RSSAll Entries in the "Spotlight" Category

TOP 10: Broke Valentine's Day options

TOP 10: Broke Valentine’s Day options



Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day of chocolate, roses and fine wine … all of which can be a drain on your savings account.

The average amount of money spent by an individual on Valentine’s Day in 2016 was $146.84, according to

Not surprising for a nearly $20-billion-per-annum holiday, but not good news for the broke college students of the world.

Let’s face it. Many of us just don’t have the extra cash to splurge on a fancy dinner and a beaming bouquet for our significant other.

But fear not: Expensive outings are not this year’s only options.

Below are 10 ideas for a broke but beautiful Valentine’s Day:

  1. Cook something

If you don’t have the dough to wine and dine your sweetheart this V-Day, why not make your own food adventure and cook together? Even if your concoction doesn’t turn out restaurant-worthy, the memories will be worth the effort.

  1. Go stargazing

There’s just something timeless and romantic about a sky full of stars. If the weather is clear, lay out a blanket or two and spend some time staring at the sky together, hand in hand.

(And if you can catch the sunset before the stars come out, 10 Couple Points for you.)

  1. Hold a dance party for two

Why pay to go to a club full of strangers when you can put together your own setup for free in the comfort of your home? Push the furniture against the wall to create space for a dance floor, throw on your favorite tunes, turn out the lights and jam out together.

(And if you’ve got one buck to spare, hit up the local dollar store for a pack of glow sticks to add some psychedelic flair.)

  1. Give each other massages

Forget shelling out dizzying amounts of dollars for a couple’s massage. Instead, set up your own spa station. Lay down some towels on a bed or a couch, light a few candles, play some soft music and take turns giving each other the royal treatment.

  1. Make a blanket fort

Gather your biggest blankets and reconnect with your inner child by building an epic, cozy tent. For some extra “camping” flair, roast marshmallows over the stove and make indoor s’mores.

  1. Take a hike

Nothing says “romance” like panting and sweating while trekking through dirt, rocks and cacti. But the view from the top will be all the more breathtaking with your lover by your side.

(For bonus Couple Points, see how long you can hold onto each other’s hands while navigating the rougher spots on the trail.)

  1. Try Dressing Room Dress-Up

Get a free taste of the high life by spending a day in the dressing rooms of your favorite stores, trying on the fanciest clothes you can find. For a fun twist, choose outfits for each other and get a glimpse into your respective fashion psyches.

  1. Play Netflix Improv

Hop on Netflix, pick a film neither of you have seen (preferably a rom-com, in the spirit of V-Day), then mute the TV and make up your own dialogue. And during the kissing scenes? You know what to do.

  1. Have a game night

Kick it old-school with a gnarly game night. Pull out your old Scrabble board and see if all the knowledge you’ve gleaned from Words with Friends will spell success.

Or, try your hand at that random game that’s been sitting in the back of the game cupboard for ages, yet you’ve still never played.

  1. Write (and read) love letters

Take some time to write each other good old-fashioned love letters. Recount such things as your favorite shared memories, the little things you like about each other and how you have become better people through your relationship. Then read your letters aloud to each other.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Winter break provides no slack for the Aztecs

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Winter break provides no slack for the Aztecs



While many students finally got a good night’s sleep, the Pima Community College women’s basketball team took no breaks over the winter holiday.

“The whole concern is that we need to beat the teams in our divisions,” assistant coach Jim Rosborough said. “We need to be sure that we’re top seed out of the Division II schools.”

The No. 2-ranked Aztecs won against South Mountain Community College, Dawson Community College, Scottsdale Community College and Phoenix College during the break.

The third loss in the Aztecs’ calendar came Jan. 7 against Cochise College, 57-44, in Douglas.

Even with three losses, the Aztecs had small victories that overshadowed the missteps.

Sophomore Sydni Stallworth was named ACCAC player of the week three times and won national honors as NJCAA Division II player of the week. She’s averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Jan. 14: PCC 96, Central Arizona College 85

The Aztecs hosted the Vaqueras and took control of the game from the start. The team lead 47-45 at halftime, and went up by 76-65in the third quarter.

“Amazing team win and I’m super proud,” head coach Todd Holthaus said in a press release.

Sophomores led the game as Stallworth finished with 34 points, followed by Denesia Smith and Bree Cates with 17 points each.

Jan. 18: PCC 81, Mesa CC 84

When PCC last played Mesa Community College in the Region I, Division II finals, the Aztecs won 78-54.

However, history did not repeat on Jan. 18. Pima lost to a buzzer beater.

“We weren’t as sharp defensively as we should’ve been, and it ended up costing us the game,” Rosborough said.

Stallworth had 22 points, followed by Cates with 17 points and six rebounds.

Jan. 21: PCC 91, Arizona Western 73

The Aztecs quickly recovered after the Mesa loss and pulled a double-digit win against Arizona Western College.

The No. 2 Aztecs took the lead in the first quarter, 20-19. By the third quarter, they held a 61-51 lead.

Stallworth ended the game with 28 points and Cates had 19.

Freshman Alliyah Bryant made her first six 3-pointers in a row and finished the game with 19 points shooting for 66 percent beyond the arc.

“We played pretty hard as a team,” Bryant said. “It was probably one of my best games so far.”

Jan. 25: PCC 71, Tohono O’odham 25

The second half of the season saw a replay of the ending to the Native American Classic. The Aztecs earned their second win of the season against the Jegos.

From the start, the Aztecs held on to a lead that increased as the quarters went on. They did not let Tohono O’odahm score more than 16 points per quarter.

Stallworth lead the team with 24 points, followed by Cates with 13 points.

Jan. 28: PCC 98, Chandler-Gilbert 43

The No.3 Aztecs beat Chandler-Gilbert for the team’s 16th consecutive win.

The first quarter ended with the Aztecs up by 18 points and then by 29 points when the second quarter ended, more than doubling Chandler-Gilbert’s score, 51-22.

Cates shot for 69 percent, scoring 16 points. Smith finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Feb. 1: PCC versus Glendale CC

The game took place after the Aztec Press went to the printer.



Feb. 4: at Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 8: South Mountain CC, West Campus, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 11: at Scottsdale CC, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15: Cochise College, West Campus, 5:30 p.m.

Minimalists gives minimalism a bad name

Minimalists gives minimalism a bad name


Aztec Press illustration by Katelyn Roberts

With New Year’s resolutions devised, put into place and maybe even already abandoned, January and February produce all kinds of hip lifestyle buzzwords.

As a vegan, I already chant the antioxidant-rich language of organic superfoods and probiotics. Recently, however, the “minimalism” trend caught my attention.

