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Chancellor’s letter causes board uproar

Chancellor’s letter causes board uproar


A Pima Community College board member suggested Chancellor Lee Lambert may have abused his authority when Lambert sent an envoy to represent the college and governing board at a Tucson Unified School District meeting.

You need to know that I am disturbed by you taking the liberty to send this letter out on behalf of PCC on PCC letterhead that gives the impression that the entire board is in agreement.” – Luis Gonzales, Governing Board representative
Photo courtesy of Luis Gonzales 


The affair was set in motion by a Feb. 27 email sent by TUSD Governing Board member Kristel Ann Foster to Lambert soliciting community support for thensuperintendent H.T. Sanchez.

“Please write the board and come to the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 5:30 p.m.,” Foster wrote. Sanchez, who had been embattled for weeks up to that point, resigned before the start of the meeting.

In an email interview with the Aztec Press, Lambert said PCC representatives “learned of Dr. Sanchez’s resignation when the TUSD Board meeting began.”

During that meeting, Special Assistant to the Chancellor Esperanza Duarte spoke during the public comment period of the meeting.

“I’m here on behalf of and at the request of Chancellor Lee Lambert,” Duarte said. “As well as the governing board of Pima Community College in support of Dr. Sanchez.”

Duarte continued, reading from a prepared letter. She said Sanchez had been integral in working together with PCC in furthering both institutions’ aims.

Contacted by the Aztec Press, Duarte refused to confirm who authorized her to speak on behalf of the board.

“I can’t get into that, all I can tell you is there was a miscommunication,” Duarte said by phone. “You’ll need to speak with the college spokesperson.”

It was also unclear why Duarte was asked to deliver the message at the Feb. 28 meeting since TUSD board members were already in possession of the letter.

“My statement was not about what was going on at TUSD, it was simply to pony out we have a grew relationship and we want to make sure that continues.” – Lee Lambert, Pima Community College chancellor
Aztec Press file photo


On Feb. 28, PCC Board member Sylvia Lee received a forwarded email from Assistant to the Chancellor Gaby Echavarri containing Lambert’s letter. Lee in turn forwarded that email on to the TUSD board at 1:57 p.m.

PCC board member Luis Gonzales said in a March 1 email to Lambert that the board never agreed to send a letter of solidarity regarding Sanchez, or to have a college representative invoke the support of the board.

“You need to know that I am disturbed by you taking the liberty to send this letter out on behalf of PCC on PCC letterhead that gives the impression that the entire board is in agreement,” Gonzales wrote.

Gonzales also voiced his displeasure about being perceived as politically interjecting on the college’s part.

“To get involved in a political dog fight where we have no jurisdiction is not only shortsighted but fraught with all kinds of political fall-out against the college and our governing body,” he wrote.


Lambert responded, defending his decision to issue the letter by citing Board Policy, Section 1, part F. The policy states that the chancellor “serves as the primary spokesperson for the college to the students, employees, government authorities.”

On March 1, governing board Chairman Mark Hanna confirmed in an email to Gonzales that he had spoken with the chancellor regarding Sanchez, with a caveat.

“I asked the chancellor if he would consider a letter of support (explicitly not a board endorsement),” Hannah wrote. “If indeed Ms. Duarte voiced support for the superintendent from our board, that was not authorized by me.”

While Hanna did not view his conversation as authorizing the letter from Lambert to TUSD, an email exchange between Lambert and college vice chancellor Lisa Brosky shows Lambert viewed the conversation differently.

“The board chair ask (sic) me to consider this,” Lambert wrote. “He did not direct me to do this on behalf of the college or in my own personal capacity. I let him know I would do this on behalf of the college.”

During the PCC board of governors meeting on March 8, Lambert offered another defense of his actions. “Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication that happened between myself, and I’ll own that.”

It was unclear with whom the “miscommunication” he referenced happened between.

However, Lambert insisted his motives were not political. “My statement was not about what was going on at TUSD, it was simply to point out we have a great relationship and we want to make sure that continues,” he said.


The letter itself and internal PCC emails tell a different story. While the letter does make mention of the relationship between the two institutions, each reference is in the context of how beneficial Sanchez was to the relationship.

In regards to PCC’s Career and Technical Education program, Lambert wrote that Sanchez has helped build the pipeline of students from high school to college.

“Dr. Sanchez’s support has strengthened PCC’s efforts to expand access to students seeking careers,” Lambert wrote.

In her email to the TUSD board, Lee referenced the chancellor’s letter. “I hope you will take what our chancellor said to heart,” Lee wrote. “Which is to keep Dr. Sanchez as your superintendent.”

The letter ends with Lambert calling Sanchez an “invaluable partner,” to the college.

“I look forward to future collaborations with him as we work together in service to our students and community,” he wrote.


PCCLetterforHTSanchez 2-28-17

No curtain call for 'Matt Finish'

No curtain call for ‘Matt Finish’


PCC dance instructor Nolan Kobuta performs in a burlesque show at the Screening Room in downtown Tucson to raise money for nationwide competitions.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

Nolan “Matt Finish” Kubota is a short, well-built, flamboyant man from northwestern California. His journey to Tucson has led him all over the world.

His roles at Pima Community College include director of productions for dance. He teaches advanced ballet and jazz, and runs the student dance ensemble.

On top of all that, he juggles one more responsibility: burlesque dancing.

“I’m amazing. I’ve been doing this forever and I’m not stopping any time soon,” Kubota said.

Burlesque began as a parody of plays in the 1830s, but evolved in the early 1900s into its current art form.


After graduating from high school in 2002, Kubota wanted to apply to the University of Arizona graduate school for dance. After he was denied admission because he needed two years of professional experience, he went to New York to get that experience.

“I had no connections, no job, nobody in the city,” Kubota said. “I was there for four days before I got a job.”

The lucky break came from a comedic all-male parody en travesti ballet company called Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, or “Trocks” for short.

Kubota called Trocks and asked if they had any upcoming auditions. After grilling Kubota with questions, the company asked him to show up at City Center the next day for auditions to replace a previous dancer.

“So I went in and it was a small audition, there were four guys,” Kubota said. “The first two boys were cut after barre.”

Only one dancer stood in Kubota’s way.

“We were polar opposites,” Kubota said. “I was very short and very thin. He was this big, hairy guy.”

Kubota felt sure his opponent had the advantage, noting the judge “was talking to him a whole lot more than he was talking to me.”

Though Kubota was less popular, he earned the job because his competitor had to leave the audition due to previous commitments.

Just like that, Kubota signed a contract with the Trocks on the night of his 21st birthday, Sept. 20.

“I have that amazing fairytale story, moving to New York and signing with a world-famous company,” he said.

Kubota traveled the world with the Trocks for three years, performing in Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Japan, Turkey, Wales, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.

While in the U.S. on tour, Kubota approached the UA graduate school of dance’s chairman and gave him tickets to see him perform. Soon after, he was invited to enroll in the UA program.

After he graduated in 2011, Kubota applied to Pima Community College and immediately began teaching. While teaching, he has inspired students to be more confident with themselves.

“Matt’s made me more comfortable with saying I don’t like something,” sophomore dancer Catina Corella said.

During the day, classically trained Nolan Kubota, director of production, instructs and scouts dancers at Pima Community College West Cmpus’ dance studio, for the student ensemble.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press


Shortly after, he found his new passion.

At first, Kubota didn’t want to be a part of the burlesque scene.

