy se llevan los carteles y los capos”, dijo Fox, el 26 de noviembre, al periódico mexicano, El Informador.
Dice Aguirre que es difícil entender la ideología que la gente tiene en este país acerca de la marihuana, pero, si entiende porque se usa por razones medicinales.
En EEUU, mucha gente tiene una manera de pensar más liberal acerca la marihuana, pero en México la gente no lo ve así, dijo Aguirre.
Cuando Lisa comenzó a trabajar en la industria de marihuana, ella empezó por cultivarla en su casa para los pacientes con permisos para usarla medicalmente.
“Me permitió trabajar en casa para que pudiera estar con mis hijos, y me permitió hacer más dinero”, dijo Lisa.
Cuando su hijo más pequeño entró al kínder, Lisa trabajó por un año en un dispensario de marihuana en Tucson. Sintió que su trabajo estaba ayudando a los pacientes, bastantemente.
“Realmente no tienen con quien hablar sobre qué hacer”, dijo Lisa de los pacientes. “Necesitaban gente que les ayudará en el camino”. Y Lisa era una de las personas ayudando.
Lisa también tiene receta médica para marihuana, por dolores crónicos en el cuello y también en la vesícula biliar. Antes de tener la receta, ella estaba recetada a tomar vicodin, pero se dio cuenta que una tintura de cannabis, extracto líquida hecho de la hierba, funcionaba mejor.
Al usar cannabis la hacía moverse más despacio, dijo Lisa.
“Eso es donde vienen todo sus beneficios—esa habilidad a calmar el sistema nervioso. Entonces, con eso viene el hecho de mover más lento”, dijo. “La gente tiene que estar consciente de eso y también cómo está afectando sus vidas. A no abusar realmente es el punto”.
Pero también ella apoya completamente a legalizar el uso recreacional como una substancia que ayuda relajarse.
“Si puedes entrar a cualquier tienda y comprar alcohol y cigarros, debes tener el derecho a comprar mariguana”, acotó.
Desde que Colorado legalizó el uso recreacional, los niveles de accidentes de coche fatales han bajado sustancialmente, en comparación al promedio de la década anterior, según un reportaje por el Washington Post, “Conductores pachecos son mucho más seguros que los que están borrachos, muestran nuevos datos federales”.
Un estudio de National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ha encontrado que conductores que recientemente han tomado cannabis no tienen más probabilidades a chocar que los que no han usado ni una droga o alcohol, después que ajustar por edad, etnicidad, género y uso de alcohol.
Michelle, quien no quiso usar su nombre completo por el hecho que marihuana medicinal aún no es legal al nivel federal, es una enfermera que tiene su maestría de ciencia y es dueña de un dispensario en Arizona, la clínica donde consiguen su medicina los pacientes que se toman la marihuana, en Arizona.
Antes que abrió el dispensario, hace tres años, ella trabajaba en una sala de emergencia, donde notaba pacientes sufriendo de sobredosis a menudo. También, vio a pacientes hacerse adictos a los medicamentos prescrito de sus doctores. También conoció pacientes con cáncer que, aparte de su medicación normal, tomaban medicamento producido de los componentes de marihuana, y Michelle vio que les ayudaba bastante.
En su dispensario sus clientes son personas que tienen cáncer, sufren de ataques epilépticos, depresión, artritis, dolor crónico, diabetes, y enfermedad de corazón.
Michelle dijo que muchos de los pacientes que compran la marihuana medicinal, han dejado sus otras medicinas de dolor.
“Por lo menos, 50 por ciento lo han dejado completamente, y como 95 por ciento han bajado su dosis”, dijo Michelle.
En sus años ella ha visto gente que sufría de convulsiones parar detener los ataques completamente, y pacientes con artritis pueden volver a caminar sin bastón, todo por tomar el medicamento natural de marihuana. Los pacientes se sienten mejor, hacen más ejercicio y bajan de peso, dijo Michelle.
“Siento que estoy haciendo un buen servicio por el mundo porque pacientes realmente están mejorando y teniendo una calidad de vida productiva”, acotó. “Es bueno ver que la gente está feliz y agradeciéndote por ayudarlos”.