Minimalists live efficient lives, and sometimes strive for self-sustainability. Utilitarian forms include tiny homes, living out of a backpack and carefully choosing what to consume.


I didn’t grow up as a minimalist. My parents raised me and my two siblings in a five-bedroom suburban home on a perfect cul-de-sac.

My toys included a storage tub filled with Barbies, Bratz and Diva Starz. I had princess pink curtains and a stained glass rose window, and I definitely knew how to trash a room during one of my wild play sessions.

My mom hosted huge parties, always bought decorations from Mexico for the back patio and saved every single craft project, homework assignment and school photo.

My dad preferred quality over quantity with his trips to the dollar store but if we didn’t clean our rooms, he threw everything away.

After the divorce, my mom’s new small home was cluttered and full of kids’ memories. My dad’s apartment was sparse and clean, and we ate the same thing every night.

This is important, I promise.


Minimalism has weaved in and out of my life, but always seemed like an unachievable, laughable, only-at-Ikea concept.

Still, the lifestyle appealed to me because I dislike mindless consumerism, product fetishism and society’s need to constantly buy new things.

Saving money and the world are just two perks.

I started by donating a lawn-and-leaf bag of clothes, shoes and bags, and a box of utensils and dishes, to my nearest Goodwill.

I resolved to make all of my own clothes in 2017.


For more inspiration, I watched a documentary on Netflix that has received lots of hype.

“Minimalism” follows two reformed rich men who travel across the U.S. preaching their minimal lifestyles.

The film makes Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus look like assholes. One longboards and the other reads his struggles as a wealthy man like slam poetry. There are no strict rules for minimalism and everyone’s interpretation is different, but I disliked the message of these two men who are triggering changes in so many people.

To me, minimalism just makes sense. I’ve had things and clothes and knick-knacks, and now I’m sick of the clutter.

But a lot of people haven’t had enough things to be sick of. Unlike these two six-figure-earning gents, most people can’t afford one nice $300 jacket instead of the five $20 jackets they recommend.


The minimalists addressed this on their website, after receiving some heat for preaching an idea that seems difficult to attain. Great, I thought. They aren’t so bad after all.

I was wrong.

The minimalists say poor people can benefit even more from minimalism.

“If we have less money, then we must be more intentional with how we spend it,” they write.

This mindset bothers me.

It’s the same mindset that doesn’t tip servers, the same mindset that tells those living below the poverty line not to enjoy a simple comfort like a beer or a snack.

Yes, it saves money to skip a latte or an IPA, but for many, that’s the only affordable pleasure.

I agree the world benefits when people feel released from pressure to own a car, home, television and the latest iPhone and video game consoles.

However, you can’t change the world by bragging in a blog about your lifestyle choices.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when followers tout the benefits of minimalism from a privileged perspective.


Self-righteous minimalists give minimalism a bad name. My position is to take what you can from it.

I’ll continue living with fewer possessions and riding my bike to work, but I don’t plan on preaching my lifestyle to those less fortunate.

As I take my first steps into a more minimal life, I know I got my sentimentality and my need to save childhood memorabilia from my mom. Therefore, I allow myself unlimited picture frames for photographs and a drawer that stores (23 years worth of) birthday cards.

Minimalism can be for everyone, and it would lead to a healthier society. Let’s just be reasonable in our efforts.

Katelyn Roberts is trying to live a sustainable and efficient life in her 400-square-foot home in Barrio Viejo. Most of her belongings are for sale at Goodwill and Speedway Outlet.


Hospitality boasts strong career outlook

Hospitality boasts strong career outlook


 Alejandra Aldeoa has been in the restaurant industry since she was 14 years old, working her way up from dishwasher to hostess.

She currently works at the Omni Tucson National Hotel Resort. When she first hired in, she had no idea what she wanted as a career, until her manager recommended the hospitality program at Pima Community College.

 Now she is completing her last semester at Pima before she transfers to Northern Arizona University to finish her bachelor’s degree.

 Her job offers lots of hands-on experience, so she’s only participated in one internship so far, for Co-op Work. She does want to participate in the Walt Disney internship.

“I’m waiting ‘til I have a semester of NAU under my belt,” she said.

After Aldeoa finishes her degree she wants to work with her dad, a restaurant entrepreneur. “My dad owns a few restaurants,” she said. 

One is Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ in Tucson. After he retires, Aldeoa wants to take over for him.

Pima Community College student Alejandro Aldeoa grates cheese for tamales during a culinary class at Northwest Campus.
(Brittney Young/Aztec Press)

The hospitality program at Pima offers three options: hotel and restaurant management, culinary arts and travel/tourism.

 Armando Trujillo, director of the hotel and restaurant management program at PCC and NAU, said culinary arts is the most popular program but hotel and restaurant management offers the most opportunities.

 Students could potentially earn $100,000 a year with a career in hotel and restaurant management, he said. Very few chefs ever make that.

 “The one that has the greatest chance for earnings is management,” Trujillo said.

 Pima partners with NAU so that students who want to continue working on a four-year degree can make a seamless transition. Students who have gone on to NAU can continue taking classes at Pima so they don’t have to leave Tucson.

 “Typically, the Pima to NAU program can be $25,000 total,” Trujillo said.

 That represents about half the cost of studying for the same degree at a university for four years.

 Starting in Fall 2017, Pima students in the hotel and restaurant management program will be able to transfer up to 75 credits to NAU. Right now, they can transfer up to 64.

 Students will be able to take five semesters at a community college and three at a university. They’ll earn a hybrid business degree, because the program emphasis is on hotel and restaurant management rather than just one or the other.

Graduates have even been hired in banks because of the customer service skills they acquire in the program, Trujillo said.

Trujillo teaches a culinary class as part of the hotel and restaurant management program.

 “The idea of this class is to teach our students what a commercial kitchen looks like,” he said.

 Along with Aldeoa, students in the class included Kate Hailey and Nicola Ghaemmaghami.

 Hailey went to the University of Arizona for a year before deciding it wasn’t for her. She became interested in the restaurant industry while still in high school because one of her teachers owned a catering company.

 Ghaemmaghami works the front desk at Homewood Suites by Hilton. She began the program at Pima a semester before she started her job.

 Class size is generally small, with no more than 20 students.

The program schedules classes to accommodate working students, as most hold some sort of job in the restaurant or hotel industry. Many classes meet once a week so students don’t have to rearrange their work schedules to attend school.

 Sarah Guerrerro is in her last semester of the NAU program and said it “was really nice and convenient to stay in Tucson.”

 The small class sizes helped create lifetime friendships. “It felt like it mattered,” Guerrerro said.

“This program allows the flexibility to work full time and go to school full time,” NAU student Scott Salerno said.

 NAU student Blake Tobias added, “We’ve been able to connect, so we have options to move around.”

