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Refugees start new lives

Refugees start new lives


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instructor Andrea Jones points to the board.

“What’s this one called?”

“C-orn, corn!”

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

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

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

Jones repeats common phrases they may use on the job.

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

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

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

Numerous other rounds of introductions followed.

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

The refugees epitomize willingness to learn and ability to adjust.

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

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

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


For many Tucson refugees, conflict forces resettlement

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

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

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

Soon people start to go missing.

Eventually food, medicine and options grow scarce.

Leaving becomes the only choice.

Situations like that bring many hundreds of refugees to Tucson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abubakar is puzzled by the violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abubakar poses a question.

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

Pima programs educate 600+ refugees annually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approximately 3,000 Bhutanese reside in Arizona.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Gallery: All Souls Procession

Photo Gallery: All Souls Procession

Photos by Larry Gaurano

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

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


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



MEN'S SOCCER: Pima heading to nationals

MEN’S SOCCER: Pima heading to nationals


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PCC students play the six lead roles:

• Miriam Groleau – Whitney

• Bev Ihli – Martha

• Michaela Ivey – Leeann

• Casey Norman – Sissy

• Taylor Plecity – Maryjo

• Andrea Sherrill – Steele

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

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

Plecity called her participation both difficult and rewarding.

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

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

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

Ihli also praised the stage crew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author finds a personal brand of funny

Author finds a personal brand of funny


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honors Club gives back to community

Honors Club gives back to community

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campus president grateful for education opportunities

Campus president grateful for education opportunities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creatures of the night

Creatures of the night


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bedtime stories, life lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global similarities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistaken identities

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

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

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

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

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

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

The monster is fear

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

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

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


Aztec Press photo illustration by Jamie Verwys and Nick Meyers.

Wing ready to fly into future

Wing ready to fly into future


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After his military discharge, Wing looked for work.

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

His solution was to enroll at the University of Arizona.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pg11-Dave Wing green screen

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

PHOTO SPOTLIGHT: A busy weekend in the Old Pueblo

PHOTO SPOTLIGHT: A busy weekend in the Old Pueblo

It was a colorful weekend in the Old Pueblo as community members turned out in full force to celebrate what makes this city ours. Tucson Meet Yourself drew thousands Oct. 10-12 to celebrate the diversity of cultures and folklife represented in Tucson. On Oct. 11, members of the LGBT community gathered at dusk to participate in the Tucson Pride Parade, demonstrating support for individuals of all genders.

-By Nick Meyers

Pg16-Pima Pride

The Pima Community College East Campus Pride Alliance turns out in force to participate in the Tucson Pride Parade on Oct. 11 in support of the city’s LGBT community. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press.)

Pg16-Tempest DuJour

Tempest DuJour makes sure her vibrant hair maintains its shape before members of the LGBT community stroll down Fourth Avenue. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Pg16-Wooden Animals

Traditional Chicano art such as alebrijes is on display at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press.)



Piñatas are one of many artisan crafts available for purchase at the Tucson Meet Yourself festival. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press.)



Grupo tradiciones showcase a traditional Mexican folk dance called jarabe at Tucson Meet Yourself. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press.)

MEN'S SOCCER: Team battles through injuries

MEN’S SOCCER: Team battles through injuries


The Pima Community College men’s soccer team (12-3-1) showed depth and perseverance after  battling through injuries suffered in an Oct.2 game.

The Aztecs shut out Scottsdale Community College on Oct. 11 with a 2-0 win. The win marked their eighth shutout of the season and the second time they have beat Scottsdale.

Freshman Alejandro Gonzalez scored for the Aztecs in the first half off an assist from fellow freshman Robert Gorman.

After the half, freshman Sadam Ali added to the lead with an assist from freshman Osvaldo Varela.

Freshman goalkeeper Sam Kavathas had three saves during the game.

Pima completed a 4-3 comeback win on the road Oct. 9 against Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

The Aztecs were behind 1-2 going into the second half, with their lone goal coming from Gonzalez off a penalty kick.

Freshman Alex Rojo scored next for the Aztecs off an assist from sophomore Garrett Andreatta.

Andreatta scored the third goal for Pima with sophomore Arturo Vega in on the assist.

Freshman Gabe Zepp stepped up for the Aztecs late in the game where they found themselves in a 3-3 tie. Zepp scored the winning goal off an assist from freshman Ryan Bristow in the 82nd minute.

Despite being down two key players, the Aztecs upset No. 11 Glendale CC on Oct. 7 with a blowout 3-0 win.