“The first time I went to a show, I didn’t want to go at all,” he said. “I knew it was ladies taking their clothes off, and I was like, ‘ew, tits.’” After a friend bought him a non-refundable $20 ticket, however, Kubota dragged himself to the show.

“Five minutes into the show I was hooked,” he said. “I leaned over to her and told her, ‘We’re going to do this.’”

Post-show information had details about a burlesque class, and Kubota enrolled.

In his first session, Kubota and his peers were given a task: Come up with a performer name.

“I wanted a pun for my name,” he said. “When it comes to my photographs, I’ve always preferred a matte finish.”

Part of the process involved research to see if anyone else has ever used the name. Kubota learned no other burlesque performer went by his proposed name.

“There was an Australian rock band called Matt Finish,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think anyone will get us confused.’”

With his name settled, Kubota started dancing with Black Cherry Burlesque in 2012. He also created his own show, Don’t Blink Burlesque, and performed at a bar called Mint.

“We performed there for almost a year before we got our spot at The Hut,” he said. “We were a weekly there for a year, then we switched to a monthly.”

Switching to a monthly show allowed Kubota more time to gather his audience and fill his roster of performers.

That’s when his burlesque career began to take off.

At first Kubota stayed true to his ballet roots when he danced. After his second act, he decided he needed to be more open artistically.

“That’s what I love about it. It’s very freeing artistically,” he said. “I like that I can be dirty and raunchy on stage.”

At night, “Matt Finish” ditches classic ballet for the creative artistry of burlesque dancing.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

Kubota is always excited to meet new dancers who want to be a part of that community, and will help them jump right in.

Congo activist seeks U.S. asylum

Congo activist seeks U.S. asylum


Arnaud Davy Mambanza Mboungou stands before a map, a year after fleeing his home.
Katelyn Roberts / Aztec Press

In Central Africa, Arnaud Davy Mambanza Mboungou had two full-time jobs: working as an oil engineer for Haliburton and taking care of his deceased older brother’s children.

Fleeing his home in 2016 to seek asylum was not part of the plan.

Mambanza Mboungou, 36, left Pointe- Noire, a city in the Republic of the Congo, after a highly contested election in which President Denis Sassou Nguesso won a third term.

He first fled to Ethiopia, then to the U.S. because it was familiar to him. He now lives in Tucson and attends English classes at Pima Community College.

Mambanza Mboungou is not considered a refugee because he fled on his own, without help, a plan and a sponsor.

When it comes to being an asylumseeker in the United States, he leaves political activism in his past.

“Politics are politics. Reality is reality,” he said.

In Pointe-Noire, Mambanza Mboungou feared for his life because of his political activism with a movement called “Don’t Touch my Constitution.”

The group opposed a referendum that would lift term, rules and age restrictions that barred Sassou Nguesso from seeking re-election.

“Our goal was to freely and peacefully express opposition to the constitutional referendum, which we found to be unconstitutional and non-consensual,” he said. Sassou Nguesso, 73, has been the Republic of Congo’s president since 1997. Before that, he was president from 1979 to 1992. His time in office represents one of the longest presidential terms in Africa.

Mambanza Mboungou also coordinated district campaign efforts for an opposition candidate. He supported Gen. Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, who once served as Sassou Nguesso’s security adviser.

“I conducted door-to-door outreach to voters with a team, wrote and made stump speeches to promote my candidate,” he said.

Mambanza Mboungou said it was clear that few residents supported the re-election of Sassou Nguesso.

Nevertheless, the referendum passed in a disputed landslide that claimed voter turnout of 72 percent.

It showed 1.2 million people in favor of undoing the restrictions. Those numbers did not add up, compared to media reports of a low voter turnout.

Opposition leaders claimed fraud “ranging from having security forces cast multiple ballots to paying people to vote,” according to Vice News.

After the election, many opponents were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, reported missing and killed.

“Some of them are still reported missing or have fled the country like myself,” Mambanza Mboungou said.

“I’m here seeking asylum or protection,” he added. “I fled my country for fear of being killed, harmed or unfairly imprisoned due to my political opinion and being a member of a particular social group.”

Mambanza Mboungou first lived in Portland, Maine. His journey to Tucson began through the Inn Project, which works with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide transportation and temporary housing for immigrants.

Tucson’s Christ Church United Methodist is a host site and helped him to Tucson.

Mambanza Mboungou contacted PCC’s international development department, and enrolled in the college’s free English classes.

International student advisor Miranda Schubert became a go-to for Mambanza Mboungou’s at Pima.

“He called up our office, and I happened to answer the phone,” Schubert said. “He explained his situation, and I was really excited to get to help him out.”

The Inn Project works with immigrants who have cleared background checks and customs. Some host churches, including Christ Church, provide meals, hygiene products, bedding and clothing.

Mambanza Mboungou now volunteers at Christ Church, helping families with refugee or asylum status. Most families come from Central America.

“They look up to me because I work here, but I am in the same situation as them,” he said.

Mambanza Mboungou speaks fluent English, but meets every Saturday with his conversation partner.

“I want to become even more fluent,” he said, laughing. “I need to be able to defend myself and my case in English.”

Mambanza Mboungou grew up in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo with three brothers and four sisters. He attended Sunday School and was a Boy Scout.

“My family belongs to the Baptist Church, and my mother is a deacon,” he said.

In 2008, Mambanza Mboungou attended Marien Ngouabi Univeristy in Brazzaville and the institute of Oil and Gas in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was hired by Haliburton in 2010.

He began work as a drilling and completion fluids engineer.

“I worked for that company until I had to flee the Congo in 2016,” he said.

Mambanza Mboungou frequently traveled for his work. He often had to leave his children for 30-day periods.

Until January, he kept in touch with his family. On Jan. 11, Mambanza Mboungou got news that his family was in danger, and he hasn’t been able to reach them since.

After achieving asylum status, his goal is to find his family.

“When I return home to my family, I want a normal 9-5 job,” he said.

Pima volunteers ‘RISE’ for homeless

Pima volunteers ‘RISE’ for homeless


Homelessness remains a pervasive problem in America. The Tucson/Pima Coalition to End Homelessness reported 1,762 homeless people in January 2016. Of those, 281 were veterans. The 2017 count has just been completed and results are being tabulated.

We may ask, what can we do to help end homelessness? Pima Community College student Garrett Encinas began to answer that question with his Honors-inspired project, Homeless Care Package Drive.

Garrett Encinas prepares a backpack with his sister Caitlin Encinas at a Homeless Care Package Drive station at East Campus.
Robyn Zelickson / Aztec Press

The project puts together backpacks filled with products for the homeless. Donation boxes are located on each campus. East Campus has a box in the library and all other campuses have a box in the Student Life office.

“It’s that little spark of hope, that little tiny glimmer of light, that’s kind of the driving force,” Encinas said. “Even if just one person can benefit, that would be really awesome.”

He was motivated by an emotional incident last year in Reid Park. He noticed an obviously homeless man with a hole in his pants. Encinas gave the man a new pair of pants from one of the backpacks.

Encinas also took out some sunscreen and Chapstick. At that moment, the man began to cry.

“That was when I realized the significance of the impact for some of the people that we are helping,” Encinas said. “Most people just walk by them or don’t know what to do and so they just do nothing.”

The Homeless Care Package Drive is working on getting a tax number so volunteers can solicit donations from businesses as well. This would expand the project into the community.

“All of Texas Roadhouse’s locations have a donation box and I’m hoping to find a way to get more publicity out so that people really can see that they have a way to help,” Encinas said.

