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PCC student says seek opportunities

PCC student says seek opportunities



For some it may seem like there’s a shortage of students getting involved at Pima Community College. Their common excuse is, “I want to be involved but there’s nothing going on.” It may be a surprise to some, but there are many opportunities at PCC to be more active. You just need to take the time to become a part of the process.

Alec Moreno, 21-year-old Tucson native, has been closely involved with the local Tucson and Pima community since he started attending the college in 2011. He’s a dual engineering and mathematics major, and tutors in both subjects.

Alonso Minjarez, advisor for The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers PCC-West Chapter where Moreno served as the chapter’s president in 2012, worked with Moreno to reach out to youth in the community and make a positive impact on the student body.

“Alec proactively pursues me to talk, not only about his engineering academics, but on how to approach matters that affect PCC students negatively,” said Minjarez. “He is confident and fearless, while keeping extremely diplomatic on issues. He always stands up for what is right.”

Like many who attend Pima, Moreno wanted to become involved in the legislative issues facing Pima students, and through time-consuming work and reaching out to students, he has managed to make an impact.

Moreno had been closely involved in starting and running La Pima, Legislative Advocates for Pima Community College. The club was the spiritual predecessor to Advocates for PCC, a group dedicated to making students more involved in the community and giving them the tools to become active in the legislative process.

Members of Advocates for PCC work with community leaders and members of the PCC administration to address issues faced by students. The club led an initiative to increase voter registration earlier this semester.

Moreno also worked to help increase legislative and administrative transparency so that students

can have a better understanding of the school’s inner workings.

“We want to shed light as to what is going on within the college,” Moreno said. “We are working towards all students having a positive life at Pima.”

Michael Peel, PCC community and government relations advanced analyst, worked closely with Moreno to help lay the foundation of Advocates for PCC, a student organization that’s focused on helping Pima students advocate for their school.

“Alec Moreno couldn’t be a more effective leader for students,” Peel said. “I am really impressed with him making it clear to students that they can be involved with Pima.”

He has also traveled to places such as Washington, D.C. to represent Pima and speak with different representatives about the need for financial aid such as the Pell Grant for students to attend community colleges.

Moreno hasn’t always focused his energy on the inner workings of Pima. As a former member of the PCC Board, Moreno helped students deal with their everyday affairs at Pima.

“We want to focus on solving student issues specifically,” Moreno said. “Sometimes you have to go out and actually talk to students to find out what the real issues are.”

Moreno’s work helps students get the most out of their classes.

“Students who we work with can see a direct impact, can actually see the results of our work instead of wondering if anything will be done or if they will be left in the dark,” Moreno said.

His interest to help everyone achieve the best learning experience possible reaches farther than speaking to students. He also talks to instructors about different problems they may be facing inside the classroom.

Moreno’s interpersonal skills have revealed opportunities for Pima students. Most recently, he scheduled a field trip to Raytheon for students, as well as facilitating the donation of a 3-D printer to Pima from a consulting firm.

“The community really wants to see Pima become a stronger college,” Moreno said. “There are many people within the community who donate time and energy to those who want to make a difference.”

The networking student had a few words of advice for someone interested in becoming involved.

“Seek opportunities,” Moreno said. “Go out and connect at events that interest you. Meeting one person can lead to meeting endless people, which you never would have thought possible.”

His involvement with the legislation and politics at Pima has led him to connect with people in and out of Arizona, showing that new acquaintances can lead to all kinds of places.

Moreno said there are many opportunities for students at Pima—they just have to open their eyes and look around.


Alec Moreno poses in the West Campus cafeteria. Moreno has been involved in many opportunities at Pima from representing students at Board of Governors meetings, to club leadership, to tutoring peers. (Travis Braasch/Aztec Press)

PCC shines new light on energy usage

PCC shines new light on energy usage



Pima Community College is joining the ranks of the growing number of organizations adding a solar energy component. The college has just begun construction of a set of solar panels in a parking lot at Downtown Campus. Photovoltaic solar panels will also be installed at West Campus, Community Campus and the Maintenance and Security facility by January 2016.

“It makes sense to take advantage of one of Arizona’s most generous natural resources,” said Marketing Director Libby Howell. “Sunshine.”

Solar panels are quickly becoming a more common sight across the country. Solar power is an alternative type of energy hailed as a bright solution for sustainable and effective power sources.

In sunny Arizona, there is enough solar energy throughout the state to power an estimated 304,000 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s 2014 report.

According to Howell, the solar panel covered areas in the parking lots are going to provide benefits to both the college’s budget and student comfort.

“This technology is very exciting because the system can be monitored 24/7 through an Internet application,” she said.  “Plus, not only are we saving the college money, but we are also providing covered parking.”

The primary goal of the solar panels is economically driven, saving money by cutting down costs. The college has agreed to a 25-year contract with the SOLON Corporation, a provider of solar solutions for residential and commercial properties.

SOLON is financed by another local solar power provider, Solar City, as part of a joint venture. Solar City are responsible for the actual installation of the panels.

David Davis, PCC’s new energy resource manager, said that thanks to this partnership, the solar panels are free to install.

“It cost Pima Community College nothing to install as we do not own the equipment,” he said.  “We simply purchase the power from Solar City that was generated on college property.

“Had Pima taken on this project ourselves, the cost would have been in the neighborhood of ten million dollars,” he added.

Vice Chancellor of Facilities Bill Ward explained the power purchase agreement.

“The way that works is they come in, we sign into this contract, which is about 25 years, and then they put these panels in areas where we qualify,” he said. “Everyone has to qualify. Everybody thinks you could slap solar power anywhere, but you can’t.”

Once completed, the combined campuses will generate a capacity of about 2.7 megawatts. The college will purchase solar energy that is generated on campus from Solar City. Davis said that this is less expensive than continuing to buy power from local utilities.

“The primary benefit to Pima is a reduction in costs for the electricity we purchase,” he said.  “For the power generated, our rates will be stable for the duration of the 25 year contract.”

Ward said that although Pima will now be paying two power bills, costs will go down.

“We end up paying the solar company for part of our power bill,” he said. “It lowers our power bill with the electric company. In a sense we will be paying two bills, but it actually lowers our power district wide.”

The solar panels are expected to show a big pay off in a relatively quick amount of time. According to Howell, the college and SOLON estimate $47,000 in operational savings in the first year alone.

“Carrying that over the 25 year life of the agreement, we estimate that a savings of $6-7 million will be achieved, and that’s a conservative estimate,” Howell said.

Army veteran Robert Ross attends Downtown Campus for the machine shop technician program. He thinks the savings will benefit Pima, but installation was inconvenient for students.

“I think it’s a good thing to do because it will cut our long term energy cost,” he said.  “I think their timing sucks. I think what they should have done instead is done it section by section so that there is still some parking.”

Construction at the Downtown Campus began on Nov. 2 and will wrap up Jan. 15, 2016. The portion of the parking lot where installation is taking place is closed off.

Installation at the south lot at West Campus begins Nov. 30 and is scheduled to end Dec. 31. The work on the north lot will be underway Dec. 16 to 30.

Some of the trees on campus will need to be removed for the installations, but for every tree removed the college will plant three more. The branches and foliage from the trees taken down will be taken to the Reid Park Zoo through the City of Tucson.

Not only does solar power contribute to smaller energy costs for the college, it’s a renewable energy source that emits little to no greenhouse gas.

According to Solar City’s website, one of their solar systems could offset approximately 178 tons of carbon dioxide over 30 years.

Luke Alm, director of business development at SOLON, estimates that Pima’s solar program will reduce 7,683,040 pounds of greenhouse gases, 7,029,345 gallons of water and will create approximately 801 covered parking areas.

With Pima’s solar plan, the panels will be able to serve another important purpose; education. Currently, the college offers a certificate program for solar installation, with classes located at Downtown Campus. The panels are a working, physical example of what students in the program will study in their classes.

“The cool thing is we are setting it up to give students access to study it,” said Ward. “The whole idea is we want to set it up where they could literally go in and look at the system. I’m going to even try and maybe set it up to where people can actually watch power generated on electronic signs. I got a lot of ideas.”

The solar panels aren’t the only sustainability effort being made by the college.

Pima was recently acknowledged for their water conservation efforts and won the Campus Conservations Nationals water conservation grand prize of 2015. The college was awarded software and devices to monitor our energy use.

The department leading the work in keeping the college as environmentally responsible as possible is Management and Security in Facilities.

Davis stated Management and Security sometimes receive criticism from staff about sustainability efforts, but the complaints stem from a lack of access to news of their projects.

“In defense of those criticizing Pima College for its lacking sustainability stance, there is not presently a mechanism to inform students and staff about sustainability efforts being undertaken by Pima College M&S,” he said.

The college has a number of projects that are currently in the planning or action stages. Hiring Davis as a full-time energy resource manager in May was a key step.

Pima’s Management and Security has a database to monitor utility billing trends, is elevating a deal with United Energy for wholesale purchasing of natural gas, is installing LED lighting and low water use urinals and toilets and has installed meters for monitoring energy usage. It’s also working with Tucson Electric Power for energy saving incentives.

It’s careful to ensure its practices are truly responsible and only replace lights and water fixtures that need to be fixed, as not to toss out useable equipment.

Ward is thankful for the opportunity to help facilitate Pima’s new solar panels and upcoming projects.

“I’m really excited that we can get this out to the students and everything because this is a big deal to me,” he said.  “To be able to do a project like this, of this size, for the college and to partner with a company like SOLON and Solar City, is really cool.”

