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Hanna brings expertise to PCC

Hanna brings expertise to PCC


Mark Hanna always regretted not going to college.

The newly elected member of Pima Community College’s governing board had a successful career as a manager at Costco in the ‘90s, but he felt like something was missing.

“I felt like I wasn’t able to converse with people who had their degrees, like I wasn’t on their level,” he recalls. “I knew something had to change.”

After 25 years with the company, Hanna retired from Costco and decided to enroll at Pima. He quickly got involved on campus, including with East Campus student government, and made lasting connections.

“Some of the students I worked with at Pima even helped me on my campaign,” he says.

He knew from the start he wanted to use his life experience to help educate children.

“I wanted to be a fifth grade teacher,” he says. “That seemed like a good age.”

Hanna says he fit in immediately at Pima and that the instructors would accommodate him in the classroom.

“Since I’m older, I have trouble memorizing things sometimes,” he says. “So they would let me have some extra time to study before a test.”

During his last semester before earning his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arizona, Hanna had an eye-opening experience while working in an actual classroom.

“The lesson plans are so regimented, and I wasn’t able to bring my own experiences to the students,” he says. “That was really discouraging.”

Fearing that his time at college pursuing a second career might have been for naught, Hanna spoke with a UA adviser, who recommended he become a high school counselor.

Hanna had already been working with students at Catalina High Magnet School while studying at Pima.

After earning his master’s from UA, he got a job at Catalina as a career and college readiness counselor.

He worked with students who wanted to do better for themselves, but that most others had already written off.

“Everyone had given up on them even graduating high school,” he says. “No one thought they could go to college.”

Hanna used his experience to help match students with career paths they would most likely enjoy and be successful in. Many of his students would transition to Pima, and he knew how important the college was to the community.

“So when all the problems at Pima started coming out, I thought to myself, ‘What can I do to help?’” he says.

He began considering running for PCC’s governing board, and discussed the prospect with his wife, friends and advisers. They told him what to expect and what it would cost, monetarily and in terms of time and energy.

“The pros just outweighed the cons,” he says.

His first step was to collect signatures to get on the November ballot. This gave him his first contact with voters.

“Almost everyone I spoke with had a positive experience or feeling about Pima, and I could tell it was important to people,” he says.

Although it initially appeared he would run unopposed, Tucson Medical Center executive Michael Duran also entered the race. Hanna says having a contested election was beneficial by allowing voters to hear more about the candidates and the issues.

“Michael and I met up and decided to run a clean, positive campaign, and I’m proud that we both held up to that,” Hanna says. He added that he will consult with Duran in the future on issues where he may have more expertise.

Hanna says one reason he was elected was his grass-roots effort to engage voters. He knocked on thousands of doors and met with hundreds of constituents during the campaign.

“They were happy that I was taking the time to come out and talk to them, and many said that they were going to vote for me because of that,” he says.

On election night, Hanna was glued to the Pima County election website, refreshing the page every few minutes to get the latest results. The next day, while votes were still being counted, Duran called Hanna and conceded.

After he is officially sworn in on Jan. 14, Hanna says he is ready to start taking on the many challenges facing the college.

“Obviously, the first step is getting off probation,” he says. “But it can’t just be a Band-Aid; we need to make sure we are really taking care of all the issues.”

Hanna adds there are many other uncertainties regarding higher education in general, and Pima must do everything possible to remain relevant and competitive. That includes exploring more international options as well as improving classrooms and instructor training.

“We have to make sure we are offering useful classes that people actually need, and staying on the cutting edge or being as close to the edge as possible,” he says. “Higher education keeps changing all the time, faster than the technology in our cell phones, and we have to keep up.”

He also recognizes the importance of improving financial aid and other student services.

“The No. 1 factor that keeps people out of college is financial aid,” he says. “And I know from helping students at Catalina, the process is difficult at best.”

Pima’s student service employees do a great job, but the college needs to support them and empower them more, he says.

“Maybe there is more than one way we can do things to make it easier for them and the students.”

Hanna feels honored to be chosen as a trustee of the college, and recognizes the importance of his job.

“When someone goes to college, it increases the chances of their children going, and so on,” he says. “So you’re not just impacting one person’s life, but you could be changing an entire family’s future.”

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Mark Hanna stands near the entrance fountain at Downtown Campus. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)


Mexico, Tucson demanding answers for student deaths

Mexico, Tucson demanding answers for student deaths


Activists on both sides of the border are organizing to speak out against corruption and violence in Mexico that has left thousands dead or missing.

Mexican citizens have demanded answers from the government and marched against the disappearance of innocent people, corruption and drug cartel activity.