Encinas’ sister Gabrielle “Gabby” Encinas is also an Honors student. She had to develop her own project.

While researching, Gabby Encinas found information on Pinterest about plastic yarn – plarn. She knew the material could help both the environment and the homeless.

Garrett Encinas explained how his sister uses plarn to make mats.

“Gabby takes plastic bags, cuts them into sheets and ties them together into balls that look like yarn,” he said. “She takes the plarn and weaves it into mats. She takes those mats, which are 3 foot by 3 foot, and puts two together to make a 6 foot by 3 foot mat.”

The mats are light, very portable and more comfortable to lie on than cement or dirt.

Gabby Encinas experimented to find the best technique.

“I actually started out crocheting the mats but I was advised to try weaving and it really sped up my process,” she said.

She can finish three full-size mats a month, if she stays motivated. Her goal is to make 30 mats by April 22 and 50 mats by the end of the semester.

Garrett Encinas said it’s been fun to work together as a family. They have another sister, Caitlin Encinas, who helps both of them by putting together backpacks and by weaving plarn.

Honors student Corinne Anderson will host a Resources Information Services and Education, or RISE, event as part of her project to serve homeless veterans and civilians on April 22 at the Downtown Campus Amethyst Room from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Volunteers will give out backpacks and plarn mats during the event. There will also be social services representatives available to provide assistance in various areas.

“So far we have several service organizations on board, and volunteer doctors nurses from Clinica Amistad,” Anderson said. “And we are adding new agencies every day.”

Most of the RISE and Homeless Care Package Drive volunteers attend classes at East Campus, and enjoy being part of a close-knit community.

Although the Honors Club is fairly small, larger organizations such as the Gamer’s Club provide volunteers for staffing tables to spread awareness, assembling backpacks and gathering donations.

Gabriel “Gabby” Encinas weaves plastic yarn known as “plarn” into a sleeping mat.
Robyn Zelickson / Aztec Press

“I think that community spirit is what has made this drive so successful,” Garrett Encinas said. “I can’t even imagine how much success we’d have if we could get the same community spirit at a big campus like West or Downtown.”

His goal is to expand the project in order to help more people. He wants to help both the homeless and the volunteers who work on the project.

“I want to give people the opportunity to feel empowered,” he said. “So that people can start their own project, see something that they can do or find their passion, which will have a domino effect, where Pima students can be making a difference in the world.”

A list of requested donation items is available at For further information on the Homeless Care Package Drive or RISE, contact East Campus Student Life by email at EC-StudentLife@ or call 206-7616.

Rillito Park gets back on track

Rillito Park gets back on track


Two quarter horses gallop the final stretch at Rillito Park Raceway in the first race of the day. Rillito Park Raceway opened back in 1943.
Eddie Celaya / Aztec Press

Odds are if you tell a Tucsonan you plan to watch some horseracing, the response will be, “have fun in California.”

If you tell the person, no, you’ll be enjoying the sport of kings in the Old Pueblo, you’ll probably get a “Where? At the dog track?”

Such is the battle for Rillito Park Racetrack, which wrapped up its season March 19. The track bills itself as the “birthplace of quarterhorse racing in the United States.”

That history gives the place both its charm and its recent headaches.


General Manager Mike Weiss, an Ohio native who now lives in Florida, wasn’t even sure there would be a racing season this year. Pima County, which owns the land on which the track sits, didn’t extend the racing lease until January.

Track executives expected approval in 2016. “I told them in September, ‘If you don’t have an extension, you can’t keep putting money into it,’” Weiss said.

Rillito Racing Inc. is the management end of the Rillito Park Foundation, a nonprofit in charge of running the racetrack. Without a lease extension, racing would come to an end due to competing county interests, specifically the need for more soccer fields.

The county board of supervisors voted unanimously in January to extend RRI’s lease for four years, through 2021. “We have a new lease on life, pardon the pun,” Weiss said.


On top of entertainment and historical value, the racetrack’s day-to-day operations provide an educational aspect. The University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program helps staff nearly all race-day positions.

“Almost 20 kids work here, we have made it a working lab,” Weiss said. “I have handicappers in the paddock for TV; they’re all students doing the morning line odds. You name it, and the students are involved.”

UA junior Amy Euler worked in admissions last year. The job includes putting together the day’s racing program and betting program. She also made sure everyone in the clubhouse had a wristband.

This year her title was “racing ambassador,” a role that doesn’t list precise duties. Euler said she found herself “basically helping out with groups a lot. Any area or group that needs extra help with something.”

That help usually meant explaining how to place bets, Euler said, but she performed more pressing chores as well.

“I’m helping the camera guy in the paddock not get trampled by horses,” she said.

Euler sees her time in the program as a stepping- stone to a career in the racing industry.

“I would love to be a trainer, more hands-on with the horses,” she said.

She also looks forward to shedding stereotypes still prevalent in the stables.

“There are not very many women in the industry, especially the equine side,” she said. “I don’t want to say it’s a man’s job but it’s definitely not traditional for women, and I kind of want to break down that barrier.”


Rillito Park Racetrack isn’t Churchill Downs. And that’s perfectly fine, Weiss says.

“Some of the big tracks around the country would kill to have the crowds and enthusiasm we have,” he said.

An upgraded simulcast system was part of this year’s improved experience. The system allows patrons to bet and watch races happening at tracks across the country, including Saratoga, Santa Ana and Gulfstream Park.

Simulcast helps Rillito as well.

“I’m selling our signal out,” Weiss said. “Rillito is all over the world. There are outlets in Austria, Germany and Hong Kong taking our signal.”

Weiss also added two Fridays to this season’s racing schedule, a spin on promotions he used to run at Beulah Park in Columbus, Ohio.

Rillito Park Racetrack happens to fall right in the middle of horseracing season, both geographically and calendar-wise.

“There is a need in the industry for a bridge track,” Weiss said. “The tracks out east are all done, the tracks in California are finishing up; and all of a sudden there is this big gap of no racing. You can take the signal and sell it.”


Weiss likes to tell a story about a highlevel racing executive who visited Rillito recently. The executive was usually uptight and very well-dressed.

While walking through the grandstands, Weiss ran into the man.

“I saw him standing in the corner, pair of shorts, T-shirt and a beer,” Weiss said. “And I go, ‘What are you doing here?’ He travels internationally, works with the tracks in France, and he goes: ‘I love this place, I just love the atmosphere.’”

Deidre Harris, a clubhouse server and a winter visitor by way of Montana, helped that atmosphere along each weekend. “I just love Tucson and this track,” she said.

After her husband retired from the National Park Service, the two decided to explore the country and head for more temperate climates. The only rule? “Just to do something different than we normally do,” Harris said.

“I mean, it really is probably the funniest job ever,” she said of her Rillito gig. “It’s fun to watch the people and then when the horses come around and half of them are cheering and half of them are like ohhhh.”

Weiss sees his job as a form of service.

“What we are doing, we are doing for the community,” he said. “You don’t get that too many places.”

A handler walks a quarter horse around the paddock area before a there furloughs stakes race.
Eddie Celaya / Aztec Press


Compiled by Eddie Celaya


Year the inaugural Belmont Stakes was run. Ruthless won.


Year the Preakness Stakes race was introduced. Survivor won.


Inaugural year of the Kentucky Derby. Aristides won.


Year Sir Barton won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, completing what became known as “the Triple Crown” of U.S. horse racing.


