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Saguaro National Park honors southwest icon

Saguaro National Park honors southwest icon




There are few places in the country where you can go from mid-city to national park in 30 minutes. Tucson happens to be one of them.

Saguaro National Park is split between two districts. The east district sits in the Rincon Mountains while the west district is located in the Tucson Mountains. Each offers different advantages for visitors.

The largest saguaros reside in the east district and are accessible on hiking trails. They are most easily seen on horseback.

The western location hosts more out-of-towners due to easy access off Interstate-10. It also offers photo opportunities of clustered saguaros.

Ranger Vanessa Gonzalez stayed neutral on the question of which district she thought was better to visit, leaving it up to each person’s preference.

“The west side’s ratio of saguaro per square acreage is higher, but they are smaller than the ones on the east,” she said.

If you’re interested in Southwestern history, the west district’s Signal Hill Trail provides a chance to see ancient Hohokam petroglyphs on many of the rocks along the way.

The eastern district has a wider variety of wildlife, being home to javelinas, mountain lions, turkeys, coral snakes and a small number of black bear spread over much larger acreage.

Hikers can spend a few hours exploring short trails around the visitor center or go on a three-day camping trek up the Rincon Mountains to Manning Camp at 7,900 feet elevation.

Each district offers a driving loop but the east-side road is fully paved and is three miles longer.

Bicyclists can train for El Tour on the eastern district’s paved eight-mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive, or use a mountain bike on one of the trails.

The elevation gain is far greater in the Rincons, topping out around 8,600 feet at Spud Rock. The west side’s highest point, Wasson Peak, reaches 4,600 feet.

Arizona is home to 22 national monuments and parks, placing it second behind California as one of the best places to immerse yourself in Mother Nature.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, monuments and parks around the country have been offering special promotions with days of free entry to attract new visitors and to reward loyal regulars.

All national parks will offer free entry on Sept. 24 for National Public Lands Day and on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

Saguaro National Park superintendent Darla Sidles said the goals for the centennial celebrations are to “connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.”

The Saguaro districts have you covered no matter what you like to do outdoors. Both sections are open daily from sunrise to sunset except on Dec. 25. The visitor centers are open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.


Entry rates are as follows:

  • $10 weekly pass (single non-commercial vehicle/motorcycle with all passengers)
  • $5 weekly pass (one individual entering by foot or bicycle)
  • $35 annual pass (Valid for 12 months from date of purchase)
  • Free (for individuals 15 years or younger)


For park information, visit or call 733-5100.



Saguaro National Park


East district: 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson

West district: 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson

Hours: Open year-round except Dec. 25, sunrise to sunset

Details: or 733-5100


Saguaros – by the numbers


Compiled by D.R. Williams



Number of deserts in the world where saguaro cacti grow.


Age at which a saguaro begins to produce flowers.

*40 million

Number of seeds a saguaro can produce in its lifetime


Average life span of a saguaro.


Number of feet a saguaro cactus can grow.


Possible height in inches of a 10-year-old saguaro.


Depth in inches of saguaro roots.


Number of tons an adult saguaro may weigh.


Possible age of a saguaro with five arms.


Average number of seeds within each saguaro fruit.




A giant saguaro towers over a nearby mesquite tree just off the Forest Loop drive in the east district, providing nesting for cactus wrens. (Photo by: D.R. Williams)

A giant saguaro towers over a nearby mesquite tree just off the Forest Loop drive in the east district, providing nesting for cactus wrens. (Photo by: D.R. Williams)

The challenges of being a military wife

The challenges of being a military wife



Being a military wife is one of the most rewarding experiences that has come into my life thus far.

My husband is a very brave and smart man because of what the military has given to him. It taught him customs and values that we both can use for the rest of our lives. The endless opportunities we’ve both been granted are extraordinary and we’re very grateful.

But along with all of the positive opportunities, being a military wife also brings challenges.


Illustration by Katelyn Roberts


My husband and I have been together four years and he has been deployed sporadically for 16 months during that timeframe.

When he is gone on his tours, I am left with the responsibilities and stresses of everyday life without my partner. He can only do so much when he is in a different country and time zone, so I end up taking charge.

Taking over the responsibility really made me grow into my own. I became an adult because I had to know what to do in situations that my husband previously handled.

Staying in contact is one of the hardest things we try to do. When he is deployed, all he is doing is working and trying to keep sane without the luxuries of home.

I try to keep all the stress from what’s going on at bay so he won’t worry or start to feel guilty about working to defend our country.

My husband and I communicate late at night or early in the morning through Facebook. We only get to video chat a couple of times a week because of our different schedules and time zones.

It gets very lonely on days that I start to miss him a lot. I try not to let it get to me and try to fill my days as much as possible. If I just worried about the next time I get to talk to him, I’d go insane.

Keeping myself busy with work and school can sometimes be very helpful, because I’m concentrating on the now and not counting down the days until he returns.

I also have a great support system with my family, which consists of my parents and my sisters. Whenever I’m feeling lonely, they give me a pep talk about how about brave I’m being and how great it will be when he comes back home.

Having lots of friends who are there to have my back can also be a great gift during this challenging time. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I have several people who I can confide in.

During the hard times, it is especially good to have a strong support system.

There have been many times during past deployments when our video chats have ended because of dangerous activity at his location. Two weeks would go by without a call or message from him, and I nearly went crazy with worry.

Not knowing if my husband was alive made those two weeks the hardest and most emotional of my life.

My mind started to play tricks on me because of the constant worrying. I started to get paranoid because I thought my husband was dead.

The moment I got back into contact with my husband was like a ton of weight being lifted off my shoulders.

When you’re a military wife from any branch of the service, you have to be strong for your husband. They are in a dangerous part of the world without all of the luxuries we have here.

Sometimes it’s hard for them to sleep. The overwhelming responsibility puts a lot on a person. When they come back to the States, they are different people.

Some tend to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, from their experiences in a foreign and dangerous country. My husband is currently suffering from minor bouts of PTSD, to the extent of having night terrors when he sleeps.

When dealing with PTSD, you have to give the person space and just be very supportive of what they’re dealing with. Some are willing to talk about their experiences during their deployment. My husband shields me from the terrors of his tours.

But once your spouse comes home safe and sound, you can be each other’s shoulder to lean on again. You begin to grow back as a couple, but even stronger because you were there for one another during an extremely difficult time in your life.

To me, being a military wife is about being as strong, smart and independent as my husband.


Katie Vacio is a Pima Community College student and a former Aztec Press editor who has been studying to obtain her pharmacy technician certificate. Her husband, Christopher Vacio, serves in the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant. He is currently deployed in Kuwait.


You've got females!

You’ve got females!



When Cindy Dooling began her career at Pima Community College’s Computer Sciences department more than 30 years ago, the same number of women occupied her department as men.

Over the years, however, the numbers changed. “Soon, all faculty were men,” Dooling said.

“I was concerned that we were not attracting women into technology positions and believed that if women are not engaging in entry-level positions, there would be a significant lack of women in leadership positions,” she added.

Dooling was eventually promoted to assistant vice chancellor for information technology. As her retirement grew closer, Dooling organized a professional development workshop for women in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

The vision of the workshop, “to provide networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities to support women in all stages of technology careers,” would become Women in Technology’s mission statement.

There’s no ‘I’ in STEM

IT Principal Analyst Aleksandra Knezevic formed Pima’s Women in Technology organization a year and a half ago with help from Dooling, Keith McKintosh and Steve Chang.

Dooling retired and, with her husband, funded a Women in Technology scholarship.

“My husband and I funded the first of what we hope will be many scholarship opportunities for women,” she said.