Aztec Press Español es un periódico estudiantil del programa de periodismo de Pima Community College. Este es el primer esfuerzo a implementar un periódico estudiantil bilingüe que se publica paralelamente con el Aztec Press. Es un intento a incluir el creciente demográfica de latinos en la institución, que hacen 43 por ciento del cuerpo estudiantil.
Para preguntas, comentarios o contribuir, contactar a,

Aztec Press Español is  a student newspaper in Pima Community College’s journalism department. This is the first attempt to implement a bilingual student newspaper that is published alongside the Aztec Press. Its goal is to include the growing demographic of Latinos at the college, which makes up 43 percent of the student body.
For questions, comments or to contribute, contact,

In pursuit of the cure for mass shootings

In pursuit of the cure for mass shootings




On Oct. 1, I turned on my car radio and heard the tail end of breaking news on a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon. I pulled off the highway to call my brother, who goes to college in Portland. He laughed it off and told me he was fine—Umpqua was miles from him.
At the end of 2012, when I first heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on my way home from work, I cried so hard I had to pull over. It’s difficult to understand how such cruelty is possible. It almost seems as if the people who commit these acts are not human, but they are.
A number of these killers all had one thing in common—they felt alone. Many of them also displayed signs of being homicidal before they committed the mass shooting.
Jeff Greenburg, professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, said that while the shooters exhibited clear signs of distress preceding mass shootings, only a small number of people exhibiting these same signs will commit homicide.
“They’re miserable with their lives,” Greenburg said. “They don’t feel like their lives are meaningful. They don’t feel like they’re valued. They don’t feel connected to the larger community in a positive way.”
In the United States, more and more, people don’t know their neighbors, their classmates, their co-workers. Many are increasingly more disconnected, lonely and lacking in empathy. We have high homicide and suicide rates.
Based on evidence compiled from FBI data, local police records and media reports, there have been more than 200 mass killings, defined as at least four victims, in the United States since 2006, of which 77 percent were shootings, according to a report done by USA Today.
A few of the most talked about possible deterrents to mass shootings are stricter gun laws and reforming the U.S. mental health system. But to get to the root of the problem—why people commit such cruel acts, we need to look at the fundamental structure of our society and unavoidable fact that we all have to co-exist within it.
The term “stricter gun laws” is thrown around a lot, and seems to mean something very different to proponents and opponents of the issue. A common reason given by people opposed to stricter gun laws is that it’s a slippery slope, meaning gun bans will eventually bar people who aren’t killers, and that criminals will get guns anyway.
While it’s undoubtedly true that many criminals find ways to illegally obtain guns, many mass shootings are committed with guns that were bought legally.
The New York Times article, “How They Got Their Guns,” gives eight examples of how guns from recent mass shootings were legally purchased by men who had prior criminal histories or documented mental health problems, one of which was the ex-Pima Community College student responsible for Tucson’s own mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011.
Prior to the event, the shooter had been barred from PCC after a number of threatening outbursts while at school. His parents also admitted, after the shooting, they were concerned he was dangerous to himself and others. Although many in his life saw him going over the edge, the only option that seemed available to police and school officials was to ban him from the school.
Patty Valera, social worker with the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, helps veterans in need, and in 2011, Valera worked for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords when the armed twenty-two-year-old shot Giffords and twelve others, killing six, including one of Valera’s co-workers.
“He had all these symptoms and the parents didn’t know what to do. Pima College didn’t know what to do, and instead of asking questions or looking for resources, no one did anything,” Valera said about Giffords’ shooter.
There are no guidelines to deal with cases like this. Our culture stigmatizes mental health issues, making it hard for people to ask for help because they are afraid of being labeled and treated differently, said Valera.
“We don’t want to talk about it,” Valera said about mental illness. “We don’t want to educate our community.”
A problem with focusing stricter gun laws toward the mentally ill is that it may exacerbate a stigma that is already doing harm and for the most part not true—that people with mental illness are violent.
A recent report in the American Journal of Public Health said, “the notion that mental illness causes gun violence stereotypes a vast and diverse population of persons diagnosed with psychiatric conditions and oversimplifies links between violence and mental illness.”
Valera teaches classes in a national program called Mental Health First Aid, where she instructs people what to do if they know someone who is displaying symptoms of mental illness.
“We are basically teaching community members to ask questions about their fellow citizens and help them make that phone call or ask for help right away,” she said.
As a social worker, Valera feels that people go to thoughts of homicide because of a combination of frustration and mental health, not getting their needs met and subsequently wanting attention because those needs aren’t met.
When somebody makes allegations of being homicidal, just like suicidal allegations, it’s her job to ask questions to see how serious they are, she said. She asks them—do they have a plan, and do they have the means?
Regulations that focused on keeping guns out of the hands of people who are homicidal would undoubtedly be a complicated issue to tackle. An officer with the Tucson Police Department said he thinks almost anybody could be capable of a mass shooting.
“It is hard to really make a determination of what really lies in people’s hearts,” he said.
In his opinion, the biggest deterrents to mass shootings would be less guns and more help for people who exhibit homicidal ideas, adding that it would take “a way of identifying people who want to do harm, and getting them the help that they need.”
Greenburg said that a lack of a clear life path, plays a role in why people lack purpose.
“With the breakdown of traditional, simple sort of paths to what life is about and what one’s purpose in life is, you see more sense of meaninglessness and more sense of lack of significance,” Greenburg said, adding that it’s a cost of freedom—people getting lost in the possibilities of life. And with an absence of purpose, often follows an absence of self-worth and a feeling of isolation.
Perhaps the model of every man for himself just isn’t enough anymore. With a growing population of people living in closer and closer proximity, perhaps the only way to really cure the problem of people feeling alone, angry, hungry for attention, for human connection, is for all of us to be more community minded.
Working on these issues is critical, but obviously they’re complicated, multifaceted and will take time to navigate. Ultimately, the cure to this problem is to make people feel valued and a part of the community.
“Obviously if we had more nurturing communities and a society that was a little friendlier in general, those kinds of things could help,” Greenburg said.
Sounds like a utopia. Sounds impossible. And maybe it is, but there’s only one way that it could be possible. If each person who believes that such a society could help ease the current violent climate starts paying attention and looking out for the person who’s troubled, alone and on the edge.
If we attempt to reach out to those people and if we, as a society, have a game plan as to how to help those people when we do notice them—then maybe we can help each other understand our own humanity and find our purpose.