A rallying cry of the protests has been “Ya me canse!” or in English, “I am tired!” or “I’ve had enough!”

Protestors in Tucson have organized as well to show solidarity with the students.

Tucson residents gathered Nov. 20 outside of the Mexican Consulate and again on Dec. 3 outside the federal building downtown to express their frustration with policies they say have created the tumultuous situation in Mexico.

“We are here today as a campaign and as a national and international movement,” protestor Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa said Dec. 3.

“We in the United States are tired too,” he added. “We are tired that our taxes go into founding this brutal war that is causing the Mexican narco-government.”

The rallies in Tucson seek to shed light on the continuing violence across the border, and is focusing on the September disappearance of 43 students from a rural college in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.

According to Mexican authorities, the Iguala mayor and his wife ordered that the students, who were on their way to a protest in Mexico City, be kidnapped in an effort to prevent a public disturbance.

The students were reportedly captured and sent to the police department, and later handed over to the criminal organization Guerreros Unidos. The students are still missing and presumed dead.

“Alive they took them, alive we want them!” chanted the crowd of more than 50 protestors on Dec. 3.

Pima County defense attorney and activist Isabel Garcia said U.S. policy contributes to the disappearances and cartel activity in Mexico.

“We know it’s due to U.S. dollar, U.S. financing, U.S. military aid, the backing by banks on drug cartels,” she said. “All of it, all of it, it’s caused by U.S. policy regarding drugs.”

Garcia said the protesters gathered to send a message.

“We are here to say that these 43 deaths are not going to go unnoticed,” she said. “That we have to wake up in terms of the American public and stop this alleged war on drugs. It is not a war on drugs, it’s a war on people.”

Activist Jason Michal Aragón wants the government to serve the people.

“We are here demanding that the government obey us, stop the money that is funding this genocide in Mexico,” he said.


Protesters gather outside the federal building in downtown Tucson Dec. 3 to show their support for victims of Mexican violence. (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

STOMPING GROUNDS: Reilly offers pizza to die for

STOMPING GROUNDS: Reilly offers pizza to die for


Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, renovated from an old funeral home, has attracted loyal downtown customers since it opened in 2012.

Rumors suggest the place may be haunted, but manager Christopher Gee has his doubts.

“I don’t believe in that but other people have said they have heard things,” he said.

Reilly provides a cozy atmosphere for a nice lunch or to try new beers on a Friday night.

The menu offers a range of options including appetizers, sandwiches and salads, but the restaurant is mostly popular for its artisan-style Italian pizza.

The individual pizzas can satisfy a big appetite. If you’re an appetizer type of person, the “small” dishes are great sizes for sharing.

Ingredients such as sausage, fennel and red peppers are the secrets behind pizzas to die for. The smell of sausage marinating in pizza sauce makes your mouth water. You taste the fennel once you bite in.

If you’re more into simple pizzas, try the classic Margherita. Fresh basil and chunks of mozzarella cheese make a great combination.

Every sandwich bursts with flavor. My personal favorite is the Chicken Parm.

The bread is homemade artisan-style. The breading on the chicken is crunchy but not too crispy. The red sauce drenched on the chicken is the best part, pulling the sandwich together.

To top it off, Reilly makes homemade chips sprinkled with shredded cheese. Can you say, “yum”?

The bar serves multiple types of beer in an outside garden that used to hold the funeral home hearses.

The open-garage feel, ranges of beer taps, outside couches and string lights provide a pleasant setting on a weekend night.

“We want people to come and feel welcomed and do something that they normally wouldn’t do, like going to a beer garden,” Gee said.

Reilly’s prices are reasonable, starting with pizzas at $10. The restaurant, located at 101 E. Pennington St., opens for lunch on weekdays at 11 a.m. and on weekends at noon. Closing times vary from 9 p.m. to midnight.

“We just want people to remember that we are a different style than most pizza places in Tucson,” Gee said. “Our pizza is hand tossed, good texture with the crusts. It is slightly charred but not overly, and it is still full of flavor.”

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Bartender Matt Naglet mixes a drink at Reilly Craft Pizza, a downtown restaurant that took over space formerly occupied by a funeral home. (Jamie Maese/Aztec Press)

BEST BETS: Festive lights add holiday twinkle

BEST BETS: Festive lights add holiday twinkle

Compiled by Alex Fruechtenicht

The holiday season offers numerous family events where people of all ages can spend time with those they love as the year winds down.