 The program is designed for graduates to move into management positions within five years of completing their degree.

Some may even begin to teach students interested in the industry. “If they have their degree they’re qualified to teach,” Trujillo said.


Instructor Armando Trujillo and student Kate Hailey prepare tamales in Trujillo’s PCC culinary class as part of the Northwest Campus hotel and restaurant management program. (Brittney Young/Aztec Press)

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Aztecs win two conference games in a row

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Aztecs win two conference games in a row


The Pima Community College men’s basketball team (7-3, 2-1 in ACCAS) won two important conference games on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, continuing to make strides toward improvement after losing its conference opener on Nov. 22.

Every game is critical for the Aztecs as they prepare for some time off during winter break.

A Dec. 7 game against Eastern Arizona Community College took place after the Aztec Press went to the printer.

Pima next plays South Mountain Community College in Phoenix on Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.


Nov. 22: PCC 82, Tohono O’ Odham 85 

Pima played a close game but was unable to come away with the win in its first ACCAC conference contest. PCC fell at home 85-82 to Tohono O’ Odham Community College.

The Aztecs kept it close most of the contest but allowed a late 9-2 run by Tohono O’ Odham that sealed the win.

Freshman Isaiah Murphy finished the game with a team-high 25 points, shooting 10-for-12 from the free throw line in the process. Sophomore Deion James was next up with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Sophomore Emilio Acedo scored 16 points, all in the second half, and sophomore Zach Evans rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points.


Nov. 30: PCC 91, Chandler-Gilbert CC 76

The Aztecs battled on the road to earn their first ACCAC conference win of the season, a 91-76 victory over Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

Pima was in control the entire game. The team took a 48-33 lead into the halftime break and maintained the double-digit lead through the entire second half.

Sophomore Deion James led the team in scoring with 17 points. Three other Aztecs also scored in double figures. Sophomore Damon Dubots had 16 points, Acedo scored 15 points and freshman Alize Travis had 12 points.

“We are very focused right now,” Travis said. “This is conference play now, so we are all locked in. Coach has been preaching trust and effort, so we have been trying to be as selfless as possible every time we touch the floor.”


Dec. 3: PCC 108, Glendale CC 96 

Pima played another complete game to secure a 108-96 conference victory over Glendale Community College.

The Aztecs controlled the first half and led 56-42 at the break.

Glendale found life in the second half, and steadily cut into the lead. The closest it got was a 95-90 Pima lead with 6:09 left in the game. The Aztecs came together for one final surge and put the game away.

Sophomores Jacob Anastasi and Deion James led the team on an 11-0 run down the stretch to secure the lead and victory. Anastasi finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while James earned 17 points.

Acedo was the overall leading scorer for the game, with 25 points. Murphy earned a double-double off the bench with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“It is all about playing together and executing,” sophomore Zach Evans said about the two wins.



Dec. 10: at South Mountain Community College, Phoenix, 4 p.m.


Sophomore guard Zach Evans plays defense against New Mexico JC at the Native American Classic. (Ashley Munoz/Aztec Press)

College class a good fit for 11-year-old

College class a good fit for 11-year-old

Brooklynn Bruno, 11, attends a Monday-Wednesday Japanese class at Downtown Campus. (Katelyn Roberts/Aztec Press)


Most 11-year-olds are just starting middle school. A few are thinking about college, and even fewer are actually in college. Brooklynn Bluto is one of those select few.

Bluto is currently enrolled in Japanese 101 at Pima Community College Downtown Campus. The sixth grader also attends Sahuarita Middle School.

“I chose Japanese because when I am older I plan to go to college at Tokyo University,” Bluto said.

She wanted to take a college course because other options weren’t viable.

“Online classes were not very effective, and my school only offers Spanish classes,” she said. “Originally, I spent a lot of my own money on stuff that did not even work.”

One failed online effort was attempting to learn a Japanese writing system called Hiragana. “It took forever, because the websites were super misleading,” Bluto said.

Chris Sandy, Bluto’s stepfather, originally had doubts about Bluto attending college.

“Concerns I had with Brooklynn taking a college course were mostly related to ensuring she did not get overwhelmed or tired of learning,” he said.

Bluto formalized her request.

“When Brooklynn came to my wife and I saying she wanted to take Japanese, she did it via email,” Sandy said. “The proposal included a permission slip, course information, cost and her plea.”

Initially the parents said no because they were concerned Bluto would have too much work.

After reading the proposal, they changed their minds. They also saw she truly wanted to learn Japanese.

“We knew Brooklynn was ready because of her dedication to teach herself Japanese in her free time and her dedication to her violin,” Sandy said.

“We were confident that it was our responsibility to encourage her learning and monitor her stress rather than tell her no,” he added.

In addition, Bluto’s parents realized she wasn’t living up to her full potential with middle school classes. “Brooklynn is typically very bored in public school at Sahuarita Middle,” Sandy said.

Sandy drives Bluto to Downtown Campus on Monday and Wednesday evenings, and waits outside the classroom until she is done.

Before she enrolled, Bluto worried her age might create a barrier between her and other students in the class. But after experiencing college first-hand, Bluto said she had no problem fitting in.

“I do not think age holds me back in any way,” she said. “Sometimes I do not understand some words, but context makes it pretty easy.”

Instructor Bridget Wilde also had initial doubts.

“I was very worried, both for her ability to keep up and for my ability to teach her without affecting the class experience for my older students,” she said. “Japanese is extremely difficult to learn as a second language.”

Bluto was always confident in her ability.

“I thought I could comprehend the level of a college course because of how I was taught by my dad,” she said. “He spoke to me like an adult, teaching me a wide vocabulary and how to use context to understand.”

Bluto’s parents saw they had nothing to worry about as long as she kept up her love for learning.

Wilde also realized Bluto is not your average 11-year-old.

“Of course I cannot discuss her grade but I have found her very bright and thoughtful, and willing to ask questions,” Wilde said. “I am fortunate as a rule that my class is always full of students who genuinely wish to learn, and I think Ms. Bluto embodies that spirit wonderfully.”

After learning Japanese, Bluto plans to take more classes through PCC.

“I am probably going to take a course in math, and then a class in computer coding,” she said.

She also has plans for her academic future.

“If everything goes well, I am going to take high school credit classes during middle school to graduate early,” she said.

She’s considering a major in computer science when she attends Tokyo University.

When Bluto isn’t at school, she fills her free time with many different activities.

“We have been enrolling her in anything she asks, like violin lessons or the Tucson Junior Symphony,” Sandy said.

Bluto has taken such a liking to violin that “she has a rash on her neck because she loves playing it so much,” he said.

She also enjoys “beating the other students at chess,” Bluto said.

Bluto’s parents are enjoying her success.