Freshman Emilio Villatoro scored first for the Aztecs in the 33rd minute off the back of a defender to give the Aztecs a 1-0 lead going into the half.

Vega scored next for the Aztecs off of an assist from sophomore Christian Cabello in the 51st minute. Gorman scored the last goal in the 76th minute.

The Aztecs ended with seven shots on goal and with three saves from Kavathas.

“Glendale is obviously one of the top teams in the conference,” head coach Dave Cosgrove said. “There’s no way anyone would have expected us to win 3-0.”

The Aztecs fell to Phoenix College 5-1 on Oct. 2 in their worst loss of the season.

Pima found the net early when Zepp scored in the 7th minute off an assist from Gonzalez.

Phoenix answered by scoring three goals in the first half and adding another two in the second. The Aztecs gave up the most points in a game this season. Phoenix outshot Pima 10-8. Kavathas finished with three saves.


Oct. 16: Paradise Valley CC, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 18: Yavapai College, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 23: @ Mesa CC, Mesa, 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 25: GateWay CC, Kino North, 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 28: @ NJCAA Region 1 Quarter Finals

Oct. 30: @ NJCAA Region 1 Semi-Finals

Pg13-Men's soccer

Freshman Gabe Zepp battles for possesion against a Scottsdale CC defender on Oct. 11. (Caleb Foster/Aztec Press.)


VOLLEYBALL: Winning streak comes to an end

VOLLEYBALL: Winning streak comes to an end


The Pima Community College volleyball team took on No. 10 Arizona Western College on Oct. 11 but lost in a five-set thriller.

The Aztecs held a lead for most of the first set but Western tied it up at 19-19. The Aztecs scored six of the last seven points to win.

In the second set, the biggest lead for either team was three points. The Aztecs could not hold a 24-22 lead and Western came back to win.

Western held a lead most of the third set but the Aztecs won the fourth set. In the fifth-set tie breaker, the Aztecs gave up a lead early and couldn’t recover.

Sophomore Nykole Adun led the Aztecs with 11 kills, five blocks, five digs and two aces.

On Oct 10, the Aztecs lost to No. 13 Scottsdale Community College in another five-set battle.

In the first set, the Aztecs scored the first six points of the game. Scottsdale got as close as one point but Pima took the win.

Scottsdale won the next two sets but the Aztecs came back in the fourth to force a fifth set. The Aztecs came within one point five times but could not grab a lead.

Sophomore Alexis Ammerman led the Aztecs with 18 kills and seven digs. Adun had 11 kills.

On Oct. 8, the Aztecs extended a winning streak to five games when they beat Phoenix College in four sets.

The first two sets mostly went the Aztec’s way, thanks to kills from freshman Kaysee Pilgrim. The third and fourth sets were tougher. Phoenix had a lead for most of the fourth set but the Aztecs cut the lead to one. A kill by Adun secured the victory.

On Oct. 3, the Aztecs defeated South Mountain College at home.

“I think we’re carrying the momentum from the San Diego tournament,” Ammerman said. “We got a little taste of victory and we want more.”

The Aztecs dropped the first set but responded by winning three straight.

On Oct. 1, the Aztecs beat Chandler-Gilbert in three sets.

After trailing in the first set, the Aztecs scored eight straight points for a win. In the second set, Pima capped the win with a kill by Pilgrim.

Ammermen finished with 10 kills. She was named ACCAC Division II Co-Player of the Week for Sept. 29-Oct. 5.


Oct. 17: @ Yavapai College, Prescott, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22: @ Mesa CC, 7 p.m.

Oct. 24: Glendale CC, West Campus, 7 p.m.

Pg13-Nykole Adun-Volleyball

Sophomore Nykole Adun attempts a pick against Western Arizona College on Oct 11. She led Pima with 11 kills, five blocks and two aces. (Photo courtesy of PCC.)

Aquaponics taking root

Aquaponics taking root


Verdant foliage and flowing water provide sharp contrast to the dry landscape that surrounds Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus.

Tomatoes and lemongrass mixed with fish ponds represent the college’s foray into aquaponics, a method of agriculture that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. It’s essentially a blend of fish farming and water gardening.

“One nice thing about the program is the flexibility,” program coordinator Ely Esparza said. “This allows for a lot of ingenuity. There are no black and white guidelines so your hands are free.”

Some 44 graduating high school students got a first-hand look at the program when they participated in Esparza’s Agri-SURF Summer Bridge Program.