Knezevic continues to oversee WIT. The group is relatively new, but its members are anything but inexperienced.

Knezevic has studied math and computer programming since her high school days in Sarajevo in former Yugoslavia. She took C programming, math and business intelligence courses in college.

The first of many scholarships

Scholarship recipient Rosalyn Norman served in the United States Marine Corps and has a background in meteorology. She plans to use her $500 scholarship for school supplies and books.

Norman is a math tutor at PCC and a member of Pima’s Engineering Club. That involvement lead her to opportunities at Xerocraft Hackerspace and Women in Technology, along with NASA-funded student projects NASA ASCEND! And the NASA RockOn workshop.

She now works at TECAccessories, an online distributor for inventions and techy gadgets.

Taking a different path

Freshman Lydia Stinchfield’s story of success within the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields is a little different.

Stinchfield isn’t the caricature of an administrative networking major. She isn’t a poster child for hackers and she’s definitely not trying to be a female role model in the world of technology.

Stinchfield wakes every morning at 5:30 to pull on a pair of muddy rubber boots and feed llamas, goats, chickens, roosters, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, quail, pigs, dogs and sheep on the multi-acre ranch where she lives and works.

Receiving a Women in Technology scholarship was a “sweet surprise.”

Graduating without debt by using federal aid and earning scholarships has been Stinchfied’s plan since she decided to go back to school.

She previously tried to make ends meet by working as a freelance pastry chef and for a general contractor.

Growing up as her household’s personal IT kid, her interest in computers started at age 10.

“I’m fascinated not only with the intricacies of how things work in the digital world, but also in the physical world,” she said.


Photo by Katelyn Roberts

Ranching by day, cybersecurity by night

Stinchfield plans to transfer to the University of Arizona to specialize in cybersecurity.

“We’re the people who build protection for you, whether it’s your online banking, taxes or online profile,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are there to protect you, but there are also a lot of people who try to counteract that protection.”

Stinchfeld maintains her own VPN, or Virtual Private Network, setup in her two-bedroom home on the ranch. She spends most of her time there because all of her IT classes are online.

Books on cybersecurity and coding stack up next to her bed.

Down the hall, four computer monitors powered by her laptop sit atop a large desk next to a bearded dragon lizard’s tank. A cage occupied by two sugar gliders, a type of gliding possum, stands caddy-corner to her desk.

Tiny spotted eggs fill a yellow plastic container plugged into the wall next to her laptop. The container serves as an incubator that simulates a mother quail sitting on the eggs.

She’s documenting the features of her fertilized quail eggs in an Excel document.

Maintaining a balance

Stinchfield finds ways to incorporate technology into her life on the ranch for projects she is excited about, such as her quail research. However, she’s not as high-tech as you might assume.

“I have like 90,000 books and I only watch VHS tapes,” she said. “The ranch and my love for the outdoors are the reasons I can say I’ll be successful in network security because I have this balance.”

Stinchfield may look like she lives two lives: one as a technologically inclined computer coder and the other as strong and hard-working ranch hand, but she’s got it figured out.

Her favorite part of her major is that she can live the life she wants. “I can be in the cabin, stuck in the middle of the woods, and work remotely,” she said.

Networking possibilities

Paula Borchardt has been an online instructional web designer at Pima for the past 12 years, and currently works at the Center for Learning Technology. She joined WIT earlier this year.

“Women shouldn’t be shy or hesitant to join male-dominated fields,” Borchardt said. “Connecting with other women through networking groups like WIT is a great way to feel more comfortable in tech fields.”

Students or faculty members in STEM, those pursuing a career in technology or anyone interested in learning more about Women in Technology can email for more information.


Women in Technology scholarship recipient Lydia Stinchfield candles a fertilized quail egg, using the light to study details. She's documenting the results in an Excel spreadsheet. (Photo by: Katelyn Roberts)

Women in Technology scholarship recipient Lydia Stinchfield candles a fertilized quail egg, using the light to study details. She’s documenting the results in an Excel spreadsheet. Photos by Katelyn Roberts.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Pima presents classic story for all ages

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: Pima presents classic story for all ages




Actor Gene Wilder, 83, died on Aug. 29 – the day that auditions began for the Pima Community College Theatre Arts production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Wilder was well-known for playing the role of Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s 1971 film adaption of Roald Dahl’s book.

PCC director Mickey Nugent says that he “could not ignore the irony of the timing” and will dedicate Pima’s performances to Wilder’s memory.

Nugent is using a stage adaptation by Richard R. George and will be working with a group of talented PCC student actors. The cast is led by Marchus Lewis, who plays Willy Wonka. Connor Danley plays Charlie.

Lewis, who doubles as a scenic designer, is feeling the pressure of his role.

“I’m nervous,” he says. “I hope I can do the character justice. I want to bring a new light to the character that hasn’t been done before.”

Danley is acting in his first show at Pima. He was home-schooled until eighth grade, and found his passion for acting in the sixth grade after joining a theater club. 

“Once I got to high school, I tried out for every show,” Danley says.

Director Nugent says he was drawn to the play for three reasons.

First, he is a big fan of Dahl’s work. Nugent enjoyed Dahl’s “The BFG” and has worked on a stage adaptation, but has never had a chance to direct “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

His second reason is that “Charlie” is well-known among children and adults.

Lastly, the powerful messages of the story strongly appeal to Nugent. The wild world that Dahl created brings to life themes such as love and family, poverty and entitlement.

PCC’s Stagecraft class is constructing a “magical wonka-rific set” that Marketing/Public Relations Director Carol Carder says “draws the audience in with oversized fantastical moving contraptions inspired by Rube Goldberg.” 

The builders and designers include Lead Production Designer Todd Poelstra, Technical Director and Scenic Designer Anthony Richards and Scenic Designer Marchus Lewis.

Poelstra describes the project as a “collective experience.”

Public performances will be Sept. 21-Oct. 2 in the West Campus Proscenium Theatre. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. plus Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

PCC will host a Scout Theatre Night Adventure on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. Discount tickets are available for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and troop leaders.

The adventure includes a post-show tour of the backstage area, where scouts can learn about the sets, costumes, lighting and acting processes. Cast members and the director will offer an onstage question-and-answer session for participants.

American Sign Language interpreters will be available on Sept.30.

Tickets cost $8, with discounts available for groups of 10 or more. The box office is open Tuesday-Friday from noon-5 p.m. and for one hour before each performance.

For further information, call 206-6986, email or visit 

Director Nugent invites audiences to follow Charlie Bucket’s example: Make smart choices and good decisions with kindness and affection. 

“Doing the right thing always brings you a better way of living,” Nugent says.


Cast members

Narrator: Oksana Perez

Willy Wonka: Marchus Lewis

Charlie Bucket: Connor Danley

Grandpa Joe: Chris Dobson

Grandma Josephine/Oompa-Loompa: Zuriel Lloyd

Grandpa George/Oompa-Loompa: Nicolas Holt

Grandma Georgina/Oompa-Loompa: Kelly Coates

Mr Bucket/Oompa-Loompa: Jeremy Sick

Mrs. Bucket/Oompa-Loompa: Maddie Hricik

Augustus Gloop: Phil Watson

Mrs. Gloop: Hailee Kayfes

Violet Beauregarde: Angelica Ornelas

Mrs. Beauregarde: Beverly Ihli

Veruca Salt: Jessica Palmer

Mr. Salt: Rafael Acuña

Mrs. Salt: Mandy Kessler

Mike Teavee: Cole Potwardowski

Mr. Teavee: Daniel Burton

Mrs. Teavee: Taylor Hernandez


Crew members

Costume designer: Emily Fuchs

Sound designer: Dominique Ahumada

Video designer: Beverly Ihli

Stage manager: Michaela Ivey

Assistant stage manager: Angelica Ornelas

Assistant video designer: Wesley Creigh

Assistant lighting designer: Jessica Palmer

Props: Nicolas Holt, Bianca Regalado




“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Where: Proscenium Theatre, West Campus Center for the Arts

When: Sept. 21-Oct. 2 Fridays: 7 p.m., Saturdays: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sundays: 2 p.m.