(Photo courtesy of Fourth Avenue Street Fair)

(Photo courtesy of Fourth Avenue Street Fair)










Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair

Dec. 12-14

The 45th annual Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair will be held Dec 12-14 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fourth Avenue between Ninth Street and University Boulevard. The fair, which is free and open to the public, features more than 400 arts and crafts booths, 35 food vendors, live music, street entertainers and more. Kid-friendly activities include a hands-on art pavilion and face painting. All downtown parking meters are free on Saturday and Sunday, plus there will be a free shuttle from the Pennington Street parking garage.



(Photo courtesy of Tohono Chul)

(Photo courtesy of Tohono Chul)








Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul

Dec. 12-13

Dec. 12-13 is the final weekend to celebrate the holidays surrounded by a million lights at Tohono Chul, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Admission includes live music and dance performances, complimentary cookies and hot cocoa. Beer, wine and additional snacks will be available for purchase. Buy tickets online or at the admissions window. General admission costs $15, and tickets for children under 12 cost $2.



(Photo courtesy of Tucson Botanical Gardens)

(Photo courtesy of Tucson Botanical Gardens)











Luminaria Nights at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Dec. 12-14

The final weekend to see Luminaria Nights at Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, is Dec. 12-14 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. In addition to luminarias and twinkling lights, the festive gathering includes decorated holiday trees, live music, food trucks and an appearance by Santa Claus. Adult tickets cost $12, children $6. Parking is free.



Luminaria Festival at Tucson Presidio

Dec. 13

In old Presidio San Agustín, at the corner of Washington and Court streets downtown, the reconstructed Spanish fort will be lit by candlelight from 5-9 p.m. Admission is free and will showcase luminarias, with free hot chocolate and cookies provided. Live music and dance performances will be provided, courtesy of Barbea Williams, the Presidio Flute Circle and Nuevo Mundo Chorale. The fort’s cannon will fire at dusk, signaling the start of the holiday season.

Luminaria Night December 13th 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.   
Visit the old Fort in candle light. This honored tradition features luminarias and music in the Presidio. Hot chocolate and cookies top off an evening of fun.  The cannon fires at dusk, kicking off the holiday season. The Gift Shop is open for unique holiday gifts.Details:


(Aztec Press file photo)

(Aztec Press file photo)













Winterhaven Festival of Lights

Dec. 13-27

Stroll a neighborhood of decorated houses in Winterhaven from 6-10 p.m. nightly, Dec. 13-27. Entrances are off Fort Lowell and Prince roads. Admission is free, with food bank donations requested. Visitors can walk, or purchase rides on a hay truck, trolley or group party bicycle. Drive-through night is Dec. 27. The festival, a nonprofit and 100 percent community-funded event, is celebrating its 65th year.



(Photo courtesy of Downtown Tucson Partnership)

(Photo courtesy of Downtown Tucson Partnership)










Downtown Parade of Lights

Dec. 20

Tucson’s 20th annual free parade takes place from 6:30-8 p.m. The route starts on Stone Avenue near 17th Street, and ends at Armory Park on 13th Street. A festival with carnival games, food trucks and craft vendors starts at 4 p.m. at the parade’s 17th Street-Stone Avenue staging area. The mayor’s holiday tree lighting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Armory Park.



(Photo courtesy of Reid Park Zoo)

(Photo courtesy of Reid Park Zoo)











Zoo Lights

Through Dec. 23

Reid Park Zoo puts the real animals to bed and uses light displays, animal-themed light sculptures, thousands of sparkling bulbs and falling snow to make Zoo Lights a Tucson holiday tradition nightly from 6-8 p.m. Cookies are provided and hot cocoa is available for $1. Tickets can be purchased online. Admission costs $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 2-14, with children under 2 admitted free.


O’Boyle brings ‘Sunshine’

O’Boyle brings ‘Sunshine’


Sophomore Matt O’Boyle’s commitment to Pima Community College men’s basketball began at a fast-food restaurant.

“I ended up signing my letter of intent at a KFC,” he said. “That’s where the dream started.”

O’Boyle first met Pima head coach Brian Peabody while attending Peoria’s Sunrise Mountain High School, when he traveled to Tucson for a showcase spotlighting high school players.

Peabody offered him a scholarship that day but couldn’t seal the deal until they met up again at a showcase in Phoenix. O’Boyle completed his paperwork during a lunch-time meeting at KFC.

O’Boyle’s first year with the Aztecs ended in the playoffs with a loss to Phoenix College, the eventual national champions.

After the season ended, it was all work for O’Boyle as he made major leaps in his play over the summer.

“He spent the whole summer down here in Tucson lifting weights, working on his ball handling and his overall leadership,” assistant coach Tommy Romano said.

The hard work has paid off.

“He’s got two or three Division I offers right now,” Romano said. “If you would have asked me how many he would have had last year, I would have said zero.”