Number of fillies (female horses) that have won the Triple Crown.


Number of times Tiznow won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the only horse to do so.


Number of furloughs in a mile.


Number of Triple Crown-winning horses. They are: Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah.


Number of lengths Secretariat finished ahead of the competition at the Belmont Stakes in 1973. Nicknamed “Big Red,” Secretariat is the only non-human voted onto ESPN’s 100 Greatest Athletes of the Twentieth Century.


Number of races won by English jockey Sir Gordon Richards, a record.




MEN'S BASKETBALL: Aztecs earn win at nationals, wrap up great season

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Aztecs earn win at nationals, wrap up great season


Pima men’s basketball wins Region I, Division II title and advance to NJCAA division II national tournament for the first time since 2009.
Photo courtesy of PCC Athletics

The Pima Community College men’s basketball team cruised into the NJCAA national tournament after a great season at the conference level. The Aztecs played each of their opponents close and did everything they could to make the Pima community proud.

The team finished with a record of 22-13, and brought home its first ACCAC conference championship since 2010. Pima had not won 22 games in a single season since 1989-90.

In addition, head coach Brian Peabody took home the District I coach of the year award and sophomore Deion James earned ACCAC co-player of the year honors.

March 23: PCC 75, Southwestern CC 81

The Aztecs came back in their second-round NJCAA tournament game against No. 1 seed Southwestern Community College but could not quite seal the deal.

Pima had a rough start to the contest as Southwestern was able to shoot them out of their zone defense, making nine three-pointers to take a 35-19 lead in the first half.

Peabody switched up the defensive set during a timeout and turned things around. The Aztecs picked up the intensity on both sides of the ball and went on a 16-3 run to cut the deficit to 38-35 at the half.

Pima came out hot in the second half as sophomore Emilio Acedo tied the game on a three-point shot right out of the gates. Sophomore Damon Dubots accumulated four quick points and saw another Acedo three-pointer go through to give the Aztecs their largest lead of the game at 47-41.

The next seven minutes of the game saw seven ties and eight lead changes as things became extremely tight.

Southwestern went on a 9-3 run late in the half to take control of the game. The Aztecs cut the lead to as little as three but could not do enough to get over the hump.

Acedo led the team in scoring with 24 points on 5-for-9 shooting from three-point range. Freshman Isaiah Murphy contributed 13 points, six rebounds and four assists.

James earned yet another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The loss sent the Aztecs into the consolation bracket.

March 24: PCC 90, Parkland College 104

The team saw its amazing season come to an end in a consolation-round game of the NJCAA tournament against Parkland College.

The Aztecs fell behind early in the game as they surrendered a 16-0 run to Parkland to make the score 26-9.

The Aztecs showed fight after that, going on a 7-0 run of their own but couldn’t make the necessary stops on the defensive end to remain competitive.

Freshman Alize Travis finished the game with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He also contributed seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Sophomore Jacob Anastasi finished his Pima career with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting as well as four rebounds and two assists.

Sophomore Damon Dubots finished his Pima career with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. James and Acedo finished their Pima careers with 11 points each.


During the March 8 Region I, Division II semifinal game against Glendale Community College, Ilunga Moise drives to the rim looking to help build on the Aztecs lead. PCC won the game and faced No. 1 seeded Phoenix College in the championship game on March 10.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

March 8: PCC 119, Glendale 111

Pima outlasted Glendale Community College in a high-scoring affair at home in the Region I, Division II semifinals.

The No. 2 seeded Aztecs took an early 22-11 lead and never looked back.

The team made their first six threepointers to lead by 21 points. No. 3 seeded Glendale showed fight in the final minutes of the first half to cut the lead to 57-48 at the break.

An early run by Glendale in the second half cut the lead down to two points but PCC showed poise to put the game away.

Six Aztecs scored in double figures.

Sophomore Deion James scored a teamhigh 25 points and added 11 rebounds for his 18th double-double on the season.

Freshman Alize Travis scored 23 points on five-for-seven shooting from the field. He added 15 assists and six steals.

“It was very important to stay calm when the game got close,” Travis said. “Even when momentum is not on your side in the moment, you have to know how to respond and keep playing. Staying poised is a major key.”

Sophomore Damon Dubots contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds.

With the win, the Aztecs earned their first Region I, Division II championship game appearance in seven years.

Head coach Brian Peabody raises the net to celebrate winning the championship game.
Photo courtesy of PCC Athletics

March 10: PCC 102, Phoenix College 99

The No. 2 seeded Aztecs captured their first Region I, Division II championship since 2009 in a close game on the road against No. 1 seed Phoenix College.

The Aztecs were able to sustain a 51-49 lead at halftime.

Phoenix College began the second half on a 10-3 run to take a 59-54 lead. The Aztecs once again showed poise in the big moment, responding with back to back three-pointers to regain the lead.

The game went back and forth the rest of the way as the teams saw eight lead changes in the second half.

In the end, it came down to free throws. James hit a clutch pair to give Pima a 100- 96 lead with 9.8 seconds remaining. The defense held on to seal the victory.

Sophomore Emilio Acedo lead the way as he scored a team-high 27 points shooting six-for-nine from three-point range.

James scored 27 points and added 12 rebounds to earn the Most Valuable Player award for the game, after earning his 19th double-double of the season.

The victory was head coach Brian Peabody’s first region championship since taking over at Pima.

March 21: PCC 93, Waubonsee CC 84

Aztecs surround sophomore Deion James as he holds his trophy as the Region I, Division II championship game’s Most Valuable Player. He scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds.
Photo courtesy of PCC Athletics

The Aztecs took control early in their first-round NJCAA Division II Men’s basketball tournament game against Waubonsee Community College of Illinois.

Pima began on a 12-2 run to take a double- digit lead just minutes in.

The Aztecs maintained the lead on their way to a 40-30 halftime lead.

PCC busted the game open at the start of the second half as Acedo drilled two key three-pointers to help the Aztecs go on a 14-4 run and secure their largest lead of the game.

Waubonsee showed fight but could not battle all the way back.

Acedo finished the game with 14 points after making four three pointers.

James found his stride in the second half and led all scorers with 31 points, shooting 13-for-13 from the free throw line.

Dubots amassed nine points and 11 rebounds.

No. 1 seed Southwestern Community College beat Southern Maryland to face the Aztecs in the quarterfinal game.

Southwestern CC are just short of being undefeated for their season, losing only to Kirkwood CC of Cedar Rapids.


DACA: New administration brings uncertainty

DACA: New administration brings uncertainty


Ana, a student at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, came to the United States when she was 2.

She came with her parents and brother, because her parents thought it was the best thing to do for their children.

“It’s not like Mexico had a bad life for us, it’s just there was more opportunity,” Ana said. “Not only economic rights, but education rights for my brother and I.”

Ana, who asked that her last name not be used, works with the UA Immigration Student Resource Center to create a safe environment for those in the same situation.

“I think that it’s crazy, and as dumb as it is, it also strikes fear,” she said. “Not only in yourself but in the family and your community, and it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Aztec Press illustration by Katelyn Roberts


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly referred to as DACA, is an executive order signed by President Obama in June 2012.

The policy allows undocumented immigrants who migrated to the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to be eligible for work permits and protection from deportation for two years, with a renewable application.

Students who take advantage of the policy are referred to as Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAMers.

Those who are eligible pay a $495 fee, an increase from $465 as of December 2016. DACA students must also provide fingerprints and other biometrics for an $85 fee and prove they have not had any criminal convictions.

