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Budget woes plague PCC

Budget woes plague PCC


College students in Arizona might be facing future tuition increases in light of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed budget cuts to schools statewide.

Under Gov. Ducey’s plans, community colleges in Pima, Maricopa and Pinal counties are facing budget cuts upwards of $9 million.

Pima Community College officials have been working to develop strategies to respond to impending cuts from the state and declining enrollment numbers, which both contribute to the school’s budget.

“That’s a pressure that’s not healthy for the institution,” said Chancellor Lee Lambert in a phone interview with Aztec Press.

On Jan. 16, the governor unveiled his strategies to close the state deficit in the proposed executive budget. While the budget is still just a starting point for further negotiations with the state legislature, Lambert wrote in an email to college employees, “There is no question we are facing the certain prospect of far less state funding.”

Lambert said funding provided by the state could drop from an expected $6.1 million to $3 million next year.

Four-year state colleges, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, are also preparing for the chopping block.

In total, the executive budget will make a $75 million reduction to universities and $8.8 million to community colleges statewide, according to the proposal.

In his summary, Ducey concluded that as far as community colleges are concerned, “the general fund plays a very minor role in total funding” and “the relationship must be reexamined and adjusted to ensure long-term fiscal stability.”

Lambert said this could affect classes offered at the college.

“So that’s a direct, immediate impact on students,” he said. “Depending on some of the other decisions we have to make, would it impact how many courses and sections of courses are offered?”

Pima receives its primary funding through three main sources: state aid, property taxes and tuition and fees.

Funds from property taxes and tuition are largely affected by the college’s enrollment numbers, which have dropped approximately 9 percent from last year, according to Lambert.

Declines in enrollment were presented to Pima faculty on Jan. 16. Enrollment has dropped by approximately 10,000 to 15,000 students since 2011.

“That’s the equivalent of losing an entire campus,” Lambert said.

When the number of students is reduced, tuition and school fees bring in less money.

Property tax itself does not rely on enrollment numbers, but becomes complicated by expenditure limitations.

“We receive ‘X’ amount of dollars from property tax, but we can extend only up to a certain amount and that’s in part to our enrollment levels,” Lambert said.

“You can have $100 million coming in, but if enrollment doesn’t justify you spending it for certain categories, it gets complicated. We can spend the $100 million, it’s that we won’t be able if our enrollment isn’t an adequate level.”

David Bea, PCC’s Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, outlined potential financial issues in a special Board of Governors meeting held on Nov. 19, 2014.

“Given the steady drop in our enrollment and the uncertain state financial outlook, it makes sense for the college to start taking a close look at its expenditures and revenues,” Bea said.

Pima is developing an enrollment management plan to try and examine key issues inside the college and out within the community. Lambert attributes the decline in enrollment to a “combination of factors.”

“Growth in Pima County has been fairly flat; it’s not like new people are moving here in droves,” he said. “Also, I think the college, when it made its mission change a few years back, hurt itself tremendously.”

Plans include improvements to online classes, better customer service and a better understanding of student needs.

Ducey’s budget plans are still in negotiation stages and hearings within the Senate and House will run from Jan. 27-Feb. 18.

As far as tuition increases, Lambert states it’s too early to say.

“As you have seen, historically tuition and fees have gone up for Pima. You have to keep them in a large context,” he said. “We are one of the lowest fee and tuition institutions in the state.

“Every college is probably going to be raising tuition, so we will certainly be looking to keep that very modest if we have to do it.”

Lambert notes that what happens before the state’s negotiations of the budget is crucial to the outcome and students can make an impact if they begin now. He suggested students make phone calls and emails to their state legislators.

“You’re the ones who are directly impacted. When I go, I could be seen as the self-interested person, but when you go, you’re going because you’re trying to better your lives. That’s a big difference,” he said.

Anyone interested in learning more about local legislation and impacting state policies may sign up for La Pima, Legislative Advocates for Pima Community College. The site uses geocoding to link you to your legislators’ contact information and connects members with their representatives as well as volunteer opportunities.

For more information, go to

To download a PDF of the proposed Executive Budget, visit


A sign at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus reminds students of important new deadlines for the Spring 2015 semester. (Jamie Verwys/Aztec Press)


Music found instructor late

Music found instructor late


Many musicians begin learning their art at a young age, but Pima Community College vocal instructor Jonathan Ng first joined a church choir when he was a high school senior.

“Before joining the choir, I had no musical training whatsoever,” Ng said. “I learned how to play piano and how to sing starting my first year of college.”

Ng grew up in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a name given to the city of Hong Kong and its surrounding region. The SAR was defined in a 1984 agreement signed between Britain and China as part of preparations for the Hong Kong handover in 1997.