“She’s been carrying on like a well-conditioned mental athlete” Sandy said.


Cameroon refugee hopes to someday return

Cameroon refugee hopes to someday return


Elialie, a 23-year-old Pima Community College student from Cameroon, was born into a civil war.

In her hometown of Edea, people lived in the rubble of demolished buildings. Many children were orphaned, unclothed and starving.

“I hated where I lived,” she said. “I wanted to leave every day I was there, but leaving was just about a dream for me.”

Cameroon is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to, with 48 percent of its residents living in poverty.

The country has never recovered from the Kamerun Campaign during World War I, when many towns and villages were flattened by artillery. Because Cameroon lacks money, very little debris has been cleared.

Elialie, who asked that only her first name be used, now attends PCC. She’s majoring in public health and currently taking classes in writing, Spanish and geography.

During her childhood, she learned English at a school associated with the International Rescue Committee.

Her journey from Edea to Tucson began in 2007, after her mother developed a non-cancerous tumor. Elialie, then 14, and her older brother walked 20 miles to a larger city and found jobs.

With help from the IRC and other donors, Elialie eventually traveled with her mother and two brothers to Tucson. Her mother underwent surgery to remove the tumor.

As war refugees, the family receives benefits that include an apartment and supplemental checks. Agencies helped her older brother find work and pay Elialie’s tuition fees.

Elialie thought Tucson was a very quiet place when she first arrived.

“It was very welcoming, because people didn’t judge my English-speaking skills,” she said.

Classmates find her quiet as well.

“She’s very to herself, not talkative at all,” writing classmate Robert Valenzuela said. “Elialie has a quiet character to her.”

Nevertheless, Valenzuela enjoys interacting with Elialie during class and learning more about her culture.

“She’s opened-minded towards stuff, and brings her culture to her work,” he said.

Elialie wants to continue her education at the University of Arizona. After earning a public health degree, she’ll return to Cameroon as a missionary who helps children receive medical attention.

“They are people who need help,” she said. “I want to help those people.”


Cameroon native Elialie, 23, takes time for a quiet moment between classes at West Campus. (Rene Escobar/Aztec Press)




Dancers show off beautiful moves

Dancers show off beautiful moves


Afternoon sun pours into the Pima Community College dance studio, reflecting off a wall of mirrors. Music flows through the air and dancers move gracefully to its rhythm.

Dance instructor Nolan Kubota sits quietly on a chair in the corner of the studio, studying the scene as choreographer Kyle Reza works with PCC Dance Ensemble dancers preparing a piece for “Signature Selections 2016.”

“These are the most talented dancers,” Kubota said. “I’m excited about a jazz piece where the dancers eat chips. They have to remember to chew in rhythm.”

The dancers will perform at the West Campus Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre on Dec. 9-10 with concerts Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8-$10, or $5 for students with ID.

Student Christina Palermo couldn’t fully participate in the rehearsal because she has tendonitis in her ankles.

“I can’t relevé,” Palermo said. “That’s a movement where the dancer rises on the tips of the toes.”

Taljah Blue can relate. She broke her foot two years ago, an indication that dance injuries are commonplace.

“People don’t understand that dancers are athletes like football players,” Reza said. “They have the same limited career. By the time they get to a certain age, their bodies can’t take the punishment anymore.”

“But it’s all worth it,” student Hailee Kayfes said.

Blue and Palermo agree.

Dance is their life, their passion and the way they stay balanced. It’s therapeutic to express emotions rather than bottling them up.

Blue said she wouldn’t be where she is today without dance and the close bonds she has developed with other dancers.

Kubota has been teaching at PCC since 2011 and has danced for 28 years. He uses all styles of dance in his teaching and choreography: ballet, modern, jazz and even go-go and burlesque.

Newly crowned as Mr. Tucson Entertainer of the Year, Kubota obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of California-Irvine. After graduating, he worked at Disneyland by day and as a club go-go dancer at night.

Before moving to Tucson to attend graduate school, he spent several years as a soloist with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The company performs classical ballet, but with humor

“I was the joke dancer,” Kubota said. “You perform the same joke over and over again every night. To you, it’s not funny anymore but you have to keep it fresh for the audience.”

His passion these days is burlesque, which he describes as a truly American dance form that grew out of vaudeville.

He also works with co-director Karenne Koo at Arts for All, a nonprofit that teaches dance to people with mixed abilities.

Arts for All’s Adult Dance Ensemble will collaborate with PCC’s Dance Ensemble for the “Signature Selections” concert. Arts for All will perform two pieces on Friday night and at the Saturday afternoon presentation.

In the first piece, 10 Arts for All dancers will present a modern piece called “Silence” to the music of Disturbed’s version of “Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon.

The second piece will showcase the collaboration of both ensembles. Six PCC dancers will join with Arts for All’s troupe to dance a structured improvisation piece called “Just a Little Hello.”

“Signature Selections” will allow the dancers to share their creativity and emotions with each other and with the audience.

“We are all really thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate,” Koo said.

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


“Signature Selections 2016”

Where: CFA Proscenium Theatre, West Campus

When: Dec. 9-10, Fri-Sat at 7:30 p.m., Sat at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $8-$10, $5 with student ID

Box office: 206-6986


Pima Community College ensemble dancers rehearse for the Dec. 9-10 concerts. (Photo by Carol Carder)



Police chief calls previous firing ‘a test of character’

Police chief calls previous firing ‘a test of character’


Newly hired Pima Community College Police Chief Christopher Albers visits West Campus. (Katelyn Roberts/Aztec Press)

 Pima Community College Chief of Police Christopher Albers was fired while serving as chief of police at Georgia Perimeter College, and later filed a whistleblower lawsuit.

“I was fired for upholding the law,” he said.

His current supervisor, Vice Chancellor for Facilities Bill Ward, confirmed PCC was aware of the incident before deciding to extend a job offer to Albers last summer.

Albers said the Georgia situation began in October 2008 when a student reported a stolen laptop. He described the following chain of events:

Campus police retrieved a video showing a female student taking the laptop from a classroom. The female student reportedly sold the laptop to another student for $400.

The victim agreed not to press charges if the female student made restitution.

After agreeing to pay restitution, the female student said it was the victim’s fault he lost his computer and she reneged on the agreement. The victim pressed charges and the female student was arrested.

The arrestee’s mother complained to the director of human resources and threatened to use an Atlanta radio station to bring attention to the incident.

Albers received a conference call from the human resources director, in-house counsel and a college dean. He said he was told to drop the charges, to un-arrest the female student “and to personally go down and get her out of jail.”

He refused and was eventually fired.

Albers later filed a whistleblower’s lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents.