Tickets: $8, with discounts available

Box office: 206-6986



Contest offer chance for golden ticket

For the duration of the 2016-17 season, the Pima Community College Center for the Arts will hold a Golden Ticket contest. To enter, stop by the CFA box office on West Campus and pick up a Golden Ticket contest card.

Bring the ticket to each PCC arts event you attend this season and you’ll earn a punch on your ticket. Once you have all five squares punched, turn your ticket in at the box office and get another contest card.

All completed cards will be entered into a drawing for a season’s pass for every event in the 2017-18 season. For complete rules and information, visit the Center for the Arts website at


Pima Community College theater students rehearse a scene from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." From left: Jessica Palmer as Veruca Salt, Phil Watson as Augustus Gloop, Angelica Ornales as Violet Beuregarde, Cole Potwardowski as Mike Teavee, Connor Danley as Charlie Bucket and Marchus Lewis as Willy Wonka. (Photo by David Pujol)

Pima Community College theater students rehearse a scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” From left: Jessica Palmer as Veruca Salt, Phil Watson as Augustus Gloop, Angelica Ornales as Violet Beuregarde, Cole Potwardowski as Mike Teavee, Connor Danley as Charlie Bucket and Marchus Lewis as Willy Wonka. (Photo by David Pujol)

MEN’S SOCCER: Aztecs seek another stellar season

MEN’S SOCCER: Aztecs seek another stellar season




The Pima Community College men’s soccer team ended last season in heartbreaking fashion after losing 2-1 in overtime during the NJCAA national semifinals to eventual champions Louisburg College of North Carolina.

Although the Aztecs finished short of a national title, they rewrote the Pima men’s soccer record books and opened the 2016-17 season ranked No. 5 in the national NJCAA pre-season poll.

The Aztecs finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 21-4-2, which gave them the most season wins ever by a Pima men’s soccer team.

PCC has now participated in two straight NJCAA Division I national tournaments. Last season’s third-place national finish marked the best from Pima since 1999.


Aug. 23: PCC 9, Paradise Valley CC 0


The Aztecs kicked off their season by traveling to Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix.

They quickly struck an 8-0 halftime lead and went on to deplete the host 9-0.

Sophomore Hector Banegas netted a hat trick, scoring three goals in less than 25 minutes.

Freshman Julian Gaona also provided stellar play, registering two goals and two assists.

Sophomore Andrew Bianchi scored two goals and both sophomore Juan Pablo Segura and freshman Luis Arias Jr. scored a goal apiece.


Aug. 27: PCC 7, South Mountain CC 0


The Aztecs dominated their home opener at Kino North Grandstand with a 7-0 win over South Mountain Community College of Phoenix.

Banegas scored his second straight hat trick.

He headed home a cross from freshman Gavino Carranza in the 11th minute and scored again in the 35th and 83rd minutes.

Carranza scored a goal of his own in the 19th minute, to go along with two assists.

Pima began the second half without scoring a goal for more than 20 minutes, then erupted with four goals in 12 minutes.

In addition to Banegas’ third goal, Gaona scored in the 71st and 82nd minutes and fellow freshman A.J. Valenzuela scored in the 79th minute.

“We’ve taken care of business and we’ve been very professional about our performance,” head coach David Cosgrove said of his team’s early success.

Although Pima glided through its first two games, Cosgrove knew his team had tougher opponents ahead.

“A week from tonight we’ll know what our weaknesses are and where we need to improve,” he said.


Aug. 30: PCC 2, Phoenix College 1


Pima faced its first ranked opponent when the No. 17 ranked Phoenix College Bears came to town.

Cosgrove showed tremendous respect for his opponent heading into the match, “Phoenix College is the best team in the conference, even though they’re not ranked that way.”

The Bears indeed proved to be a quality opponent, scoring the game’s opening goal a minute before halftime. Pima answered with two second-half goals for a thrilling 2-1 victory.

Cosgrove was agitated at halftime, telling his players they lacked energy and excitement. He concluded his speech by telling his team, “Raise your level, raise your energy!”

The Aztecs responded positively, with freshman Chris Cooper dancing down the right wing to whip in a deflected cross that Gaona knocked home in the 64th minute.

Pima completed its comeback in the 79th minute when Gaona grabbed his second goal of the game off a cross from Carranza


Sept. 3: PCC 1, Yavapai College 2


The Aztecs suffered their first defeat of the season with a 2-1 road loss to the No. 8 Yavapai Roughriders of Prescott.

Pima scored first, in the 53rd minute, when Banegas provided an assist to sophomore Carlos Valadez-Paz. The Roughriders equalized seven minutes later.

Yavapai gained the lead with just 45 seconds remaining in the game.


Sept. 6: PCC 2, Scottsdale CC 0


Pima beat the Scottsdale Community College Artichokes 2-0 on the road.

Banegas opened the scoring for the Aztecs in the first half, with freshman Tatsuma Yuki providing the assist.

Carranza assisted Valadez-Paz to give Pima a 2-0 lead and its fourth victory of the season.


Sept. 8: PCC 2, Gateway CC 0


Pima posted a 2-0 home victory over Gateway Community College.

Gaona assisted Carranza in the 37th minute, giving the Aztecs a 1-0 halftime advantage. Gaona grabbed his second goal of the game after converting a penalty kick in the 54th minute.


Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Anderson finished with two saves.

Sept. 10: PCC 3, Chandler-Gilbert CC 2


The Aztecs earned a 3-2 overtime victory when they traveled to face the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Coyotes. Pima gave up a two-goal lead before defeating the hosts.

Pima freshman Luis Arias Jr headed in a goal on an assist from sophomore Kyle VanAlstine in the eighth minute. Freshman Chris Cooper scored in the 16th minute.

The Coyotes scored in the 42nd minute and tied the game in the 64th minute.

Pima finished off the Coyotes when Banegas assisted Gaona for a goal in the 96th minute.


Sept. 13: PCC 5, Glendale CC 4


Pima secured its seventh win of the season in a nine-goal thriller against the Gauchos of Glendale Community College.

The Aztecs secured a 5-4 victory at Kino North Grandstand in a back and forth scoring affair.

The Gauchos took an early first-half lead until Hector Banegas scored in the 25th minute after being assisted by Kyle VanAlstine.

Chris Cooper found Benegas a minute later for a second goal of the game, giving the Aztecs a 2-1 halftime cushion.

The Aztecs increased their lead to 3-1 in the 50th minute, when Gavino Carranza scored directly 0ff a throw-in from VanAlstine.

The Gauchos promptly cut Pima’s lead to 3-2 just 30 seconds later.

Carlos Valadez-Paz headed home a goal for the Aztecs in the 54th minute, buying Pima a 4-2 advantage.

The goal fest continued when the Gauchos scored goals in the 63rd and 64th minutes, leveling the game at four goals each.

The Aztecs scored the go-ahead goal just 25 seconds later, when Rogelio Canez headed home a cross from Carranza.

Goalkeeper Taylor Anderson finished the night with three saves and Pima outshot the Gauchos 11-7.

The Aztecs are now on a four-game winning streak.They dropped their first and only game of the season during an away-game at Yavapai College.