For an extended version of this article go to

Civano Coffee House is the cat’s meow

Civano Coffee House is the cat’s meow



Nestled in Civano Center is a small building with a hairless cat named Harriet beckoning patrons to one of Tucson’s rare gourmet coffee houses.

The Civano Coffee House boasts not only gourmet coffee drinks, but also specialty alcohol and desserts. Co-owners John and Mario Pulkkinen said that aside from their coffees, the $3 daiquiris are their most popular drink. The coffee house also has ties with the owner of the Tucson based Flying Leap vineyards and sells some of their products.

Everything the coffee house sells comes from local distributors. Their pastries come from Sunrise Bakery. The coffee beans come from local growers and the blend they sell was selected by the coffee house’s mascot, Harriet.

“It’s afunn story, actually,” said Mario.” I was picking a new blend and Harriet, our cat, jumped up on the table to play. She batted some of the beans around and I grabbed the ones she moved and blended them up.”

He added, “It was really good! So, I had to re-measure everything to find out how much she had taken. That’s why we call it our Harriet paw-picked blend.”

Located directly across from Civano Center, on Civano Boulevard, the coffee house looks like a ritzy establishment born from a suburban need for caffeine.

Though it’s small, the European themed décor makes the coffee house trendy and comfortable for patrons from the Civano neighborhood in East Tucson. Mario said that they chose a European look because their shop is modeled after the type of coffee houses someone can easily find in the streets of Rome or France.

“We’re really pushing our Americano drinks because that’s how the rest of the world drinks their coffee,” said Mario.

Priding itself in excellence, Mario noted that the coffee house uses the same espresso machine that the national barista competitions use. These competitions are the premiere barista competitions and set the highest standards for entrants. Though the coffee house has never entered, they use the same tools as competitors to ensure that they can prepare the best cup of coffee in town.