For more information about the solar panels and other projects by Facilities visit


Workers continue construction on solar panel covered parking spots at Downtown Campus. The installation began on November 2 and is planned to conclude on Jan. 15, 2016. (Aztec Press photos by Jamie Verwys)

Paris, Syria and social media: Taking a closer look

Paris, Syria and social media: Taking a closer look



The world appears to be in shambles. Terror attacks all over the globe have left news outlets and people on social media scrambling to find answers and a direction to point a finger of blame. Some of the ill-informed public has shown an outpouring of support for action to be taken against ISIS, and in turn have drawn national powers closer and closer to what may result in World War III, and social media is inadvertently helping to propagate the war-mongering.

Skewed social media

A lot has been said following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed at least 127 people. Facebook even launched a feature that would allow users to temporarily overlay the French flag atop their profile pictures. The message underneath those who had chosen to use it read, “change your profile picture to support France and the people of Paris” to encourage other users to follow suit.

Facebook is full of captioned images and sound-bites that are shared hundreds if not thousands of times. After the attack on Paris, many in my own newsfeed posted political statements, mostly positive and supported the people of Paris, but others called for an escalation of U.S. action against ISIS.

A gesture that seemed innocuous at first glance, but what about other terrorist attacks that happened? On Oct. 31, a Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb killing more than 200 on board; ISIS claimed responsibility. In a crowded marketplace in Nigeria on Oct. 24, a two different attacks claimed over 45 lives and injuring many more in Yola and Kano. A day before the Paris attacks, ISIS carried out another bombing in Beirut, Lebanon killing 41 and injuring 200.

A skeptical person may ask why only a Western nation garnered so much support while others didn’t.

Beating the drums of war

Attacking ISIS would mean boosting military presence in Syria, a place in which nobody really knows who’s fighting who and conflicts of interest are commonplace.

Among many nations and coalitions, here are just a few of the major powers involved. The U.S. is strongly opposed to the reign of Syria’s current president Bashar Al-Assad. Russia on the other hand supports Assad. Currently ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, are two jihadi groups which oppose Assad but are enemies. Following the events in Paris, France began an air assault in Raqqa, Syria which ISIS claims is the capital of their caliphate..

There are many other national powers that have either provided logistical support, airstrikes, and soldiers. Needless to say it’s confusing and has created untold amounts of violence not only in the area, but globally as we’ve seen from the recent attacks and resettlement of the people the war has displaced.

Yet in the United States and particularly my Facebook newsfeed, cringe-worthy images kept surfacing every time I scrolled. A few images caught my attention, one depicted a bomb with the inscription, “With love from Paris” and another with two cowboys brandishing guns captioned “Saddle up motherfuckers it’s time to play cowboys and Muslims.”

The poster of the last picture posted something along the lines of, “It’s time to step up and show them why we are the land of the free and the home of the brave!” as if cheering at a homecoming football game. There’s a good chance this person doesn’t know the difference between a Sunni Muslim and a Shiite or their infight between them.

In cases like this, nuance is an important character and often missed.

To some on social media, vengeance and retribution seem justified after the attacks. However it must be noted that bombs aren’t as precise as the government leads on and many land in civilian areas. The effects are unintentionally creating more casualties, ISIS members and refugees.

The use of drone warfare has been especially brutal. Democracy Now! An independent global news publication released an article (DATE) featuring Air Force veterans of the drone program that voiced opposition for the practice.

In an open letter to President Obama, Ashton B. Carter Secretary of the Department of Defense, John O. Brennan Director of the CIA, and four service members described the drone program as a “devastating driving force for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

The letter went on to say that the service members witnessed abuse of power, mismanagement and political leaders outright lying about the effectiveness of the program.  All of the veterans involved in writing the letter also suffer from PTSD as a consequence of their actions.

All in all, the war in Syria and U.S. involvement isn’t as clean cut as leaders will have us believe. And if the war were to intensify, we may find ourselves in the same hopeless quagmire as we did with the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

France already started bombing Syria just days after the Paris attacks while Russia has sworn retribution by intensifying bombing as well, only increasing the rate at which refugees flee the country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees latest figures estimate 4,289,792 registered refugees from Syria, many of which will resettle in Europe and the U.S. among other places.

People may recall the gruesome image of the drowned Syrian boy that circulated through the news and social media. The powerful imagery was enough to remind some of the gravity of what refugees face.

Political candidate Donald Trump has proposed that all Syrian Refugees register in a national tracking database, comparing them to a potential ISIS Trojan horse. Some in the media have been quick to call this out and draw parallels to what the Nazis did to the Jewish population during the beginning of World War II.

By isolating the population and fueling  fear, Trump and other political figure heads are making things so much worse. Spreading fear only helps to drive a divisive stake between muslims and everyone else, which is playing exactly into their hands.

If people give into the fear-mongering then the terrorists have already accomplished their goal.

Propaganda and nationalism throughout social media, whether intentional or not, is helping to fuel the war machine that the United States will inevitably unleash in Syria. The American people are sick of war, lack of care for our veterans who return from conflict and the general human suffering

As mentioned earlier in this issue, journalists have the obligation of ensuring that the general public is in the know, and with the flurry of emotional reposts it seems easy to get lost as to what a reader should believe. Think before you post.


Aztec Press photo illustration by Alex Fruechtenicht

A flurry of winter wonderful opportunities:  Inside PCC’s music program

A flurry of winter wonderful opportunities: Inside PCC’s music program




Pima Community College’s music program offers opportunities for talented students to develop their skills in music.

According to PCC’s website, the music program encompasses the music history, industry and music theory of the modern and classic eras. Independent studies are offered for voice, piano, guitar and other musical instruments in a studio setting.

Classes are held at the West Campus Center for the Arts. Students enjoy a wide selection of features, including a MIDI laboratory.

Music students are encouraged to join different performing groups that include Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Chorale, Jazz Ensemble and College Singers.

Raymundo Montes, a PCC music student, plays flute for the wind ensemble.  He takes music courses at Pima and plans to transfer to Arizona State University.

“We have dedicated music instructors who help us succeed, whether it’s about understanding music theory or preparing a recital or concert,” Montes said.  “I loved music since I was a child.  Music develops creative expression, self-discipline and character.”

Students can build their musical foundation by earning an associate degree in Music with low costs and then transfer to a university to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Music.

Mark Nelson directs PCC’s Wind Ensemble and has planned an exciting collaboration with Catalina Foothills High School.

The Jazz Ensemble is directed by Mike Kuhn. This ensemble imitates “Big Band Style” delivery.

Alexander Tentser conducts PCC’s orchestra, a blend of students and non-students. The vocal groups are led by Jonathan Ng. He conducts both the Chorale and the College Singers, which is also gender neutral but focuses on the A Capella style.

These performing groups and other artists will hold concerts throughout the rest of the 2015-2016 school year. Ticket prices vary from $6 to $8 and can be bought at the Box Office at the Center for the Arts. See the schedule above for a description of these concerts.

This is beautiful music that inspires our community.

Early events scheduled for Spring 2016 will be listed in Issue 8 of the Aztec Press. Tickets for all shows can be purchased in the CFA Box Office. A full list of the concerts can be found in the “Inspire!” brochure filed at the CFA. It’s also posted online at Call the box office at 206-6986 for more information.

Here’s a simple sampler of what to expect from this musical concert series.

Dec. 1: A taste of jazz to liven the mood. Come listen to Big Band music by Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich and Dexter Gordon. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets cost $6. Ensemble Director Mike Kuhn is leading the performance which will feature Roger Wallace, a famous trombonist. This show will be held in the Proscenium Theatre

Dec. 3: This colorfully delightful collaboration will float through your mind on the breeze. The PCC and Catalina Foothills High School wind ensembles are getting together for a holiday concert. The PCC Ensemble is directed by Mark Nelson.

The concert will feature some very unique music, including Ralph Williams’ English folk song “Suite. “ It will also include the popular song “Sleigh Ride,” written by Leroy Anderson.

playlist the night of the show. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets cost $6. This show will be held in the Proscenium Theatre.

Dec. 4: Student voices chime in the winter night. PCC Chorale and College Singers will join together to sing classic songs, including medieval tunes and some more modern ballads such as “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Disney’s Pinocchio. The show, directed by Jonathan Ng starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $6. This show will be held in the Proscenium Theatre

Dec. 5: Hear the intensity of the storm growing in this multi-instrument reproduction of work by Mozart, Mendelsohn and Vivaldi. PCC Orchestra will be orchestrating songs from these three famous composers at 3 p.m. Tickets are $6. This show will be held in the Proscenium Theatre. The orchestra is directed by Alexander Tentser.

“Our concert will feature Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony #3, “Scottish”, inspired by the composer’s trip to Scotland. The piece depicts a violent storm at sea with thunder and lightning and gradual calming down,” Tenser said.

Pg09-Music PCCWindEns15

The Pima Community College Wind Ensemble unleashes beautiful melodies upon its audience during a previous concert. (Photo courtesy of PCC Center for the Arts)

Top 10: Revengence with cheese

Top 10: Revengence with cheese



Last semester we published an article about the top 10 drive-thru fast food burgers. Shortly thereafter, both readers and staff took issue with the results of the top 10, featuring Burger King at the number one spot. So we decided to go out and conduct the test again, going to different burger joints you can visit on your lunch break. With that in mind, a journalist, a culinary student and a professional photographer hit 10 fast food restaurants and ordered their signature burger. We rated them on appearance, texture and taste. Here are the results.

10. McDonald’s – Big Mac

The Big Mac was disappointing. Plain and simple, it tasted terrible and fell apart just by picking it up and really looked like a bun with lettuce.

