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Family grows closer at Pima

Family grows closer at Pima


Margaret Zavala appears hesitant discussing her past. She never wanted to revisit the hardships she went through while growing up, but that changed after she got married and had children.

By sharing her personal stories, she hopes her children will follow a better path than her own.

Zavala now attends Pima Community College alongside her oldest daughter, Mariah Zavala.

“Some friends mistake us as sisters,” Mariah Zavala said. “We motivate each other to succeed in our classes and set a good example for my siblings at home.”

Margaret Zavala was born and raised in Fresno, Calif.  Her grandparents were in the first generation of Fresno’s Pasqua Yaqui tribe.

“We were very poor,” she said. “Working in the fields became a priority to put bread on the table.”

Her single mother and her two older sisters worked in the fields while she attended elementary school. When she missed two weeks of school to help harvest crops, it was hard to catch up with class work.

The Pasqua Yaqui tribe wasn’t recognized by the federal government until 1978. There are 500 members of the tribe living in Fresno.

Zavala becomes emotional when she discusses Indian nations.

“Native American people suffered land loss,” she said. “They are struggling and they seem to lose their identity.”

Fresno schools grouped her with Mexican immigrants.

“I was regarded like other students, presuming that I don’t know English,” she said. “I already knew how to speak English.”

Zavala experienced racism and prejudice at an early age.

“If you are a migrant worker, they belittle you,” she said. “My classmates regarded me as a throw away.”

After her mother died when Zavala was 14 years old, she lived on her own and moved around a lot. She stayed in close contact with her sisters and managed to finish high school.

“I accepted failures and losses,” she said. “I pressed on and didn’t give up.”

Zavala moved to Washington state after high school and met her future husband, a military aviation mechanic of Mexican-Puerto Rican descent. After they married, Zavala’s life began to turn around.

They relocated to Tucson for her husband’s job, and Zavala became a devoted mother to four children. She raised them with high expectations for their lives.

“I was glad we moved to Tucson and started a new life,” she said.

Mariah Zavala, a runner with Pima’s cross-country team, remembers the importance her mother placed on learning to read.

“She read children’s books while I was still in her womb,” she said. “My mother emphasized the value of education, hard work, respect and faith in God. She inspired me to go to college.”

Her mother, in turn, is proud of her daughter. She is amazed that she joined the cross-country team as a freshman and had an opportunity to compete at nationals.

Margaret Zavala began further schooling after years of raising her children. She took dental assistant classes and also worked at the Pasqua Yaqui reservation for about six years.

“It was in these years that I thought of learning more about Pasqua Yaqui tribal heritage,” she said. “If I learn more, I’ll love my cultural heritage better.”

In Tucson’s early history, Yaqui families lived in the Gila and Santa Cruz river valleys. Seven communities formed, with Guadalupe established in 1880.

“My family belongs to the Guadalupe community,” Zavala said. “The tribal members are so welcoming to my family.”

Because her husband has little interest in Yaqui culture, she took it upon herself to pass her native heritage to her children.

Her children participate in many cultural activities, including the famous Pasqua Yaqui deer dancer Easter celebration.

This semester, Zavala’s class load includes Western Civilization. She attends with 19 other students majoring in anthropology, history and American Indian studies, and says she is inspired by her instructor, Randall Munsen.

Zavala stays in touch with her two sisters in Fresno, who applaud her choices and goals.

“It’s amazing that our sister Margaret continues to study,” Yolanda Barraza said in a telephone interview. “The moment she sets her goal, she is determined to reach it no matter how long it takes.”

The Zavala family lives on the northwest side of Tucson, and the children attend neighborhood schools.

Zavala taught her children not to be afraid or nervous and to never bow down. She wants her children to develop self-confidence, opposite from her journey.

Her happiest moments are being at home with her children as they help each other in their school work.

“My children are responsible and respectful,” she said. “They are smart.”

The journey continues for a strong mother like Zavala.

“I always advise my children not to forget the past,” she said. “Know who you are, where you come from and where you are going.”


Mariah Zavala, left, chats with her mother, Margaret Zavala, on West Campus. Both women attend classes at Pima Community College. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)


Gratuity not included: Workers who depend on tips report frequent harassment

Gratuity not included: Workers who depend on tips report frequent harassment


Longtime server Resa James, 24, left the food service industry convinced it is still “a man’s world.” (Jamie Verwys/Aztec Press)



Resa James, 24, has worked in the food service industry since she was 15 years old. Her first job was at a veteran’s hall.

“I would serve them meals when they were playing bingo, and get my ass grabbed,” she said.

Though she laughed, making light of the behavior considering the age of her customers, the unwanted attention continued through her next nine years as a server.

Customers who groped, managers who blocked promotions and co-workers who exhibited inappropriate behavior left James providing service with a smile through gritted teeth.

She encountered sexual harassment directed towards female employees. At times, customers were the initiators but male co-workers also contributed.

On top of learning the specific requirements for a job, she found herself adjusting small details to avoid potential discomfort from the males around her.

She quickly learned that bending over would spur lewd comments.

“I literally found a way to bend over so that doesn’t happen to me anymore,” she said. “I crouch down. I don’t ever bend over and it’s so sad.”

High incidences of harassment

James’ experience contains common threads with new findings about women who work as servers, bartenders, bussers and hostesses.

An in-depth report released Oct. 7 by the Restaurant Opportunities Center and Forward Together uncovered high incidences of sexual harassment in the food service industry.

“The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry” called the restaurant industry “the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the U.S.”

In a business of hospitality, how much must an employee endure to ensure a customer’s experience is a good one? For those who rely on tips, pleasing the guest can mean the difference between a good paycheck and minimum wage.

Restaurant workers, particularly females who depend on tips, are in a “uniquely vulnerable position,” according to the study.

Local bartender Katelyn Roberts often experiences unwanted attention from male customers.

“We get a lot of regulars at the bar and they are usually older,” she said. “They often say very disgusting things to me, but the cool regulars do keep them in check.”

She’s observed a change of tone, attitude and level of respect when the server is male.

“Obviously, young, cute girls who appear nonthreatening are hired for a reason,” she said.

Server Samuel Doane agreed women face challenges that male servers do not. Though customer abuse is part of the job, he said men receive it less frequently.

“I have experienced it, but the abuse doesn’t last long,” he said. “It helps to be a 6-foot male with a relatively deep voice.”

Doane has seen women suffer abuse from customers, managers and co-workers.

“Female servers are surrounded by men that do not understand the concept of accommodation,” he said. “It’s like, ‘She laughed at my joke. Clearly she wants to have sex with me.’”

Lines of management

Success can be elusive in the restaurant industry.

A study by the National Restaurant Association found that 30 percent of new restaurants fail the first year. With fluctuating business costs, the state of the economy and changing trends, it is critical to bring the customers back.

How does management keep their employees safe without losing customers?

One Pima Community College student, who asked to remain anonymous, has worked for two years at multiple locations as a manager for a national fast food chain. He’s found that conflict resolution for employees can be challenging.

“It’s hard because a lot of times, unless somebody says something, you don’t know it’s happening,” he said. “You can’t say anything until they yell ‘help.’”

The bulk of complaints he faces are in the form of irate, sometimes aggressive, sometimes inappropriate, behavior by customers.

He admitted to a stigma that links a lack of intelligence to fast food employees.

“There are people that treat us like we’re stupid because it’s fast food,” he said. “You get an ‘F’ on your test and the joke is, ‘Hey, do you want fries with that?’”