After five years in the court system, the two parties settled for a significant sum. However, Albers said the settlement only covered his lost wages once attorney fees and taxes were deducted.

Albers said college administrators sometimes prevent campus law enforcement agencies from fulfilling duties that might cast a bad light on the college.

“Colleges want to maximize enrollment, and when a college has a crime problem, that affects their enrollment,” Albers said.

His termination created lots of pain for him and his family, Albers said, but he doesn’t regret his actions.

“I would still do the same thing knowing that I would suffer for it,” he said. “There is no merit in doing the right thing when things are going smoothly. The real test of character is doing the right thing when it hurts.”

Albers does not like to discuss that chapter in his life. “When something bad happens, moving past painful events is important,” he said. “But if it helps or inspires someone to share those painful experiences, that is a good thing.”

Albers served as a senior police officer at Georgia Piedmont Technical College until he became vested in the Teachers’ Retirement System of Georgia.

He will not be able to wear a badge or make an arrest in Arizona until he becomes certified by the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, despite being a police officer for more than 20 years in California and Georgia.

AZPOST certification requires passing a two-part written test and proficiency tests in firearms, tactical driving and physical aptitude. He planned on taking the written test in early December.

Albers, who is right-handed, broke his left arm when he tripped over a box while moving into his home. He passed the firearms test despite wearing a cast. “Little is required of the left hand, except to steady the right,” he noted.

Albers had to delay the driving and physical aptitude tests because they place stress on the left hand, but planned on taking the tests later this month.

His first few months at PCC have been wonderful, Albers said, with everyone being supportive, kind and encouraging.

“I like getting to meet people and to hear their stories,” he said. “Stories are so important to building a sense of community, which is what I seek to do here at Pima.”

Albers is arranging a campus security assessment in January or February from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. Three campus police chiefs from similar institutions will visit and make recommendations for improvements.

Albers said he will install more cameras at West Campus if the budget allows.

Downtown Campus has cameras but lacks signage. Albers has approval to post additional signs to warn potential wrongdoers that cameras are rolling.

“Cameras serve primarily as a deterrent, but can be utilized for evidence in the event of a crime,” he said.

The chance of having an active shooter on campus is remote but very real, he said.

“Everyone on Pima College’s campuses should know how to properly respond,” he said. “It is far better to have the tools to respond and never need them than to need them and not know what to do.”

All police department patrol personnel undergo mandatory annual active shooter training, he said. It includes both classroom instruction and practical exercises.

Active shooter training for faculty and students is not currently mandatory, but Albers hopes that will change.

Voluntary training is available and 773 individuals have participated since June 3, 2010, he said.

Albers has final say in all department hires and always asks potential employees this question: “What is more important, doing things right or doing the right thing?”

He defines doing things right as “staying within the lines, adhering strictly to policy and procedure.”

Doing things right is not as important as doing the right thing, he said.

“Just because a guideline says to do something or a prevalent practice dictates a certain action, does not mean it is the right thing to do,” he said.

Albers believes all PCC police officers should use their discretion to determine the right course of action.

“At the end of the day, they can be certain that they did the right thing and have the confidence that their actions can make a real difference in someone’s life,” he said.


‘Peace Officer Physical Aptitude Test’ requirements

The AZPOST “Peace Officer Physical Aptitude Test” manual requires the participant to:

  • Run a 99-yard obstacle course that includes navigating several sharp turns, jumping a number of curb-height obstacles and vaulting a 34-inch obstacle.
  • Lift and drag a 165-pound, lifelike dummy 32 feet.
  • Run five yards to a six-foot chain-link fence, climb over the fence and continue running another 25 yards.
  • Run five yards to a six-foot solid fence, climb over the fence and continue running another 25 yards.
  • Run 500 yards.

The time for each event is weighted and scored. A combined minimum score of 384 points is required to pass.


Unscrewed Theater lets actors cut loose

Unscrewed Theater lets actors cut loose


They say laughter is the best medicine. One of the best places in Tucson to find family-friendly laughter is at “Unscrewed Theater,” 3244 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $5, so the cost is minimal and the laughs plentiful.

Unscrewed Theater does short-form improv comedy and, yes, there is long-form improv comedy as well. When thinking of improv, we typically think of comedians like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and the late, great Robin Williams.

The theater’s executive director, Chris Seidman, moved to Tucson in 2004. His bio on the Unscrewed Theater website identifies his previous occupation as a Disneyland Jungle Cruise captain, which seems like a punchline in itself.

The nonprofit theater is run 100 percent by volunteers, from ticket-takers to performers. The main house team, which is called Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed or NBOJU, has performed every weekend in various locations in Tucson since 2002.

“There are so many different people in the organization with so many different jobs,” Seidman said. “We have teachers, a couple of engineers at Raytheon. We have an astrophysicist. One of our people is at the University of Arizona in the theater department.”

The diverse group has one thing in common – a love of improv.

NBOJU is comprised of 22 members who rehearse once a week, running sample games and scenes in order to stay comfortable with each other, to build chemistry and to keep their skills sharp.

Each show is comprised of six improvisers and a “host.” The host designs the line-up of games and notifies the cast the night of the show which games will be played. If you’ve seen the TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” you have an idea of what to expect.

Unscrewed Theater opened its current location on Speedway Boulevard in January 2014. Having a permanent location has allowed the troupe to build a following that doesn’t have to search out where they are performing each weekend.

Troupe members also teach classes in improv.

The classes run for eight weeks at a cost of $150 per session. The fee includes an optional student showcase at the end of the session. If you pay in full when you sign up, you get a free T-shirt.

The current class will present its showcase in early December. The next session starts Jan. 4.

Class participants don’t have to perform if they choose not to do so. Learning the principles of improv is still valuable not only in everyday life, but in business and personal relationships, Seidman said.

“It gives you the confidence to know that if you don’t have anything to say, you can trust in the fact that you will have something to say,” he said. “Basically what we’re doing from the minute we wake up in the morning is improv, because life is unscripted.”

He notes it’s important in relationships to really listen and focus on what the other person is saying, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. In improv, your partner might say something unexpected, so you learn to listen and be present.

“Besides all that, our improv classes are really fun,” he added. “If you have the kind of job or a life where you could just really use a couple of hours every week to be goofy, our classes are great for that as well.”

Opportunities exist to blow off steam and be silly in a safe environment. There’s an Improv 101 class for beginners and an Improv 201 class for more advanced students.

Casey Sullivan, a musical improviser who is part of a house troupe called “From the Top,” is taking the Improv 201 class this session. She enrolled in the class after receiving encouragement from another improviser.

The most difficult aspect of improv is when, as a performer, you get ‘stuck in your head’ and can’t create a character or just go with the flow of the scene, she said.

The challenge and the rewards are all worthwhile though, she added.