Romano also praised O’Boyle for stepping into a leadership position along with a fellow sophomore, center Murphy Gershman.

“This year it’s his team, there’s no question about it, between him and Murph,” Romano said.

Peabody predicted O’Boyle, who plays at the forward and guard positions, will have a breakout year.

“He’s shooting 46 percent from the three-point line,” Peabody said. “He’s our best shooter.”

O’Boyle’s teammates call him “Sunshine,” after the quarterback portrayed in the football movie “Remember the Titans.”

The nickname fits O’Boyle in many ways: He came to Pima from a different town, with long hair and star potential.

The Aztecs are off to a good start this year, with a 7-2 overall and 3-2 conference record. On Nov. 22, they upset No. 1 Phoenix College with an 89-76 win.

“We blend together at times and it looks like we’re almost unstoppable,” O’Boyle said.

Romano said O’Boyle shines on and off the court.

“He’s a great kid,” he said. “Academically, he’s got well over a 3.0. Off the court, he’s very easy going.”

O’Boyle also displays more confidence, Romano added.

“In anything you do, you’ve got to be confident,” Romano said. “I think he’s put in the work to be confident. He’s not cocky, he’s definitely worked to earn it.”

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Coaches say sophomore Matt O’Boyle shines on and off the court. (Caleb Foster/Aztec Press)

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Aztecs face slide with two-game loss

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Aztecs face slide with two-game loss


The No. 12 ranked Pima Community College women’s basketball team (4-3, 3-2 in ACCAS conference) lost its second game in a row Dec. 6, falling 70-57 to No. 7 Eastern Arizona College.

The Aztecs never held a lead in the game. They trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half.

They started the second half with more focus and intensity and began to cut into EAC’s lead. On two separate occasions, the Aztecs cut the deficit to four points.

Sophomore Melody McLaughlin led the team in scoring with 18 points.

Freshman Shalise Fernander finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds while going 3-for-4 from field-goal range. She went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

The Aztecs were scheduled to play at Cochise College on Dec. 10. The game took place after Aztec Press went to the printer.

On Dec. 3, PCC headed north to take on Glendale Community College but lost in overtime, 71-68.

Glendale went on an early 11-0 run and the Aztecs were behind 36-23 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Pima mounted a 12-2 run. Late in the game, sophomore Jayla Brown hit the first three-pointer of the game to make it a one-point deficit. With 46 seconds left in regulation, McLaughlin hit a shot to tie the game at 58.

During the overtime session, the Aztecs tied the game 63-63 after sophomore Heather Rogers hit a pair of free throws but Pima couldn’t overtake the lead.

Pima went 1-for-16 from three-point range and committed 33 turnovers.

McLaughlin led the Aztecs with 15 points and seven rebounds. Rogers and Fernander each scored 14 points off the bench.

On Nov. 25, Pima defeated Tohono O’Odham Community College on the road, 79-64.

They out-rebounded their opponent, 46-30, and finished with 19 assists.

McLaughlin had 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She was selected as ACCAC Division II player of the week for Nov. 25-Dec. 1.

Brown hit four three-point shots and finished the game with 18 points. Freshman Kristin Baldwin also scored in double figures, with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Sophomore Adrianna Barrientez played 11 minutes and finished with six points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

Pg10-Melody McLaughlin, women's basketball

Sophomore forward Melody McLaughlin protects the ball against a Phoenix defender. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press)

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.

Pg05-Aaron Mata

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

Pg11-Art file)

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.”

Pg11-Nolan by Zack

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.”

Pg16-Two bicyclists

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

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Aztecs defeat No. 1 Phoenix College

MEN’S BASKETBALL: 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.

Pg14-Men's basketball-Dorian Page

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.

Pg09-Introductory English

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.”



Compiled by Tanisha Knutzen

16.7 million *
“Number of refugees around the world.”

33.3 million *
“Number of internal displacements — people forced to flee to other parts of their country.”

10 million *
“Number of people classified as a stateless person.”

3.5 million **
“Number of refugees in the Asian-Pacific region, area with the highest refugee population.”

3.4 million **
“Estimated number of refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

3.1 million **
“Number of refugees in Middle East and North Africa.”

1.1 million *
“Number of asylum applications submitted in 2013.”

17.7 million **
“Number of internally displaced people who receive UN Refugee Agency assistance and protection in 2013.”

2.5 million **
“Number of Syrian refugees by January 2014.”

6.5 million **
“Number of internally displaced people in
Syria as of January 2014.”

640,000 **
“Number of Syrian refugees living in Turkey.”

* do/who-we-help



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.

Pg13-Men's soccer celebration

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