On Deck

Sept. 20: at Mesa CC, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 22: at Arizona West College, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 24: Paradise Valley CC, Kino Sports Complex, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 27: at South Mountain CC, 1 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL: Players work to find team rhythm

VOLLEYBALL: Players work to find team rhythm



The Pima Community College volleyball team finished above 50 percent last year with a 17-16 record, and hopes to improve this season. “The biggest change is, we got a pretty big group of new kids,” 17-year veteran coach Dan Bithell said. In addition to incoming freshmen, the team has welcomed players who are returning from injuries, Bithell said. “Getting all those pieces to work together, build some trust, some chemistry, has been what we’ve really been spending a lot of our time on,” he said. The roster of 10 freshmen and three returning sophomores shows strong drive, according to freshman Aleksandra Palmer. “Just knowing each one of us has this motivation, it enforces us to even come out stronger and come out and play more,” Palmer said.

Aug 24: PCC 0, Eastern Arizona College 3

After a preseason scrimmage in Scottsdale, the team opened its first game of the season on the road against Eastern Arizona College. Pima lost 3-0: 25-17, 25-17, 25-21. “It was a rough start but at the same time we were just getting to know each other and it was really early on in the season,” freshman Hannah Gerard said.

Aug 26-27: PCC 1-3 at New Mexico Military Institute Classic

The Aztecs faced difficult teams when they traveled to Roswell, New Mexico, for the two-day New Mexico Military Institute Classic Tournament. The team lost every set against host NMMI, Seward County Community College and powerhouse Odessa College. “The teams generally were very physical and we struggled a little bit in adapting to that,” Bithell said. “We were challenged and we responded to the challenge.” Meeting the challenge included winning their final match against Garden City Community College. The Aztecs won in four sets, 25-18, 19-25, 26-24, 25-22. “It was a huge relief because beyond that point we hadn’t even won a set,” Gerard said. “Afterward, we all finally felt like we know what we’re doing. We’re together, we found something that works.”

Aug 31: PCC 3, Phoenix College 2

The team returned to conference play with a road win against the Phoenix College Bears in five sets, 27-25, 14-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-10. Sophomore Victoria Davis led the team in kills with 18 and amassed 19 digs. Gerard led the team in assists with 35.

Sept. 2: PCC 1, Glendale CC 3

The team opened home play against the No. 4 Glendale Community College Gauchos, and lost three of four sets, 25-19, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18. “I thought we put up a really good fight,” Davis said. “That was one of our better games of the season so far. We were sticking together and that’s what’s most important to our team.” Davis finished with 13 kills, 17 digs and five blocks. Freshman Kayli Riesgo had 11 assists and 11 digs, while Gerard compiled 19 assists and one ace.

Sept. 7: PCC 0, Scottsdale CC 3

On the road against Scottsdale Community College, the Aztecs fell in three straight sets, 25-16, 25-17, 25-19. Davis finished with nine kills and 13 digs. Riesgo had 13 assists and two aces.

Sept. 9-10: Scottsdale Classic Tournament PCC 1-3

Pima again went 1-3 at the Scottsdale Classic Tournament. They lost in four sets to Central Wyoming College, Arizona Western College and Western Texas College, but defeated Central Arizona College.-[

Sophomore Aleksandra Palmer challenges two defenders in PCC's home opener against Glendale Community College. The Aztecs lost 3-1. (Photo by Nicholas Trujillo)

Sophomore Aleksandra Palmer challenges two defenders in PCC’s home opener against Glendale Community College. The Aztecs lost 3-1. (Photo by Nicholas Trujillo)

On Deck

Sept. 16: South Mountain CC, West Campus gym, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21: Arizona Western College, West Campus gym, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23: at Southwestern College (Chula Vista, California), 5 p.m.

Sept 24: at San Diego City College Tournament (San Diego, California), times TBA

Sept. 28: Mesa Community College, West Campus gym, 7 p.m.

Grad speaker overcomes odds

Grad speaker overcomes odds

Graduation speaker Francy Luna Diaz celebrates graduation a little early in front of the West Campus north parking lot.  Luna Diaz is s graduating this semester with honors. (Aztec Press photos by Eddie Celaya)

Graduation speaker Francy Luna Diaz celebrates graduation a little early in front of the West Campus north parking lot. Luna Diaz is s graduating this semester with honors. (Aztec Press photos by Eddie Celaya)


Imagine moving to a new country in your teens. The country isn’t entirely friendly toward migrants and its inhabitants speak a language foreign to you.

Now imagine you’ve mastered the language and the culture, and are about to graduate from a community college. A scholarship will help pave your way to the University of Arizona.

Such is the story of Francy Luna Diaz, this year’s Pima Community College graduation speaker.

Diaz hails from Colombia originally.

“I was pretty much raised by my mom and my sister near the north coast of Colombia in a town called Barranquilla,” she said.

Things were not ideal growing up, and Luna Diaz credits her mother, Mercedes Diaz, with persevering and instilling a strong work ethic in her daughters.

“We lived in a very poor neighborhood,” Luna Diaz said. “It was a difficult situation, but my mom was very dedicated to education and taught us we had to work hard in life. That ultimately paid off.”

After finishing high school at the head of her class and receiving her school’s highest test score on Colombia’s version of the SAT, she began her college career in Colombia.

“I started at the university and studied two years of psychology there before my mom married an American,” she said.

Diaz first arrived in Las Vegas in 2011, where she learned the U.S. college system would not accept some of her credits and classes. Her sister, Landy Luna, ran into the same problem applying for medical school.

There was also a language barrier.

“When I came to the U.S., my English was very basic,” Luna Diaz said. “I went to an adult high school in Vegas and got my high school diploma in a few months. I took history, government and, of course, English classes.”

The classes helped improve her English but the language didn’t truly stick until she moved to Wisconsin.

“In Vegas, there is a big Hispanic population so I spoke Spanish most of the time,” she said. “But in Wisconsin, since no one speaks Spanish, I was speaking English in four to five months.”

While working as a waitress at a Chili’s in Wisconsin, Luna Diaz attended a Tony Robbins financial seminar.

There, she ended up meeting her inspiration for moving to Tucson: her current boyfriend, Scott Sinclair, a resident of the Old Pueblo.

“I wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin, which was way out of my budget,” she said. “So when I got here and I found out PCC existed and was affordable, I was really excited.”

The first year was still expensive due to being an out of state student, Luna Diaz said.

After a year of living in Tucson, however, she was able to pay resident tuition and gain her 10-year resident immigrant status.

Luna Diaz has participated in PCC’s Honors Club, her main activity outside of classes.

“I realized it was awesome, that I loved it,” she said. “They had all of this volunteering and nice people, so I just kept going.”

She was elected treasurer during her first year of membership and serves as president this year.

“We do a ton of volunteering activities, so that takes up most of my time,” she said.

Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society for two-year colleges, recently recognized Luna Diaz as an Academic All-American.

The honor is bestowed on fewer than 150 students nationwide.

The award includes a scholarship tuition waiver for the state university of the student’s choice.

None of her achievements would be possible without PCC, according to Luna Diaz.

“I’ve been at a couple higher education institutions, but I just feel like teachers here really care about their students,” she said. “They really know you.”

Fellow Honors Club member and friend Jolinda Christenson, a parks and recreation management major, called Luna Diaz a daily inspiration.

“She is a very motivating person, always helpful and always there for you,” Christenson said. “Francy really brings the best out of people.”

Luna Diaz will begin classes at UA next semester to pursue a degree in political science with an emphasis in foreign affairs.