“I’ve learned that it’s OK to let go of who you are and become someone else,” Sullivan said. “The trust and friendship that grows from the support of your partners brings so much joy.”

Unscrewed Theater occasionally brings in improv specialists to conduct workshops. In the past, they’ve had David Razowsky, who has worked since the ‘90s with Second City in Chicago and Los Angeles.

The troupe is currently looking forward to a workshop with Laura Hall from “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”

Hall, who plays piano and specializes in music improv, has worked with Second City and is a published author. She developed improv karaoke and recorded tracks for improvisers who don’t have a musician.

For more information on Unscrewed Theater, visit or

Best of all, treat yourself to an evening of the best medicine you can find in Tucson.


Unscrewed Theater

Address: 3244 E. Speedway Blvd.

Phone: 289-8076

Tickets: $5


Improv entertainers with Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed, the main team for Unscrewed Theater, cut loose. NBOJU performs every weekend in various locations around Tucson.

Improv entertainers with Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed, the main team for Unscrewed Theater, cut loose. NBOJU performs every weekend in various locations around Tucson.

Cops make campus safety top priority

Cops make campus safety top priority


 “Are you ready to fight crime?” Pima Community College Police Officer Anthony French asks in an enthusiastic voice.

Visions of high-speed chases and taser deployments disappear from my head when I turn and see a big grin on the officer’s face.

I’m on what’s known as a ride-along. Most police departments allow civilians to ride with an officer, although it is not the same as portrayed in the movie “Ride Along.”

French looks prepared for chases and shootouts.

He wears a semi-automatic pistol on his left hip and a taser on his right. His tactical vest is bloated with gear.

His patrol car is a Crown Vic Police Interceptor, the kind with a V8 engine. He tests the siren and lights, and pulls onto the road.

Not a typical journey

As a child, French didn’t think of becoming a police officer, and his journey to become one was not typical.

“Have you ever seen one of those feed-the-children ads?” French responds in answer to a question about his childhood. “I was one of those kids.”

French doesn’t remember much about his early days living in the Philippines in what he referred to as a cardboard box, but his mother tells him stories and shows him pictures.

His mother married an American, and they moved to Colorado when he was 5. His stepdad worked for an international company, and French attended school in Colorado, Indonesia and Australia.

In 2004, when he and his younger brother were students at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, they decided to ditch class and see the movie “Office Space.”

After seeing the movie, they decided cubicle life was not for them. French turned to journalism and his brother to media arts.

French spent years trying different things before deciding to become a police officer. He graduated from PCC’s Law Enforcement Academy in 2013.

He worked his first few months as an officer with the Mammoth (Arizona) Police Department. The pay was low and there were no benefits, not even health insurance.

He was the only officer on duty when he worked at night, with no one to call for backup.

A ‘miracle hire’

In 2015, French was one of about 80 applicants for three openings at the PCC police department. He refers to his hiring as a miracle, as many applicants were younger, faster, stronger and more experienced.

French just completed his one-year probation with PCC. “This is a really good place to be,” he says.

“You can kind of gauge how your day is going to go based on which campus you are assigned to,” he notes. “Downtown is super-busy. West Campus is busy, too. If you get assigned to East Campus, you’re not going to be so busy.”

French arrives at East Campus and pulls into a fenced lot reserved for PCC vehicles. He drops off some items at the police substation, and begins walking his beat.

He acts like a tour guide, pointing out a replica of the solar system embedded in the sidewalk, a sculpture titled “The Mothers, Las Madres” and the polling station for the presidential election.

“Part of policing on a campus is to let your presence be known,” he says. “A campus is only as safe as people feel it is. If they see officers walking around and engaging with the community, saying hello, it makes them feel safe.”

He smiles and says “hi,” “hello” or “hi guys” to everyone who passes.

Words of wisdom

After walking for a while, it’s back to the Crown Vic and a visit to PCC’s Law Enforcement Academy.

French says a favorite part of his experience at the academy was hearing from police officers. He offers the new cadets words of wisdom based on his own experiences.

First, he tells them about the importance of not quitting.

“Don’t give up,” he says. “I had members in my class who gave up. No matter how difficult it gets, no matter how angry you get … just don’t give up.”

Next, he discusses the importance of completing all applications and questionnaires completely and honestly.

French said questionnaires cover all kinds of topics: whether you ever drive too fast, how many times you’ve smoked marijuana and even whether you honestly complete your tax returns.

“Throw yourself under the bus,” he advises the class.

After talking to the cadets, French drives to the PCC administrative offices on Broadway Boulevard. It’s dark, and the offices have been closed for a while. French’s job is to determine if all is well.

Patrolling the streets

All looks well, and it’s back to the streets again.

On one dimly lit road, it’s hard to see an oncoming car because its lights are off. After the car passes, French makes a U-turn and switches on his red and blue flashing lights.

The Crown Vic quickly catches up to the car, and it pulls over to the side of the road.

French runs the car’s plates and driver’s license. All is well and he allows the car to leave without a citation.

Later, while driving west on Valencia Road, French comes upon a disabled vehicle that is partially off the road and partially in the slow lane. He stops to investigate.

French runs the vehicle’s plates and driver’s license and discovers everything is in order. The driver says he has friends coming to help.

French contacts his supervisor and is told to push the disabled vehicle off to the side of the road.

In a few minutes, French is on the road again.

At this point, I’ve shared four hours of French’s 10-hour shift. I’m ready to go but think perhaps the excitement level will rise as the night grows later. French assures me it doesn’t change.

PCC priorities

As a certified police officer, his jurisdiction includes the entire state of Arizona, not just PCC property. However, unless French sees a safety issue or something outrageous, he does not get involved.

Pulling someone over for a traffic violation can be time consuming, he notes. If the driver does not have a valid license or insurance, the vehicle may have to be impounded and he doesn’t want to spend his time waiting for a tow truck.

“My priority as a PCC police officer is the safety and security and welfare of the campus,” French says. “The students are the priority, the facility is the priority and the welfare of the campus is my priority.”

Scheduling a ride-along

To schedule a ride-along with a PCC officer, complete a two-page form titled “Citizen Observer – Ride Along Program Request/Waiver/Approval Form.”

You’ll be asked to provide your name, contact information, date of birth and two emergency contacts. There’s also space to request a specific date, campus and officer.

The rest of the form contains rules you must agree to follow and a waiver of liability.

The police department will do a background check and let you know if your ride-along is approved.

For more information and a ride-along form, contact Sgt. Jonathan Haywood at 206-2692 or

Pima Community College Police Officer Anthony French stands near his patrol car at West Campus. French likes to stay engaged, and says "hello" to each person who passes by.

