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THE WORD: What inspired you to return to school?

THE WORD: What inspired you to return to school?

Interviews and photos at Downtown Campus by Emery Nicoletti

“I’ve had a desire to learn how to weld for a while. I’m a metal artist. I can now mark this off of my bucket list.” Leonard Castro, 63 Retired, City of Tucson admin. Welding student

“I’ve had a desire to learn how to weld for a while. I’m a metal artist. I can now mark this off of my bucket list.”
Leonard Castro, 63
Retired, City of Tucson administrator
Welding student

“I was given a paid semester to Pima Community College from the VA, which encouraged me to enroll here. I have made many friends and connections.” Nick Christensen, 48 Military veteran Paralegal major

“I was given a paid semester
to Pima Community College
from the VA, which encouraged me to enroll here. I have made many friends and connections. I love Pima, but hate the elementary school sized desks. ”
Nick Christensen, 48
Military veteran
Paralegal major

“I moved here from Sonora, Mexico, two years ago. I speak Spanish and French, and am here to improve my English-speaking skills. I love studying and continuing my education.” Carmen Martinez, 60 Language/translation major

“I moved here from Sonora, Mexico, two years ago. I speak Spanish and French, and am here to improve my English-speaking skills. I love studying and continuing my education.”
Carmen Martinez, 60
Language/translation major

“I’m taking electrical classes here at the Downtown Campus. I’m working on expanding my opportunities in a field I currently work in.” Mandarke Florez, 42 University of Arizona employee Electrical student

“I’m taking electrical classes here at the Downtown Campus. I’m working onexpanding my opportunities in a field I currently work in.”
Mandarke Florez, 42
University of Arizona employee
Electrical student

“I’ve always wanted my degree. I’m semi-retired and now I’ve got the time.” Robert Leon, 62 Semi-retired, sales Undeclared major

“I’ve always wanted my degree. I’m semi-retired and now I’ve got the time.”
Robert Leon, 62
Semi-retired, sales
Undeclared major


One is never too old to learn

One is never too old to learn


Tenny Tenka, 63, sits upright, knees together, back arched and not quite touching the chair, seemingly positioned in the very manner of a proper Chinese lady.

The Pima Community College student made her way to the United States from Indonesia in 2010 after the death of her husband, leaving behind her entire surviving family and relocating to a place she had never been before.

The first thing she did upon arrival was find a school to learn English.

“It was my passion,” she said,  beaming. “I took classes four days a week. I like to learn.”

Tenka would like to eventually master Spanish and French as well. Ultimately, she dreams of becoming a writer.

Her storied journey begins more than 100 years ago with her grandfather and parents on the southeast coast of China in Hokkien, known as Fujian Province. Her parents immigrated to Indonesia before she was born.

Many ethnic Chinese around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, trace their ancestry to Fujian.

Tenka lived through tumultuous times in Indonesia, including a series of uprisings in 1965-66 involving the 30 September Movement that killed more than 500,000 people. The secondary school she attended as a 15-year-old was seized.

Her husband died at age 61 after contracting what Americans refer to as black lung. He acquired the condition as a result of painting fenders on cars without protection or proper ventilation, and from working in an atmosphere filled with second-hand smoke.

After his death, Tenka emigrated to the U.S. through the applied efforts of her younger sister. Her sister arrived 30 years ago, and now lives in Sahuarita.

Tenka left behind three sons. Martin, 36, and Ricky, 33, moved to Australia a half-decade ago. Her youngest son, Renaldo, remains in Indonesia.

She has applied to bring Renaldo to the U.S., but it takes five-to-10 years for approvals from U.S. Customs and Immigration. Her own immigration in 2010 followed an approved application submitted by her sister in 1998.

Tenka grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese, a dialect different from the language spoken by her parents. She learned a little English as a child, but quickly forgot it.

She now attends English as a Second Language class at Pima’s West and Northwest campuses, and works in the deli department at a Fry’s grocery in Sahuarita.

Some co-workers and customers were initially impatient with her lack of communication skills, Tenka admits. That was both challenging and disheartening at times.

Her Fry’s supervisor, manager Bechir Sfaxi, says Tenka’s communication skills have greatly improved. “She knows her job and gets along well with her co-workers and customers.”

Tenka drives to her job at Fry’s but takes the bus to her Pima classes.

“I am a slow driver, so I only drive in Sahuarita,” she said with a renewed school-girl grin.

There are many things that Tenka misses about Indonesia, including the spices and the smell of the earth.

“It not same smell,” she says with a lingering accent not easily detected in earlier responses. “The beauty of the clothes, the fabrics, all different, not like here.”

She goes on, trying to paint word pictures to describe the type of woven fabric she is envisioning, how it’s made and how it shimmers. “Not like silk, better.”

Tenka remembers the beautiful foliage of Indonesia, and laments that her former engulfing color of green is wiped from her new landscape.

And lastly, the air. The air she breathes in Tucson doesn’t feel quite the same.

She also misses celebrating an esteemed annual tradition to honor family ancestors, held on April 5 at the cemetery and in July at the temple.

Tenka’s marriage was not arranged, as was the tradition in many areas of China, but her parents enjoyed a successful arranged marriage for 55 years.

Her parents never expressed outward emotions such as holding hands or kissing in public, but it was quite clear to Tenka that her parents were in love. “My parents were very happy,” she says.

Public displays of affection are prohibited in Chinese tradition and are against the law in Indonesia.