As of September 2016, over 800,000 DACA applicants have been accepted nationally. Nearly 4,000 of those reside in Pima County, according to the Migration Policy Institute.


The DREAMers were fearful before Obama’s executive order in 2012. The order allowed them to step out of the shadows to continue their education and build a better life in the ‘land of opportunity.’

However, former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer began erecting barriers for DACA students as soon as the policy took affect.

Brewer issued a state executive order to deny the DREAMers driver’s licenses they were eligible for in 2012.

In December 2014, U.S. District Court Judge David G. Campbell overturned Brewer’s order, allowing DREAMers to receive their licenses.

Before that, Proposition 300 was passed in 2006. It made undocumented immigrants ineligible for in-state tuition. Children who had grown up in Arizona most of their lives were now required to pay out-of- state tuition.

Maricopa County Community College District challenged this; allowing in-state tuition to DREAMers. Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne took the district to superior court. The court ruled in the college’s favor.

As of Jan. 10, current Attorney General Mark Brnovich has begun the appeal process to block DREAMers from receiving in-state tuition once again.

DACA students at PCC currently receive in-state tuition according to PCC’s website.

After a ruling by Federal Judge Arthur Anderson in 2015, all three state universities have been required to offer in-state tuition for these students.

While DACA students pay in-state tuition they are not eligible for any federal aid, including FAFSA.

Know Your Rights flier provided by UA ISRC


Now that Donald Trump is president,uncertainty fills the air for the DREAMers and all undocumented immigrants alike.

In a press conference, Trump said “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, because you have these incredible kids, in many cases not in all cases.” He also said he will deal with DACA “with heart.”

However, on Feb. 10, DREAMer Daniel Ramirez Medina was arrested in Seattle.

According to the Los Angeles Times, immigration officials say that Ramirez was a “self-admitted gang member” and arrested him for safety reasons.

Ramirez’s attorney disputed that saying he’d never been convicted of a crime and that he was pressed by immigration officers to falsely admit to the accusations.

Protests around Washington State have already begun in solidarity with Ramirez.

Locally, organizations like the University of Arizona’s International Student

Resource Center, are working to protect the rights of DACA students by supplying training to staff.

ISRC also speaks to the Arizona Board of Regents about making the college a sanctuary zone.

ISRC is also working with a Barrett Honors College student to create an app to alert students of where Border Patrol or other officers are seen around the Tucson area.

Advocacy groups like Scholarships A-Z are also helping DACA students, providing them with assistance in finding private scholarships for school and other immigration resources.

Many volunteers for Scholarships A-Z are also DACA students.


Conozca sus derechos folleto proporcionado por UA ISRC

Although the situation is grim, there are helping hands at many institutions, though some are safer than others. That is evident in letters sent out after the proposal to end the DACA program by the Trump administration.

Chancellor Lee Lambert put out a statement Jan. 30, saying, “The College is reviewing action we could take to ensure students and employees feel secure, respected and supported.”

Pima does stand behind their employees; the email also lists links to help, and others to make an informed decision.

Ann Weaver Hart, president of UA, put out a statement, Nov. 24, 2016. With only 70 DACA students, they represent less than one percent of the student population.

“The UA statement publicly stakes out our position on protecting DACA student information,” she said.

“Providing advice and counsel for those students and ensuring any educational aspiration underway at the UA can be successfully completed regardless of events.”

Although the university had good intentions, many DACA students did not think the letter was clear enough on how it would protect them.

“President Hart, who’s president here at the UA, said she would protect DACA students in all her abilities,” Ana said.

“However coming together with other DACA students we thought it was vague, it didn’t really say anything or like actions to protect.”

A student at the UA felt so unsafe that he transferred to Pima.

“One DACA student left UA to transfer to Pima, because there are more opportunities there and it’s a safer environment,” Ana said.

SPRING BREAK: Getaways close to home

SPRING BREAK: Getaways close to home


Spring Break offers a time for fun and taking a week to forget about school.

If you’re a typically broke college student, you probably can’t even afford to look at top destinations such as Cabo or Miami.

Never fear. If you want a good time without spending too much, you’re reading the right article.


The park is located in Santa Cruz County about an hour and a half south of Tucson. Options include visiting for the day or camping near its namesake Patagonia Lake.

Enjoy scenic water views from a boat, with rentals available. You can also fish, swim or take a half-mile hike to Sonoita Creek.

The park is open for day use from 4 a.m.-10 p.m. Admission costs $15- $20 per vehicle for up to four people, and $3 for individual walk-ins or bicyclists.

Tips for day visitors:

• Arrive early, like at 6 a.m., to maximize fun and to nab a spot that includes a picnic table and great view.

• If you get tired, take a nap in the sun. Just make sure to layer on the SPF.

• Pack a picnic. Fast food and restaurants are not readily available.

• Compile a playlist and make sure you’re able to use offline mode, because service is spotty.

• Take a sweater. It can be chilly in the morning and is often windy.

Make reservations for tent or RV camping at 877-MY-PARKS from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., or reserve online.

For more information, visit https://azstateparks. com/patagonia-lake.


The Mexican beach resort is roughly three hours south of Tucson. Bring your passport or birth certificate.

Most hotels require a person over 25 years old to make the reservation but some allow guests under age 25 to stay at their properties. Many also offer Spring Break deals.

A sampling includes Las Palmas, Princesa Penasco, Casa Blanca, Bella Sirena, Playa Bonita, Laos Mar and Peñasco del Sol.

Daytime activities can be just as fun as the nightlife. Options include day bars, ATV and jet ski rentals, horseriding on the beach, golf, fishing, sunset cruises and banana boats. You’ll see banana boat rides available all over Rocky Point’s beaches.

Rides usually cost $5-$20, depending on how long you ride and how far you go. The boats normally carry six to eight people per trip.

For more information, visit sites such as


Visit Arizona’s west “coast” if you’re looking to get out of town but not out of state. Havasu is located along the Colorado River, four and a half hours from Tucson.

Known for its year-round sunshine and huge Spring Break crowds, Havasu offers tubing, boating hiking, cycling, fishing, offroading and much more. You won’t run out of things to do.

For additional details, visit the Spring Break Section of


Tucson offers fun, touristy and scenic spots that won’t hurt your wallet too much.

It’s free to hike Tumamoc Hill, located off West Anklam Road. Just follow the three rules: no pets, no hiking between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and don’t mess with the wildlife and plants. Carpool with friends and then go for brunch.

For an overview of Tucson’s many other hiking trails, see visittucson. org/things-to-do/hiking.

If you want an adrenaline rush, consider Get Air, Rocks and Ropes or Autobahn Indoor Speedway.

Get Air trampoline park, 330 S. Toole Ave., costs $12 for one hour and $18 for two hours. You’ll pay an extra $3 for jump socks. Hours are Monday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m.; Friday, noon-11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, visit

Rocks and Ropes, also located at 330 S. Toole Ave., offers indoor rock climbing. Admission costs $15 for adults, $10 for ages 12 and under. Other options: pay $12 for a first-time lesson with orientation, $6 for equipment rental or $30 for a full firsttime package. Hours are Monday-Friday, 3-10 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, visit https://rocksandropes. com/downtown.

Autobahn Indoor Speedway, 300 S. Toole Ave., lets the kid in you live out your Mario Kart dreams. Prices vary from $19.99 to $100. Hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m.-midnight; Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. For more information, visit autobahnspeed. com/locations/tucson-arizona-indoor-gokarts.