Employees, both male and female, experience put-downs from patrons.

“I have been called a couple of things and then refused people service,” he said.

“There’s a fine line. You want the customer to stay, but you have to protect employees. I draw the line when customers start being verbally abusive.”

While he is confident that safety measures in place are effective, there is no protection from negative customer experiences.

“Some people already have this expectation that something is going to go wrong,” he said. “This is true at any restaurant, sit-down or fast food.”

At his store, verbal abuse from customers is more common than sexual harassment between co-workers. The franchise has rules in place to govern employee dating.

“If people are in a position of authority over this person, you technically aren’t allowed to date them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it always happens.”

Lewd jokes behind closed doors

“The Glass Floor” report said unwanted sexual attention from management and customers is common, but the highest incidence of sexual harassment comes from co-workers.

Just 21 percent of women and 29 percent of men surveyed said they had never faced sexual harassment from fellow employees.

The men and women interviewed for this story speculated that harassment from within the work place had its roots in ego, a lack of disciplinary action and a macho attitude.

“The problems come between coworkers in the back of house because many kitchens are male-dominated, very aggressive and unnecessarily macho,” Roberts said. “Cooking is really cool right now, so I think there’s a lot of ego.”

James has witnessed male employees critiquing the bodies of their female coworkers.

“It’s just really disappointing,” she said. “It’s becoming more equal slowly, but it is a man’s world still.”

Reluctant managers 

Doane blames lack of managerial intervention for some of the harassment.

“Management is always seeking to appease its customers, so most complaints made by servers who are harassed are unaddressed, for fear of losing business,” he said. “You see this mainly in struggling restaurants.”

“Cooks and chefs are given lots of leeway because of the high stress of the job and the essential nature of their positions,” Doane added.

“It’s expensive to train a cook, so they are rarely disciplined so long as they are not costing the business money,” he said.

Cerbi Riss, 29, has worked since the age of 15 as a busser, hostess, server and bartender.

She likes her current hotel job and has rarely experienced sexual harassment, but believes managers can improve the way they deal with employee complaints.

“It usually doesn’t get handled,” she said. “Our managers don’t like confrontation that much. They are starting to get a little bit better.”

“The Glass Floor” report also found that “sexual harassment policies and training are widely unenforced or absent.”

When James worked at a hotel, management acted only when prompted by serious repercussions.

“It never happens, unless someone is like, ‘I’m going to sue you,’” she said. “That’s the only time they take care of it.”

Outdated ideas on tipping

Employees who work for tips are in a particularly difficult position because their pay depends on what a guest decides to pay.

Riss said she usually makes $100-$150 a shift but the tips fluctuate and depend on a number of factors.

“People either make it or break it,” she said. “If you have really good people, your night can just be awesome, just making a difference in their experience, helping them enjoy everything.”

Other customers will never be satisfied.

“There are people that no matter what you do, it will go wrong,” she said. “Some will always find something to complain about, which can be pretty bad.”

Riss recalled one instance when two men argued about the 18 percent gratuity included in their bill. “They must have gone on for half an hour,” she said.

Possible reasons for lower tips include a poor economy, foreign customers who are unfamiliar with the tipping system and outdated or uninformed concepts of tipping, Riss said.

James sees the current system of tipping as flawed and cites generational ideas as an issue.

“No offense, I love old people, but their ideas of the tipping system are very much stuck in the 1950s,” she said. “They could be paying for a $100 meal, but they are only going to tip us 10 percent because that’s what they think is appropriate.”

Bartender Roberts feels the amount of money she makes every night is usually fair, but she has seen customers toy with her tips.

“Some people grab tips on the bar and try to tip with that,” she said. “Others think they should only tip per order, even if that order included seven cocktails, and that’s a little disheartening, but it usually evens out with good tippers.”

Though people can be selective with tips, Roberts has rarely had an issue with the system.

“I treat customers well and make sure they are satisfied with the product before paying and I think most of them notice that,” she said.

Gender plays a role

The role gender plays in a tipping environment seems to be influenced greatly by location and atmosphere. A sports bar and the crowd it attracts is a far different environment then a fine dining restaurant.

“If you’re working at a sports bar, you’re working longer hours but you can make pretty good money,” Riss said. “Fine dining is the other end. It’s slower paced and detailed, and you will make good money there too.”

Spending depends on the economy, she added. “When the economy is not doing so well, people don’t want to go buy a couple $100 bottles of wine.”

Riss thinks the type of restaurant is the key factor in determining whether men or women earn more.

“I think in a bar atmosphere, women would make more,” she said. “In regular restaurant service it’s pretty even, obviously depending on their service level.”

Doane also thinks quality of service is ultimately what will earn a tip, with both men and women having ample earning potential.

“Charismatic guys who know about sports and cute gals who flirt make more than everyone else,” he said. “Although, when you get into fine dining, the professionalism and food knowledge starts to shine through.”

Roberts sees location as a major factor in promotions for women.

“If I were working at a cocktail bar, and not a female-owned dive bar, I’d say it’d be next to impossible to get a promotion as a bartender,” she said. “I rarely see female bartenders. It’s definitely a boy’s club in Tucson.”

So you want to be a server

Not every food service employee experiences sexual harassment, but both male and female employees interviewed said they have been subjected to verbal abuse at some point.

“Now, my customer service backbone is stronger and much more genuine,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t shock me as much, but it still bothers me.”

She called herself a good bartender who gives good company. “Do you really want to ruin that and have me completely ignore you because you wanted to make things weird?”

The fast food manager hopes customers will try to be nice and respectful.

“We’re people too,” he said. “It will affect your service if you’re an asshole. You’re probably getting bad customer service because you’re a bad customer.”

Riss believes that most people working in the food industry enjoy what they do.

“I’d rather be doing this than sit at a desk,” she said. “I don’t know if I could without falling asleep.”

She likes fluctuating schedules and the people she comes across.

“It’s nice because it’s always different and I’ve gotten used to that,” she said.

James left the restaurant business with a sense that it’s still very much a man’s world. She advises women who are entering the food business to be strong.

“Don’t let anyone talk down to you and establish your dominance really early,” she said. “Let your boss know that you are not a weak person. They already think you are because you’re a female.”

Foreign study program showcases U.S.

Foreign study program showcases U.S.

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Aaron Mata, right, interacts with fellow Mexican exchange students at a welcoming party on Aug. 31. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)


As the semester draws to an end, students of the SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades program approach the final days of their time in America.

On Aug. 30, 49 Mexican students from technical universities in Aguascalientes and Saltillo, Mexico arrived in America, many of them for the first time.

They’ve spent three months at Pima Community College studying STEM subjects such as information technology and renewable energy, practicing English and learning about the American culture.

The Bécalos program is a first step in an initiative to increase the number of Mexican and American students studying in both countries.

The 49 students at Pima are part of 300 students attending six colleges around the United States.

In their time here, Bécalos students have visited areas around Arizona and the southwest, making trips to Mount Lemmon, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland and Las Vegas.

“Many of them aren’t ready to go back to Mexico,” said Daisy Rodriguez Pitel, an advanced program manager in Student Life. “They would like to stay longer and continue experiencing what it’s like to be here in Tucson and the United States.”

The students are staying in apartments, which have allowed them the luxury of learning to cook for the first time.

Many students joined Rodriguez Pitel at her home the weekend before Thanksgiving to experience a home-cooked turkey dinner.

Yvonne Perez, the Bécalos program coordinator said the experience has helped the students to be more outgoing.