Price: $3.99

Appearance: 3.66

Texture: 3

Taste: 4.33

Overall: 3.66


9. Carl’s Jr. – Famous Star

While it’s one of the cheaper burgers on the list, the Famous Star had a sweet bun and too many condiments, which didn’t help at all.

Price: $3.49

Appearance: 2

Texture: 3.66

Taste: 5.83

Overall: 3.83

Pg10-Carls Jr

8. Del Taco – Del Cheeseburger

A surprise in our eyes considering how good Del Taco usually is, this burger’s only advantage was the taste of the burger patty itself, which was very small.

Price: $2.29

Appearance: 3

Texture: 5

Taste: 5.83

Overall: 4.61

Pg10-Del Taco

7. Five Guys – Cheeseburger with everything

One of the bigger and tastier burgers, Five Guys had some great-tasting toppings and patty, but you might not have missed them considering the burger looked like a hot mess.

Price: $6.69

Appearance: 4.33

Texture: 3.83

Taste: 6.83

Overall: 5

Pg10-Five Guys

6. Burger King – Whopper with cheese

Considering that the BK Lounge was our number one spot last semester, seeing it in the lower half now really makes me wonder what miracle of a burger we got last time.

Price: $4.79

Appearance: 5.33

Texture: 5.66

Taste: 5.66

Overall: 5.55

Pg10-Burger King

5. Wendy’s – Dave’s Hot ‘n Juicy 1/4 Lb.

Always surprising, Wendy’s square burgers are pretty good, especially for the price, if not a bit high on the mustard content.

Price: $3.79

Appearance: 5

Texture: 6.33

Taste: 6.66

Overall: 6


4. Culver’s – Culver’s Deluxe

For a custard shop, Culver’s has some mighty fine burgers, even if it looks nothing like it does in the menu photo.

Price: $4.89

Appearance: 5

Texture: 7.33

Taste: 7.33

Overall: 6.55


3.  In-n-Out Burger- Double-Double

Another surprise, In-n-Out’s Double-Double oozes cheese and meat on a bun as the grease seeps through the wrapping. It’s a truly delicious staple of Americana.

Price: $3.50

Appearance: 5.5

Texture: 7.33

Taste: 7.16

Overall: 6.66

Pg10-In N Out

2. Freddy’s – Freddy’s Original Double

More toppings don’t always mean better burgers and Freddy’s was the prime example of this. With crispy edges to the burger and two slabs of pickle, this one really stood out from the crowd.

Price: $4.69

Appearance: 6.66

Texture: 7.33

Taste: 7.66

Overall: 7.21


1. Smashburger – Classic Smash

Whenever you need a burger, head out to Smash Burger and order whatever your heart desires. From boring to extravagant, you won’t be disappointed.

Price: $5.29

Appearance: 8

Texture: 7.5

Taste: 7.16

Overall: 7.55

Pg10-Smash Burger

Men’s team falls against Phoenix

Men’s team falls against Phoenix



The Pima Community College men’s basketball team (4-1, 1-1 in ACCAC) fell short on Saturday at the West Campus.

The Aztecs suffered their first loss of the season against No. 2 ranked Phoenix College 88-85 on Nov. 21.

Down 43-36 at halftime, the Aztecs rallied to take a 65-64 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. Phoenix took the lead and held a four-point lead down the stretch; their latest four-point lead was 83-79 with 28 seconds remaining.

Sophomores Justice Martion and Cameron Volk were key contributors in the game. Martion finished the game with his fourth straight double-double having 27 points and 11 rebounds. Volk finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

In the ACCAC conference opener, Pima defeated Chandler-Gilbert Community College 86-76 on Nov. 18. The Aztecs led the way 45-35 at halftime.

Martion and Volk each scored 23 points. Martion made 10 rebounds and secured his third consecutive double-double.

The Aztecs began the previous season on a hot streak, by going (4-1). The team finished the season on a winning note (18-13).

The Aztecs host Midland Texas College in a non-conference game against on Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. in the West Campus Gym.



Nov. 24: Midland Texas College @ West Campus, 6 p.m.

Dec. 2: @ Glendale Community College, 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 5: @EasternArizonaCollege,5:30p.m.

Dec. 9:CochiseCollege@WestCampus,5:30p.m.


Pg11-Mens Basketball 0

Sophmore Cameron Volk intimidates on offense against Phoenix College center Quinton Johnson at the Pima West Campus Gym on Nov. 21. (Deanna Sherman/Aztec Press)

The All Souls Procession

The All Souls Procession



Photos by Larry Gaurano

The All Souls Procession is an annual event that draws over 100,000 people into Tucson each year.

According to their website, “The All Souls Procession is an event that was created to serve the public’s need to mourn, reflect and celebrate the universal experience of death, through their ancestors, loved ones and the living.”

Starting back in 1990, the All Souls Procession has deep roots in the community, with people keeping the event completely donation-based funded.

Twenty-five years later, the event has grown into an event spreading across the country and even parts of Mexico.

The event lasts only a few hours, starting on 6th Avenue, heading down Toole Avenue until reaching the ceremonial grounds on Congress St. where the urn is burned.

The volunteers encourage everybody to help donate for the hungry ghosts in the event.

This year’s event held one of the largest amount of attendees, somewhere around 150,000 people to the streets of downtown Tucson.

Performers treat people to entertainment before the event kicks off at sundown.

Performers treat people to entertainment before the event kicks off at sundown.

This performer leads the procession with two fiber optic whips that change color.

This performer leads the procession with two fiber optic whips that change color.

The All Souls Procession draws crowds of all ages, from the elderly to children, watching and participating in the event.

The All Souls Procession draws crowds of all ages, from the elderly to children, watching and participating in the event.

Face painting is offered for those who wish to decorate their bodies in paint for the celebration.

Face painting is offered for those who wish to decorate their bodies in paint for the celebration.

The ceremonial urn is lifted into the air and set ablaze for the crowd at the end of the festival.

The ceremonial urn is lifted into the air and set ablaze for the crowd at the end of the festival.

The end of the celebration brings many key players of the Procession for an explosive finale.

The end of the celebration brings many key players of the Procession for an explosive finale.

Hordes of people flood the streets, creating a massive movement for the Procession.

Hordes of people flood the streets, creating a massive movement for the Procession.

Skulls are decorated for the event, celebrating beauty, even in death.

Skulls are decorated for the event, celebrating beauty, even in death.


Attendees often bring totems for their lost loved ones, including messages written out on signs.

Attendees often bring totems for their lost loved ones, including messages written out on signs.

Digital Storytelling Workshop brings the voices of change

Digital Storytelling Workshop brings the voices of change



In her position as an adult education coordinator, Kathy Budway uses a storytelling program to empower students and strengthen their leadership skills.  She believes that telling a story could shape a powerful voice and change the world.

The Digital Storytelling Workshop was held on Sept. 21-23 at the El Rio Learning Center. The workshop brought students in Pima Community College’s adult education program together to learn how to tell their stories.

Budway and her team led the training sessions about documenting stories into a video.  Budway works as Advanced Program Coordinator of Pima’s adult education and develops the Civic and Leadership Program.

“Most of the participants are adult education student council members taking GED classes, and also AmeriCorps volunteers,” she said.  “At this point, we collaborated with student life from other PCC campuses.  That’s why we have a few student leaders from West Campus and Desert Vista Campus as well.”

Instructor Jennifer Clark taught the participants how to write an effective story and record their narration and photos onto video.

“Your unique voice is what makes the story special,” Clark said.   “An effective story presents tension or a problem that leads to change. Be truthful, gentle and fearless.”

During the first day of the workshop, students learned that they were expected to plan, create and produce a story on video.

Clark explained that the beginning of the story has to catch the attention of the reader.  The middle part of the story explains what happens or if there was a change.  The end usually tells the lessons learned.

Students were only allowed to write 350 words. Digital pictures were paired with the stories, and they added text, effects, transitions and music or sounds.

The students learned that people tell stories in order to inspire, understand, communicate and connect, share tragic or special moments, share things in common, bring change and break stereotypes.

“I’m a mother of two,” struck a chord in everyone’s heart as they listened to a mother who lost her first child during delivery.

This is only one of many stories that was told. Another one was about a mother who raised her 12 children after her husband died.

“I write this story to honor my mother,” one of the participants wrote. “I couldn’t imagine how she raised us.  We are doing fine in our lives because of my mom.  She passed away a few months ago.”

Veronica Lopez shared her story about her son who was interested in playing guitar since he was only five.

“My son plays guitar with the mariachi band in Tucson High Magnet School,” she said.  “Parents need to support each child and realize their potential.”

Ricardo Miranda, AmeriCorps volunteer, plans to take Culinary Arts after he gets his GED diploma.  He is a new father of a baby boy.

“My story is about becoming a father,” he said.  “It was a joyful moment when I first saw my first-born son.”

Francisco Urquidez wrote a story about trying to finish his GED diploma. The title of his story was “The Storm.”

“It’s hard to tell a personal story,” he said.  “You feel emotional and some people cry.”

Previous student leaders who took the workshop volunteered.

“I took the workshop before, and I’m happy to help,” said Israel Gonzalez, a science and engineering student at Desert Vista Campus.

At the end of the workshop everyone got the chance to share their stories and celebrate their achievements.

Budway and Clark awarded certificates of attendance to participants.

For more information about Pima’s adult education programs, visit

Aztec Press photos by Kit B. Fassler Pima Community College students attend a digital storytelling workshop hosted by the El Rio Learning Center in September.

Aztec Press photos by Kit B. Fassler
Pima Community College students attend a digital storytelling workshop hosted by the El Rio Learning Center in September.

Behavioral students from Desert Vista Campus, anxious to finish their video. They needed to leave early to attend their graduation ceremony.