Even the Pulkkinens pig, Tiny, comes into the pet friendly shop to enjoy the delicacies. His favorite treat is ice cream, and he sometimes visits the shop donned in his bright pink harness. The coffee house has leash hooks for neighborhood pets on their patio and invites people and their furry friends to relax.

First-time customers Corey and Victoria Starks said that their impression of the shop was that it was “quaint and inviting.” They enjoyed the low-key, relaxing atmosphere. Though they had never been to the coffee house before, they definitely planned on returning because it was local, high quality and affordable.

The Civano Coffee House has become a staple for various clubs and active locals, as several non-profit groups hold weekly meetings there.

The coffee house even offers to host small weddings on the patio, so far totaling five ceremonies.

Unlike many coffee shop chains, the Civano Coffee House provides real mugs and dishes for patrons that dine in. The Pulkkinens said they make every drink in house and use only the best local products.

Coming from the perspective of a Starbucks drinker, the lattes alone are worth a visit. The foam on top of the wide mug is something you just can’t get from a franchise barista.

Employee Kellie Lucas, who has been with the coffee house for three years, said that Civano appeals to a wide variety of customers.

“We have awesome coffee, good food and long hours. We reach a wide age range; from the students of Civano School to the Ballet Rincon dancers. My daughter even comes here. It’s so much fun,” said Lucas.

Prices are reasonable. Their Super Catatonic Elixir, a drink with six shots of espresso, is the only drink priced over $4. Mario said that local firemen are typically the ones purchasing the potent concoction.

Aside from quality coffee, the Civano Coffee House also offers quality outreach programs. John said that he and Mario don’t collect a paycheck from the coffee house. It all started off as a hobby on the side of their seven other corporations.

When the coffee house started generating considerable revenue, they turned it into an opportunity to give back to the community.

“We help the Hermitage Cat Shelter and we cover transportation and co-pays for the HIV patients that go through the El Rio Community Health Center,” said John.

Mario also said that the coffee house helped provide for a $15,000 donation to the Civano School to save the school’s art program after the state cut their funding.

“It’s weird to have a coffee house in the middle of a neighborhood,” Mario said when asked why they chose suburbia for their location. “But we know everybody. That’s why we’re here. We’re the most sociable neighborhood, I think.”

Civano Coffee House is open every day of the week, with varying hours. It’s open on Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Sundays they open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

The Cavino Coffee House offers a wide range of treats, suitable for all ages. (Audrie Ford/Aztec Press)

The Cavino Coffee House offers a wide range of treats, suitable for all ages. (Audrie Ford/Aztec Press)


Pima Men’s losing streak reaches four

Pima Men’s losing streak reaches four



The No. 9 ranked Pima Community College men’s basketball team (4-4, 1-3 in ACCAC) was unable to stop the bleeding in a 101-80 loss in Thatcher at Eastern Arizona College; PCC lost its fourth consecutive game.

The Aztecs’ offense struggled to find their rhythm in the second half.

Down 34-20 in the first half, Pima began to roll going on an 11-2 run to make it a 36-31 score. Going into halftime, they trailed 42-35. At the 14:09 mark in the second half, the Aztecs fell behind in double digits at 58-46. With roughly four minutes remaining, they went on a 6-0 run to make it an 84-73 game.

Sophomore Cameron Volk finished with a team-high 22 points while contributing five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Freshman Kwintin Williams contributed with 19 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Justice Martion struggled mightily in the second half scoring two of his nine total points. He finished with 10 rebounds.

PCC was unable to get take control of the game at Glendale Community College.

The Aztecs trailed 55-35 at halftime but ultimately fell 112-86.

Volk contributed with 12 points with five rebounds and made two assists. Freshman Damon Dubots contributed with eight points and had five rebounds.

PCC fell short in a come-from-behind attempt in a 90-81 loss against Midland College at the West Campus.

Down 64-46 early in the second half, PCC went on a 15-4 tear to cut the deficit to seven; a 68-61 score. Pima fell behind 73-63 with 8:27 remaining but went on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes that was capped off by a three-pointer by Volk to make it 75-72. However, that would be the closest score in the game.