“I notice more confidence in themselves and their speaking abilities,” she said. “Not only with the language but also with the city and going out.”

Rodriguez Pitel said the students have definitely come out of their shell. “Some students are much more comfortable sharing their opinions and their perspectives,” she said.

She believes this will be a valuable skill when the students return to Mexico to face problems in their own country.

“In Mexico it is different, people’s attitude, mass way of thinking, customs, comprehension, empathy, are not steered to improve and protect the whole planet,” said Aaron Mata, a student from Aguascalientes.

“There’s a lot of problems, violence, and that really stresses me. I don’t know why Mexico is like that. I really can’t understand that,” said Daniela Compean a student from Saltillo.

Compean said public transportation here really caught her attention. In addition to it being relatively on time, they make special accommodations for disabled people.

“The first thing that I noticed here was the buses,” Compean said. “The buses are special for disabled people and in Mexico that doesn’t happen. It’s harder for the people in Mexico.

“There’s a lot of discrimination to disabled people,” she said. “That is something that I’d like to change too. To make them see that we have the same value and we are the same and we can do the same.”

Haydee Reyes Romo studies information technology. She said she’d like to start a company programming video games but due to certain restrictions in Mexico she wants to start her company somewhere else.

“The small stores or companies that are beginning in Mexico have to pay extra taxes.  It is so expensive to survive or begin your own business,” she said.

The Bécalos program specifically targeted students from low-income backgrounds to provide the opportunity to learn and travel to families that may not have that ability otherwise.

Many of the students intend to return to the United States after they leave on Dec. 30, due to the ease with which they will be able to obtain a student visa having already lived in America.

“Some of them were saying that they didn’t want to come at first, they were too scared,” Perez said. “Now that they’re here they don’t want to leave and they’re actually thinking about pursuing a graduate degree later either from the U.S. or another country.”

Compean studies renewable energy. She hopes one day to return to the United States for a job.

“I would like to be here for working,” she said. “I think that is better than the jobs in Mexico.”

Mata hopes to one day return to the United States to study physics and work for a defense contractor like Lockheed Martin or Raytheon.

“Here, I feel like I’m home, because my behavior, my customs, my way of thinking and my ideals fit much better than in my own country,” he said.

“I love the United States because the people are so kind.” Romo said.

“I have heard a lot of bad things about Arizona, but now that I am here I know that’s not true because the people here are so polite,” Compean said.

Wherever their next steps take them, the students of the Bécalos program have gained a lot from Pima, and students and employees have learned from them as well.

“It has reinforced the value of greater international student engagement,” Rodriguez Pitel said.

Bécalos has been a useful model for engaging other international students on campus.

“A lot of the services we’re providing to the Bécalos students are things that the international student office is trying to implement with other international students campus-wide,” Perez said.

Rodriguez Patel said the international student office does little beyond visas and enrollment and would like to implement conversation groups and excursions for other international students.

The college is currently discussing the option of hosting Korean students in the summer as well as countries like Taiwan and Denmark.

Bécalos will return to Pima in the fall semester of next year with another group of Mexican students.

“Bécalos program has been a first step in ascending upstairs toward a better understanding of the different points of view about different situations all over the world and not just inside of my own country,” Mata said.

“So, I hope that this first step is the first of many others.”

Instructor helps students channel their inner artist

Instructor helps students channel their inner artist

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PCC art instructor Michael Nolan, depicted in a self-portrait, says his students provide daily inspiration for his own art projects. (Photo courtesy of Michael Nolan)


Pima Community College art instructor Michael Nolan found an affinity for teaching in graduate school through the influence of his professors.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or how I wanted to work with art,” he said. “Then I had a couple of really great teachers and I wanted to be like them.”

Nolan was born and raised in Tucson and has never wanted to leave.

After graduating from Sabino High School, he earned a Bachelor in Fine Arts and a Master in Fine Arts at the University of Arizona.

Nolan taught at UA and at Southwestern University for Visual Arts in Tucson before landing his position at PCC two years ago.

“I didn’t really want to work any other places,” he said. “I wanted to stay in town because all my family was here. I got the opportunity to get a job here and ran with it.”

PCC art student Leah Ortiz enjoys Nolan’s life drawing class.

“He’s a real nerd for anatomy so it’s makes it really fun to learn from him,” she said. “He makes the class really fun, and it doesn’t seem like tedious work.”

Nolan said he learns just as much as he teaches. “Teaching and learning to me are almost synonymous,” he said. “They go together almost hand in hand. They really fit together.”

Nolan teaches a variety of art classes on West Campus. His Spring 2015 courses include Life Drawing, Basic Design and Color and Composition. The Basic Design class has already filled.

“I’ve tried to take the best of what I’ve seen and the education that I’ve had and I’ve tried to apply it so hopefully I’ve been successful,” he said.

His 5.0 average on the website suggests that his popularity speaks for itself.

One student wrote, “If there is such a thing as a perfect art teacher, Nolan would be it. His lectures are super-informative and he’s quirky in the best possible way. He cares about his students, and wants them to succeed.”

Outside of teaching, Nolan continues to work on his own art. He is currently working on cover art for a new novel, and previously completed eight other covers.

He has been featured in a number of exhibits, including the Tucson Museum of Art’s 2013 Biennial.

This year, he was a finalist at the Annual Figurative Drawing and Painting Exhibition at the Lore Degenstein Gallery in Selinsgrove, Penn.

He attributes much of his inspiration and success in his work to lessons he learned as a teacher.

“Oh yeah, being a teacher made me such a better artist it’s not even funny,” he said. “Being able to explain it makes me be able to understand it a lot more effectively, to hopefully communicate what I’m trying to say.”

Students even help Nolan stay motivated and working on his own projects.

“Being around students reminds me constantly why I create work,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d have the wonderful daily inspiration constantly if I was just doing it on my own.”

Although he is an accomplished artist, Nolan believes making art on a daily basis is a reward in itself.

He hopes his teaching career will keep him well-rounded and his ideas fresh.

“I would be really blessed to be able to teach a long time,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d have an end goal other than helping as many people as I possibly could find their true calling.”

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Michael Nolan chats with a student. (Zack Ledesma/Aztec Press)

OFF-ROAD CYCLISTS Riding trails of advocacy

OFF-ROAD CYCLISTS Riding trails of advocacy


Tucson is known for its active bicycling community. With annual events like the Tour De Tucson and a multitude of bicycle shops, it’s clear the city appreciates its wheels.

Beyond the urban pavement, Mount Lemmon offers a paradise of trails for the sport of mountain biking.

Avid cyclist Art Alcantara calls the mountain an unbeatable locale, not only in Tucson but the entire western United States.

“Mount Lemmon is a great place for a lot of reasons,” he said. “It offers a level of technicality and skill that you won’t find in most places.”

Mountain bikers gathered at Mount Lemmon’s Gordon Hirabayashi campground on Nov. 16 to celebrate Tucson Off-Road Cyclists and Activists’ second year.

Alcantara formed TORCA in 2013 with a mission to improve Tucson’s off-road biking community. The group regularly performs maintenance on trails.

“The mountain bike community is growing, so as the sport grows the more people use trails,” he said. “They don’t fix themselves. We are out fixing the trails once a month, sometimes more.”

Alcantara believes that creating awareness of mountain biking can benefit the entire city.

“This is an emerging mountain bike destination, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of hoopla around it,” he said. “It helps retailers, hotels and it’s good for the economy. We know there is an economic impact.”

The group hosts a Mount Lemmon trail day each month to repair and improve riding trails. Membership fees and grants pay for the expenses.