The program was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and founded by Esparza, who was inspired by his love of surfing when conceiving the name. The acronym stands for Agricultural Sustainability and Universal Renewable Farming.

“I love this program and the staff,” student Darien Coronado said.

Esparza said one of his primary aims is to show students that agriculture encompasses far more than traditional farming.

“A lot of people think agriculture only involves tractors and pitchforks,” he said. “In reality, there is a lot of technology and scientific research involved.  engineering, animal sciences and water policy.”

During the five-week summer program, participants went on numerous field trips to local farms and research facilities such as the Biosphere 2.

By the end of the summer, students had constructed two aquaponics systems. The main chamber of the system contains fish stocked by Local Roots Aquaponics, a company that specializes in aquaponics systems ranging from aquarium size to 50 square feet.

The water from the fish tank is directed by gravity to a lower chamber filled with lava rocks that serve as a filter. Various plants and vegetables are placed within the porous rocks, with their roots submerged in the nutrient rich water.

Once the water has reached the end of the system, it is pumped back to the fish chamber. After it is filtered, it’s ready to begin the cycle again.

This method of gardening is especially useful in the desert because it uses far less water than traditional practices. Studies show it typically uses 10 percent of the water, with potential to produce 400 percent more food, than common agricultural techniques.

Unlike crops grown in soil, there is no need to weed out unwelcome vegetation. Plants currently growing in the PCC systems include basil, bell peppers, lemongrass and tomatoes. They are lush, healthy and shaded from harsh overhead light.

The 35 tilapia now stocked in the tanks will be replaced in December with catfish that can survive winter temperatures.

The young generation of tilapia will be transferred to warmer waters. The mature fish will be the main course in a small fish fry, allowing students and staff to savor the fruits of their efforts.

“It is something new and exciting,” program participant Gladys Ramirez said. “It is good to be involved in things that have never been done before.”

Desert Vista is currently the only PCC location with aquaponics facilities, but Esparza plans to expand the program in the future. Students from Northwest Campus were also involved in the summer program.

As part of next summer’s program, Esparza plans to add two more systems as well as a small ramada and benches.

“It’s a simple concept and can be done at home,” he said.

The innovative concept has caught the attention of numerous Tucson residents and organizations. Arizona Illustrated recently featured the program and new businesses include Local Roots Aquaponics, Ecogro, Tucson AquaPonics Project and Maggie’s Farm Aquaponics.

To learn more about Pima’s program, contact Ely Esparza at 206-5199 or


Ely Esparza, program coordinator for Pima’s Agri-SURF program, checks on basil growing at an aquaponics system at Desert Vista Campus. Students from a summer bridge program built the system last summer. (Sierra J. Russell/Aztec Press)


BEYOND THE POLE: The hidden world of exotic dancers

BEYOND THE POLE: The hidden world of exotic dancers


“Looking to round up the finest 18 and over girls in Tucson, cash nightly.”

Advertisements promising college women wads of cash for flashing serious skin aren’t hard to find. The call for exotic dancers can be found by picking up a copy of Tucson Weekly or Pima Community College’s own student publication, the Aztec Press.

Since January, issues of Aztec Press featured an advertisement for a local “gentlemen’s club,” Eden Cabaret. The ad spurred negative response from Pima students and faculty.

Social service student Sandra Fisher wrote, “It is extremely unlikely that a bright, educated future for young women will begin with selling their bodies.”

She asks, “Did anyone at the Aztec Press consider the impact of such a sleazy suggestion in a campus publication to our student body (pun intended)?”

Bob Shoun, director of PCC’s Office of Dispute Resolution, received a complaint that the “advertisement was not in line with the college philosophy and concerns related to sexual harassment.”

Editor-in-chief Andrew Paxton responded to the criticism in a column published last semester.

“The decision to run this form of advertising was not made lightly or arbitrarily,” he wrote. “The issue was discussed at length in the newsroom before I made my choice to allow the ad space to be purchased.”

He adds, “In the end, the newspaper is a business. In order to publish, we need financial backers. Any legitimate business that is willing to invest money in a college newspaper is welcome in these pages.”

The Aztec Press operates as an academic learning lab for student journalists, who exercise their First Amendment right to publish without prior restraint. The publication is expected to cover printing expenses through the sale of advertising.

While the content of Eden’s ad is not reflective of Pima or the newspaper, it brings with it questions about morality and the role that exotic clubs play in society.

What actually lies beyond the velvet curtains and dimly lit rooms of a strip club?