“I’m looking to double major, so I want to study Latin American studies, and thenhopefully I’ll move on to an Ivy League school to study law,” she said.

Ultimately, Luna Diaz would like to help others back home in Colombia.

“I’ve always been interested in politics, since I was very young,” she said. “My dream is to work in bettering relations between the U.S. and Colombia, so hopefully as an ambassador.”

While the social, economic and political situation in Colombia has improved since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there is still widespread strife.

“The social situation in my country is difficult right now, but if there is something that I can help improve, I’m interested in doing that,” she said.

As far as her speech to fellow graduates during the commencement ceremony on May 19, Luna Diaz isn’t giving too much away.

“I’m very big on volunteering, giving back to the community, so I definitely will center my message on inspiring others to give back and get involved with their communities,” she said.

Francy Luna Diaz, left, and Jolinda Christenson , center, sign up students for an Empowering Women Workshop held at West Campus. Luna Diaz has been active in PCC’s Honors Club because she appreciates its commitment to volunteer projects.

Francy Luna Diaz, left, and Jolinda Christenson , center, sign up students for an Empowering Women Workshop held at West Campus. Luna Diaz has been active in PCC’s Honors Club because she appreciates its commitment to volunteer projects.

Cramer re-imagines economic learning

Cramer re-imagines economic learning

Amy Cramer poses on a bench at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus before giving a presentation on her new Economics 150 course being offered this summer and fall. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Amy Cramer poses on a bench at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus before giving a presentation on her new Economics 150 course being offered this summer and fall. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)


It’s debate day in Amy Cramer’s macroeconomic class.

One student tells an emotional story of an American family that suddenly became homeless when the automobile industry took a downturn.

Another points out how much more Americans end up paying for common food items due to tariffs. A third brings up a United States factory that collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,000 people.

The Pima Community College students all make convincing arguments on the topic of free trade, but from three perspectives.

“My mission is really to help create dialogue,” Cramer said. “The problem is that economics is generally taught from one perspective, so students don’t get to practice being open to talking to one another without getting angry.”

Cramer has been a full-time instructor at PCC since 2002, and is chair of the West Campus business department. She teaches students through her unique style of alternative perspectives.

For the most part, economics education in the U.S. lacks multiple perspectives, even at the collegiate level. Texas, one of 20 states that requires economics in the high school curriculum, mandates that the “free enterprise system and its benefits” must be taught.

“People believe that their way of thinking is the right one and exposing people to the wrong one is dangerous because they might be fooled into thinking it’s a reasonable way of proceeding,” Cramer said.

She disagrees.

“The thing is, it’s not going to make the debate go away by pretending it doesn’t exist in the classroom,” she said.

Cramer began her undergraduate education at Boston College. She didn’t find economics very interesting there, but became enthralled by the discussion and different points of view when she transferred to the University of Massachusetts.

She graduated in 1985 with a degree in Social Thought and Political Economics, then earned her master’s and doctorate in economics.

In her micro and macroeconomics courses, Cramer starts each semester by introducing her classes to Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx to illuminate the conservative, liberal and radical positions.

Toward the end of the semester, the courses focus on specific, relevant economic issues.

During one of these class, Cramer alternates between perspectives. She takes turns wearing the hat of each one, arguing passionately and explaining why that view is the right one. She never tells the students which position is her own.

Ryan Valenzuela, 20, and Dustin Sorce, 35, both took micro and macroeconomics with Cramer. They mention the debates and Cramer’s passion as the most influential and memorable part of their classes.

Sorce is now minoring in economics due to his classes with Cramer.

“My position didn’t change but it gave me a better understanding about the other positions, helping solidify my original perspective with a better, fuller understanding,” he said.

Not everyone over the years has supported Cramer’s approach, and many students have been confused or critical of including the radical perspective. Cramer said the appearance of Bernie Sanders in mainstream politics has made people a little more understanding.

“Sanders is basically legitimizing what I’ve been doing,” she said. “It used to be when I was first teaching, people would be asking ‘Why give a radical perspective?’ When Occupy Wall Street came along, people understood, and now with Sanders people understand.”

Although Sanders is a liberal politician and might have a different analysis than a pure radical perspective, Cramer says he advocates for some of the same outcomes, such as free education and single-payer health care.

Cramer started a nonprofit in 2009, now called Voices on the Economy.

Part of the VOTE program is a new course at PCC called Economics 150 that will focus on exploring current issues from alternative perspectives. The goal is to partner with a four-year institution to offer the class as a massive open online course—a free college course available to the public.

Starting this fall the class will be offered in an optional honors format, with students going out into the community to lead discussions.

A website is also in the works. Her hope is that famous proponents of each issue will be featured, perhaps with a video, a comedy act or a political cartoon. In this vision, Paul Krugman, Richard Wolff and Thomas Sowell will come to her, wanting to contribute.

“It’s kind of a funny revolution of just trying to say ‘Can we have different perspectives of this and have a venue for people to talk in a respectful way?’” Cramer said. “Just to have a safe place to explore. That’s what all these components are supposed to be.”









Thurs. 6-8:40 p.m.


Get out of here, seriously; it’s time

Get out of here, seriously; it’s time

Study-abroad student Moe Irish, second from left, makes a heart shape along with a Chinese Ronald McDonald and other students. (Photo courtesy of Moe irish)

Study-abroad student Moe Irish, second from left, makes a heart shape along with a Chinese Ronald McDonald and other students. (Photo courtesy of Moe irish)


Dreams of traveling the world have become somewhat cliché, and hardly anyone is fulfilling them.

Maybe it just seems so intangible that the concept has evolved into a common fantasy, rather than a palpable goal.

The idea itself can be somewhat overwhelming—envision yourself surrounded by strangers who don’t know your name or even your language.

There are weird smells your nose has been completely unaware even existed up to this point, and there is food that never occurred to you as edible.

You are in a world that is practically flipped upside down from anything you have ever known, stripped of all elements of comfort or familiarity.

Your senses are heightened and you’re hyperaware of yourself, staggering to try to make sense of something, anything, and figure out where you fit in amid all the vast disarray of your surroundings.

The hazy plane ride and everything leading up to this point almost seem like a dream and you are expecting to wake up any second.

For me, this was my experience in China. It didn’t hit me until the morning after arrival as I confidently embarked on an adventure to find my first meal.

That’s the simple beauty of this: at first, everything is an adventure. I didn’t know what I was trying to get or how to use my money or recognize what these people were saying to me.

I tried to join a line to buy what looked like a tortilla, but nothing was making sense because pointing was not enough to get me anything but frustrated, disgruntled looks.

An observant Chinese student must have seen how lost and confused I was and handed me some steamed bread rolls (baozi) out of pity. I was eager to ingest, but after a bite something even more unpleasant than the sweet, tangy taste threw me off.

It was pork. Although I had not consumed meat in more than seven years, I was immediately alarmed by the stringy, unmistakable texture.

This was my first reality check and it only got more real as it all started slowly sinking in. I asked for it, and there it was in all of its raging intensity.

Nothing promotes personal growth more than pleasant distress and subtle, continual discomfort. Learning to see things from a different perspective and adapting to various facets of foreign living has great value.

One of those facets is a rigid language barrier. We can study foreign languages all we want, but the real learning begins when you have no choice but to speak them.

In doing so, we learn a lot about ourselves. We also expand our tolerance for cultures with different social practices and belief systems. It is a priceless experience with the potential to change your perspectives on life. I know it did for me.

Don’t let the whole price factor discourage you, either. I have studied abroad twice, made possible with the gracious help of grants and scholarships. The opportunities are out there. You just have to seek them out.

In fact, Pima Community College just recently established an exchange program that sends students to Zhuhai, China for a semester.