During the Nov. 16 celebration, for the first time, the group invited bike manufacturers to an event. Representatives of Specialized, Ibis, Devinci, Niner Bikes and Pivot brought a fleet of high-quality mountain bikes.

Club secretary Tara Alcantara was happy to provide an opportunity for supporters to test-drive some of the best bikes available.

“When you buy a mountain bike, you don’t often get to ride it before you buy it,” she said.

“Bikes are literally upwards of $6,000. To be able to ride a bike before you buy it is invaluable.”

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Tim Walsh, left, and a fellow cyclist ride during a TORCA celebration on Mount Lemmon. (Jamie Verwys/Aztec Press)

Tara Alcantara said TORCA hopes to bring more riders to Tucson.

“I love the fact that we can bring other mountain bikers together,” she said. “TORCA’s main objective is to bring mountain biking in Tucson to the forefront on a national level.”

Bike enthusiast Andrew Keller has volunteered at TORCA events. He believes the group is doing crucial work to improve Tucson’s off-road community.

“I do get a little frustrated because there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I feel because of some of the accolades we have been given as a bike town, people get complacent. There’s a lot of work to be done as far as advocacy.”

He praised TORCA for working with the forest service, particularly on Mount Lemmon.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort,” Keller said. “They have done a great job developing a relationship there, which is priceless.”

Mountain bikers must fight for their right to ride, Keller said.

“We have to be extra careful, extra courteous, more so than hikers and equestrians,” he said.

“If we are seen damaging the trail in any way, we will get 10 times the repercussions of another trail user,” he added.

Art Alcantara said he is thankful for mountain biking.

“It offers a level of excitement that keeps things interesting and stimulating,” he said. “I can be in the woods, playing, staying fit. It’s a fantastic sport and it’s really given me a lot.”

To learn more about TORCA, visit

Aztecs defeat No. 1 Phoenix College

Aztecs defeat No. 1 Phoenix College


The Pima Community College men’s basketball team pulled an upset win against No. 1 Phoenix College on Nov. 22 to put them at 1-1 in conference play.

The 89-76 victory brought the team’s overall record to 5-1.

The Aztecs won the first half 43-30 and were able to keep a lead throughout the rest of the game.

The matchup also provided a chance to avenge their overtime playoff semifinals loss to Phoenix College last year. Phoenix went on to win the NJCAA Division II national championship.

Sophomore Murphy Gershman recorded 23 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. The center/forward, who has signed a national letter of intent to play for the Colorado School of Mines, was named ACCAC Division II player of the week on Nov. 24.

Sophomore Bryan Cervantes also had 23 points and recorded nine rebounds. Sophomore Esteban Lopez grabbed 14 points and eight rebounds.

Freshman DeVaunte Paschal posted 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while sophomore Andres Marquez finished with 10 points and four assists.

The Aztecs lost their conference opener 90-89 on Nov. 19 against Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

Gershman provided a silver lining for the Aztecs, finishing with a 27-point, 17-rebound double-double. Paschal added 15 points and three steals.

Head coach Brian Peabody expects conference competition to be brutal this year.

“It’s probably the best it’s been from top to bottom,” he said. “Every night, it’s going to be a war.”

In their last preconference game on Nov. 15, Pima notched an easy 107-46 win against Phase 1 Academy.

Aggressive and up-tempo play also earned the Aztecs a 108-73 home win on Nov. 12 against Arizona Christian University’s junior varsity team.

Pima held a 56-34 lead at halftime and reached a 42-point lead by the middle of the second half. Gershman reached a double-double in the first half, with 21 points and 11 rebounds. He finished the game with 25 points. Sophomore Matt O’Boyle had 17 points and shot 5-for-8 past the three-point line.

The Aztec bench also stepped up, scoring 47 points. They were led by freshmen Justin Marion, who scored 13 points, and Paschal, who had 10.

“I think our leadership is the best it’s been in a long time,” Peabody said.

The Aztecs were scheduled to play Tohono O’Odham Community College on Nov. 25 in Sells. The game took place after Aztec Press went to the printer.

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Freshman guard Dorian Page makes a move against Phoenix College defenders in a home game on Nov. 22. Pima won, 89-76, against the conference’s top-ranked team. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press)

Refugees start new lives

Refugees start new lives


Four students sound out English phrases inside the Moon Room at Pima Community College’s El Rio Learning Center.

Each is a refugee from a different country, speaking a native language that few in their proximity could understand.

Instructor Matias Rodriguez approaches 50-year-old Zahra Ismael of Somalia.

Ismael takes her time with each word. “I can see a copy cat,” she says.

Those words aren’t commonly uttered in normal conversation, but they’re good practice in vernacular for the refugees.

As the class wraps up, Rodriguez patiently helps Ismael read one last sentence.

Upstairs in the Rain Room, another course is about to begin. Some of the women wear yellow and teal Somali head dresses.

There’s quiet chatter between a few students, smiles and then a giggle. Right away, they notice the outsider with a camera and notepad.

Instructor Andrea Jones points to the board.

“What’s this one called?”

“C-orn, corn!”

Nadia Masir, 20, and Halima Makoma, 21, reply enthusiastically along with 12 others.

The pronunciation exercise is part of a Vocational English as a Second Language class. A majority of the refugees are employed in restaurants and housekeeping jobs to maintain a livelihood while attending school.

One condition of refugee status is that refugees must acquire employment within 90 days of entering the country.

Jones repeats common phrases they may use on the job.

After listing a few more vegetables, she asks the students to practice common western salutations with the guest. She asks Omar Bakhit, 52, to begin the exercise.

Bakhit, who seemed the most confident in his group and helped the others with pronunciation, has been in Tucson for 11 months.

“Hello, how are you? My name is Omar and I am from Sudan,” Bakhit said slowly and decisively.

Numerous other rounds of introductions followed.

By the end of the class, new perceptions became clear:

The refugees epitomize willingness to learn and ability to adjust.

After being forced from their home and country, they’ve been tossed into the tumultuous life of first-world America.

Each wakes up with more challenges than the average citizen, but uses steadfast resilience to overcome and adapt.

Zahra Ismael, resettled from Somalia, works from a book with instructor Matias Rodriguez at El Rio Learning Center. (Aztec Press photos by S.J. Barajas)


For many Tucson refugees, conflict forces resettlement

Picture a small village, a place where tranquility and routine usually govern a humble lifestyle.

One fateful day, strange men appear and begin shouting orders.

Villagers hear explosions in the distance and the sound of gunfire nears.

Soon people start to go missing.

Eventually food, medicine and options grow scarce.

Leaving becomes the only choice.

Situations like that bring many hundreds of refugees to Tucson.

Komya Djuma, Gilbert Muganga, and Adam Abubakar sit in the computer lab of Pima Community College’s El Rio Learning Center preparing for a rudimentary English class.

Gilbert Muganga, 36, and Komya Djuma, 35, both faced civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and are glad for opportunities to learn.

Djuma, 35, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He moved to Tucson six months ago.

“In my country, it is no good,” Djuma said. “I was taken away from my country to Tanzania.”

He compared Congo to a burning fire. “Many people are fighting, people from Congo and Rwanda,” he said.

Djuma, a father of five, came from Uvira, South Kivu, a region rife with tragedy. After escaping to Tanzania, he lived in a camp there for 15 years before beginning the resettlement process.

It took him more than a year to be processed for a move to the United States.