If you prefer a calmer pace, consider one of the 10-plus museums located in Tucson area. One example: the Tucson Museum of Art, 166 W. Alameda St. For more information, visit

Daniella Campuzano and Ashley Muñoz contributed to this article.

Artist’s difficult life won’t define her

Artist’s difficult life won’t define her


Call Pima Community College student Montessa White an artistic Cinderella. “I’m a creative, ambitious person — I like to think at least,” White said. “I think I’m pretty smart and I want to do what I want to do. I have a lot of dreams and passions and I’m trying to pursue that. I’m a dreamer.”

Montessa White puts finishing touches on a sketch at the West Campus Library.
Erik Medina / Aztec Press

White was born on June 14, which makes her a Gemini. Although White does not pay much attention to astrology, she believes Gemini actually does describe who she is.

“I can be two different people,” she said. “I can be smart and nice Montessa or really mean Montessa.”

White is originally from southern California, mainly the Yorba Linda and Placentia areas.

White didn’t grow up in an average family. She was raised by her mother after her mother and father separated. White’s mother left for California and her father stayed in Arizona.

“It’s complicated, I know,” she said.

White didn’t have a “happy-go-lucky” life as a child. She constantly movedaround and was homeless at one point.

“I was sleeping next to mailboxes with my mom’s jean jacket wrapped around me,” she said.

However, White said she doesn’t let that define her. She strives for the best, despite her struggles in life.

White can recall one moment she classifies as happy: the moment she met her stepfather.

“My life flipped upside down, like the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’” she said. “We were in a really bad situation and then we moved into a nice household.”

“Goddess” by Montessa White

Eventually White moved to Oro Valley to live with her father, and attended Ironwood Ridge High School.

White’s years of moving around meant she missed a lot of high school between her freshman and sophomore years.

She had to scramble to make up missing credits needed to graduate.

“Everyone was bitching about their classes,” she said. “I had a full schedule, plus online classes. Twice as many classes.

It was hell.”

White completed high school with top grades, and graduated on time.

At PCC, White is majoring in digital art with a concentration in illustration. She is also looking into animation classes.

Besides attending school, White works as a student aide at the West Campus library. She works along Christine Seliga,

a library service specialist who has known White since August.

Seliga describes White as a creative and conscientious person.

“She’s got amazing skills with drawing and coming up with concepts for her design class,” Seliga said. “Montessa has

some visions that other people don’t have. She’s got some talents.”

Like many artists, White started drawing at a young age.

“My mom actually told me she would find my sketches on the toilet paper while using the bathroom,” she said.

Her go-to supply is a pencil. She does have other instruments for drawing but likes to stick to the basics.

White doesn’t draw inspiration from any famous artists.

“Inner Beauty” by Montessa White

“I actually don’t look towards famous artists,” she said. “I think their work is cool. I like looking at it sometimes, but I don’t care.”

White does relate to animator Tim Burton. They do not draw or create similar pieces, but she thinks they share similar art styles.

White can’t put a name to her style. She mainly draws people but tweaks them.

She also creates feminist art, which she defines as women drawing women.

Her post-Pima plans include finding a good school with digital art and animation programs, possibly in California.

She would enjoy any job related to full-length or short films, but would especially like to work on storyboards by helping with characters or background art.

Her dream job would be working as a storyboard artist at Disney.

In fact, Disney has been a very important part of White’s difficult life. Disney movies taught her life lessons such as to have courage and to follow her dreams.

If she could be in any Disney movie, White said she’d be in either “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella.”

“Cinderella is my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m like Belle and a little like Jasmine because Jasmine is fierce and fire. I can actually see myself in any movie.”

STOMPING GROUNDS: Old West awaits, practically in your backyard

STOMPING GROUNDS: Old West awaits, practically in your backyard


Polish your boots, straighten your bolo and bust out those Wranglers, because this is Trail Dust Town and you’re re-entering the wild west. Well, about as close as you can get without leaving the Tucson metropolitan area.

Trail Dust Town is located on Tucson’s east side at 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road. Start off with the train ride around town. A haunted cemetery, Polly Anna Park, a Native village and a decrepit mine shaft are just a few of the sights along the track.

Stop by Polly Anna Park. You’ll find a carousel and a Ferris wheel for all ages. Rides cost a wooden nickel ($2.50) for tykes over 3 years old.

A Trail Dust Town sign greets visitors at the Polly Anna Park entrance on the southwest side.
The Old West destination offers activities ranging from a stunt show to a haunted tour.
Dale Villeburn Old Coyote / Aztec Press

A dozen different activities can entertain all types of folk. Catch the Pinnacle Peak Pistoleroes Wild West Stunt Show, full of daring feats and booming pyrotechnics, for just two wooden nickels ($5).

Visit the shooting range if you have an itchy trigger finger afterwards. It takes quarters, and the rifles need to be sighted, but you might enjoy a jaunty tune while you work on your aim.

Pop into the general store for some novelty trinkets and toys. Or, you can stroll the street and take old-timey photos with outfits and props throughout the town.


The Museum of the Horse Soldier is the newest addition to the property and truly is one of Tucson’s hidden gems.

Featuring more than 2,000 pieces of genuine American military history, it has everything from uniforms to swords to cannons.

According to museum director Rae Whitely, “Everything behind glass is authentic.”

The gallery also displays the only surviving uniform from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. The rest were destroyed on an official burn order.

Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children. Ages 6 and under are free.


is it time to put some fright into your night? Bill Delfs, the proprietor of Ravenhearse productions, recounts more than 40 instances in their less-than-two-year stretch in which adult patrons have been scared enough to lose control of certain bodily functions.

Don’t be shy. Ravenhearse is a family haunt that operates year round and offers tour choices that can accommodate a variety of health issues. The green tour, yellow tour and red tour get increasingly frightening.

The green tour is acceptable for all ages, while the red tour is for the utterly fearless.

A tour can run 15-45 minutes, depending on how long you can last. They’re available Thursday-Sunday, and cost $5.

Youngsters can enjoy an old-fashioned carousal ride for $2.50 in Polly Anna Park.
Dale Villeburn Old Coyote / Aztec Press


If you swing by the Dakota Café, you might run into general manager Juan Figueroa.

The restaurant has strong customer loyalty, and Figueroa will try his best to make you feel at home.

“It’s mostly regulars, people who have been coming here for 30 years,” he said. “I like to treat everyone like family.”

Pay attention, Pima students. If you whisper the secret code “dakota cats” to your server, you’ll get 20 percent off your bill.

If you have a serious hunger, head into Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse and fill your belly with its 30-ounce T-bone steak, “The Big Cowboy.”

Don’t come in your best dress, however. Pinnacle Peak has a strictly enforced “no ties allowed” policy. You can see what others have lost, with hundreds of ties cut from the necks of patrons hanging from the rafters.

Save room for dessert and stop by the Chocolate Depot to pick up some homestyle fudge and pastries. Stock up on oldfashioned candy, or a three-foot gummy snake for the week.

There’s plenty more to discover at Trail Dust Town, and it’s a great way to support small, local businesses.

A farmers’ market is open each Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. There’s a banquet hall available to rent, an art gallery to visit and plenty of interesting characters.

For more information, visit traildusttown. com or call 296-4551.

BASEBALL: Aztecs move above .500 for the season

BASEBALL: Aztecs move above .500 for the season


As the Pima Community College baseball team digs through the opening season schedule they face a 0.028 lower batting average than last year.