The program provides fundamentals such as tuition, room and board, making it fiscally possible for students, regardless of financial circumstances.

It’s too late to apply for this fall’s exchange program but it is food for thought and a potential opportunity to experience what I am eagerly emphasizing. It is never too early to apply for your passport.

Now is the time in life to pursue these awe-inspiring opportunities. After all, we are only getting older. Endeavors like this become harder to follow as time goes by and various responsibilities enter our lives. If you wait around for the “perfect” time, you will be waiting the rest of your life.

Another way to learn about various cultures is getting involved with foreign students who are studying in Tucson.

Pima has a program called Global Peers that allows Americans to engage with international students and help them make the most of their time here.

Becoming a peer allows you to vicariously experience the world travel phenomena on a lesser level, from the comfort of your native soil.

Information on both the China exchange program and Pima’s Global Peer program is available through Daisy Rodriguez Pitel in the international student office on West Campus, or by emailing

Irish has ambitions to continue traveling far and wide, with hopes of eventually getting paid for it through a career in photojournalism.

Opiate epidemic courses through Tucson’s veins

Opiate epidemic courses through Tucson’s veins

Aztec Press illustration by Nick Meyers

Aztec Press illustration by Nick Meyers


While Tucson is known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural diversity, there is a growing shadow stretching across Pima County.

Over the past four years the rise in deaths linked directly to opiate use has increased dramatically.

In 2015, there was a 20 percent increase in deaths from opiate overdoses, increasing from 324 deaths in 2014 to 379 in 2015, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner.

These numbers are high, but the actual count may be much larger because not every death is ruled an overdose.

By the time a medical exam of the body takes place, the drug may have already metabolized and might not show up in a toxicology report.

Drug use among teenagers is more prevalent than ever before and heroin is becoming more common amongst young adults.

In 2014, 56 teenagers in Pima County alone died as a result of opiate overdoses, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner.

The beginning of addiction

Many opiate abusers start with prescription medications.

The prescription drugs were more readily available on the street before the late 1990s to 2000s, when laws were passed restricting doctors from giving patients refills on opiate and other addictive prescriptions.

“I remember being in high school and there were a few people I knew who would take pills once in a while,” said Joe, a former user who asked not to be identified by his real name. “They were cheap and easy to get. Most of the people I knew would take them from their parents.”

Users sometimes enlist these drugs to escape reality or trauma, especially in early adolescence.

Some turn to drugs as a way to numb the experiences they faced.

Former user and Pima Community College student Karlos David Taylor turned to several drugs during a “rough year” when his parents divorced and his older brother died.

“I started on alcohol and cigarettes before I ever used,” he said. “I was hanging out with kids who would use everything from pills to coke. I was able to get them from a dealer within my group’s circle. I was just trying to numb the pain.”

Living with addiction

Before prescription abuse laws were passed, many opiate users could simply walk into a doctor’s office and pay to leave with a brand new bottle of pills.

When this option was taken away, users turned to the streets for their fix and ended up finding heroin.

“For a while I was taking a few pills a day, but they started getting hard to find and they started to get really expensive,” Joe said. “I went from swallowing to snorting them, and then one of my dealers said he had heroin.”

Heroin holds far greater risks to users than opiate medications because the strength is unregulated. Many users will inject the drug, which can lead to diseases and a greater chance of overdosing.

“I just remember leaving my body, and it’s kind of like you’re in a movie where a ghost hovers around your friends and you can see them,” Taylor said. “It didn’t have an impact on me at the time but it’s a miracle to cheat death. I knew that I couldn’t keep living with constant pain in my head or let my major depression hurt me. I decided it was time for change.”

Due to its close proximity to the border of Mexico, Tucson is often used as a first stopping point for drug trafficking.

The outcome is that drugs are not only more readily available, but also stronger and cheaper than in other parts of the country.

“For $10 you could get high all day at first because of how much stronger it was,” Joe said. “It seems great at first but before long you’re spending $50 a day on it.”

While heroin is dangerous to users because of the high risk of overdose, it also harms users emotionally.

While on the drug, many users report an extreme and uplifting high. When the drug wears off, the mood changes considerably.

“I am absolutely not the same person when I am using,” Joe said. “Anything can make me go off and I almost have no control over my own emotions. It makes it hard to be around other people or have a normal relationship with someone.”

A great number of users develop a tolerance and need more and more of the drug to achieve a high, making their drug use more expensive.

Users then feel compelled to resort to anything in order to score. Due to the overwhelming hold heroin has on its users, many will do things they never thought they would do to make money.

“For a while I would steal money from my family that I was staying with until they’d had it,” Joe said. “Once I was on my own, I started panhandling to make enough. You’re willing to settle for a lot less when you’re on it.”

A national epidemic

Along with the annual deaths linked directly to heroin use, there are staggering numbers of people admitted to the hospital each year because of their abuse of heroin and prescription opiates.

According to the Healthcare Cost And Utilization Project, the number of overdose-related intake has increased 150 percent between 1993 and 2012.

In 2012, there were 709,500 overdose-related intakes in hospitals within the United States.

With the Affordable Care Act covering partial and sometimes the full cost of rehab, many former users can now seek help for their addictions. Even with this newfound help, addiction is a difficult recovery process for almost anyone.

“My rehab at AA wasn’t working so I decided to go cold turkey,” Taylor said. “I just let the effects leave me. There were many sleepless nights and sleeping next to the toilet but I was able to transfer my addiction to other positive activities.”

As drug-related deaths continue to rise, the United States government is beginning to look for solutions to this widespread social problem.

In 2015, a bill to help with the epidemic of addiction was turned down by Republicans in Congress. President Barack Obama has since proposed a new bill requesting $1.1 billion to fund prevention, provide treatment and combat the smuggling of opiates.

The road to recovery for addiction is long but there are many who overcome their demons and live a happy life free from the control of drugs.

“Addiction can be a cruel and hard thing that can hurt you and everyone around you,” Taylor said. “You choose to make changes to get better. Friends and family can be your biggest rock and support system.”

Dancers to showcase upbeat ‘Fusion’

Dancers to showcase upbeat ‘Fusion’



Ballet, modern and jazz styles will be in the spotlight May 6-7 when Pima Community College dancers stage “Dance Fusion” under the direction of Nolan Kubota and Erika Colombi.

Student and faculty choreography draws inspiration from a variety of classic and contemporary movements.

“It’s one of our most talked about shows,” Kubota said. “The audience is going to love the closer. You have to stay till the end.”

Kubota, who has been with the PCC dance program since 2011 and has been director of productions for two years, said the production has been an exercise in exploring new movement and techniques.

Performances will include a re-staging of “La Vivandere” and original works derived from Forsythe improvisation techniques.

In addition to choreography by Kubota, Colombi and instructor Mirela Roza, Pima students have also contributed works.

An adult ensemble with mixed abilities from Arts for All will also perform a piece led by Karenne Koo.

Performances will be Friday at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the West Campus Proscenium Theatre. Tickets are $10, with discounts available.

For more information, call the box office at 206-6986 or visit

Pima Community College dancers rehearse a dynamic group number as they prepare for their “Dance Fusion” concerts May 6-7. (Photograph by Ed Flores)

Pima Community College dancers rehearse a dynamic group number as they prepare for their “Dance Fusion” concerts May 6-7. (Photograph by Ed Flores)


“Dance Fusion”

When: May 6-7; Friday at 7:30 p.m.,

Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Proscenium Theatre,

West Campus Center for the Arts

Admission: $10, with discounts available

Box office: 206-6986

Tough life experiences provide motivation for softball sisters

Tough life experiences provide motivation for softball sisters

Sisters Kalynn Martinez, left, and Aubre Carpenter enjoy a playful moment. Both have played softball for Pima Community College. (Jason Weir/Aztec Press)

Sisters Kalynn Martinez, left, and Aubre Carpenter enjoy a playful moment. Both have played softball for Pima Community College. (Jason Weir/Aztec Press)


Drug-addicted birth, adoption, family, softball, college.