The Aztecs trailed 81-77 with slightly two minutes remaining. After a missed layup and a foul on the other end, Midland made a pair of free throws to take a six-point lead. The Aztecs missed a few shots and overturned the ball while in possession. Midland capitalized on the Aztecs’ mistakes by making 7-of-8 free throw attempts to take a 89-77 lead.

Volk went 6-for-6 at the free throw line and had nine points. Martion fell a rebound short of reaching his fifth consecutive double-double although he finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Yusuf Shehata also scored 18 points while having two assists. Freshman Keven Biggs went 6-for-10 in shooting and produced 13 points while fellow freshman Justin Bessard went 6-for-10 in shooting while contributing 13 points.

Up next, the Aztecs host Cochise College on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Gym.

The Aztecs wrap up the first half of regular season play in the Modesto College Holiday Classic  from Dec. 16-19.

PCC men’s basketball resumes regular season play on Jan. 6 when they host Arizona Western.


Coach Brian Peabody breaks down the game strategy during a time out against Phoenix at the West Campus. (Deanna Sherman/Aztec Press)


Dec. 9: Cochise College @West Campus, 7:30pm

Dec. 12: @Mesa CC, 4 pm

Dec. 14: @Tohono O’odham CC, 7:30 pm

Dec. 16-19: @Modesto College Holiday Classic

Jan. 6: Arizona Western College, @West Campus 7:30pm

Jan. 9: @Central Arizona College, 4 pm

Jan. 13: @ South Mountain CC, 7:30 pm

Jan. 16: @ Scottsdale CC, 5 pm

Jan. 20: @ Chandler-Gilbert CC, @ 7:30 pm

Jan. 23: @PhoneixCollege,4pm

Jan. 27: @Tohono O’odham CC, 7:30 pm

PCC student says seek opportunities

PCC student says seek opportunities



For some it may seem like there’s a shortage of students getting involved at Pima Community College. Their common excuse is, “I want to be involved but there’s nothing going on.” It may be a surprise to some, but there are many opportunities at PCC to be more active. You just need to take the time to become a part of the process.

Alec Moreno, 21-year-old Tucson native, has been closely involved with the local Tucson and Pima community since he started attending the college in 2011. He’s a dual engineering and mathematics major, and tutors in both subjects.

Alonso Minjarez, advisor for The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers PCC-West Chapter where Moreno served as the chapter’s president in 2012, worked with Moreno to reach out to youth in the community and make a positive impact on the student body.

“Alec proactively pursues me to talk, not only about his engineering academics, but on how to approach matters that affect PCC students negatively,” said Minjarez. “He is confident and fearless, while keeping extremely diplomatic on issues. He always stands up for what is right.”

Like many who attend Pima, Moreno wanted to become involved in the legislative issues facing Pima students, and through time-consuming work and reaching out to students, he has managed to make an impact.

Moreno had been closely involved in starting and running La Pima, Legislative Advocates for Pima Community College. The club was the spiritual predecessor to Advocates for PCC, a group dedicated to making students more involved in the community and giving them the tools to become active in the legislative process.

Members of Advocates for PCC work with community leaders and members of the PCC administration to address issues faced by students. The club led an initiative to increase voter registration earlier this semester.

Moreno also worked to help increase legislative and administrative transparency so that students

can have a better understanding of the school’s inner workings.

“We want to shed light as to what is going on within the college,” Moreno said. “We are working towards all students having a positive life at Pima.”

Michael Peel, PCC community and government relations advanced analyst, worked closely with Moreno to help lay the foundation of Advocates for PCC.

“Alec Moreno couldn’t be a more effective leader for students,” Peel said. “I am really impressed with him making it clear to students that they can be involved with Pima.”

He has also traveled to places such as Washington, D.C. to represent Pima and speak with different representatives about the need for financial aid such as the Pell Grant for students to attend community colleges.

Moreno hasn’t always focused his energy on the inner workings of Pima. As a former member of the PCC Board, Moreno helped students deal with their everyday affairs at Pima.

“We want to focus on solving student issues specifically,” Moreno said. “Sometimes you have to go out and actually talk to students to find out what the real issues are.”

Moreno’s work helps students get the most out of their classes.