Behavioral students from Desert Vista Campus, anxious to finish their video. They needed to leave early to attend their graduation ceremony.

Budway says that the program is intended to empower students and strengthen leadership skills.

Budway says that the program is intended to empower students and strengthen leadership skills.

Digital storytelling workshop participants pose for a souvenir photo.

Digital storytelling workshop participants pose for a souvenir photo.


Steven Wright to ‘keep on trucking’ at the Rialto

Steven Wright to ‘keep on trucking’ at the Rialto



It’s not easy to take the mundane thoughts of everyday life to craft two Grammy nominated comedy albums with 20 years between each release, but Academy Award winner Steven Wright found a way and made it look easy. In Wright’s 1985 landmark album, “I Have A Pony,” he gave the world his abstract views in a deadpan delivery that mesmerized and inspired generations to come. Every joke he tells aims for the money shot and every shot lands.

The Aztec Press had the chance to delve into the comedian’s routine and his plans for the future of his career 20 years in the making.

I saw a clip of you on Conan discussing Twitter, and it made me think about how your humor has not only influenced a generation of comics like Zach Galifianakis and Demetri Martin, but just any of the humor you can find on the internet. Have you noticed the influence? 

Yeah I started noticing about 15 years ago. I was seeing comedians doing my type of speech and joke. But when I was doing it, I was just doing it. I wasn’t thinking some teenager was watching who would grow up to be a comedian.

Do things just pop into your head and then you write them down or do you dedicate an amount of time to cook things up?

In the first six months when I started, I would sit down to write more “traditional material” but then I would see a sign or a word and a joke just comes. Noticing, it’s all based on noticing.

You were a guest star and a consulting producer on “Louie” last season. Will there more of that in the future? 

I think there will be more “Louie” in the future. He’s brilliant. He’s an absolute brilliant mind.

Back to style and influence, I noticed in your first album, “I Have a Pony,” that sometimes you’d deliver the punch line and the audience would laugh for a second and then start applause because the joke is so clever that they almost have to immediately commend you for thinking about something in such a way. How are you able to blend the more abstract jokes with the insanely witty?

I would just write whatever came to mind. Doing standup is half writing and half performing. I was writing what I thought was funny. I was saying what I thought was funny. You can’t just go in any order, you have to find a sequence where it works the best. It’s like a puzzle. Thinking back, I wasn’t thinking if they would laugh, this is just how I think. This is naturally how I talk.

Is your focus right now only touring, or are there any other projects in the works? I have to say I’d love to see you as the off-beat uncle on a sitcom or something similar.

Right now just “Louie” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” As for a sitcom, I would do it depending on what it is.

I know it was really easy for me to get into your routine, and people seem really receptive to your appearances on more recent late night talk shows. Did you think that your humor would be able to transcend generations?

[The talk show hosts] see people and don’t know I’ve influenced them. The audience doesn’t care who it is, they just laugh at what’s funny.

Some of the topics in your acts have changed the way I will look at things forever, in particular the “Car-carrier trailer” joke. I can’t imagine seeing one of those from now on and not picturing a bunch of hitchhikers in each one of the individual cars. 

Oh yeah (laughs), well that story actually came from a guy I was working with over a summer one year. When I was out of college, I was painting dorms with these guys in the college I had just attended, and painting can take so long, so we’d listen to the radio and just talk. So one was telling me that he was hitchhiking  and got picked up by one of those trucks and was riding in the cab with the driver. When they stopped at a diner, the driver met a lady, and the driver told the guy to get in one of the cars. Because I was painting during the day and going to the open mic at night, I said “Hey, I’m going to use that in my act. That’s really funny.”

What can the audience expect on Nov. 13 at the Rialto Theatre?

I’ll be telling one liners. I’ll tell bizarre stories, very surreal, very abstract.

You’ll be 60-years-old in December, is there any sort of plan from there or do you not think about age as much? Sixty isn’t old these days, but it’s a milestone.

It is a milestone. It’s weird because in your mind you’re 25 and the year just keeps changing. But I feel very lucky. I can’t believe that I have been able to do this for so long. I love performing.

You can catch Wright perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E Congress St., on Nov. 13, with tickets ranging from $29 to $41. Tickets can be purchased by calling 740-1000 for the Rialto box office or by visiting

Photo courtesy of Jorge Rios Steven Wright on stage during a recent standup performance.

Photo courtesy of Jorge Rios
Steven Wright on stage during a recent standup performance.

Lucid dreaming for the layman

Lucid dreaming for the layman



When I was in high school, I remember dreaming of a fluorescent lit school hallway. I can recall promenading against a current of faceless students as I made my way to a class I knew I would be late for. All of a sudden, the scenery changed and I was in the Middle East marching with a battalion of soldiers. I was the active medic. An explosion and chaos ensued as a hail of bullets came my way. I scurried for cover behind a Humvee, peering underneath to see who was heading my way but saw nothing. As I turned around to see who was wounded and needed help, a gun appeared to be pointing at me point blank. I heard a shot and woke up.

More often than not, people don’t remember dreams, or they feel powerless to the will of their subconscious while dreaming. Some people are able to recall every detail of a dream, but to influence a dream can prove difficult without guidance. To those who can achieve it, the practice is referred to as lucid dreaming.

To lucid dream is to be consciously aware of the fact that you’re dreaming. Think the movie “Inception,” except instead of being a non-Oscar-winning protagonist, you’re experiencing a hybrid form of consciousness. The act is a phenomenon that most people have experienced at least once, but it’s also a skill that can be learned and applied to waking life.

When does lucid dreaming happen?

In the past, scientists believed that when asleep, the brain would power down and rest. But with the advent of the electroencephalograph, also known as EEG, in the early 20th century, scientists were able to measure brainwave activity during sleep.

Since then, scientists have discovered that the brain emits different wave patterns in four stages during sleep. The first three stages are known as NREM, or non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep.

NREM 1 is the transitory stage between wakefulness and sleep. The body produces theta waves which are high amplitude and slow moving brain waves, usually lasting 5-10 minutes. Next, body temperature and heart rate decrease during NREM 2, which lasts approximately 20 minutes and produces rapid bursts of waves, commonly referred to as sleep spindles. By then the body is closer to deep sleep.

Finally, before becoming completely enthralled in deep sleep, the second to last stage is NREM 3. A person is less likely to wake up and produces delta waves before entering deep sleep and the final stage REM or Rapid Eye Movement.

According to Crash Course Psychology, an academic series on YouTube that partners with PBS, REM sleep is perplexing in its functionality because our motor cortex is abuzz with activity while our brainstem blocks the signals to our bodies. This renders the body essentially paralyzed with the exception of our eyes, which as the name suggests move under our eyelids, rapidly.

The paralysis is meant to prevent us from physically acting out what we do in our dreams, with the exception of the poor souls who suffer from sleepwalking.

It’s at this point that vivid dreams usually occur.


Why do we dream?

Many theories have purported to answer the question, from the Physiological Function theory, which has proposed that the brain repairs itself, or the Information Consolidation theory, which processes events of the day and sorts out which selective memories to keep. One of the more interesting ideas surrounds evolution and predation.

The Threat Simulation theory, from Finnish philosopher and teacher Antti Revonsuo, has proposed that dreams are a biological utility to simulate extraordinary circumstance. This is to train us to avoid real danger when we’re awake. This theory provides a reasonable explanation for making a connection between outlandish nightmare scenarios and real life stress.

For example, imagine fighting a seven headed dragon while only being armed with a mint-flavored toothpick. This situation will almost certainly not happen while awake, but the subconscious may manifest stress from waking life to take this daunting form in your dream.

The dragon can be a representation of many things, like a relationship with a boss at work or a term paper you haven’t finished. A person may feel that the aforementioned scenarios would be much easier to deal with than actually fighting a scaly fictional beast, and when the dreamer awakens, the term paper or boss doesn’t seem as troublesome in the grand scheme of things.

This lends some credibility to the Threat Simulation Theory.

The proficient lucid dreamer can overcome the threat and do with it what they please, perhaps turning it into a cute little lizard to keep as a harmless pet.

According to Charlie Morley, a lucid dreaming teacher and student of Tibetan Buddhism, nightmarish elements are referred to as shadow aspects. In a TED Talks presentation in San Diego in 2011, Morley said, “Within the lucid dream you can intentionally engage the source of your nightmares.”

Morley went on to say that the shadow aspect was originally an idea birthed by psychologist Carl Jung and reflects the negative aspects of ourselves. Although according to Morley, once a person becomes aware, lucid dreaming can help to overcome and give control back to the dreamer.

Preparation before attempt

One of the first steps is to start a dream journal and become aware of when you’re dreaming. Write everything you remember in great detail and be sure to look for recurring themes. Common motifs can help identify when you’re dreaming so that the following night you become more aware of the dreamscape.

Next, is getting into the habit of doing “reality checks” while awake. The most common practice is counting your fingers or checking a clock for the time, which when applied in dreams may differ from reality. Your fingers may look awkward and disproportional, or the clock may have strange characters in place of numbers.

Now we’re ready to start lucid dreaming.

Common lucid dreaming techniques

Mnemonically Induced Lucid Dreaming,or MILD, is a technique that involves recalling a recent dream right before falling asleep and visualizing yourself there while repeating a mantra. Prior to dozing off, chanting, “I will lucid dream tonight” can aid in the process, according to Morley.

The highest rates of success for this method involves waking up in the middle of the night and staying up for 30 minutes, chanting the mantra again to reinforce the intention before falling back asleep.