He is the youngest of eight siblings. Although his parents only finished elementary education, they worked very hard to provide for their family.

“My parents were vegetable vendors on the streets of Hong Kong SAR,” Ng said. “I am very proud of how they valued work and how they provided for all of us.”

Ng, a first-generation college graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the Institute of Education in Hong Kong.

His determination to further his education led him to the United States in 1992. He didn’t speak English nor did he have money to study abroad.

“I kept my head up and plowed through,” he said. “My parents are hard workers and I probably inherited that part of their character.”

Ng was granted scholarships to support his studies. He earned a master’s in conducting and church music from Westminster Choir College at Rider University in Princeton, N.J.

He received his doctorate from Indiana University. He majored in conducting, with minors in vocal performance and pedagogy, music history and literature.

As a professional lyric tenor, Ng has performed in oratorios and operas throughout the United States, Europe and Hong Kong.

One career highlight was conducting at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

“I made my Carnegie Hall debut conducting Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria,’ accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble,” he said.

“The impact of a conductor is extremely huge,” he added.

“The conductor has a profound influence on the players, the singers and the whole musical presentation.”

Ng’s mentor was the late Thomas Dunn, an Indiana University professor who previously served as artistic director for the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston.

“He was a first-class musician and I miss him so much,” Ng said.

Ng started as an adjunct music instructor at Pima in 2011 and began teaching full time in 2014.

Among his other duties, he directs PCC’s Choral and College Singers.

He is also the founder and conductor of the Arizona Choral Society, and served as director of music at Catalina United Methodist Church for 11 years.

When he started teaching at Pima, Ng fell in love with the college and its students. He is amazed that PCC students are engaged, willing to learn and have passion to pursue their dreams despite financial hardships.

“I have been in their shoes,” he said. “My role is to inspire my students to succeed.”

Chad Stephens, a tuba student, has taken voice lessons under Ng.

“He helps you as a singer to find your unique own voice,” Stephens said. “He gets the best out of you.”

Ng believes that people need passion to choose music as a career. He likes to remind his students to improve and to always practice their instruments.

“Being a musician is a difficult career but it is also very rewarding,” he said. “Music is a very important element in people’s lives.”

Ng is preparing for a Feb. 8 concert, titled “Amore,” that will feature love songs from popular musicals and operas.

His vocal repertoire will include “Maria” from West Side Story, “On the Street Where You Live,” from My Fair Lady, the Italian love song “La Serenata” and spirituals. Suzanne Eanes will be the accompanist.

The concert will take place on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 3 p.m. in the PCC Center for the Arts Recital Hall on West Campus.

Tickets are $8, with discounts available.

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

Ng looks forward to bringing excitement and joy to his audience.

“Between conducting and performing, it can be a challenge,” Ng said. “My strategy is always to prepare and plan ahead.”

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Pima Community College vocal instructor Jonathan Ng conducts a chorale class at West Campus. Ng will perform an “Amore” concert on Feb. 8. ( Alex Fruechtenicht/Aztec Press)


International students receive assistance from college office

International students receive assistance from college office


Students come from all over the world to attend Pima Community College, and the International Student Services Office caters to the needs those students.

“We have applicants who email us, call us from every country across the world,” Student Services Coordinator David Arellano says.

He says the ISSO supports and advises international students coming into Pima. Primarily, the international students that have a student visa—the F1 visa. That enables them to come here temporarily and return to their country of birth when they’re done with their studies.

“The U.S. looks at it as—we’re gonna help people come in, get an education, a trade, a skill and return home and be successful in their home country,” Arellano says.

International students meet with the ISSO throughout their time at PCC for advising on various issues such as academics and employment opportunities that may be available to them.

The three countries where the largest number of PCC international students hail from are China, Mexico and South Korea.

“Nationally, you’re going to see China as being number one for international students,” Arellano says. “In their culture, they think really highly of a U.S. education.”

He adds that employers in China are choosing applicants with a U.S. education over a Chinese education.

Arellano says the ISSO can also offer assistance to undocumented students.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” Arellano says. “They would follow the same admissions policy as a domestic student would.”

According to Arellano, the main reason international students choose PCC is because they have family or friends already here in Tucson or because they plan on transferring to the University of Arizona.

“The UA is a big draw,” Arellano says. “We’re lucky that they’re just down the road.”

He adds that the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University all have great international programs. Arellano says it’s easy for international students to transfer to the UA or another university.

Arellano suggests that international students also choose colleges in Arizona because the California colleges are well known throughout the world yet more expensive and harder to get into, and Arizona is right next door.

Arellano says it’s also common for the ISSO to issues visas strictly for students to go through PCC’s English as a Second Language program.