“Students who we work with can see a direct impact, can actually see the results of our work instead of wondering if anything will be done or if they will be left in the dark,” Moreno said.

His interest to help everyone achieve the best learning experience possible reaches farther than speaking to students. He also talks to instructors about different problems they may be facing inside the classroom.

Moreno’s interpersonal skills have revealed opportunities for Pima students. Most recently, he scheduled a field trip to Raytheon for students, as well as facilitating the donation of a 3-D printer to Pima from a consulting firm.

“The community really wants to see Pima become a stronger college,” Moreno said. “There are many people within the community who donate time and energy to those who want to make a difference.”

The networking student had a few words of advice for someone interested in becoming involved.

“Seek opportunities,” Moreno said. “Go out and connect at events that interest you. Meeting one person can lead to meeting endless people, which you never would have thought possible.”

His involvement with the legislation and politics at Pima has led him to connect with people in and out of Arizona, showing that new acquaintances can lead to all kinds of places.

Moreno said there are many opportunities for students at Pima—they just have to open their eyes and look around.


Alec Moreno poses in the West Campus cafeteria. Moreno has been involved in many opportunities at Pima from representing students at Board of Governors meetings, to club leadership, to tutoring peers. (Travis Braasch/Aztec Press)

PCC shines new light on energy usage

PCC shines new light on energy usage



Pima Community College is joining the ranks of the growing number of organizations adding a solar energy component. The college has just begun construction of a set of solar panels in a parking lot at Downtown Campus. Photovoltaic solar panels will also be installed at West Campus, Community Campus and the Maintenance and Security facility by January 2016.

“It makes sense to take advantage of one of Arizona’s most generous natural resources,” said Marketing Director Libby Howell. “Sunshine.”

Solar panels are quickly becoming a more common sight across the country. Solar power is an alternative type of energy hailed as a bright solution for sustainable and effective power sources.

In sunny Arizona, there is enough solar energy throughout the state to power an estimated 304,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s 2014 report.

According to Howell, the solar panel covered areas in the parking lots are going to provide benefits to both the college’s budget and student comfort.

“This technology is very exciting because the system can be monitored 24/7 through an Internet application,” she said.  “Plus, not only are we saving the college money, but we are also providing covered parking.”

The primary goal of the solar panels is economically driven, saving money by cutting down costs. The college has agreed to a 25-year contract with the SOLON Corporation, a provider of solar solutions for residential and commercial properties.

SOLON is financed by another local solar power provider, Solar City, as part of a joint venture. Solar City are responsible for the actual installation of the panels.

David Davis, PCC’s new energy resource manager, said that thanks to this partnership, the solar panels are free to install.

“It cost Pima Community College nothing to install as we do not own the equipment,” he said.  “We simply purchase the power from Solar City that was generated on college property.

“Had Pima taken on this project ourselves, the cost would have been in the neighborhood of ten million dollars,” he added.

Vice Chancellor of Facilities Bill Ward explained the power purchase agreement.

“The way that works is they come in, we sign into this contract, which is about 25 years, and then they put these panels in areas where we qualify,” he said. “Everyone has to qualify. Everybody thinks you could slap solar power anywhere, but you can’t.”

Once completed, the combined campuses will generate a capacity of about 2.7 megawatts. The college will purchase solar energy that is generated on campus from Solar City. Davis said that this is less expensive than continuing to buy power from local utilities.

“The primary benefit to Pima is a reduction in costs for the electricity we purchase,” he said.  “For the power generated, our rates will be stable for the duration of the 25 year contract.”

Ward said that although Pima will now be paying two power bills, costs will go down.

“We end up paying the solar company for part of our power bill,” he said. “It lowers our power bill with the electric company. In a sense we will be paying two bills, but it actually lowers our power district wide.”

The solar panels are expected to show a big pay off in a relatively quick amount of time. According to Howell, the college and SOLON estimate $47,000 in operational savings in the first year alone.

“Carrying that over the 25 year life of the agreement, we estimate that a savings of $6-7 million will be achieved, and that’s a conservative estimate,” Howell said.

Army veteran Robert Ross attends Downtown Campus for the machine shop technician program. He thinks the savings will benefit Pima, but installation was inconvenient for students.