A more advanced technique is known as Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming, or WILD. As the name suggests, this type of lucid dream can also be employed during waking hours, like visions, and produce the most vivid dreams while asleep. Consequently, it’s also the most difficult to achieve.

Here are some steps to the WILD technique, according to Morley.

First, fall asleep for around four to five hours and set an alarm to wake up. After waking up and having already gone through a few REM cycles, the mind and body are more chemically inclined to achieve WILD. Next, lie back in bed and focus on relaxing and clearing any excess thoughts.

At this stage, the body will go into the hypnagogic state which is the feeling between sleep and wakefulness. If done right, the next step is sleep paralysis, which sounds terrifying, but is perfectly normal. Remember, it’s so we don’t stab our roommates thinking they’re that pesky dragon we talked about earlier, even if they deserve it.

During the paralysis, the experience may differ from person to person. Some may experience strong visuals, physical sensation, noise or a mixture of all before entering a dream. A helpful tip is to visualize the entrance to a dream by concentrating on a strong force, pulling towards a place, perhaps like a high-speed train or a private jet approaching a destination of choice.

It’s a strenuous process that takes a couple of attempts and dedicated practice to actually reach a level of mastery.

For those less inclined to try this, fear not, there is a 21st century method that might also work, known as binaural beats, which can be found on YouTube. The short explanation is that by putting on headphones and listening to similar auditory frequencies that vary slightly, neural activity can be influenced.

For example, a frequency of 100 hertz is played in one ear, while 107 hertz is played in the other. This forces the brain to compensate for the difference of 7 hertz, and as a result, the brainwaves increase 7 hertz as well.

The practice was developed by the Virginia based Monroe Institute by using Hemi-Sync technology. It was originally developed by Robert Monroe, a radio station director and businessman.

His intent was to study the effects of sound patterns on consciousness and learning while asleep, according to the institute’s  website. Many binaural beats exist over the interweb and some are specifically tailored for a purpose, like relaxation, creativity and memory retention.

Whichever technique is used, success is not always guaranteed.

Dream a little dream

Lucid dreaming takes practice and patience. Try not to be too discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. People can go years without having any success, but some argue that the results are well worth it for the therapeutic benefits. Dreams can prepare us for the dangers of the waking world and provides endless possibilities and different narratives that a mind can create.

“If you can learn to dream lucidly and it is a learnable skill, you can begin to integrate your shadow and finally reclaim, as [Carl] Jung said, the ‘seat of human creativity.’ So learn how to lucid dream,” Morley said in his 2011 TED Talk.

And why not?  Many of the world’s greatest minds and achievements have been a direct result of lucid dreams. Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Salvador Dali and Edgar Allen Poe are just a few examples of notable people whose works have been directly influenced by dreams.

With enough practice and dedication, the next breakthrough in art, science or technology may very well come from your dream. If you need any more help falling asleep just give this article another read.

Barajas has always had an interest in consciousness and perception, as he believes it shapes an individual’s reality.

Aztec Press photo illustration by Alex Fruechtenicht

Aztec Press photo illustration by Alex Fruechtenicht

‘Sticks and Bones’ brings new challenges for actors

‘Sticks and Bones’ brings new challenges for actors



A family in the 1950s receives their eldest son back from war, blind and traumatized.

This is how Pima Community College’s Theatre Arts program set the scene for their production of “Sticks and Bones,” showing at the Black Box Theatre through Nov. 22.

The play revolves around a family whose son, David, returns from service in the Vietnam War.

The production covers some serious topics, including post-traumatic stress and blindness.

According to the press release, the story is influanced by some of playwright David Rabe’s own experiences in the Vietnam War and “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” a TV show that ran in the ‘50s. The play has been produced nationwide and has won several awards.

Todd Poelstra, the PCC Theatre Arts program coordinator, is directing “Sticks and Bones.” He has directed many plays at Pima, such as last spring’s production of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Poelstra said the two productions are “vastly different, but not as different as you think.”

One difference is the extreme reduction in cast members from “Monty Python” to “Sticks and Bones,” a change from 30 students to seven.

The cast members “are exceptionally strong students,” Poelstra said. “They take care of themselves, they are mature and conduct themselves with professionalism.”

Two of the cast members from this semester’s earlier production of “Henry and Ramona,” directed by Mickey Nugent, returned for this show: Chris Dobson and Marchus Lewis.

Dobson plays David, the main character, and said the role is very different than his last one.

“The main difference between ‘Sticks and Bones’ compared to ‘Henry and Ramona’ would be the overall subject matter and the environment,” he said. “There’s only seven of us in ‘Sticks and Bones’ and we’re portraying some very dark characters.

“We got comfortable with each other really fast, in the sense of being able to make mistakes in front of one another and appreciating what each other brings to the table.”

Lewis played Ribsy, Ramona’s dog, in “Henry and Ramona” and is portraying Sergeant Major in this production. He is not just acting in the play. He helped prepare the set as well.

He also felt the small cast has formed a strong bond of trust between each other.

“I found that both shows were an exciting and fulfilling experience,” he said. “However, the smaller cast of ‘Stick and Bones’ allows for a better sense of trust among my fellow actors, and that’s why it is easier to go places with ‘Sticks and Bones’ than I, or we, could have ever gone with ‘Henry and Ramona.’”

The whole story centers on David and his family, made up of four cast members. David’s parents are Ozzie and Harriet, played by Teddy Cleveland and Emily Fuchs. Rick, David’s brother, is played by John Noble.

Emily Fuchs said so far, the experience in this play has been a unique acting opportunity.

“This production has been very interesting from an actor’s perspective because we have to act as if we are in a 1950s sitcom,” she said. “This posed a challenge because we had to stray from realism in our acting. The content of the show is intense, so I have to disassociate myself from my character because we are two very different people.”

The other characters are Zung, played by Erica Milner and Father Donald, played by Rafael Acuna.

According to Poelstra, the stage construction and preparation for this play has also been drastically different from his last one. “Monty Python” required several settings, whereas “Sticks and Bones” takes place in one setting, Ozzie and Harriet’s house.

The director commented that because of this lighter workload, students were able to spend more time on individual pieces.

The set is comprised of new pieces, created by students for this show, as well as some made in the past.

Students from the Stagecraft class (THE 111 and 112, fall and spring) constructed the set along with other students. There is also a Scene Design class (THE 223) currently scheduled for spring 2016, which is involved in this process.

Student assistants from the theatre program and other majors convened during summer to help build sets.

Several students have moved through the ranks as time has progressed. Students working the sound booth or lighting in one production may change roles in the next production.

As far as the acting experience earned from this play, Dobson said it has been his most challenging so far.

“Working on ‘Sticks and Bones’ has been to date the hardest show I’ve ever done, which is a good thing,” he said. “I’ve learned so much in this process and I’m continuing to learn.

“Todd Poelstra has given us plenty of room and support to learn and grow and to really play with our characters,” he added. “It’s been a fun, yet arduous experience but seeing the arc of how much we’ve grown as collaboration has been wonderful.”

Marchus Lewis has gotten to watch his fellow actors practice and is in awe of their work.

“This play has a density and richness that continues to surprise me with each day of rehearsal,” he said. “I play a supporting role in the show and I only have really one main scene, so I get to sit around during rehearsals.

“What the actors and director are doing with the piece is just sensational,” Lewis continued. “Watching them working on the scenes, and getting new ideas and changing this and changing that, I’m blown away by the risk everyone is taking.”

“Sticks and Bones” is showing at the Center for the Arts at West Campus in the Black Box Theatre.

Tickets are available at the box office beside the Proscenium theatre, which is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays and before the show starts. They are $18 for the public. Students, members of the military, Pima Employees and seniors can attend for $16.

The show will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Nov. 12 to 22. On Nov. 19, there will be an American Sign Language interpreter.

For more information, visit or call 206-6986.


Chris Dobson: David

Emily Fuchs: Harriet

Teddy Cleveland: Ozzie

John Noble: Rick

Marchus Lewis: Sergeant Major

Erica Milner: Zung

Rafael Acuna: Father Donald


“Sticks and Bones”

When: Nov. 12-22

Where: Black Box Theatre,

West Campus CFA

Tickets: $16-$18

Box Office: 206-6986


Alyssa Ramer/Aztec Press Cleveland and Fuchs look on in shock during a scene in “Sticks and Bones.”

Alyssa Ramer/Aztec Press
Cleveland and Fuchs look on in shock during a scene in “Sticks and Bones.”

Chris Dobson (David) argues with John Noble (Rick) while Teddy Cleveland (Ozzie) and Emily Fuchs (Harriet) intervene in a scene for the play “Sticks and Bones” during a recent photo call.

Chris Dobson (David) argues with John Noble (Rick) while Teddy Cleveland (Ozzie) and Emily Fuchs (Harriet) intervene in a scene for the play “Sticks and Bones” during a recent photo call.

Aztecs soccer is unstoppable

Aztecs soccer is unstoppable



Men’s Soccer

The Pima Community College men’s soccer team (20-2-2) took home the West Division title on Nov. 7 in La Junta, Colorado. The Aztecs defeated Otero Junior College 3-1 with a scoreless second half.

Sophomore Alejandro Gonzalez scored the first goal for Pima with an assist from fellow sophomore Jason Romero within the first four minutes of the first half. It took Otero JC over 30 minutes to get past the Aztecs defense to tie the game 1-1.

Pima took full control of the game late in the first half thanks to sophomore Niels Kool putting PCC back in the lead 2-1 and the dynamic duo of Romero and Gonzalez sealed the victory 3-1.

Gonzalez was named the Most Valuable Player of the game with one goal and one assist.

This is the second year in a row Pima has taken both Region and West Division titles and they now look forward to playing in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.