“Whether it be just because they wanted to learn English or their job required it back home,” Arellano says.

He adds that some students opt to do ESL to get a good grasp on English and then transfer to an academic program.

“We see higher math levels and lower reading and writing levels,” Arellano says.

International students are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, one of the main English proficiency tests used throughout the world, before they enter an academic program.

There are some requirements international students must meet in order to get the F-1 visa, explains Arellano. They need to prove they’ve completed high school or their country’s equivalent, and they need to show how they are going to support themselves while they’re here.

“The school works on a cost of attendance budget, and you have to prove that you have that money,” he says. “Whether it be through family or friends, sponsor, government sponsor.”

He explains that Homeland Security wants to see that they’re not going to become a public charge or nuisance on tax-payer-funded benefits here in the United States.

“You can be accepted by a school and still not get a visa,” Arellano says. He explains the primary reason for being denied is not having enough proof of intent to return to their home country once they’re done with their studies.

Arellano says there are cultural immersion benefits from having international students at PCC, for the international students and for U.S. citizens who get to learn from them about their culture.

There’s also an International Student Club at PCC.

“It’s a resource and somewhere for international students who come to Pima to make friends, make connections, network, get resources and just be part of the college experience or student life here at Pima,” Arellano says.

Last semester, the majority of the club’s members were in Arizona through the SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades partnership program, which brought 49 students to Pima from technical universities in Mexico.

Rose Bolz, the club advisor, says that the club meets once a week and that anybody can join.

Last semester the club went on a two-day road trip with 43 students to California. They went to the Bowers Museum in Santa Anna, Disneyland, Downtown Hollywood and the beach.

Bolz says they became great friends. “The trip brought them closer together,” she says.

Arellano says he thinks there are great benefits to international education.

“Sometimes we just don’t realize how much it benefits people here in the U.S.—culturally,” he says.

“Knowing about someone else and how they lived, what they’re doing there and what’s going on in their home country is enlightening to us.”

The ISSO is at the PCC West Campus Student Service Center. For de call (520) 206-6732 or email

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Pima cafeterias find new vendors

Pima cafeterias find new vendors


It’s the beginning of the spring 2015 semester. It’s a new year, new classes, new friends and for the freshmen, a new experience.

Know what else is new? Pima Community College’s cafeterias.

The cafeterias on each PCC campus looks emptier than before. The back kitchen and grill have been removed and all hot items have been temporarily taken off the menu.

Students might also notice the sandwiches, wraps and salads on shelves come from a hometown company, Eegee’s.

Another change takes place outside, where local food trucks are available to serve students and faculty.

These changes have been brought to you by Follett Higher Education Group, Pima’s new food service provider. The company also manages the college’s bookstore operations.

Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration David Bea said in a press release that Pima chose Follett because of the “company’s creative approach to serving their customers and their interest in working with local food companies.”

Sodexo, Pima’s previous food service provider, has been serving students and faculty for several years, and concluded its contract on Dec. 18, 2014.

Former Sodexo employee Matthew Smith, 36, had been with the company at Pima for six years and was one of many laid off during the transition.

“We had some idea that it might be coming,” Smith said. “Pretty much each of the last three semesters, Pima and Sodexo had been basically re-negotiating their contract on a semester-by-semester basis.”

Sodexo’s prices have been slightly increasing as a result of student enrollment declining since 2011, according to Pima’s enrollment trend report.

“The pizza went up about 15 cents per slice,” Smith said. “The lasagna and pasta went up almost $1. I’ve had students complain to me about that. They noticed the price change.”

Pima student, Derek Christo, 23, was one of many customers when the cafeteria reopened for spring semester.

“I didn’t notice a price change,” Christo said. “But they made the pizza slices bigger and give bigger portions on the fries. They seemed to try to give you more for how much you paid for.”

Follett was able to re-hire and keep some familiar faces at Pima, Smith being one.

Bea also expressed his gratitude towards Sodexo in the press release.

“On behalf of the college, I would like to thank them for their dedication and hard work,” Bea said. “Our hope is that Follett will be able to find employment for those Sodexo employees who would like to remain at the college.”

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Pima’s new cafeteria vendor, Follett Higher Education Group, will provide pre-packaged food from local businesses, including Eegee’s. (Shana Rose/Aztec Press)


Phoenix Fan Fest highlights cosplay

Phoenix Fan Fest highlights cosplay

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The inaugural Phoenix Fan Fest embraces cosplayers. Here an attendee is cosplaying the Amazonian warrior princess Wonder Woman. (Aztec photos by Larry Gaurano)


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Cosplayers often portray characters from popular comics, video games and anime. A cosplayer dressed as Connor from Assassin’s Creed 3 poses for fans.