“I think it’s a good thing to do because it will cut our long term energy cost,” he said.  “I think their timing sucks. I think what they should have done instead is done it section by section so that there is still some parking.”

Construction at the Downtown Campus began on Nov. 2 and will wrap up Jan. 15, 2016. The portion of the parking lot where installation is taking place is closed off.

Installation at the south lot at West Campus begins Nov. 30 and is scheduled to end Dec. 31. The work on the north lot will be underway Dec. 16 to 30.

Some of the trees on campus will need to be removed for the installations, but for every tree removed the college will plant three more. The branches and foliage from the trees taken down will be taken to the Reid Park Zoo through the City of Tucson.

Not only does solar power contribute to smaller energy costs for the college, it’s a renewable energy source that emits little to no greenhouse gas.

According to Solar City’s website, one of their solar systems could offset approximately 178 tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years.

Luke Alm, director of business development at SOLON, estimates that Pima’s solar program will reduce 7,683,040 pounds of greenhouse gases, 7,029,345 gallons of water and will create approximately 801 covered parking areas.

With Pima’s solar plan, the panels will be able to serve another important purpose; education. Currently, the college offers a certificate program for solar installation, with classes located at Downtown Campus. The panels are a working, physical example of what students in the program will study in their classes.

“The cool thing is we are setting it up to give students access to study it,” said Ward. “The whole idea is we want to set it up where they could literally go in and look at the system. I’m going to even try and maybe set it up to where people can actually watch power generated on electronic signs. I got a lot of ideas.”

The solar panels aren’t the only sustainability effort being made by the college.

Pima was recently acknowledged for their water conservation efforts and won the Campus Conservations Nationals water conservation grand prize of 2015. The college was awarded software and devices to monitor our energy use.

The department leading the work in keeping the college as environmentally responsible as possible is Management and Security in Facilities.

Davis stated Management and Security sometimes receive criticism from staff about sustainability efforts, but the complaints stem from a lack of access to news of their projects.

“In defense of those criticizing Pima College for its lacking sustainability stance, there is not presently a mechanism to inform students and staff about sustainability efforts being undertaken by Pima College M&S,” he said.

The college has a number of projects that are currently in the planning or action stages. Hiring Davis as a full-time energy resource manager in May was a key step.

Pima’s Management and Security has a database to monitor utility billing trends, is elevating a deal with United Energy for wholesale purchasing of natural gas, is installing LED lighting and low water use urinals and toilets and has installed meters for monitoring energy usage. It’s also working with Tucson Electric Power for energy saving incentives.

It’s careful to ensure its practices are truly responsible and only replace lights and water fixtures that need to be fixed, as not to toss out useable equipment.

Ward is thankful for the opportunity to help facilitate Pima’s new solar panels and upcoming projects.

“I’m really excited that we can get this out to the students and everything because this is a big deal to me,” he said.  “To be able to do a project like this, of this size, for the college and to partner with a company like SOLON and Solar City, is really cool.”

For more information about the solar panels and other projects by Facilities visit


Workers continue construction on solar panel covered parking spots at Downtown Campus. The installation began on November 2 and is planned to conclude on Jan. 15, 2016. (Aztec Press photos by Jamie Verwys)

Paris, Syria and social media: Taking a closer look

Paris, Syria and social media: Taking a closer look



The world appears to be in shambles. Terror attacks all over the globe have left news outlets and people on social media scrambling to find answers and a direction to point a finger of blame. Some of the ill-informed public has shown an outpouring of support for action to be taken against ISIS, and in turn have drawn national powers closer and closer to what may result in World War III, and social media is inadvertently helping to propagate the war-mongering.

Skewed social media

A lot has been said following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed at least 127 people. Facebook even launched a feature that would allow users to temporarily overlay the French flag atop their profile pictures. The message underneath those who had chosen to use it read, “change your profile picture to support France and the people of Paris” to encourage other users to follow suit.

Facebook is full of captioned images and sound-bites that are shared hundreds if not thousands of times. After the attack on Paris, many in my own newsfeed posted political statements, mostly positive and supported the people of Paris, but others called for an escalation of U.S. action against ISIS.