Halloween night was more special than most for the Pima men’s soccer team as they took home the Region I, Division I title at Kino North Stadium in a tight 3-2 win over No. 4 ranked Phoenix College. Sophomore, and game MVP Robert Gorman first put the Aztecs on the board with a corner-kick assist from Romero early on in the game.

Shortly after, freshman Lorenzo Rodriguez netted a goal with an assist from sophomore Ryan Bristow, putting Pima up 2-1 at the half.

Romero made the first goal of the second half, and what would be the final for the Aztecs, despite a tough fight from Phoenix College.

“It’s been a roller coaster year,” Gorman said. “With so much success last year and now the same this year…it’s all about this group of guys and coach. We wouldn’t achieve the same with just any one player. It’s really a team effort.”

With a National title on the line next week, the men’s team and Gorman’s mindset is to take it “game by game…just win that first game for now.”

The Aztecs will play in the Division I National Tournament in Axton, Virginia, Nov. 16-21.

Women’s Soccer

The Pima Community College women’s soccer team (19-1-2) is heading back to the NJCAA National Tournament after clinching its second consecutive Region I, Division I/District A Championship.

The No. 1 seeded Aztecs defeated No. 2 Paradise Valley Community College 2-1 and will travel to Melbourne, Florida from Nov. 16-21.

“Our mindset going into Florida is to just play our game compete hard,” midfielder/forward Devyn Hunley said. “Some of us went last year so we know what to expect and we won’t be as nervous. Also we can help prepare the freshman so they’re ready to play in a bigger stage.”

The Aztecs struck early as Hunley netted a goal from 20 yards out with an assist from freshman Maria Mata in the 11th minute making it 1-0 at halftime.

It didn’t take long for the Aztecs to add to their lead as Mata scored her second goal, this time an assist from Freshman Alexis Aguirre in the 15th minute of the second half this time.

Hunley was named Region I, Division I/District A Tournament Most Valuable Player.

“Honestly though the success of our team and the MVP award is all because of the hard work everyone on my team put in during the season and offseason. We all have certain things that we contribute and set us apart from the rest,” Hunley said.

For the second consecutive season, the Aztecs remained undefeated at Kino Sports Complex and have given up one goal in their last six games.

The women’s team will be heading to Melbourne, Florida for the NJCAA National Tournament  Nov. 16-21.

Photo courtesy of Pima Athletics. The Pima women’s soccer posses with their Region I Division I trophy after taking down Paradise Valley 2-1 at Kino North Stadium on Oct. 31

Photo courtesy of Pima Athletics.
The Pima women’s soccer posses with their Region I Division I trophy after taking down Paradise Valley 2-1 at Kino North Stadium on Oct. 31

Deanna Sherman/ Aztec Press Alejandro Gonzalez, Niels Kool and Robert Gorman celebrate after their 3-1 victory over Otero Junior College in the West Division title match on Nov. 7 in La Junta, Colorado. The Aztecs head to the Division I National Tournament in Axton, Virginia, Nov. 16-21. Read about the win on page 14.

Deanna Sherman/ Aztec Press
Alejandro Gonzalez, Niels Kool and Robert Gorman celebrate after their 3-1 victory over Otero Junior College in the West Division title match on Nov. 7 in La Junta, Colorado. The Aztecs head to the Division I National Tournament in Axton, Virginia, Nov. 16-21. Read about the win on page 14.

Security ‘paramount’ for PCC

Security ‘paramount’ for PCC



In light of the recent shootings at Umpqua Community College and Northern Arizona University, security rose to the top of Pima Community College’s agenda.

The Security and Safety Improvements Progress Report that was published earlier this month explained the steps taken since 2011 to improve campus security.  According to the report, protections such as corridor locks, an emergency paging system, college police officers and an employee assistance program are all in place and up-to-date.

Freshman Mandy Ressler, a theater student at Pima, said that she has minimal concerns about campus safety.

Ressler takes classes at the East and West campuses. She said that while she appreciates how quickly Pima responds to incidents, she wishes West Campus police were more visible at the Black Box and Proscenium theatres where she studies.

“I always see police officers when I’m at the East Campus, but I’ve never seen them at the theaters,” she said.

Because of the two recent shootings on college campuses, Pima has requested their police officers make their presence known on all campuses by increasing patrol and being more visible while working.

When the Aztec Press contacted police commander Michelle Nieuwenhuis for information regarding campus safety, she declined to comment and deferred the paper to spokesperson Libby Howell. Per the new media guidelines created for PCC this month, faculty were instructed to direct media inquires to Howell before an interview was granted. After multiple attempts to gain access to Nieuwenhuis, Howell handled the questions herself.

On Oct. 13, there was an incident at the West Campus regarding a potential suspect with a rifle. According to Howell, the incident posed no actual danger at the campus.

Once a student reported seeing a suspicious individual, faculty alerted campus police, who worked with the Tucson Police Department to search the West Campus. No evidence of foul play or suspicious activity was found. The evacuation conducted by TPD was not Pima procedure, said Howell, and in the case of a real threat, students would instead be kept indoors and sheltered.

Multiple alerts were sent to students and faculty via email and texts regarding the incident.

In the Pima Community College Annual Security Report, also known as the Clery report, Pima’s policy on defending oneself against an active shooter involved several steps. Students are told to hide and remain calm, but if in imminent danger they are to act “as aggressively as possible” while committing to their actions.

“The security of our students, employees and the general public is our paramount concern at PCC and we are committed to supporting on-campus safety and security measures throughout the college district,” said Chancellor Lee Lambert.

One major change being made at the college is the implementation of a pilot program for camera systems at Pima campuses. The Downtown Campus is currently the only location with the surveillance system, and PCC dispatch police are monitoring the images captured to test the effectiveness of the cameras. Howell said that the testing will be complete by December. Because the system is costly, Pima has to ensure it will improve safety before they install it at all campuses. So far, college officials are pleased with the results and expect to be evaluating the possibility of budgeting camera systems for all campuses.

When asked about the cameras, Ressler, the theater student, expressed support for a camera system.

“If people have a problem with them, they have a problem with being safe,” she said.

In contrast, sophomore Garrett Encinas said that a camera would just provide evidence before and after a crime was committed.

“It doesn’t create a sense of security. The camera won’t stop a crime,” he said.

Downtown Campus made sense as the test location for the cameras because it has the highest crime rate of all Pima’s locations and is surrounded by neighborhoods that also have high crime rates. The most common crimes were related to theft, drugs and alcohol.

In the 2012-2014 reports, illegal drug arrests stayed consistent. In 2012 there were 13 drug related arrests and in 2014 the number only went down to 10. Liquor law arrests showed the most dramatic decrease, going from 25 in 2012 to 2 in 2014.

The sharp decrease in crime was not due to any program or Pima action, but rather due to an audit on the security report itself. According to Howell, Pima was told they didn’t have to report all crime adjacent to a Pima campus.

“The reason for the decrease in liquor law arrests has to do with Clery reporting requirements, and not an actual decrease in crime,” she said.

“We are required to report any crime that takes place on the college “footprint,” even if it is technically not on college property. Our Clery auditor notified us during this time period that we no longer had to report this crime as being at the college and that it could be reclassified as public property,” Howell said.

One reoccurring recommendation for Pima safety and security reports, both in 2013 and 2014, was that students should receive security briefing in their orientations.

Encinas, who is both a student and employee at East Campus, has never received a security briefing. He said that the only steps he’s been told to take is to call 911 and use a code word so that any active shooter wouldn’t know he was talking to emergency responders. He’s never heard the plans for natural disasters or other emergency situations and doesn’t know what protocol is.

“There’s never been any basic training given,” he said. “Because of high school, I think I know what to do, but if I was only informed through Pima and could only act upon Pima’s information, I would be screwed.”

His sister Caitlin Encinas, also is a student worker at the East Campus, said that in the face of an emergency situation she would just leave.

“That’s all I would know what to do,” she said. “If I was working in the library and something happened, I would just hide behind the desk and cry. I wouldn’t know exactly what to do, but there are really good nooks and crannies under the desk.”

Mabel Ersch, a library technician at the East Campus, said that the faculty and staff have their emergency responsibilities divided up by sections at their respective campuses. Each section of the campus, such as the library, has a Campus Action Team comprised of faculty and staff that handle emergency protocols such as evacuations. These CAT members have meetings to ensure every team member is up-to-date on the protocols. The members aren’t permanent, and Ersch said that while almost every librarian is a team member, sometimes team members leave the program.

Howell said students could be more aware of incidents on campus by signing up for text alerts. While all Pima students and faculty receive security updates by email, only about 6,000 students are signed up to receive text message alerts. By texting the word “alerts” to 79516, students can sign up for the prompt and readily accessible alerts. The messaging system is only used for security updates, and Pima pledged to never bombard students with unwanted messages.

Howell also encouraged students to sign up for training, such as the new Rape Aggression Defense Program, to ensure they are as ready for an emergency situation as Pima.

While security is a top priority for faculty and administration at Pima, students say that they feel unprepared and that it feels like a lot of talk with no action. Freshman Nikolas Romero said that a safety and security orientation should be mandatory.

“I would know what to do because it’s common sense…but not everyone has that so they [Pima] would benefit from teaching students. The orientation should be mandatory, otherwise no one will go,” Romero said.

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Security cameras installed at Downtown Campus provide a constant eye on certain areas within the college. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

PCC’s culturally diverse melting pot

PCC’s culturally diverse melting pot

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Pima Community College students congregating at the West Campus cafeteria. (Bryan Orozco/Aztec Press)


Next time you are in any of Pima Community College’s six campuses throughout Tucson, take a second to look around. Chances are, you will see a diverse and multicultural student body attending PCC.