Are these establishments purveyors of debauchery and wayward girls? Are they a source of entertainment that speaks to the erotic nature of humans? Are they a dangerous, damaging environment or just businesses staffed by people trying to make a living?

“There’s this impression that the girls want to be there and have no respect for themselves,” says a former Eden dancer named Pandora.

“Most girls are there because they have to be,” she says. “They are working to make money. They aren’t there to party and it’s not something we do for fun.”

Two years ago Pandora was in a relationship she was supporting financially. She had no money for rent and a desire to finish her classes at the University of Arizona. As a customer of the club herself, she decided to begin dancing there.

After one year, she saved enough money to leave the industry and finish her final semester in school. Though she wanted to find a career with her new degree, her diploma was withheld until she paid $800 that she owed.

“I went back to Eden for two days and hated it because I had completely left the culture,” she says. “When I got back into it, I had culture shock.”

Currently, Pandora is training to be a manager and acts as “house mom” to the dancers. She teaches pole tricks and safety procedures, provides money-making tips and acts as a secondary bouncer.

Pandora’s story of college aspirations and unpaid bills is a common motif with the dancers who make up the adult entertainment industry. Many cite school, children and being out of money.

Eden dancer Gemini saw how much money the women were making and decided she could do that too.

“The money is my favorite part,” she says. “I went to school, I got my associate’s and stopped going. I want to go back, but right now I’m just taking care of my daughter.”

Dancers are independent contractors who pay the clubs a portion of their earnings to dance there. Depending on the number of customers, a performer can make anywhere from $100-$1,000 in one night, according to Pandora.

Along with the money they can potentially earn, dancers create their own schedules.

Serena, a UA student and a dancer for Curves Cabaret, started as a waitress. She switched to dancing when she faced a financial blow.

“The moment that actually pushed me into becoming a dancer and stop waitressing was when I had my camera, MacBook and external hard drive stolen from the trunk of my car,” she says.

“After weeks of dancing all sweaty and half naked for eight hours a day, I finally replaced all my stuff the next month.

“I wanted to make myself available to every event, show, concert, to take pictures, shoot video, do interviews and whatever else,” she says.

“I can’t think of any real 9-5 that would work with that hectic schedule. Dancing, just to take care of the bills, so I could focus on furthering my career seemed worth it to me.”

While the quick money and flexible schedules often draw people to exotic dancing, they seldom stay long-term.

Research related to exotic dancers has found women working in the sex industry are more susceptible to drug addiction, assault and mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress.

A study by the director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology program at the University of Pennsylvania found 55 percent of strippers are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and 60 percent experience depression.

Jessie Kosorok Mellor, a PCC psychology instructor and department chair, conducted informal research into the world of exotic clubs while pursuing her degree. She worked for a tanning salon that sold clothing and accessories for exotic dancers.

It became her job to load her vehicle with boots and clothing, and sell them to dancers inside the dressing rooms two nights a week. During her three years with the women, Mellor witnessed drug use, fights and tears. She believes she gained insight into the lives of the women.

“If anything, it gave me a real-life look at don’t judge,” she says. “We all have a story. We all have something.”

Mellor saw drug use, including the smoking of crystal meth, and noted some women were concerned about infections.

“I witnessed one girl who was so freaked out because some guy had a wound and she came in with blood on her,” she says. “She didn’t know where it came from. ‘What if he has HIV? What if he has something?’ I’ve seen them freak out over that.”

During her time spent within the inner workings of a strip club, Mellor came to believe that most dancers feel reasonably safe.

“Managers and bouncers have an investment for their own livelihood so there is a level of safety,” she says.

Employees always walked her to her car and helped her load her things, she says. “I never felt in danger and I wasn’t even any employee of that establishment.”

The inherent risks are not lost upon those within the business. Performers and club employees easily identify potential emotional and physical risks.

A former dancer who goes by the name Tank is currently pursuing a career in politics. His short time stripping at Dicks Cabaret, a male club in Phoenix, left him drained.

“I don’t recommend it to anyone unless you are a very strong-minded, strong-willed individual,” he says.  “I don’t think our society creates those types of people very much anymore.”

During the time he performed at the all-nude club, he found himself emotionally weighted by the experience.

“It eats away at you,” he says.  “I used to feel really drawn out and never wanted to be there. I only think there is a small window of people who can handle that type of experience and not get destroyed by it.”

Tank admits to gaining something from that time in his life. It wasn’t money, because he wasn’t making very much. Rather, it was a broadened perspective and acceptance of himself.