Pima Community College Police Officer Anthony French patrols West Campus. French likes to stay engaged, and says “hello” to each person who passes by.

International studies gain high priority

International studies gain high priority


 Pima Community College has implemented a variety of programs in recent years that place an increasing emphasis on international students.

Future engineers from Mexico utilize the Becalos program, while students from countries as diverse as Germany and Korea come to learn English as a second language. Americans are joining the action through new study-abroad courses in China.

PCC’s mission for international students is to help them with community engagement, diversity, inclusion and global education.

The college’s international education department began a transformation in 2014 by intensifying efforts to recruit new students.

PCC’s priority is to provide global engagement and international education that develops local classrooms across the world.

International students pay the highest rate of tuition, and PCC uses that money to provide a variety of benefits.

Employees have worked to build relationships with the Mexican government, Pima County and private entities.

Those relationships helped PCC win two grants totaling $180,000, including $62,000 from a Mexican nonprofit organization.

The grants have provided scholarships for U.S. students who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend college.

PCC had the second highest tuition rate for international students in 2015, according to the Institute of International Education.

In hopes of attracting more international students, PCC’s governing board voted in March to decrease international tuition by $52 from $352 per credit hour to $300.

Even at the new cost of $3,600 for a 12-credit semester, Pima finds itself the second most expensive option in the country for international students. Only Florida Gateway College costs more, at $4,698.84 per semester.

Daisy Rodriguez-Pitel works as the associate director for global engagement within the Center for International Education and Global Engagement. She sees what international students go through on a day-to-day basis.

“My primary role is to create, develop and enhance the international student experience,” Rodriguez-Pitel said. “I also work closely with our domestic student population to interconnect both student populations.”

Rodriguez-Pitel assists with planning co-curricular experiences for international students that include orientations, conversation partners and cultural excursions in Tucson.

PCC also hosts special programs for international students.

Program coordinator Yvonne Perez works closely with Vice President for International Development Ricardo Castro-Salazar and other members of Pima’s international team.

“I want all, not just international students, to know that the programs we offer in our office are available to all students,” she said.

A new initiative called Tea Time lets students meet once a month to participate in conversations about varied societal topics.

“It is a great opportunity for both local and international students to exchange ideas, share their culture and initiate friendships that can last a lifetime,” Perez said.

Global Peers is another program that helps Pima international students.

“PEERS stand for Positive Engaging Educational Resource and Support, which explains the role of Global Peers,” Rodriguez-Pitel said.

Bécalos-Santander is one of Pima’s most popular programs. PCC is one of six U.S. colleges that participate.

The Bécalos program is for post-secondary students from Mexico. They come to colleges in the U.S. to practice English as a second language and to enroll in various other courses.

This fall, PCC added a program for American students to study abroad through a partnership with Zhuhai City College in China. Six Pima students enrolled in courses to learn Chinese.

“We are also working with PCC faculty who are interested in providing study abroad opportunities this upcoming summer session,” Perez said.

Rodriguez-Pitel said the college will continue expanding outreach programs.

“We plan to establish more opportunities for PCC students and faculty to study and/or teach abroad,” she said.

Jonathan Lerma and Irving Gonzalez listen attentively to instructor Nancy Hamadou during an English as a Second Language class. Lerma and Gonzalez are part of the Bécalos program at Pima Community College. Katelynn Roberts/ Aztec Press

Jonathan Lerma and Irving Gonzalez listen attentively to instructor Nancy Hamadou during an English as a Second Language class. Lerma and Gonzalez are part of the Bécalos program at Pima Community College.
Katelynn Roberts/ Aztec Press

Tear gas a new version of infamous Trail of Tears

Tear gas a new version of infamous Trail of Tears


Illustration by Katelyn Roberts


When you think about the United States government persecuting the first Americans, maybe a movie or a one-sided battle from long ago comes to mind.

Perhaps you remember the Indian Removal Act and the long “Trail of Tears” walk that ensued.

Unfortunately, persecution continues today in North Dakota with the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has received backup from six surrounding states and is cracking down on activists trying to protect an important water supply.

Equipped with riot gear and tossing tear gas, deputies protect Dakota Access Pipeline assets because oil is more precious than water.

Dakota Access plans to run the pipeline under the Missouri River, the longest flowing waterway in the U.S. The proposal leaves people scratching their heads, asking “There’s no place else it could have gone?”

Nobody consulted the Sioux about construction plans. They were just enacted and everyone was supposed to sit idly by while sacred lands and burial grounds were placed at risk of being destroyed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the original pipeline permits. The Corps is currently conducting an environmental impact study, and final permits won’t be granted until after its completion.

Pressure has mounted as opponents seek a halt in construction but to date Dakota Access has declined to change its drilling plans. People of all backgrounds, including celebrities and political activists, are helping get the word out.

Why hasn’t the company rerouted the pipeline? Besides the fact that construction on both sides of the river is complete, racism remains strong in America. It flourishes individually and institutionally.

If the police and court system treated the crazy rednecks in Oregon the same way they’ve treated some of the Sioux women, there would have been a civil war.

If they had gassed or forcibly arrested any of the armed group that occupied a federal wildlife refuge last January, gun freaks everywhere would have lost their mind.

The most disheartening fact is this has all happened under a progressive president. Can you imagine the police reaction with President Trump, the self proclaimed “law and order candidate?”

After Trump won his election, Rudy Giuliani was quoted as saying, “This is like Andrew Jackson’s victory. This is the people beating the establishment.”

If Trump truly is the second coming of Jackson, we’ve got to intensify the resistance and we cannot afford to lose.

It’s important we stand up now and send a message that the government is supposed to work from the consent of the governed and not the other way around. It’s important we stand with our Native American friends and say enough is enough.

We’ve come to a fork in the road, one that will either take us back to a time where the white establishment does what it wants or forward to a new society in which all people’s voices are recognized as equally important.

Pima Community College student Rudy Meza, a Yaqui Sundancer, says one of the best ways to help is to “spread the word.”

He encourages people to watch the You-tube videos documenting police brutality and visit the American Indian Movement website at

Write your congressperson, send bottled water, donate winter supplies or simply educate yourself. Today it is North Dakota, tomorrow it could be Arizona.

Racial equality is as important as water purity. It’s time we light a fire under the government and start demanding they serve every American and not just the corporations and banks that fund campaigns.

D.R. Williams thinks conservatives should try to save Mother Earth rather than turning it into the Death Star.


Vet office clears audit backlog

Vet office clears audit backlog


When Pima Community College appointed Hector Acosta as acting director of military and veteran services in June, he set his sights on one goal: repairing service for the sake of the students.

“My No. 1 priority was fixing the audit issues and perceptions that were in the community,” Acosta said. “All the expertise was there but there was no leadership.”