The Aztecs have 37 more games till their post season, after the Chandler-Gilbert game.

Sophomore Taylor Ferdinand throws a pitch against Phoenix College under the Kino Sports Complex lights.
Rene Escobar / Aztec Press

Feb. 18: PCC 5, Mesa 8

Manny Ramirez home runs as the Aztecs fall to No. 6 Mesa on Feb.18 at West Campus. In the first game, but weather permitted the second from being played and will be made up for a later date.

The Aztecs trailed 5-2 after the top of the third they cut into the deficit after a two-run RBI duble by Sophomore Erick Migueles. But could not capitalize with a runner on second with zero outs.

Feb. 21: PCC 0, Phoenix College 1 / PCC 2, Phoenix College 8

In the first double header of conference play, the Aztecs were swept by Phoenix at Kino Sports Complex.

Migueles started the Aztecs off strong in the second game of the double header with a solo home run.

Kino Sports Complex was the sight of the Tuesday night game “It’s awesome, great experience for the kids.” Assistant coach Ernie Durazo said.

Migueles finished the second game two for five along with a RBI and one scored run.

Sophomore Taylor Ferdinand had a dismal second game giving up five total runs, two of them earned he only pitched three and two thirds innings before being pulled.

He was replaced with sophomore Ernesto Romero, who allowed one earned run.

Feb. 24: PCC 7, Vancouver Island 0 / PCC 7, Vancouver Island 3

Aztecs get back on track posting back-to-back lucky sevens sweeping Vancouver Island University at West Campus.

Pitchers Jonathan Deeble and Andres Hackman combine for a shutout during the first game of the double header against Vancouver.

Migueles got the Aztecs on the board first in the first game with a RBI single. He would finish one for two at the plate.

In the second game the Aztecs were trailing by the third.

An offensive explosion rallied the team to the lead with a five run in the fourth inning to secure the win for the Aztecs.

Feb. 25: PCC 3, Paradise Valley 5 / PCC 3, Paradise Valley 1

Both games were tight contests as the Aztecs saw freshman pitcher Jose Contreras toss five strikeouts in a 3-1 win over Paradise Valley.

Freshman Isaac Lopez continued the pitching dominance earning the save with one strikeout.

In the first game the Aztecs cut the into the lead in the fourth inning, making the score 3-2. But Paradise Valley halted the come back by scoring two runs.

In the second game the Aztecs provided just enough offense to take the lead and pitching kept the lead for the Aztecs.

Sophomore Oscar Larranaga finished the second game with two RBIs going two for four at the plate.

Freshman Marcus Mendez went two for three at the plate with two runs scored.

Migueles finished the game one for four with an RBI along with a solo home run.

Freshman Gage O’Brien pitched for two innings with two strike outs and three walks.


March 4: Glendale CC, West Campus, doubleheader, noon, 2:30 p.m.

March 7: GateWay CC, Kino Memorial Stadium, doubleheader, 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. March 11: at Yavapai College, Prescott, doubleheader, noon, 2:30 p.m.

March 14: Monroe CC, Kino Memorial Stadium, doubleheader, noon, 2:30 p.m.

March 17: Madison Area Technical College, West Campus, noon

March 21: at Scottsdale CC, doubleheader, noon, 2:30 p.m.

March 23: Mexico, Kino Memorial Stadium, 11 a.m.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Pima to host Scottsdale in playoffs

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Pima to host Scottsdale in playoffs


Sophomore Denesia Smith muscles past a Cochise College defender for a layup. Smith finished the game with a team-high 26 points.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

The Pima Community College women’s team will be the No. 2 seed for the NJCAA Region I, Division II tournament, and will host No. 3 Scottsdale Community College on March 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Pima finished the regular season with a 22-7 overall record and a 17-5 record in conference play.

Feb. 15: PCC 80, Cochise 81

When the Aztecs faced Cochise College at home for their second game of the season, they met the same fate as in their previous meeting in Douglas.

After a strong first half, PCC fell behind in the second half. A last-second play by sophomore Sydni Stallworth forced overtime.

The Apaches won the game with a last-second layup.

Stallworth finished with 15 points, which she scored solely in the second half and in overtime. Sophomore Denesia Smith finished with a team-high 26 points and fellow sophomore Erin Peterson ended with seven points and seven rebounds.

Feb. 18: PCC 94, Phoenix 71

After recovering from the Apache loss, PCC bounced back to defeat Phoenix College by a double-digit margin.

PCC ended the first half with a 34-31 lead and opened the second half with a 15-6 run. The Aztecs used an 11-0 run to take a 74-50 lead with four minutes left.

Sophomore Bree Cates and Smith both ended with 16 points.

Stallworth finished with 23 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Moana Hala’ufia had 15 rebounds and four points.

Feb. 22: PCC 93, CAC 90

A 93-90 home victory gave the Aztecs their first-ever regularseason sweep of Central Arizona College. In a previous road match, the Aztecs beat the Vaqueras 96-85.

The Aztecs fell behind during the game but continued chipping away. The game was tied at 90-90 with 13.3 seconds left when Cates hit a 3-pointer to secure the win.

“We stayed together and kept fighting,” Cates said in a press release. “It was our time and we were due for sure.” Cates led the team with 23 points, and Stallworth scored 17 points.

Feb. 25: PCC 58, Mesa 60

PCC had a strong first half but quickly derailed. After multiple lead changes in the second half, Mesa used a 6-0 run to take and maintain the lead.

Cates finished the game with 22 points and six rebounds. Smith had 14 points.

Feb. 28: PCC 79, AWC 73 

Head coach Todd Holthaus talks to his team as assistant coaches Jim Rosborough and Chris Klassen look on.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

The Aztecs finished the regular season with a victory over the Arizona Western College Matadors on Sophomore Night.

PCC opened the first half with a 12-0 run and ended the first quarter 10 points ahead, 26-16. The second quarter saw a revamped Arizona Western College score seven points ahead of the Aztecs.

The teams went into halftime with PCC still in the lead, 37-34.

The second half of the game was no different.

The Aztecs were up in the third quarter, only to see the Matadors come back in the fourth. The game ended with AWC falling short of the win.

Stallworth was just short of a triple-double with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Cates finished with 17 points, and Smith finished with 13.

BASEBALL: Aztecs go even in four-game series

BASEBALL: Aztecs go even in four-game series


The Pima Community College baseball team trounced its way into the season, picking up three straight wins against the University of Arizona Club team.


Feb. 3: PCC 2, El Paso 5 /

PCC 14, El Paso 8

In the first game, the Aztecs scored their only two runs in the second inning.

“It’s one game,” assistant coach Britt Echols said. “We have another coming up. We’ll get it next game.”

The Aztecs trailed El Paso 8-1 in the bottom of the third. They scored in three consecutive innings to tie the game, then sealed it with runs in the seventh and eighth innings.


Feb. 4: PCC 0, El Paso 3 /

PCC 5, El Paso 0

On the second day, El Paso shut out the Aztecs. Four errors, mixed with four hits throughout the game doomed PCC.

After the dismal loss, PCC answered back with a shutout of their own. The Aztecs brought in two runs in the first inning, two more runs in the third and one more in the fifth.


Feb. 11: PCC 3, Scottsdale 2 /

PCC 3, Scottsdale 2

The conference opener saw sophomore Manny Ramirez hit a walk off to steal the win.

The Aztecs first scored off an error to go up 1-0.