Diversity, inclusion and global education are part of Pima’s core themes and objectives, according to the college’s mission statement. Expansions and support in the diversity of the student population has been an ongoing effort that the college has worked on to improve.

An example of their efforts can be seen in the 58 Mexican students that have been welcomed to the college for this semester as part of their international student exchange program.

However, community engagement is also a part of Pima’s mission statement. The college is to promote initiatives that provide opportunities for the development of students and the community.

The promotion of diversity is evident at PCC.

According to PCC’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Date System for 2014, PCC students were 53 percent women and 47 percent men, relatively the same as PCC staff with 57 percent of them being women and 43 percent men.

The genders represented at PCC are similar to that of Pima County’s, with women and men each making up 50 percent of the population.

The data for race/ethnicity between PCC and Pima County was also shown in IPEDS for 2014.

White students made-up 44 percent of PCC’s population and 40 percent of the population were Latino. Indigenous students, Asian students and black students each made up 4 percent of the student population.

In comparison with PCC staff, the student population fell short with 64 percent of staff being white, 22 percent Latino and three percent each for indigenous, Asian and black staff.

The student population is much more reflective to Pima County’s population, with 54 percent of residents being white, 44 percent Latino and four percent indigenous, Asian and black residents.

Although Latino students make up a quarter of the student population, animosity toward Latino students can be felt at the college.

A former PCC nursing student, Terri Bennett, sued the college for violating her rights as an English speaker. In 2012, Bennett complained that peers in her class spoke primarily Spanish to each other and believed that her complaints resulted in her being wrongfully suspended.

Pima won the suit against the former-nursing student when evidence was presented at the trial that she referred to Latino students as “spics, beaners and illegals,” and compared the language to gibberish.

On Oct. 6, the judge ordered Bennett to pay the college a sum of over $100,000, including the attorney fees.

The hatred of individuals, however, is masked by the efforts by students and faculty to make the college comfortable and safe.

The Diversity Club at Downtown Campus promotes diversity at Pima through student interaction, yet its mission is evolving.  Denisse Ramírez, is a member of the Diversity Club and said they want to ensure racism doesn’t exist at Pima.

“Primarily it is to promote diversity, and of course that’s always our main goal,” she said. “We welcome anyone and we are trying to make our campus more comfortable with everyone.”

The club is tuned into special holidays and cultural events that mirror the student population. Currently they’re working on a Día de los Muertos event that will allow students to learn about this Latino holiday and how it differs from Halloween in the United States. They are currently planning  events for the month of November, which includes Native American Heritage Month.

Pima has also tried to diversify their success rates. The college received a grant with implications to help the Latino population.

AgriPath a USDA grant, is meant to combat the low retention of Latino students at the Desert Vista campus through courses that lead up to an agricultural based degree, which has extremely low rates of transfers to four-year institutions.

As students get closer to picking their courses for next semester, only time will tell if the efforts by both the college and student organizations will have an effect on the school’s demographic.

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Wild women shaking the season

Wild women shaking the season



October in Tucson—sweaters are getting pulled out of the back of the closet, pumpkins are getting carved and thrift stores are being pillaged for that perfect thing to complete a costume.

Tucsonans love to get dressed up. They love haunted houses. And they love to be entertained. There is no shortage of spooky, shocking and sexy things to do. Any night of the week, you can go out and get your Halloween on.

I’m not a Tucson native, but the burgeoning fall in Tucson has drawn me here for the past 15 years. And in that time, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the wild women, mothers, dancers, activists and dreamers, who make this season happen.

From celebrating sexuality to providing space for honoring death, studying circus sideshow to shedding light on an often misconstrued religion, this is a glimpse into some of the influential women of Tucson in this season of fun, horror and remembrance.

The Mother Magician

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Sahar and Steven Strange of The Strange Family Circus performing a grind show, a traditional circus sideshow, at Nightfall at Old Tucson.

Nine-year-old Amara answers the door with a rat on her shoulder. Her mother, Sahar Strange is in the kitchen. Floral apron on, knife in hand, she adds veggies to a pot on the stove. The chicken’s already in the oven. Two little dogs run around her feet.

The Strange house is messy, warm and full of life. Sahar excuses the mess and laughs—she’s been busy.

Sahar and her husband Steven Strange make up the Strange Family Circus. At Nightfall at Old Tucson, for all of October, they do a grind show. A grind show is a traditional carny sideshow that repeats itself continuously for a changing audience, said Sahar.

Every Thursday through Sunday in October, they do a 25-minute show every half hour.

Steven, known on stage as Dr. Reverend Steven Strange, introduces his wife by her stage name—Mother Fakir. Fakir means Hindu magician, Steven explains to the audience. He spells it out to clarify and gets a laugh.

Sahar has been doing sideshow for 13 years. She and Steven have two daughters—Amara and Raven, who’s 12. When the Stranges perform a children’s show, their daughters occasionally join them and do magic tricks or make balloon animals.

“By calling myself Mother Fakir, it’s a way of embracing the fact that I’m mom, but in a really kind of funny way,” she said.

This October, Sahar is performing three acts. She’ll swallow and regurgitate razor blades, walk on glass and get electrocuted. It’s swallowing razors that unnerves her.

“It’s very scary,” she said. “That’s why it always goes at the beginning of the show because it scares me the most.”

That’s the part of the show where Steven is not allowed to improvise.

“I improvise jokes for the entire show, except for the razor blades because she laughs at my jokes, and you can’t really laugh with razors in your throat,” he said.

Sahar began doing sideshow with fire eating. She and Steven met in 2002, and were in a fire troupe together in Rhode Island.

“Once I learned how to eat fire, and I realized I wasn’t going to die then I realized there were other things that were possible that I’ve seen other people do,” she said.

Sahar learned to do a snake act and got a job on Coney Island, which she considered the core of her sideshow training. She was hired to be the girl in the Coney Island sideshow.

“I was supposed to be put in a box and blades got put through me, and I was supposed to be electrocuted, and I wasn’t supposed to talk,” she said.

When she started doing her block-head act, where she drives nails up her nose with a hammer, Sahar was dubbed as the first black woman to have a speaking role in the American sideshow.

“I had gone from being exotic to being a working act,” she said. “And that was something that was unheard of in sideshow.”

In the Strange Family Circus, Sahar improvises jokes with her husband. They also interact with the audience a lot.

“We try to explain to people that the point isn’t to hurt ourselves,” she said. “The point is to show you how miraculous it is that you can put yourself in a situation like this and come out unscathed.”

Besides walking on glass and swallowing razors, Sahar said she spends most of her life making food, doing laundry and yelling at her kids to do their homework.
She said getting through the fear it takes to do a show has helped her in her parenting.

“Whatever happens, I know I can do it because I can walk on glass,” she said.
In between doing loads of laundry, she’ll find herself cleaning razor blades at the kitchen table while her kids are doing homework.

“To them it’s just part of life, which is funny that it’s so seamless for them, but to me it feels like they’re these two different lives that I have to balance,” she said.

Sahar is also a writer and takes creative writing classes at Pima Community College. She had a story published in the 2015 edition of Pima’s art and literary magazine, SandScript, under her maiden name, Sahar Mitchell.

In a creative non-fiction class, she recently wrote a story about living in New York in her 20s and being followed by a man with a wire who told her he was going to strangle her.

“I had to use a mom voice, and I just talked him down,” she said. “There was definitely a moment when I found something in me that was very brave that I didn’t think was there.”

When Sahar walks on glass, the sound of crunching echoes throughout the room. She tells her audience she’s going to turn up the volume then jumps—not once, but twice. The audience gasps and moans. She looks around and smiles at them.

“Hopefully this will show you,” she tells them. “There is magic in everyday common things.”

For information about their upcoming shows, go to the Strange Family Circus on Facebook.

The Maidens

Co-producers of "The Witching Hour Revue: Burlesque Goes Boo," Natasha Noir and Pisa Cake posing for after-show photos.

Co-producers of “The Witching Hour Revue: Burlesque Goes Boo,” Natasha Noir and Pisa Cake posing for after-show photos.

“It’s the time of the year when we have things to fear. We fear the things that go bump—and grind,” said Bram Stroker, the host of The Witching Hour Revue: Burlesque Goes Boo, co-produced by Pisa Cake and Natasha Noir.

Burlesque allows Cake an artistic outlet for sharing positive, sexual energy. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with boobs and ass, burlesque brings back some of the mystery of sexuality, she said. She and Noir also performed in the Halloween-themed burlesque at the Flycatcher on Oct. 23.

Cake has produced a number of burlesque shows over the last seven years.

“I’ve always had a deep appreciation for vintage culture,” said Cake. “I feel like I’m born in a different era. It only made sense that I got involved. I want to put rhinestones on everything. That’s why I love burlesque. It’s pretty. It’s fancy, and it brings back the tease.”

Cake entered the stage in black fur, with a cat’s tail and ears. She danced under a ladder and slowly revealed more skin and rhinestones. After her act, Bram Stroker told the audience that she wanted everyone to know she was wearing faux fur.

Apart from doing burlesque, Cake and Noir both do animal rescue with organizations such as Tucson Companion Animal Rescue Education and Support and No Kill Pima County.

Noir also does hospice and foster care for cats. She said her and Cake are a part of what she likes to call, the crazy cat ladies of burlesque.

Noir performed with Black Cherry Burlesque, monthly for eight years. She left the troop in June and decided to go independent.

Noir loves burlesque because it’s not just the porn star versions of sexuality.