Student veterans previously had issues receiving their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, in part because just four staff members were available to handle customer service, audit issues and certifications.

There are now 12 employees in the Veterans Services office. They include a support specialist, four student services coordinators, five campus veterans advisors and two student services specialists.

With a self imposed deadline of Aug 1, and extra help from Desert Vista Campus Vice President Ted Roush, Acosta and the 12 employees finished an audit of backlogged files of former students.

The process was completed in time for an upcoming audit by the Department of Veteran Affairs Education Compliance office.

The audit, which may happen at any time, will check for compliance in certification, documentation and distribution of services to veterans.

“Of all the errors they found last time, they’re coming to see that we fixed them,” Acosta said.

Acosta was brought in after the resignation of his predecessor Daniel Kester on April 7.

Kester resigned when the plan he put in place failed to yield desired results. He said the remaining 1,500 files could not be completed in time for the Veterans Affairs visit and charged there was little institutional support for veterans at the college.

Using Kester’s compliance action plan, Veterans Services employees finished auditing the backlogged files by the end of August.

Acosta said the success comes down to the hard work by those in the Veterans Center.

“From my perspective, the main issue was bringing the team together,” Acosta said. “Now, we have young people in charge at the campuses and we have a coordinator responsible for the Vet Center, which has an increasing number of vets coming in for support.”

Acosta attributes the increase in the number of veterans to the work of the Student Veterans Organization.

“Now that the SVO is up, even more exposure gets out to the other campuses,” he said. “The Veteran Center was averaging 20-30 vets a month and we’re at over 140 per week now.”

Military and Veteran Services Coordinator Jorge Camarillo makes it a priority to ensure that veterans know help is available if they need it.

“I travel to all the campuses and make sure the SVO is visible,” Camarillo said. “Because it’s about the student, that’s why I come to work, to find what I can do to help students succeed.”

Camarillo also helps make sure veterans see the appropriate advisor at each campus to ensure they get the proper benefits or know that the Veterans Center exists.

The Veterans Center at Downtown Campus has a full computer commons available with free printing and a conference room. It doubles as a quiet space for veterans.

The center also houses office space for advisor Anna Brown and for Camarillo.

“It’s like a one-stop shop,” Camarillo said. “When a veteran comes, they have an advisor that can take care of their benefits.”

Camarillo said the Veterans Center was in the process of hiring tutors for math and writing to help maximize the help that can be provided.

“We want them to get a certificate or a degree” Camarillo said. “We also work with UA and NAU to provide a bridge to get them into four-year schools.”

Camarillo successfully organized a barbecue honoring Veterans Day that featured guest speakers, representatives for Martha McSally and representatives for various colleges and programs.

Student Veterans Organization President Selah Hadi said the situation for veterans is better overall, noting it shows in the graduation rate for veterans at Pima.

“We have one of the highest graduation rates for a junior college in the entire United States,” Hadi said. “We are at about 35 percent now and the average is 33 percent, which is great.”

Looking forward, Acosta feels there is still work to be done. He plans to do all that he can to help the college and its student veterans.

“There are still complaints because we’re not perfect,” he said. “But for the most part, the veterans who need it are getting support.

Veterans and students gather at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus on Nov. 10 for a Veterans Day celebration and barbecue. The celebration included a speech by instructor Gregory Ivan Redhouse. Representatives for U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and U.S. Sen. John McCain also spoke.      Micheal Romero / Aztec Press

Veterans and students gather at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus on Nov. 10 for a Veterans Day celebration and barbecue. The celebration included a speech by instructor Gregory Ivan Redhouse. Representatives for U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and U.S. Sen. John McCain also spoke.
Micheal Romero / Aztec Press

From left, Student Veteran Organization President Selah Hadi, Student Services Coordinator Jorge Camarillo, Advisor Anna Brown and Acting Director of Military and Veteran Services Hector Acosta gather at the Veteran Center at Downtown Campus after a successful celebration for Veterans Day on Nov. 10. Micheal Romero / Aztec Press

From left, Student Veteran Organization President Selah Hadi, Student Services Coordinator Jorge Camarillo, Advisor Anna Brown and Acting Director of Military and Veteran Services Hector Acosta gather at the Veteran Center at Downtown Campus after a successful celebration for Veterans Day on Nov. 10.
Micheal Romero / Aztec Press

Classic hopes to raise awareness

Classic hopes to raise awareness


The second annual Tohono O’odham Community College Native American Classic basketball tournament, held at Pima Community College, offered a deeper message than competition.

The tournament represents a blend of culture, athletics and community collaborations. In addition to basketball, the three-day event featured cultural dancers, singers and food vendors.

Matt Vargas, head coach for Tohono O’Odaham men’s basketball team, said bringing in top area teams helps shine a spotlight on Native issues.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions and a lot of stereotypes,” he said. “It’s a beautiful culture. It’s a land that’s filled with a lot of good young minds, filled with a lot of potential. It’s not just poverty and casinos.”

Vargas worked with Tony Johnson, group leader of the Nolic Traditional Basket Dancers and Singers, to showcase Tohono O’Odaham culture.

“A lot of our family members are basket weavers so we’re trying to carry on that tradition,” Johnson said. “It’s a dying art these days. A lot of the language and a lot of the culture is dissipating.”

Johnson also wants to shed light on problems he sees plaguing other tribes.

He cited problems like a scarcity of capital institutions. Since the government owns the land, it becomes nigh impossible to get loans needed to start a business.

Other problems include poor water conditions and negative stereotyping, Johnson said.

Vargas and Johnson also love to see student-athletes play and connect through basketball.

Todd Holthaus, head coach for Pima’s women’s basketball team, welcomes the chance to participate.

“It’s very enlightening,” Holthaus said. “It’s always cool to be a part of something like this. It’s very cool to know that you can use basketball to bring together very different cultures.”

Vargas credited Pima athletic director Edgar Soto, men’s basketball head coach Brian Peabody and Holthaus with helping to ensure the tournament’s success.

“In reality, without Brian Peabody, without Todd Holthaus, without Edgar Soto, this doesn’t happen,” he said.

Before the Classic kicked off, Johnson and his group performed a blessing asking for the players to have safe competition.

“It’s a traditional blessing,” Johnson said. “This song we were thinking about is a warrior song, in honor of Veterans Day.”

During the tournament, Johnson’s group offered a blessing before each game. Dancers also performed during each halftime break, and invited everyone in the stands to join in.

Tony Johnson gives a blessing to Todd Holthaus, Matt Vargas and the court for the Native American Classic. Nick Trujillo / Aztec Press

Tony Johnson gives a blessing to Todd Holthaus, Matt Vargas and the court for the Native American Classic.
Nick Trujillo / Aztec Press