“It helped me find my own path,” he says. “It made me much more able to step away from societal norms and acceptance of who I am and accept people more readily as well. It made me realize it’s OK not to think like everyone else.”

Curves dancer Victoria also finds acceptance to be one of the best outcomes. “I think being on the pole alone is empowering,” she says. “I’ve worked really hard for my self-confidence and I’m doing this for my education and career.

“If you have a good reason for doing it, not drugs, it’s worth it and empowering. I’ve never loved myself and my body, and other women’s bodies, more since I started dancing.”

She acknowledges that drug use and risks are present but says that doesn’t mean you must or will engage in them.

“People think it’s this constant drug party, when its not,” she says. “A misconception is that once you start dancing you turn into a druggie or alcoholic. No. You are that person before you step into the club.”

Strip clubs can be dirty, and are sometimes the site of crimes such as murder and prostitution.

Dancer Serena spoke about the dangers of some clubs. “The strip club is a very dirty place and the girls that work there are not very clean,” she says. “The dirty strip club is also where the drug dealers like to hang out.”

Serena cautions, “It’s so easy to fall into that trap of being under the influence and someone takes advantage of you.”

Aside from the telltale stripper poles and stages, a strip club can cultivate a variety of environments.

At Eden Cabaret, the goal was to create a safe, fun party atmosphere and erase the negative perception of a former club at the location. Owner Jeffery Lindstrom, originally from Chicago, purchased the space five years ago and put a priority on remodeling and restructuring.

“We had to come in and kick everyone out and start fresh,” he says. “People know that it’s OK to come here again.”

Because it is a fully nude club, alcohol is prohibited.

“There are no drugs and there aren’t going to be any fights,” he says. “We wanted college kids to know they can come here, have a good time and feel safe.”

He runs the club as much like another business as possible, he says. “You need to create a party environment once the doors are open, but its preparing for business hours before that.”

Eden has a strict no-touching policy in place. Dancers are also walked to and from their cars, and prohibited from giving out personal information.

With the advancement of technology and social media, new safety hazards present themselves. Every cellphone has a camera that can share information instantaneously, making it difficult to enforce the no-camera rule.

One patron took a dancer’s naked photo and displayed it on a fake Facebook page created under her name.

Dak Frederick is a Ten’s Show club employee who trains new dancers. He says the safety precautions established by the club, coupled with the training that dancers receive, helps create an environment where women feel safe.

As a topless club, Ten’s Show can serve alcohol. Belligerent customers are asked to leave.

“Drunken guys are eighty sixed and called a cab,” Frederick says.

He admits to occasionally protecting dancers from their family, who might step in accidently or with the intent to retrieve their daughter.

“Sometimes the girls say, ‘you got to hide me, please, from my family,’” he says. “Some of the parents don’t know their daughters are strippers. Sometimes the dads come in, too.”

Though exotic dancers bare it all on stage, most keep their job secret to protect themselves from the disapproval of family and society.

“It really gives you insight into humanity,” Pandora says. “It’s not something I’m going to broadcast but anyone who finds out doesn’t need to hold it against me for any reason.

“It really comes down to your views on sexuality and nudity. It means a lot more to some people. It’s your body, you own it. I’m not letting anyone touch me or have sex, it’s not intimate.”

Though Tank hated his experience as a dancer, he believes improvements can and should be made to strip clubs.

“They are almost necessary,” he says. “If our society were to give more allowance to these things, it could make a much healthier environment. If certain aspects of stripping didn’t have such negative connotation, it would make it harder for the bad people to exist in those.”

For some, strip clubs serve a simple function within society.

“Rappers and just the ignorant public in general make strippers out to be drug addicts with daddy issues that are too lazy to get a real job, when in reality a lot of the girls I work with are fine,” Serena says.

“I feel like the purpose of these clubs are to just have some fun or to fill in some type of void in each customer.”

Mellor believes the role of a strip club is defined by the person who pays to be there.

“It’s a complicated nuance, as most aspects are in human sexuality,” she says. “When that role does not support the workers and truly allow for consent, then it becomes punitive and unacceptable.

“If the workers feel safe and are truly of sound body and mind and want to be there, I can’t tell them they can’t be.”


Aztec Press photo illustration by Larry Gaurano

Aztec Press photo illustration by Larry Gaurano











At least 400,000 people work as strippers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor.

Many have entered into the industry to fix money issues and to provide for themselves and for their families.

Despite the monetary benefits, there is no denying that risk factors exist.

Drug usage in clubs, long hours, unwanted physical or verbal contact and sometimes unclean work environments can all make exotic dancing potentially dangerous.