Muganga, 36, was also born in Uvira. Instead of being taken to Tanzania, he resettled in Uganda. He has been in Tucson for 18 months.

“Rebels attacked me and my family,” Muganga said. “Many, many Congolese are made refugees. Some go to Uganda, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”

At least 45.2 million people were displaced in Africa by the end of 2012, according to The Guardian newspaper.

The numbers continue to steadily grow as geopolitics, civil war and disease displace more people than ever.

Abubakar is from Darfur, Sudan, where attacks are slightly more systematic.

Adam Abubakar has been in Tucson for two years after fleeing violence in Darfur, Sudan.

“In 2003, the war started in Darfur,” he said. “Lots of things are bad there. I left because the government was attacking us, killing civilians. Killing babies and women, making genocide and raping.”

Abubakar is puzzled by the violence.

“I don’t know why they attack us,” he said. “We are from there … then we have to run away from our homeland.”

He ended up in Kakuma, Kenya, before he was moved to Tucson two years ago.

The struggle of life in the camps can be harsh and unforgiving.

The immediate threat of violence may be temporarily ceased but problems such as theft and scarcity of necessary supplies can be just as much a danger.

“In the camp there is lots of mistakes, lots of problems and people steal from each other,” Djuma said. “I am glad to be here.”

All three men have triumphed over insurmountable adversity just to get to Tucson, but still have a ways to go.

Acclimating to a new language and way of life can be challenging.

In addition, resettled people are expected to get a job within 90 days of arrival.

Abubakar poses a question.

“You need education and you have children, working full time. How can you learn?” he said. “For me, education is more important then a lot of working.”

Pima programs educate 600+ refugees annually

The road to refugee education at Pima Community College began in 1978, when South Vietnamese people began arriving as refugees after the war.

The El Rio Learning Center and Pima Community College created a partnership that now serves an estimated 600-plus students a year.

Masha Gromyko is a woman of small stature but commanding presence.

She was once herself in the same position, enduring anti-Semitism in Russia. Gromyko is now the assistant project manager for El Rio’s Refugee Education program.

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Instructor Matias Rodriguez, right, works on English venacular phrases with refugees Marcelina, Neguse, Adam Bashir and Zahara Ismael. Marcelina and Neguse use a single name.

“There is a distinction between a refugee and an immigrant,” Gromyko said. “A status is given to a refugee before they enter the country and they have all the rights American citizens have except voting.”

Life as a refugee is turbulent and in most cases grotesquely traumatic.

Refugees experience the dire reality of third-world problems like famine, disease, genocide and persecution.

Arizona is one of the largest resettlement states in the country, according to Gromyko, with most refugees coming to Phoenix and Tucson.

PCC contracts with the Arizona Refugee Resettlement program to provide English language classes to refugees who resettle in Tucson.

Three major resettlement agencies partner with Pima and El Rio to help ease the move when a refugee first arrives. Refugee Focus, Catholic Community Services and International Rescue Committee provide structure in the tempestuous transition.

Refugees arrive from places with a hellish nightmare of civil unrest, including Somali, Sudan, Congo and Bhutan, according to Gromyko.

Bhutan, for example, has experienced ethnic cleansing since the early ‘90s, she said.

The violence has displaced and uprooted entire families to camps in Nepal.

Approximately 3,000 Bhutanese reside in Arizona.

The majority of refugees currently enrolled in Pima’s adult education program are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among other travesties, the Congo has the world’s largest incidence of rape, resulting in single women with large families.

Many of the Congolese women who resettle in Tucson can’t read and arrive from camps with extremely poor standards of living. Western customs can seem strange and alien.

“They didn’t know what inside plumbing was, or what a stove is,” Gromyko said.

Though culture, ethnicity and country of origin are now more diverse than ever, the end goal of education programs is the same.

Somalian Zahra Ismael, front, and other refugees listen as instructor Andrea Jones explains words for food workers during a Vocational English as a Second Language class.

The primary focus is to facilitate self-sufficiency and development of English language skills while acclimating to life in the United States.

In some cases, such as with Somali Bantu people who are unable to read and have no written language, learning English presents a challenge.

Many come from camps with such poor living conditions that technological adjustments can be seen as just as much an adversity.

A large portion of the population resettles with little to no education aside from basic community coursework reminiscent of U.S. elementary schools.

A few people with advanced degrees in fields such as engineering and chemistry arrive, but their limited English vocabulary makes it hard to find a job.

Lissa Nash, an instructor and employment assistant program coordinator who works closely with Gromyko, supervises a six-week VESL or Vocational English as a Second language course.

She provides instruction in specialized vocabulary for restaurant worker refugees, teaching job-specific words such as roasting or grilling.

Nash and Gromyko both hope to draw more focus on the struggle and resilience of refugees who have braved so much just for the hope of a normal life.

“The resilience they have, having made it so far,” Nash said. “Some may not have a formal education but they bring strengths with them.”

Marcelina, who uses a single name, works on English phrases during a class at El Rio Learning Center.

Marcelina, who uses a single name, works on English phrases during a class at El Rio Learning Center.

Photo Gallery: All Souls Procession

Photo Gallery: All Souls Procession

Photos by Larry Gaurano

Although the All Souls Procession is based loosely on the holiday Dia de los Muertos, people find the same spirituality significance in the event and dress in a similar fashion.

The urn containing prayers that were collected from spectators and attendees are ignited in the procession’s finale.


A masked attendee awaits the procession’s start at the staging area located off of Sixth Avenue.




MEN'S SOCCER: Pima heading to nationals

MEN’S SOCCER: Pima heading to nationals


The Pima Community College men’s soccer team (20-4-1) claimed the West District title on Nov. 8 and will play as the No. 5 seed in the NJCAA National Tournament Nov. 18-23 at Yavapai College in Prescott.

“We always focus on doing our best and working hard,” sophomore Arturo Vega said. “The thing we focus on the most is playing our style of play.”

No. 9 Pima beat a Colorado team, No. 5 Trinidad State Junior College, 1-0 in their last home game of the season.

The Aztecs found themselves in a defensive battle as the game remained scoreless for the first 88 minutes.

Freshman Santiago Carrillo came to the rescue when he scored Pima’s lone goal with 2:04 left on the clock. Carrillo scored on a penalty kick after freshman Gabe Zepp was fouled in the penalty box.

The Aztecs outshot Trinidad 6-4 in the victory and freshman goalkeeper Sam Kavathas had three saves on the night.

“We’re learning more about ourselves as we go on throughout the season” sophomore Christian Garcia-Cabello said.

The Aztecs earned their trip to the national tournament on Nov. 7 by beating another Colorado team, Otero Junior College, 1-0 in the West District semifinals.

Freshman Ryan Bristow scored off of a header in the fifth minute to give the Aztecs an early lead.

The defense took over the rest of the game, allowing only three shots on goal and none in the first half. Kavathas had three saves.

The Aztecs claimed the Region I, Division I championship title on Nov. 1 when they defeated No. 4 Phoenix College 2-1.

Phoenix College advanced to the championship game after upsetting No. 1 Yavapai College 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 30.

Freshman Hector Banegas scored in the 34th minute with a back-header off a throw-in from sophomore Garrett Andreatta.

Freshman Alejandro Gonzalez scored in the 47th minute, off a corner kick from Garcia-Cabello. Kavathas had four saves in the game, with two crucial saves in the 79th and 87th minutes. Pima’s defense held out late in the game to guarantee the win.

In the Region I, Division I semifinals game in Peoria on Oct. 30, Pima earned a 4-1 victory against Glendale Community College.