Scottsdale answered back with a two-run home run. Freshman Martin Garcia and sophomore Oscar Larranaga hit back-to-back singles leading up to Ramirez’s theft. Down 2-1 in the ninth, the Aztecs capitalized on a wild pitch to finish their two-game series.


Feb. 14: PCC 2, GateWay 5/

PCC 4, GateWay 5

The Aztecs’ traveled to Phoenix for their first season road game on Feb. 14.

Valentine’s Day was not sweet as the Aztecs were swept in a doubleheader against GateWay

In the first game, they mustered two runs, scoring in the first inning. In the second, they went up 4-0 in the first inning but their on-fire offense was smothered, as they were unable to score again in a 5-4 loss.


Feb. 18: Mesa CC, West Campus, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 21: Phoenix College, Kino Memorial Stadium, 4p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 24: White Rock Tritons (Canada), West Campus, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 25: Paradise Valley CC, Phoenix, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 28: Chandler-Gilbert CC, Kino Memorial stadium, 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.


Pima Community College player Martin Garcia awaits a pitch from El Paso in the third game on Feb. 4. The Aztecs lost the game by three runs.
Rene Escobarb/Aztec Press

Ex-Pima student can ‘sea’ opportunities

Ex-Pima student can ‘sea’ opportunities



If the late-1980s smash hit “The Little Mermaid” is to be believed, “flapping your fins, you don’t get too far.”

Tell that to former Pima Community College student Emy Higdon.

Higdon holds an associate of applied science in business, with a concentration in marketing. Odette holds court over the dry rivers and lakebeds of the Sonoran Desert.

Who is Odette? That would be Higdon’s part-time alter ego, Mermaid Odette. The character came into being at an intersection of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Higdon traces Mermaid Odette’s genesis to her childhood.

“As a kid, I was always really creative,” she said. “Super creative, really.”

She needed an outlet, and found a Tucson performance space known for being off the beaten path.

“I volunteered at Valley of the Moon, and that place sparked my imagination to a new level,” she said.

Her first visit planted the idea for adopting a mermaid alter ego.

“I got to help someone make a tail for a show,” she said. “It was just made of a simple, silvery kind of weird fabric, but it just kind of sparked from there.”

She created Mermaid Odette in 2009, and took the character public soon after. Coincidentally, her first performance happened to be at Valley of the Moon.

“It was a screening of a movie,” she said. “I had a little inflatable pool near the witches’ cauldron area and would splash my fin and get on top of the cement wall and flick my tail at the kids and they would smile at me. So after that I was like, ‘yep, I’m hooked.’”

Parties and other events soon followed.

One happy parent, Jenni Sunshine, happily recounts her 8-year-old daughter’s birthday party in an online review.

“She told interesting stories and answered their every question,” Sunshine wrote. “Perhaps even more important is that Mermaid Odette is a delightful woman who I trust to set exactly the right tone with kids.”

Though she loved doing birthday parties, Higdon felt she needed something. She changed her major from veterinary science and began to focus on business.

“A lot of different classes gave me the best foundation,” she said. “Accounting was absolutely perfect.”

Classes at Pima helped “clarify different parts of how you present yourself and what kind of business you’re looking for and your target audience,” she said.

Those lessons helped Higdon grow her business. They also helped with developing Return of the Mermaids, an annual event held in downtown Tucson and along the Fourth Avenue entertainment district.

“I was their head mermaid entertainer for years and I am super thankful for being a part of it,” she said.

The event has grown each year since its inception in 2013.

“I remember the first year, out of nowhere, just some people coming in to see me splash my tail and then going around to other places,” she said. “Every year I see more and more people and it’s so amazing to see all the different costumes.”

And while Higdon continues focusing on business while seeking a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University, Odette will continue offering performances that make people of all ages believe.

“I’ve always had a want to build some sort of character that was unique, fun, interesting,” Higdon said. “The whole point is to give the experience that will make the customer the most happy, that will be the most memorable.”

Emy Higdon continues her business studies, now at Northern Arizona University.
Eddie Celaya/Aztec Press


Pima Community College business graduate Emy Higdon performs as Mermaid Odette while entertaining a young girl at a birthday party.
Photo courtesy of Joelle Higdon

Pro hockey finds home in Old Pueblo

Pro hockey finds home in Old Pueblo


Ice hockey surely is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of things to do in Tucson.

Average temperatures regularly reach the 70s during winter months and snow is pretty much a foreign object.

Despite all that, the National Hockey League Arizona Coyotes agreed in April 2016 to purchase their American Hockey League affiliate team, the Springfield Falcons, and relocate them to Tucson.

In May, the team signed a 10-year lease to play home games at the Tucson Convention Center downtown.

After a local naming contest, the franchise officially became the Tucson Roadrunners.

Mark Lamb of the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos became the Roadrunners’ first head coach in June.

“We have a lot of guys playing hard,” Lamb said. “Talent-wise and player-wise, we are working hard.”

New franchise brass have worked hard to put together a competitive roster in the first year.

Young stars like defenseman Kyle Wood offer an opportunity for locals to experience the future of professional hockey.

“It’s been really fun playing here,” Wood said.

Besides building a winner, the biggest challenge for the team is garnering community support. Several names behind the scenes are determined to do just that.

Director of Media Relations Tom Callahan is an East Coast guy who has loved the sport of hockey since he was a kid.

“Coming to a market like Tucson, where I believe only University of Arizona club hockey has been played occasionally, is definitely a challenge,” Callahan said. “It is like a mission to bring hockey to people who may or may not be fans, or maybe they are casual fans.”

Callahan stressed the importance of exposing children to the game.

“There are kids out here who are experiencing their first hockey game and maybe they are hooked, maybe they’ve found a new favorite player and will try to get their parents to take them skating and get them involved,” he said. “It is all about sharing that passion and creating fans.”

Callahan broadcasts play-by-play for every game on AM radio 1450. The station is also available on the iheartradio app for students.

To encourage attendance, the club offers a Tucson Roadrunners student rush pass.

Eligible students can visit and provide their name, phone number and an active collegiate email address.

The club will contact students via text message on game day to offer special drink and concession deals.

Digital Operations Manager Alexander Kinkopf is in charge of running the team’s various social media accounts, and considers it his job to make hockey appealing to college students.

“People get so tired of the traditional final scores or player updates,” he said. “When people see an official team account show some sort of personality or some sort of voice, it really strikes a chord.”

Kinkopf keeps up with trends in an effort to make the Roadrunner’s social media more relatable.

“One of the most fun parts of my job is to be able to be creative with the sport and to be able to relate it to pop culture,” he said.

Kinkopf encourages students to follow the Roadrunners on Twitter @RoadrunnersAHL or like the team page on Facebook.

“It is very important to us to cater to the local college students here,” he said.

Hockey is arguably the most entertaining sport on the planet. It is fast-paced and action-packed, making it is easy for a casual fan to evolve into a die-hard.

Pima Community College students can enjoy the experience first-hand by supporting the Tucson Roadrunners.

Single-game tickets start at $14. For more information or to buy tickets, call 866-77-HOCKEY toll-free or visit


Feb. 24, 25, 28: San Jose, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 17, 18: Bakersfield, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 25: San Jose, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 26: San Jose, TCC, 4:05 p.m.

March 28: San Antonio, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 31: San Diego, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

April 1: San Diego, TCC, 7:05 p.m.


Roadrunners right winger Anthony Duclair looks for a pass in a home game against San Diego on Jan. 28 at the Tucson Convention Center.