“It’s a place we can express sexuality, and not in a standard way as far as what bodies are allowed to do it,” she said. “Body variety is a big part of it for me.”

There are job-hazards that come along with doing burlesque. Some are funny, like when Cake’s doctor found a rhinestone on her butt during a trip to the gynecologist, or the standard pre-show tampon-string check backstage. But another job hazard is inappropriate sexual advances, and even stalkers.

Bram Stroker opened Burlesque Goes Boo with a rule. “These ladies like applause,” he said. “Be loud, be expressive—just don’t touch anybody.”

Noir and Cake both have day jobs, but they keep dimensions of their performance lives separate from their private lives.

“We purposely have stage persona names because it’s a safety issue,” said Noir. “There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sexuality, but that doesn’t give you rights to touch me or speak to me inappropriately.”

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Cake is producing and performing in a nerdy burlesque revue at the Flycatcher on Nov. 6, as part of the eighth annual Tucson Comic Con Friday night Kickoff Mixer and Variety Show. There will be burlesque acts featuring Ghost Rider, Princess Leia, Catwoman and a duet with Consuelo the Maid and a human can of pledge.

For more info on where to see Pisa Cake and Natasha Noir, find them on Facebook or Instagram. Cake is also on Twitter and at

The Storyteller

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Lauren Malanga, Magic Kenny Bang Bang Macabre and Baptiste de la Croix in “Voodoo & Black Magic,” in the remaining room on the burnt-out third floor of Hotel Congress.

At Hotel Congress every Thursday and Friday in October, at 7 and 9 p.m., Lauren Malanga plays the lady of mystery in “Voodoo & Black Magic: An Evening of Intrigue and Mystery Inside ‘The Room,’” with her cohort Magic Kenny Bang Bang Macabre.

Dressed in the signature Congress bellhop jacket and hat, Baptiste de la Croix meets the audience in the Hotel Congress lobby. Skinny and well over six feet tall, de la Croix is a fitting tour guide of the haunted hotel.

On the way to “the room,” de la Croix gives some Hotel Congress history, including Dillinger lore, suicides and the story of the fire which burnt out the hotel’s third floor. All that’s left of the floor is one room, and that’s where the magic happens.

“This is something special,” said de la Croix, as he goes up the dimly lit stairwell. “We don’t usually open this room up. Most of the staff have never even seen it.”

The room is large, with brick walls and exposed beams. There’s an altar full of candles, images of women, incense, a box with skulls and a voodoo doll. On every audience chair there is a small stack of tarot cards.

This is Malanga’s second year doing the October Hotel Congress show with Magic Kenny.

“Every year, our goal is to bring some sort of occult type theme,” she said. “Voodoo is a little tricky because you are dealing with subject matter that is someone’s religion, and so you have to be careful not to offend anybody.”

They did a lot of research for the show. Malanga said the show is almost like a book report on Voodoo, and she hopes to dispel some misconceptions people may have about the religion.

“It’s weird that it has that stigma,” she said. “So I think it’s really important that this could be an opportunity to learn something.”

Next year they want to use a Salem witch theme.

“We’ll have to do a lot of homework,” Malanga said.

She’s been performing since she was a child, doing plays for her parents and making costumes. She doesn’t know where that desire to perform comes from, it’s just always been there, she said.

In her 20s, during a summer in Chicago, she saw that all their venues had dance—not just clubs with go-go dancers, but art exhibits too. This is where she began her pathway to performance art.

“I remember being blown away, and thinking why don’t we create these environments where people can have an experience, or make it that much more dimensional,” she said.

In Tucson, she got gigs belly dancing and go-go dancing for a while, and then Tesoro, a Latin rumba flamenco rock group based out of Tucson, hired her to dance and become a part of their act for a dinner theater show they did, every weekend for eight months.

She had recently gone on a trip to Spain. Fascinated with some of the history she saw there, she wanted to make it into art and share it.

She created a Moroccan-style flamenco hybrid that told a story for her gig with Tesoro. Basically, she turned it into an abstract history lesson.

“I was trying to incorporate the Moorish migration into Spain,” she said. “That’s what my intention was. I guess I have always wanted to learn something and present it in some way.”

In her 15 years of professional dancing, she’s been hired to dance with a number of Tucson bands. But the older she gets, she finds herself going back to theater, fabricating props and sets, theatrical magic shows and burlesque.

She does burlesque once a month at the Surly Wench Pub, with Soul Strip, a sub-troupe of Black Cherry Burlesque. Performance is always present in her life, she said.

“It just takes different forms and shapes,” Malanga said. “It’s something inside of us. Not everybody is drawn to it. Performance is a vehicle for talking about something.”

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Malanga owns her home and does all the maintenance herself. She retiled her bathroom. She put in a wall, a roof on the porch, a chicken coop. And besides her snake, she has two chickens, a dog, a cat and a desert tortoise.

Malanga has had about 80 different jobs in her adult life because of trying to facilitate living off her art, she said.

“I never did it for the lime light,” she said. “I was never driven by that. I always just wanted to create some kind of environment.”

The last nights to catch “Voodoo & Black Magic” are Oct. 29 and 30.

The Facilitator

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Photo courtesy of Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli Photography
Melanie Cooley in the 2014 All Souls Procession as an attendant of the urn full of all the participants’ prayers and messages, conveying it to the finale for the ceremonial burning.

Inside the loading dock and basement of the Funeraria del Angel funeral home on Stone, Melanie Cooley, the volunteer coordinator for Tucson’s All Souls Procession, is spending her afternoon at one of the free All Souls Arts Workshops, which started in September and run until the procession, the weekend of Nov. 7 and 8.

Cooley’s in sweat pants, with her hair pulled back, under a bandana. She’s helping a woman figure out how to transpose images of black and white photos onto a white smock. Children are crafting at a table. A little boy proudly holds up a purple rock he just painted.

The 26th annual All Souls Procession is on Sunday, Nov. 8. People gather at 4 p.m. on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Seventh Street and begin the walk to Mercado San Agustin at 6:30 p.m.

The procession, started by local artists in 1990, now has over 150,000 participants annually. The gathering in downtown Tucson is adorned with costumes, people in face paint, floats and signs with pictures of family and friends who have died. People then parade the two miles to where the finale takes place and the ceremonial burning of the urn, full of all the participants’ prayers and messages.

“There is this spirit of recognition of our shared humanity that we don’t get a lot. And that we’re able, all of us who are there, to see complete strangers and recognize in that person this shared love and this shared grief, and that fundamental experience of being human that we will all mourn or be mourned by everyone we love,” Cooley said. “That we can recognize that in each other is a powerful thing, and it runs deeply counter to the way that our culture functions on a day to day basis.”

People create elaborate packets, which they decorate and prepare to be burned in the urn. It’s not uncommon for people to put in wedding dresses, dried flowers, photographs of loved ones, messages to letting go of a dream that isn’t going to come true, a name of somebody that has died or an actual letter to that person, said Cooley.

She’s been the volunteer coordinator for three years, and it’s a full-time job for the month-and-a-half leading up to the procession.

She’s also on the board for Many Mouths One Stomach, the organizing body for the All Souls Procession, and for seven years she’s been part of the Community Spirit Group, a group of urn escorts during the procession. She’s one of the urn attendants.

“The attendants are very much about being the hands of the urn, a role that’s about being kind of ritually prepared to be a non-person,” said Cooley. “Not an individual, but somebody who is able to be entrusted with all of those messages and those precious remembrances from hundreds and thousands of people over the night, so it’s really about being that physical, embodied extension of the urn.”

This year, she’s focusing on leading the ambassadors—the people that give out paper and pencils during the procession so people can write their messages for the burning of the urn at the end of the evening.

“Putting remembrances into the urn is something we do collectively,” said Cooley. “What that means is really up to everybody who put something in it.”

The theme of this year’s procession is unmournable bodies. She describes the theme as a commemoration to those people that are culturally turned away, forgotten, rejected, and aren’t considered worthy of public mourning.

She explains that can mean a whole range of things—immigrants crossing the desert that have died, prisoners, addicts or enemies killed in battle. One of the angles some of the participants are looking at is veterans that have committed suicide.

“So many times, if somebody is killed in active duty, they’re valorized, but we’ve lost three times as many of our veterans to suicide once they’ve come home, and they are not valorized,” said Cooley. “They become unmournable bodies. They become not recognized. They become difficult for our culture to embrace.”

The urn ambassadors are focusing on the forgotten ghosts of the road, Cooley said. The forgotten people who have built the infrastructure of this country—the slave laborer, the prison laborer, miners, braceros and Chinese railroad workers.

“And really looking into that history of how has our country been built, and who are those people who have done that work, and can we bring their names, if we can find them, their faces, their memories into this and honor them,” Cooley said.

All the work of the procession creates community in a way that we don’t have a lot of in our culture, short of sports and religion, said Cooley.

“Over my adult life, I’ve really worked to find ways to find community and find that kind of community commitment to one another, that sort of energy that church communities traditionally have,” she said.

Cooley grew up in an atheist family in a predominantly Southern Baptist town in Chicago. As a child, she felt cut off from community celebrations and organizations because it was structured around church.

“This community really has that feel, of people that are focused on a common greater good and as a result, will take care of each other, will look out for each other, have a connection to each other even if they’re not intimate friends,” she said.

“And that community crosses cultural and socio-economic and all sorts of traditional barriers. We have everybody from bus drivers to billionaires who are involved in the procession, who are connected to one another through this. So it really has a potential to change our world for the better.”

For more information on the 2015 All Souls Procession or for information on how to get involved in next year’s go to or All Souls Procession Weekend on Facebook.

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Photo courtesy of Aztec Press
2013 All Souls Procession