Freshman Alex Rojo had two goals, both off assists from Gonzalez. Rojo scored in the 37th minute to force a 1-1 tie, then scored again in the 67th minute off a cross-pass.

Carrillo scored on a penalty kick to in the 52nd minute to start the second half. Vega scored the insurance goal in the 79th minute off an assist from Rojo.

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Men’s soccer team players hold aloft their district championship trophy at Kino Stadium Nov. 8. (Beto Hoyos/Aztec Press)

‘A PIECE OF MY HEART’: Drama shares Vietnam experience

‘A PIECE OF MY HEART’: Drama shares Vietnam experience

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“A Piece of My Heart” cast members, from left, Cole Potwardowski, Bev Ihli, Casey Norman, Miriam Groleau, Taylor Plecity, Andrea Sherrill and Chris Dobson rehearse a party scene. (Aztec Press photos by Zack Ledesma)


Six women who served in the Vietnam War struggle to make sense of the conflict that changed them and the nation that shunned them after they came home.

That’s the premise of “A Piece of My Heart,” an intense drama that has been called the “most enduring theatrical production that deals with the Vietnam War” by the Vietnam Veterans Association.

The Pima Community College drama department will showcase the play Nov. 13-23 at the West Campus Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre.

The award-winning production, written by Shirley Lauro and directed by Nancy Davis Booth, uses true stories and shared memories to capture the women’s thoughts, feelings and emotions from before, during and after their tour of duty.

In the 1960s, enlisted military women were not supposed to be stationed in a war zone, Booth said. However, 15,000 women served as nurses, intelligence officers, USO entertainers and Red Cross workers in Vietnam.

“‘A Piece of My Heart’ provides the community audience with a moving, appalling, frightening, redemptive and ultimately cathartic experience,” Booth said.

A dialogue with the audience, cast and director will follow every performance.

PCC students play the six lead roles:

• Miriam Groleau – Whitney

• Bev Ihli – Martha

• Michaela Ivey – Leeann

• Casey Norman – Sissy

• Taylor Plecity – Maryjo

• Andrea Sherrill – Steele

Sherrill said she feels privileged to be a part of the production.

“It’s an intense production with a real historical value,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it so far, from getting to know my cast mates to the rehearsals. I know it’s going to be a fantastic show.”

Plecity called her participation both difficult and rewarding.

“It’s really difficult to have to go to such dark places every time we run the show,” she said. “There were women in the battlefield, whether they were entertainers like my character Maryjo, or nurses. Women played a huge role in combat. This play is another reminder of that.”

“A Piece of My Heart” is Ihli’s first acting role.

“I am so glad that I somehow was fortunate enough be a part of this piece,” she said. “I know we all want to do each character and their story justice, especially since they are based on true events and people.”

Ihli also praised the stage crew.

“The tech work that is going into the show is also so very mesmerizing,” she said. “Everyone is working extremely hard to make this production the best it can be for the audience and the vets who lived it.”

Two male actors, Chris Dobson and Cole Potwardowski, portray soldiers.

“At the end of the day, I would say that being able to share such a powerful story with the community and to enlighten and educate others is the most rewarding,” Dobson said.

As part of the production preparation, Booth introduced the cast to female veterans who served during the war.

“Having the opportunity to learn about these women’s stories and being able to meet the women who were there and who saw firsthand what it was like, is pretty awesome as well,” Dobson said.

In light of the nation’s current involvement in conflicts all over the world and the increasing role that women play in combat, Booth said the production is a nod of acknowledgment and affirmation for their sacrifice and caring hearts.

A photographic exhibit will be on display in the Black Box foyer during the run of “A Piece of My Heart.” Jason Stone, a retired PCC staff member and former student, took the photos during the Tet Offensive of 1968.

The exhibit will also include a playback of Stone’s documentary film, “The Shadows of Men.”

The play runs for about two hours, with one intermission. Performance times are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. American Sign Language interpreters will be available on Nov. 20.

Tickets cost $15, with discounts available, and can be purchased online at or at the box office. Box office hours are Tuesday-Friday from noon-5 p.m. and one hour before each performance.

For additional information, call the box office at 206-6986 or email

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A soldier (Cole Potwardowski) holds back Sissy (Casey Norman) in the fact-based drama “A Piece of My Heart.” PCC performances begin Nov. 13 and will continue through Nov. 23.

Author finds a personal brand of funny

Author finds a personal brand of funny


 Joshua Daniel Cochran is an author, satirist and teacher at Pima Community College.

A Tucson native, he teaches composition, creative writing and Honors 101.

He is also the West Campus honors coordinator and faculty adviser to PCC’s award-winning art and literary magazine, SandScript.

He says students should submit to SandScript because it’s created, designed and run by students. It’s also more accessible than a national magazine.

“Here you’re just competing with your fellow students,” he says. “It’s an excellent way to get your first work published.

Kaycee Petersen, co-editor of the 2014 edition of SandScript, enjoyed working with Cochran.

“He’s really familiar with it, so it ran really smoothly,” she says.

SandScript now accepts only student submissions, but Cochran published a poem in the 2013 edition.

His inspiration for the poem, “Icarus Dicarus Dox,” came when he was bitten by a rattlesnake while bushwhacking in the middle of nowhere. It made him queasy and he had to lie down.

“I had this vision/dream about these crows,” he says. He saw crows hovering over him and says it felt like he was floating, and the crows were carrying him away.

Besides a love of anything outdoorsy, Cochran has always been passionate about reading and writing.

From an early age he noticed his mother’s avid love of reading. “I grew up watching her read all the time, and that really influenced me,” he says.

His mother let him stay up as late as he wanted as long as he was reading.

He wrote his first short story, “Gradius and the Kingdom of Butts,” at age 8.

Cochran has held varied jobs, including wilderness firefighter, emergency medical technician, landscaper, ditch digger, electrician’s assistant, plumber’s assistant and copy-shop jockey.

He started his college career at PCC in the late ‘90s, and still has his old ID hanging on a bulletin board in his office.

“It’s interesting because at Pima I scraped my knees,” he says. “I got a lot of bruises, but it really prepared me. When I went to the U of A, I knew what I wanted to do and I was good by then. Pima had prepared me for it.”

Cochran earned two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Arizona, one in journalism and one in fiction and creative writing. He graduated magna cum laude and was on the dean’s list every semester.

After the UA, he moved with two suitcases and $300 to New York City, where he earned a master’s degree in fiction and creative writing at City College of New York.

He stayed in a hostel his first night and got a copy shop job the first week.

“It was terrifying,” Cochran says. “I really was the hick in New York City.”

He considered earning a doctorate in composition and rhetoric, but he says it was too dry and boring. “I’d rather fail at what I love than succeed at what I hate,” he says.

Cochran differs with critics who call his master’s degree impractical.

“It’s a fine degree,” he says. “You really have to work your butt off, but people need good writers.”

After college, Cochran worked as an adjunct at City College for four years. He won an award for outstanding teacher of the year—the first part-time teacher to earn that honor.

He won two more teaching awards this year: PCC outstanding faculty and a distinguished humanities educator award from the Community College Humanities Association Southwestern Division.

Cochran has published two novels and about 20 short stories and poems.

His novels, “The Most Important Memoir Ever Written Ever” and “Echo,” can be found at local bookstores, online and in the West Campus library.

Cochran founded a publishing company, Cairn Press, in 2012. A cairn is a stack of stones that marks a trail.

“I thought it was a nice metaphor for publishing first books by authors,” he says. “It’s like every one of the new authors is an additional stone on the cairn.”