A gesture that seemed innocuous at first glance, but what about other terrorist attacks that happened? On Oct. 31, a Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb killing more than 200 on board; ISIS claimed responsibility. In a crowded marketplace in Nigeria on Oct. 24, a two different attacks claimed over 45 lives and injuring many more in Yola and Kano. A day before the Paris attacks, ISIS carried out another bombing in Beirut, Lebanon killing 41 and injuring 200.

A skeptical person may ask why only a Western nation garnered so much support while others didn’t.

Beating the drums of war

Attacking ISIS would mean boosting military presence in Syria, a place in which nobody really knows who’s fighting who and conflicts of interest are commonplace.

Among many nations and coalitions, here are just a few of the major powers involved. The U.S. is strongly opposed to the reign of Syria’s current president Bashar Al-Assad. Russia on the other hand supports Assad. Currently ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, are two jihadi groups which oppose Assad but are enemies. Following the events in Paris, France began an air assault in Raqqa, Syria which ISIS claims is the capital of their caliphate..

There are many other national powers that have either provided logistical support, airstrikes, and soldiers. Needless to say it’s confusing and has created untold amounts of violence not only in the area, but globally as we’ve seen from the recent attacks and resettlement of the people the war has displaced.

Yet in the United States and particularly my Facebook newsfeed, cringe-worthy images kept surfacing every time I scrolled. A few images caught my attention, one depicted a bomb with the inscription, “With love from Paris” and another with two cowboys brandishing guns captioned “Saddle up motherfuckers it’s time to play cowboys and Muslims.”

The poster of the last picture posted something along the lines of, “It’s time to step up and show them why we are the land of the free and the home of the brave!” as if cheering at a homecoming football game. There’s a good chance this person doesn’t know the difference between a Sunni Muslim and a Shiite or their infight between them.

In cases like this, nuance is an important character and often missed.

To some on social media, vengeance and retribution seem justified after the attacks. However it must be noted that bombs aren’t as precise as the government leads on and many land in civilian areas. The effects are unintentionally creating more casualties, ISIS members and refugees.

The use of drone warfare has been especially brutal. Democracy Now! An independent global news publication released an article (DATE) featuring Air Force veterans of the drone program that voiced opposition for the practice.

In an open letter to President Obama, Ashton B. Carter Secretary of the Department of Defense, John O. Brennan Director of the CIA, and four service members described the drone program as a “devastating driving force for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

The letter went on to say that the service members witnessed abuse of power, mismanagement and political leaders outright lying about the effectiveness of the program.  All of the veterans involved in writing the letter also suffer from PTSD as a consequence of their actions.

All in all, the war in Syria and U.S. involvement isn’t as clean cut as leaders will have us believe. And if the war were to intensify, we may find ourselves in the same hopeless quagmire as we did with the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

France already started bombing Syria just days after the Paris attacks while Russia has sworn retribution by intensifying bombing as well, only increasing the rate at which refugees flee the country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees latest figures estimate 4,289,792 registered refugees from Syria, many of which will resettle in Europe and the U.S. among other places.

People may recall the gruesome image of the drowned Syrian boy that circulated through the news and social media. The powerful imagery was enough to remind some of the gravity of what refugees face.

Political candidate Donald Trump has proposed that all Syrian Refugees register in a national tracking database, comparing them to a potential ISIS Trojan horse. Some in the media have been quick to call this out and draw parallels to what the Nazis did to the Jewish population during the beginning of World War II.

By isolating the population and fueling  fear, Trump and other political figure heads are making things so much worse. Spreading fear only helps to drive a divisive stake between muslims and everyone else, which is playing exactly into their hands.

If people give into the fear-mongering then the terrorists have already accomplished their goal.

Propaganda and nationalism throughout social media, whether intentional or not, is helping to fuel the war machine that the United States will inevitably unleash in Syria. The American people are sick of war, lack of care for our veterans who return from conflict and the general human suffering

As mentioned earlier in this issue, journalists have the obligation of ensuring that the general public is in the know, and with the flurry of emotional reposts it seems easy to get lost as to what a reader should believe. Think before you post.


Aztec Press photo illustration by Alex Fruechtenicht