Comic book conventions, or comicons, are havens for those celebrating their “nerd” side, giving people of all ages a chance to dress as favorite characters.

This past December, the Phoenix Comic-con held its first Fan Fest to focus on those who enjoy cosplay.

All kinds of cosplayers filled aisles in the colossal University of Phoenix stadium, ranging from an 8-foot-tall transformer to a toddler in a red diaper carrying a plastic Spartan sword.

Visitors had opportunities to purchase prints and take photos with their favorite characters. The festival also featured panels on all manner of popular series, anime and fictitious flying broomstick sports that may or may not involve wizards.

Artists brought their “A” game, dragging stuffed portfolio cases full of prints for people to buy. Buttons, magnets, customized beanies, anime figurines and rare video games were also on sale.

The next Phoenix Comicon and Fan Fest will take place  May 28-31.

-By Alex Fruechtenicht

Aztecs go 4-0 in Holiday Ball-Out Tournament

Aztecs go 4-0 in Holiday Ball-Out Tournament


The Pima Community College men’s basketball team (15-5, 7-6 in ACCAC) has gone 3-3 so far in the new year. The Aztecs found themselves in four tight games recently, with all the contests being decided by just a few points one way or the other.

The Aztecs came up short against No. 5 Phoenix College in their road game on Jan 24. The 77-73 loss marked their second in a row.

Sophomore Matt O’Boyle was unable to be effective in the first half but helped the Aztecs push for a comeback in the second half.

Sophomore Murphy Gershman had 22 points and 16 rebounds in his 12th double-double game of the season, sophomores Bryan Cervantes and Ezini Ugbisien both finished with 13 points on the night.

The Aztecs fell to Chandler-Gilbert 81-79 on Jan 21. The closely contested game saw eight lead changes as both teams fought hard.

Key mistakes by the Aztecs and big plays for Chandler-Gilbert set the tempo for the game and ended up being the difference.

O’Boyle, who led the team with 23 points, came just shy of hitting a game winning buzzer beater. Gershman had another double-double on the night, 22 points and 12 rebounds. Cervantes added 14 points on the night.

The Aztecs almost faced another overtime contest against Scottsdale Community College on Jan. 17 in Scottsdale.

With 3.1 seconds left in the game O’Boyle drew a foul and hit one of his two free throws to give the Aztecs the 89-88 victory after a failed shot by Scottsdale.

O’Boyle ended the game with a team-high 26 points, aided by Gershman who scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds. Freshman Justice Martion finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Pima earned a hard fought 86-84 overtime victory against South Mountain Community College on Jan 14.

Gershman carried the Aztecs with his 33 point, double-double and his buzzer beating three-pointer in overtime to end the game.

The entire game was a battle with neither team gaining a double-digit lead. The teams went back and forth during the end of regulation, but behind a 10-2 run by Pima and two clutch free throws by Martion the Aztecs were able to force overtime.

Martion finished with a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double and Cervantes added 12 points of his own.

The Aztecs defeated Central Arizona 89-87 on Jan. 10 at home. Pima entered the second half down two points and continued to trail for the first 13 minutes.

Pima went on 15-2 run to gain the lead late in the game; Ugbisien sealed the game for the Aztecs by grabbing the last rebound.

Gershman had a game-high 24 points to lead the Aztecs to victory. O’Boyle, Cervantes, Martion and freshman Andre Bearden all finished with double digit points.

A nine-point halftime deficit doomed the Aztecs against Arizona Western on Jan. 7. Pima began to come back in the second half, cutting Arizona Western’s lead down to one, but weren’t able to complete the comeback.

Martion led the Aztecs with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double on the night. Gershman finished with 16 points, trailed closely by Paige with 13.

PCC will face Tohono O’Odham CC on Jan. 28 at the West Campus after the Aztec Press goes to print. Coverage of the game will be included next issue.

Over the break, the team dominated in the Holiday Ball-Out Tournament en route to a 4-0 tournament record.

In their first game of the tournament, the Aztecs defeated Trinity Prep 71-33. O’Boyle led the team with 25 points followed by Cervantes who had 20.

The second game of the tournament was a much better match against San Diego Prep. Martion dropped 23 points to lead the Aztecs to a 68-62 victory. Freshman Dorian Paige finished the contest with 17 points.

Pima came alive offensively in the semifinals as they defeated South Shore Prep 132-80. Martion led the Aztecs with a double-double 32 points and 15 rebounds. Four other Pima players scored in double digits.

The Aztecs capped their win streak off with a 74-66 win against Balboa Prep in the championship game. Martion led PCC in points for the third game in a row with 19 points, Cervantes finished right behind him with 17.

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.”

Pg11-Matt O'Boyle profile

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.”