The company has so far published three first novels and is acquiring a fourth.

His own writing varies in content but includes lots of satire and dark humor. “I like to make my readers a little uncomfortable, either in content or delivery,” he says.

Cochran will give a free talk called “You Write Funny: Using Humor to Delve Deeper Waters” at the Downtown Campus on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Writing Center, LB-140. He will also read from “Echo.”

He admits it’s taken him a long time to determine his brand of funny but says that if you are funny, you can make that come out on paper.

“There’s not one way, there’s just your way,” he says. “Don’t try to be anybody but yourself.”

Joshua Cochran shows off his latest novel at the West Campus Creative Writing Center. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Honors Club gives back to community

Honors Club gives back to community

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The Honors Club poses for a group photo in front of Downtown Campus. (Aztec Press photo by David J. Del Grande)


After restarting at Pima Community College a few years since first taking a class at the college, Valerie Campodall’Orto realized the only way to materialize her life-long career goal in teaching was by taking her coursework seriously.

Campodall’Orto began honors contract work during Spring  2013, committing herself to more rigorous coursework in order to challenge herself.

“It doesn’t necessarily raise your GPA to do honors, but it’s fun, it’s challenging and I think it’s a blast,” she said.

Like many other students seeking a way to stand out and give back, Campodall’Orto joined Pima’s Honors Club that fall.

“I had no idea what to expect, but being a part of the Honors Club was like a breath of fresh air,” she said. “After the first meeting I was hooked.”

PCC students involved with the honors advisory council created the Honors Club in the spring of 2011 to act as a catalyst for involvement and community outreach liaison for its members.

The club was founded by three members, and since then has grown to more than 100 students.

By the end of her first semester with the club, Campodall’Orto took on the treasurer position. She felt very fortunate that her diligent work, commitment and dedication moved her up the officer ranks.

She showed such dedication that she was elected club president in April.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but the club as a whole is instilled with such wonderful people that it makes my job very easy,” she said.

According to honors coordinator and Phi Theta Kappa advisor Kenneth Vorndran, both groups have volunteered more than 500 hours of community service this semester alone.

“The students that throw themselves into this and really take to it are the students who are intrinsically motivated to do so,” Vorndran said.

“They also gain a real sense of connection with the college,” he added.

Since mid-October, Honors Club members have contributed their time to Tucson’s Northwest YMCA, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” walk, Pima Animal Care Center, the Veteran’s Affairs hospital and at Tucson’s infamous Slaughterhouse.

Honors Club member Vanessa Reynaga serves drinks to a veteran during a VA celebration on Nov 8. (Aztec Press photo by Andrew Paxton)

The personal growth Vorndran has witnessed in students completely immersed in Honors Club is amazing.

“They grow and become better human beings for what they are doing,” he said.

Samantha Overton, the club’s founding president, said she was amazed to see her vision blossom from three members into a room full of motivated and engaged students.

“It’s something that you’ll be very glad you did for the rest of your life,” Overton said. “You learn to believe in yourself, you learn to really grow and you see the value in helping other people.

“It’s a beautiful gift to be able to believe in yourself, so I wanted to come back and visit and see the magic,” she added.

Jeanette Alcaraz, the Honors Club founding vice president, was awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.

She said joining the honors advisory council and establishing the Honors Club provided her rewarding scholarly demands, a vehicle for community outreach and proper peer support.

“I wanted the academic challenge, I wanted to have support and meet other students who were academically driven,” Alcaraz said. “I also wanted to find a place for that service involvement.

“Meeting those people who believed in you really was the very best experience,” she added.

Honors Club president Valerie Campodall’Orto, left, chats with founding club members Jeanette Alcaraz and Samantha Overton. (Aztec Press photo by David J. Del Grande)

Dianne Aiza Tolentino, Honors Club vice president, joined the club in Spring 2013 and said the friendships and networking possibilities she has built with other honors students are very dear to her.

“Having those lasting relationships and building those bonds with other people is what I look forward to, and what I would cherish from now on,” Tolentino said. “We’re like one big family.”

Proceeds that club members earn during community service projects are either donated to charities or will fund its annual book award. Honors Club members whom win the award will receive a gift certificate for the college bookstore of their choice.

On Nov. 8, the club took part in a Veteran’s Day celebration hosted by Tucson’s VA hospital, and honors students hand out cards, candies and tender smiles to local service men and women every Valentine’s Day.

Honors Club members will also spend Black Friday at the VA setting up Christmas trees and décor in an effort to bring holiday cheer to vets.

Pima honors students also periodically contribute hand-painted kindness coins to Tucson’s Ben’s Bells Project.

Chris Strothmann joined Honors Club this semester, and said he was very excited to receive the email invitation during summer break. Strothmann said he feels committing to the club will help secure his achievements alongside other academic outliers.

“I’m trying to differentiate myself from when I wasn’t taking school seriously,” he said.

Strothmann said he enjoyed the Halloween “Trunk-or-Treat” event hosted at Pima’s Northwest Campus.

“I was frankly thrilled to be a part of it,” he said. “To be useful and to help facilitate all of that going on was the fun part.”

Campodall’Orto said having the opportunity to contribute to The Old Pueblo gives her a sense of joy.

“Being able to give back to a community that I live in is a good feeling,” she said. “And it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve done something to help make somebody’s day brighter.”

To learn more about all the opportunities available through the honors program, requirements for joining and how to get involved, visit

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Honors Club member Emma Perry volunteers during a VA celebration on Nov. 8. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

Campus president grateful for education opportunities

Campus president grateful for education opportunities


The new president of Northwest Campus was a first-generation college student who originally had no intention of seeking higher education.

David Doré said a life-changing summer spent in a remote village in Mexico made him realize he could be doing more with his life.

“I realized that I had the opportunity to attend college and the people in that village did not have the same opportunity,” he said. “I decided then and there that it was my responsibility to go to college.”

After he began attending college classes, Doré realized his love for teaching.

“Once you find your spark, then you know this is what you want to do with the rest of your life,” he said.

“When you walk into something and you just know this is what you’re meant to be doing, that’s what teaching is to me.”

Pima Community College hired Doré in May after an extensive search for a new campus president.

“David’s wide-ranging background serving students, combined with his administrative expertise, makes him a most welcome addition to the college,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Gannon University in Erie, Pa., Doré completed master’s degrees in theological studies, education and business administration at three different universities.

He attended Pepperdine University in California for his doctorate in education.

Doré has spent nearly two decades working with community colleges but began his career by teaching at lower grade levels.

“Community college is more interesting to me,” he said.

“The students are extremely diverse and we take people from where they are and take them to the next level.”

Although Doré loves working in a classroom setting, he knows he can impact students at a broader level through administrative positions.

He most recently worked at Mesa Community College as the dean of instruction for career and technical education.

He was responsible for 150 degree and certificate programs, and oversaw the newly created Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute.

Jeremiah Palicka, student government president at Northwest Campus, said he is excited about the future connection of Doré and the campus.

“From what I’ve seen, he is super involved on and off campus,” Palicka said.

“We’re just excited about working with him on upcoming campus projects.”

One of Doré’s many goals for both Northwest Campus and PCC is to make people feel proud of Pima and to feel proud about attending a community college.

He wants to see students thrive within the campus community by taking the initiative to be more involved and to get their voices heard.

Every success he has enjoyed in life started by taking chances, Doré said.

“Always be willing to take a risk,” he said.