This has been the progression for two sisters born by the same drug-addicted mother and then saved through adoption by two loving families.

Aubre Carpenter, 23, and Kalynn Martinez, 19, have no trouble keeping softball in perspective.

They both overcame the odds against them at birth.

Carpenter’s mother was addicted to crack when she was born.

“I was really underweight,” Carpenter said. “She even did it the day I was born. I am surprised that I didn’t have any major birth defects.”

The pattern repeated itself with the mother’s next child four years later.

“My mom was in jail for half the pregnancy,” Martinez said.

She wonders if that fact saved her from being a “crack baby” like her sister.

Both sisters were born in Las Vegas and found families in Tucson through adoption.

“My brothers used to tell me I was the grand prize for losing in Las Vegas,” Carpenter said.

Both were also leaders for Pima Community College softball head coach Armando Quiroz.

“You can’t teach leadership, you can’t teach aggressiveness, you can’t teach desire, you can’t teach work ethic,” Quiroz said. “They have it. I am not surprised they are sisters.”

Carpenter was 5 months old at the time of her adoption.

She had already been left in a foster home multiple times before family members in Tucson took action.

“My aunt, who is my mom now, came and got me,” Carpenter said.

Martinez was three-weeks-old at the time of her adoption. Carpenter’s brother played in a soccer league at the time, and a teammate’s parent had family members who were looking to adopt.

“My parents couldn’t take another kid, I made eight,” Carpenter said. “So they put her with a family friend.”

Martinez learned of her adoption in eighth grade.

Their birth mother was in a Tucson rehab center at the time, and Carpenter took Martinez to meet her.

“It was very eye-opening,” Martinez said. “It was very clear she wasn’t fit to care for a child.”

The sisters saw their birth mother one more time, after learning she was dying. They paid her a visit in Las Vegas, where she lay in a hospital bed on life support.

“They had the blanket over her and it looked like there was nothing there,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know her, but it really hit me being there.”

The hospital needed a decision about discontinuing life support. As the oldest, Carpenter was prepared to give approval but it was not needed as their birth mother died during the night.

The sisters became exceptional softball players who used their talent to pursue higher learning.

Carpenter’s All-American career at Pima generated multiple softball scholarship offers, and she chose Indiana State.

She played in the NCAA World Series both years at Indiana State and earned a degree in criminology.

Martinez, a sophomore criminal justice major, has created a similar path. Morgan State and Baltimore have already offered her full-ride scholarships, but she is waiting until the post-season to make a decision. “I still have a lot of visits that I have to take,” she said.

Her perspective shows when talking about the factors in her decision. She would like to play shortstop, but won’t base her choice on that factor alone.

“I look more at the program’s history,” Martinez said. “I can play wherever a coach needs me.”

Her current coach agrees. “They are both so talented and skilled that they don’t have to worry about who is there,” Quiroz said. “They are going to prove themselves.”

Martinez may finish her Pima career just as her sister did. Carpenter was named All-American and helped lead the Aztecs to a regional championship as the second seed her final year.

Pima will nominate Martinez for All-American honors, Quiroz said. The Aztecs head into this year’s regional as the second seed.

Leadership from Quiroz helped Martinez through a rough stretch early in the season.

“Nobody is perfect, he definitely understands that,” Martinez said. “He kept the faith in me.”

Quiroz returns the compliment.

“She is our best athlete,” he said. “Anybody I replace her with will be less than her, athletically.”

Quiroz’s faith in her sister didn’t surprise Carpenter.

“He cares a lot more than people realize,” she said. “They are not just girls on his team, they are like his children.”

The sisters appreciate the gift they were given.

“I am lucky,” Carpenter said. “If I wouldn’t have been adopted, I probably would have been in and out of jail.”

Carpenter thanked her birth mother.

“Because of her decision, I don’t touch drugs or alcohol,” Carpenter said.

Her sister nodded in agreement by her side.

PCC students take top honors

PCC students take top honors



Through hard work on campus and in the community, 12 Pima Community College students have been named to the 2016 All-Arizona Academic Team. They were recognized for the accolade by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Each student receives two-year tuition waivers for any public university in Arizona, as well as scholarships from PCC. The top four students earn additional scholarships from the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team program.

Alex Martinez Figueroa and Eduardo Lujan Olivas received the gold scholarship for placing in the top 20 students in the nation.

Francy Luna Diaz landed the silver scholarship in the top 100 and Julia Mona received a bronze scholarship for the top 150.

Alex Martinez Figueroa

In addition to placing in the top 20, Figueroa was named number one in the state of Arizona, making him All-USA.

However, the journey to the top wasn’t easy and spanned seven years, following graduation from a Yuma high school.

Upon graduating in 2009, Figueroa attended Arizona Western College for business but failed his courses. He moved to Phoenix a year later to attend Glendale Community College. After completing his EMT basic training, his interest in the medical field was spurred.

Figueroa moved to Tucson in 2011 with hopes of attending the fire academy, but financial problems kept him from finishing the program.

When his finances were back in order, he enrolled at Pima. One of his instructors was future Assistant Vice Chancellor Karrie Mitchell.

“She was one of the people who told me that she saw me going far and I could actually go for the medical field,” Figueroa said. “She gave me a lot of confidence in myself, which helped me in my first semester to get A’s in all of my classes.”

TRIO Student Support Services then introduced him to the honors council, aiding the process of enrolling in his first honors class.

With the support of Program Director Hector Acosta and the networking skills attained in the honors society, Figueroa realized that the goal of reaching the public health field was not as far off as he had suspected.

“If there was an emergency in the family then I could be there to help out,” he said. “I wanted to be able to make sure my family is doing the right thing, whether it be a healthier lifestyle or anything else.”

Eduardo Lujan Olivas

Olivas chose to tackle administrative justice with his two-year waiver and he plans to pursue criminal justice and criminology at Arizona State University. His ultimate goal is to become a federal agent, possibly for the DEA.

“I took an aptitude test and the suggestion came out as law enforcement,” Olivas said. “But I didn’t just want to be a police officer, so I knew I needed more school.”

He began the application process for the PTK honor society in his freshman year at Pima.

“You have to have completed about nine credit hours and have a 3.5 GPA in order to get into Phi Theta Kappa,” he said. “I was inducted, and then I started going to the meetings and got involved with their community service projects.”

As the vice president of student government at the Downtown Campus, Olivas helped to implement the smoking areas on campus and ban e-cigarettes indoors.

One project he undertook with the honors society was about Central American children coming to the United States border and the conditions they were put in.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would have to take them in because they were on American soil,” Olivas said.  “They would be put in shelters and await a court hearing, so we researched that and informed the community on what was happening and what could be done.”

Silver scholar Francy Luna Diaz celebrates making the top 100 students on the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team at Phi Theta Kappa’s Nerd Nation convention in National Harbour, Md. (Photo courtesy of Francy Luna Diaz)

Silver scholar Francy Luna Diaz celebrates making the top 100 students on the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team at Phi Theta Kappa’s Nerd Nation convention in National Harbour, Md. (Photo courtesy of Francy Luna Diaz)

Francy Luna Diaz

Francy Luna Diaz’s journey at Pima began in the fall semester of 2012, a year after moving from Barranquilla, Colombia.