In a world where knowledge can help set us free, we need to look at a topic from all sides.

To gather information for this article, I visited two Tucson cabarets and interviewed five exotic dancers, plus two trainers, a Pima instructor and a club owner.

Only one dancer allowed her photo to be taken and each dancer provided only a stage name.

We met at coffee shops and strip clubs, and I transcribed hours worth of interviews.

I did not write this article to fill seats in the clubs or to enlist college students. I also didn’t write it to condemn the industry or the people who oppose these establishments.

I wrote it because I believe information and truth are the best way to handle a subject deemed taboo.

-By Jamie Verwys

Nursing program off life support

Nursing program off life support


Pima Community College’s nursing program has made some progressive changes over the past year, and recently regained proper standing with its accrediting body.

On Sept. 19, the Arizona State Board of Nursing concluded that PCC had resolved governance issues and autonomy regarding its nursing program based on evidence submitted by the college.

During an email interview Pamela Randolph, AZBN’s associate director of education and evidence-based regulation, wrote that PCC had successfully corrected governance issues regarding its nursing program.

“The board found that Pima Community College had remedied all deficiencies and restored full approval status,” she wrote.

In July 2013, PCC received a notice of deficiencies from the AZBN.

The complaint said Pima undermined the governing authority of its dean of nursing, Marty Mayhew, and that undermining the authority of the nursing program administrator compromises nursing education and places patient safety at risk.

On Jan. 28, Mayhew resigned from her position following the completion of an internal investigation into claims of her misconduct.

Following Mayhew’s departure, Chancellor Lee Lambert wrote in email to employees that Brian Stewart, an academic dean from PCC’s Desert Vista Campus, would assume interim responsibility over the nursing department.

Stewart said the integrity of Pima’s nursing program was never in question, and that the autonomous governing of PCC’s nursing department needed to be restored to state-level policy.

“The notice of deficiencies wasn’t written in regards to the program itself,” Stewart said.

“The notice of deficiency was in regard to adherence to state regulation with the nursing director being recognized as the authorizing body for the program.”

He said the education provided to PCC’s nursing students has been consistently robust, which he said is exemplified in Pima’s nursing certification test scores, and the college’s open-enrollment policy.

According to AZBN website, PCC’s nursing certification scores rose to 92.06 percent in 2013, which is greater than the Arizona state average of 88.25 percent.

Stewart said he took the nursing dean position without any plans to assume its responsibilities long-term. He said expanding his skill-set and staying at PCC’s Desert Vista Campus are his goals.

“I’ve been a nursing director for a long time,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t interested in continuing that. I want to do something new that pushes me, and challenges me.

“Plus I committed to my faculty at Desert Vista,” he added.

Stewart said during the investigation, the AZBN looked at Pima’s policies and updates regarding its nursing program.

“They liked the direction the college was going under new administration,” Stewart said.

“They see a change in behavior and acknowledged that the new governance and reinforcement of policy was a good thing,” he said.

On July 29, Pima held candidate forums to fill the assistant dean and director of nursing positions.

But, after Joseph Gaw secured this new position, Stewart said the college recognized the nursing director position was a full-time position in itself. The college is still searching for someone to fill the role.

Gaw began his career at PCC as an adjunct instructor in 2010, while also working as an advanced registered nurse at Tucson’s Northwest Medical Center. His resume also includes nine years of advanced patient care at Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital.

While working at St. Mary’s Hospital Gaw was enrolled in a mentor program that provided training for nursing graduates to transition into specialty care positions.

He was later offered bachelor degree classes from Grand Canyon University via the expansion of that program.

“Now, that’s important,” Gaw said. “Because what they did is they gave the entry point to a bachelor’s process that most people hadn’t even thought about doing at the time.”

For the past two semesters, Pima’s concurrent enrollment program has offered its students the chance to pursue associate, and bachelor degrees for nursing certification simultaneously.

Gaw said he will continue to work to help nurses get the education they need to progress in the workplace.

“As a community college we have to meet that need,” he said.

Furthermore, Gaw said his goals are to increase student-engaged learning, and community outreach which will be spearheaded by Pima’s dedicated nursing faculty.

“We have a fantastic team in this nursing department, and the students have to know that,” Gaw said.

“My faculty are my life-blood of this program, and this team is ready to serve and ready to help them be successful.”


From left, Deanna Merrill, Kaileen Martin, and Sharon Powell speak with Joseph Gaw in between their nursing skills lab examinations.