“When you’re young, you don’t have much to lose, so why not take a chance and live outside your comfort zone?”

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David Dore, the new president of Northwest Campus, says he loves teaching but knows he can make an impact as an administrator. (Tanisha Knutzen/Aztec Press.)

Creatures of the night

Creatures of the night


A quick glimpse of an ape-like creature walks across the frame of a home video.

Is it really Bigfoot or a man in a suit perpetuating a long running hoax?

Cryptozoology, a pseudo-science that studies hidden or unknown animals, was named in 1959 by author Lucien Blancou, according to

Blancou wrote about a forerunner in unknown animal research, Bernard Heuvelmans, who published “On the Track of Unknown Animals” in 1955.

Heuvelmans wrote, “What makes an animal of interest to cryptozoology is that it is unexpected.”

An animal must be “truly singular, unexpected, paradoxical, striking, emotionally upsetting and thus be capable of mystification,” he said.

Is there any truth to the horrifying monsters reported by witnesses?

Bedtime stories, life lessons

Cultures from around the globe use stories and anecdotes to teach children lessons of survival and morality.

They also serve to scare the community from acting out taboo behaviors.

It seems some of the “cryptids” reported by man could easily be explained away as one of these fables.

In the Philippines, mothers warn their children not to go out late or the Aswang will kidnap them and devour their blood and organs.

The Aswang is a shape shifter, often taking the form of a shy human by day and a winged monster, dog or woman at night.

Myths about the creature have existed in the Philippines for the last 400 years, according to the 2011 documentary, “The Aswang Phenomenon.”

Canadian director Jordan Clark found in his research that the Aswang has been historically used as a form of social control and propaganda by the Spanish colonizers, the Catholic Church and the Philippine government.

Though the fear created by the Aswang is genuine for the people of the Philippines even today, determinant, scientific proof of the creature’s existence remains unfound.

Global similarities

While some reported cryptids have been proven to represent societal negatives in specific countries, a multi-cultural link is present in strikingly similar descriptions of beasts from opposite ends of the world.

The most famous American cryptid, Bigfoot, is called  Sasquatch by Native American tribes.

The beast seems to have cousins in almost every country. Ape-like humanoids have been spotted in the Himalayas (the Yeti), Mongolia (the Yeren) and Australia (the Yowie).

With the prevalence of reports of ape creatures in so many places, could it mean it’s out there? Or, does this just speak to a human desire to find the missing link?

A 1973 report, “Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality,” was the first published scientific study of Bigfoot. Primatologist John Napier concluded that with no hard evidence, science must say that Bigfoot does not exist.

However, Napier could not dismiss the hundreds of eyewitness accounts. “There must be something in northwest America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints,” he wrote.

Mistaken identities

In another formal study published in the Journal of Biogeography in 2009, sighting locations were used to determine Bigfoot’s preferred habitat.

It concluded that most Bigfoot sightings were likely black bears that inhabitant the same environmental parameters and have a striking resemblance to physical descriptions of the ape man.

Some cryptids have been scientifically determined to indeed be real animals.

One example is the okapi, or African unicorn, documented by ancient Egyptians and by African tribes. Described as a cross between a zebra, donkey and giraffe, it was rejected by Western science and considered a myth.

The British governor of Uganda, Harry Johnston, acquired an okapi skull and pelt in 1901 during his time in the Congo.

There were an estimated 10,000-20,000 wild okapi in 2011, according to the Okapi Conservation Project.

The monster is fear

Be they hoax or myth, endangered species or real mysteries of science, I have come to one conclusion: Cryptids are real because the human emotion of fear is a realty.

I have no doubts that many have looked into the dark and seen something that frightened them, something they did not understand. Fear allows the unknown to become something tangible.

Whether by cultural influence or an individual’s interpretation of what a monster actually is, fear could be looking out at us, capable of mystification.


Aztec Press photo illustration by Jamie Verwys and Nick Meyers.

Wing ready to fly into future

Wing ready to fly into future


Much changes in 30 years, but Dave Wing’s passion for teaching digital arts at Pima Community College has withstood the test of time.

Wing began his tenure at PCC in 1984, and will retire in December.

He grew up in Seattle, Wash., and became interested in photography early in junior high school.

“I first used old analog 35mm films and I took photo classes, and would always freelance and develop my own photos in my own darkroom,” he said.

Toward the tail end of the Vietnam War, Wing enlisted in the Air Force and worked as a munitions specialist. His four years in the service took him overseas briefly.

“The only place I went to was Okinawa,” he said. “I was there for 18 months at Kadena Air Force Base.”

He applied to extend his stay in Japan, but mistaken orders brought him back to the United States.

Upon his return, he was stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

Wing was split in his feelings toward the war, but did his duty.

“I think that war in general is a terrible thing and I don’t think anyone should have to go into any kind of combat situation,” he said. “Certainly I believe in democracy and I did my part to support it.”

After his military discharge, Wing looked for work.

“I was south of Tucson pulling weeds in trailer parks and I thought there had to be something better,” he said.

His solution was to enroll at the University of Arizona.

During Wing’s time at Pima, a major challenge was keeping up with technology advancements.

“Computers have changed and what we can do with computers now has changed,” he said. “When I came here, we started with Mac 512 and floppy drives and no storage.”

Wing was somewhat of a pioneer in the digital arts department. “I was the first person they hired full time to teach on the video side,” he said.

Though Wing has spent most of his career at PCC, he’s also taught at the UA and worked with major production companies.

“I’ve done stuff for the Arizona Commission of the Arts, and worked as a lighting director on a Nickelodeon show, ‘Hey Dude,’ for several seasons,” he said.

Independent Film Arizona named Wing their 2014 Educator of the Year.

“We know of no one who has made as great a contribution to the southern Arizona filmmaker community as you have,” IFA President Antonella Cassia said during the presentation.

Wing believes video and photography skills can be useful even for people who don’t take a career path in digital arts.

“It benefits people by learning the skills of organization and planning,” he said.

Derek Lookingbill, a PCC graduate who runs his own indie film company called Dream Stalker Productions, has been Wing’s assistant since 2012. He credits Wing with teaching him critical skills.

“I had a good idea of what was going on coming in but he just helped me sharpen everything,” Lookingbill said. “It’s going to be hard to replace him but he’ll still be around a bit.”

Other digital arts graduates provide further testament to Wing’s knowledge and teaching ability.

“I’ve had students who ended up working in LA in reality television, music videos, dramas, documentaries, and we keep having more and more students transferring to film schools in Los Angeles and back east,” he said.

Favorite memories include working with students on their year-long film project.

“This may be their only time working with this equipment or this may be their first of many,” he said.

Don’t think for a second that Wing will stay home in a rocking chair once he retires. On the contrary, he’s ready to unleash his inner rocker.

He’s a guitarist for a jazz band called Silver Croft, which plays at local venues like La Cocina and Monterey Court.  Listen to songs at

Wing has been with the band for four years and looks forward to spending more time making music.

“There are two retirees in the group,” he said. “I’ll be the third and I look forward to taking up the instrument more.”

Wing enjoyed his time at the college but says he’s ready to move on. “You know when it’s time, but I’m certainly going to miss it,” he said.

He calls PCC an asset to the community and admires Pima students.

“I don’t know if I’m a good teacher but my students are good,” he said. “PCC generally has creative students.”

Pg11-Dave Wing green screen

Digital Arts instructor Dave Wing, left, works with Derek Lookingbill in front of a video lab green screen. Wing plans to retire in December. (Beto Hoyos/Aztec Press.)