Her first stop in the country was Las Vegas, where she obtained a high school diploma equivalent. She had already completed high school in Colombia and was even taking college courses.

Diaz moved to Wisconsin before coming to Tucson and enrolling at Pima.

She learned English fluently in Wisconsin.

“Through high school they teach basic English kind of like here they teach you Spanish, but you don’t really learn it very well,” Diaz said. “Most of it I learned in while I was in Wisconsin because nobody speaks Spanish there, so I was fully immersed.”

She joined the honors club at Pima in Fall 2013 after taking the prerequisite honors class online.

Though she completed most of the community service for her Phi Theta Kappa application with the honors club, Diaz was very active in the community in her home country.

“Growing up in Colombia I used to participate in different activities like cleaning up parks,” she said. “I was part of a group called Defensa Civil, which is kind of like the Girls Scouts here but they teach you survival techniques, CPR and you go camping.”

After finishing her studies at the University of Arizona, which include Latin American Studies and Political Science, Diaz hopes to attend an Ivy League school. Her ultimate goal is becoming an ambassador or another position in politics.

Julia Mona

Julia Mona plans to continue service to the community by becoming a nurse practitioner, following in the footsteps of her mother, a medical doctor.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be freshman year, but I chose to do nursing because it is one of the things I can do to reach out to people heart-to-heart,” Mona said. “My mom was a doctor and watching her interact with the nurses, the way she cared for my grandmother and grandfather was the same care I want to give.”

Mona performs much of her community service with her church, including a dance ministry that performs for the community.

She is also part of a confirmation retreat that helps middle schoolers understand their faith.

As a member of the honors society at Pima, she helped create a leadership role with Honors Coordinator Kenneth Vorndran that put her in charge of scheduling meetings and a game-night at her resident Northwest Campus.

“My first meeting, they were talking about all these events and I felt like I had no idea why I was there or what they were talking about, but at least I’m here,” she said. “After a few meetings I got the hang of it and jumped into events.

“In the beginning of my junior year, I realized I could use all of this for my application for Phi Theta Kappa.”

Provost recognized for work ethic

Provost recognized for work ethic



Pima Community College Acting Provost Dolores Duran-Cerda received a presidential citation award from the League of United Latin American Citizens at the 27th annual LULAC Educational Awards and Scholarships Banquet on April 14.

“It is her strong commitment and dedicated service in the field of higher education as well as her strong advocacy in securing educational scholarships for deserving students that LULAC is very proud to present this most deserving presidential citation award to Dr. Dolores Duran-Cerda,” former South Tucson mayor Dan Eckstrom told banquet attendees.

It’s been a long road for Duran-Cerda to not only be in the position of receiving awards but receiving the provost position. That road was paved with a strong work ethic.

Duran-Cerda was born and raised in Iowa City, Iowa. Her mother and her mother’s family were migrant workers from Agua Prieta in Sonora, México. Her father was from Chile.

Duran-Cerda recalls difficulty growing up Latina in Iowa.

“Elementary school was kind of tough,” she said. “Being different and speaking a different language.”

It got better in high school, she said. She became popular because she helped others with their Spanish homework.

She spent most of her time in Iowa as a child, but every summer she and her family would travel to Douglas, Ariz. She looked forward to visiting the desert.

Duran-Cerda graduated with honors from the University of Iowa with degrees in Spanish, French and Secondary Education.

Both of her parents were involved in education, too.

Her mother attended the University of Arizona and became a Spanish teacher at Rincon High School. As a pioneer in bilingual education, her mother contributed to the ‘The Invisible Minority Report” that spearheaded bilingual education around the country.

Richard G. Fimbres, City of Tucson council member, drew positive parallels from Duran-Cerda and her family.

“She comes from good stock in her family,” he said. “Her mother was a great mentor to many people and she’s been a great mentor. She’s done so many things in our community.”

Duran-Cerda always wanted to attend school in Arizona, and applied to graduate school at the University of Arizona.

When she was accepted, her parents moved to Arizona with her.

She received her master’s in Latin American literature from UA and later a doctoral degree with an emphasis in poetry and a secondary focus in Mexican- American literature.

After graduate school, she began looking for a job close to home. She want to stay close because her father was deceased and her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.

She received a faculty member position at PCC as a Spanish instructor in 1997 and taught for 16 years.

In 2013, an acting position for the provost position opened. She applied for and received the job.

Duran-Cerda received the position at a time when Pima was writing a policy to help undocumented DAPA and DACA students receive in-state tuition.

The contribution to helping pass the policy crystallized her desire to be the provost.

“I know that in the classroom I was helping students, but this was a bigger impact,” she said.

When the full-time position for provost opened up in 2015, Duran-Cerda applied and received the position that she now holds.

She says it’s a lot of work and it comes with stress, but she believes she can handle it knowing the college and what it needs.

This was most evident when Pima was put on probation by the Higher Learning Commission at the time she received the position.

The provost’s office was tasked with getting the college off of probation. Long hours and frequent meetings were necessary to achieve this.

She can look back at that time now and laugh. “It was like boom! Into the job,” she said.

Duran-Cerda brands every-day experiences as an instructor as her proudest moments at Pima.

The different skill levels students have in Spanish reminded her of her experiences as a young woman in high school.

The other kids would get mad at her and tell her that she already knew Spanish and that it was unfair that she was taking the class.

She would respond to the other students with, “Well, you guys take English classes. Why can I not take Spanish classes?”

Duran-Cerda did not take Spanish in high school to get an easy A, but to become more proficient at in reading and writing her first language. Her Pima students were in the same situation.

“I believe it is important that teachers show respect to the students and to their pace,” she said.

Duran-Cerda acknowledges that Pima is going through a rough time.

“There is a storm,” she says. “And after that storm the clouds break and everything is sunny and there are rainbows. We’re on our way to that.”

She believes that her role as the provost is to create relationships internally with employees and externally with the community. That is vital to her.

“It’s a dialogue,” she said. “Metaphorically and literally.”

Duran-Cerda doesn’t see herself doing anything but education for the rest of her life and doing it at Pima Community College.

Gilbert Fimbres, Richard Fimbres, Mary Fimbres and Dan Eckstrom award Dolores Duran-Cerda, second from right, the Presidential Citation Award on behalf of LULAC on April 14. (Bryan Orozco/Aztec Press)

Gilbert Fimbres, Richard Fimbres, Mary Fimbres and Dan Eckstrom award Dolores Duran-Cerda, second from right, the Presidential Citation Award on behalf of LULAC on April 14. (Bryan Orozco/Aztec Press)

Celebrating Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day

Bicyclists, including one providing lively beats with his drum set, turned out April 10 for Cyclovia Tucson to celebrate non-motorized transportation.

Bicyclists, including one providing lively beats with his drum set, turned out April 10 for Cyclovia Tucson to celebrate non-motorized transportation.

Julie Hecimovich, representing Pima Community College’s Pima for Kids, provides gardening supplies to youngsters while promoting non-credit summer classes.

Julie Hecimovich, representing Pima Community College’s Pima for Kids, provides gardening supplies to youngsters while promoting non-credit summer classes.

Cloudy skies didn’t stop a solar oven from cooking up fresh vegetables.

Cloudy skies didn’t stop a solar oven from cooking up fresh vegetables.

Outdoor yoga demonstrations were part of the environmental festivities April 10 at the 22nd annual Earth Day Festival, held at Himmel Park. (Aztec Press photos by Moe Irish)

Outdoor yoga demonstrations were part of the environmental festivities April 10 at the 22nd annual Earth Day Festival, held at Himmel Park. (Aztec Press photos by Moe Irish)