“Americans hold hands in public and always say, ‘I love you,’” Tenka says. “We don’t do that.” Does she miss her husband? “Yes,” she replies. “I miss him very much.”

Would she ever re-marry? Tenka remains silent for a moment, long enough to suggest that she either did not hear the question or considers it too personal.

She raises her head. “If I meet the right person, I would consider to get remarried. But have to be the right person,” she says.

“I’m rabbit in Chinese zodiac, which means I like safety and to be comfortable in my own space.  Future husband have to understand that.”

Pg07-Tenny Tenka

Tenny Tenka, 63, an ESL student, stands proud to be a part of Pima Community College to further her education. (Emery Nicoletti/Aztec Press)


THE WORD: What happened to Ebola?

THE WORD: What happened to Ebola?


It was a scam from the American government. I think that the G7  Summit got together and decided to spread fear.”

Ruben Dario Cervantes 

Major: Political Science


“People forgot about it. People didn’t care until it came to America, then they stopped caring again.”

Jovany Pallanes

Major: Engineering


“I think the biggest thing was people were panicking. It never really spread in the United States. It stayed in the hospitals.”

Asheley Costello

Major: Biochemistry


“I think they found a cure and people got a vaccine. I heard some people say that you could change into a zombie, like you get zombie-like side effects.”

Georimar Soza

Major: Education


I don’t think it really existed. I just think they put it out there to scare. I think if it really existed, they would of found a vaccine.”

Evelyn Veloz

Major: Education

‘DELECTABLES’ The art, heart of Fourth

‘DELECTABLES’ The art, heart of Fourth


When describing her start in the restaurant business, Donna DiFiore – owner of the iconic Delectables Restaurant on Fourth Avenue – has very specific work-related memories.

“One of my first duties,” she said, “was to pick up the fresh French bread every morning at La Boulangerie.”

She would carry out loaves of the freshly baked bread, and bungee cord the package to her motorcycle. Looking back, it seemed she was destined to become the owner of a restaurant that housed Tucson’s very first Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership.

Owning a restaurant was not what a young DiFiore thought she would do with her life, figuring that she would be a lawyer or a politician. Her early experience in the legal field dampened her desire to make that a career.

“I was a probation officer, and it did not suit me working in a field where people were sad and disappointed with their choices,” she explained. “I left that field, and decided to vacation in Tucson.”

That was 36 years ago, when DiFiore started her career at Delectables, as part of a small five-to-six person crew.

“When presented with the option of working at Delectables, I jumped and never looked back,” she said. “I started as a server, then to line cook, from there to manager, to business owner and then property owner.”

The business climate of Fourth Avenue has been nurturing and supportive for Delectables. It is a comfortable place and one of many businesses on the avenue have been taken over and purchased by internal staff. They include Delectables, Antigone Books, How Sweet It Was, and Desert Vintage.

Instead of opening a new location elsewhere, DiFiore focused on the Fourth Avenue location and purchased the property where Delectables is currently housed. She has fashioned the restaurant into a staple of its district. Delectables has often been described by DiFiore as “The heart of Fourth Avenue shopping, and entertainment, offering gourmet casual dining to nourish your life.”

Delectables is certainly an anchor business that draws many to the avenue it seems.  Lasting relationships are a clear pleasure for DiFiore, one she nurtures in her staff, customers, and with everyone she calls “friend.”

“Staff is the key to delivering any product,” she said, adding that “the majority of the hundreds of folks that have worked for me would give me a warm hug.”

When asked to describe DiFiore, Delectables general manager Christopher Baldwin said she was always honest, and that you knew where you stood with her.

“She’s smart,” he added. “She’s our Mama Bear, sweet fuzzy and protective, and always willing to give you a third chance.”

Baldwin acknowledged a couple of diners leaving the restaurant, and asked if everything was OK.

“Always good,” said the patrons, as they headed towards the avenue.

“Donna clearly has a vision,” he continues. “She’s an alpha-personality, the queen bee; but that’s not to say that she can’t hear other’s input.”

He pauses. “She is a great entertainer and has good leadership and managerial skills which work well together.”

After 25 years, Baldwin – known for his signature vest and fedora – is a fixture at Delectables, much like the restaurant itself is a landmark on Fourth Avenue

Tara Martinez, a head cook at Delectables, described DiFiore as being fair, and nurturing.

“If you have a good work ethic, you’ll do well here,” she said. “If you don’t, then pay attention. She’ll teach you.”

As if recalling a past moment in time, she smiled and added: “She’s always willing to support you outside of work.”

It wasn’t always smooth sailing in the restaurant business over more than three decades of management and ownership.  DiFiore had to demonstrate keen management skill in lean and uncertain times as demonstrated during the recent year’s long modern streetcar construction.

“In the best and worst of times, managing all assets is challenging and leaves little room for surprises” she asserts.  “Controlling cost of sales and labor is critical and that job is never finished.  I’ve learned how to narrow the product selection in lean times as well.  For instance, do I really need three Chardonnays by the glass? Do I really need 11 draft beers?”

Despite what appears to be a successful completed street car project as evidenced by cars packed with riders, DiFiore is critical of the modern streetcar implementation, execution and its impact on the businesses on the Avenue.

“The construction part was the most painful business interruption I have experienced in my career with Delectables. The project should have been done in smaller segments so that all the merchant districts were not shut down all at once.”

There are other challenges as well, though all seem to be manageable for this successful business owner.  DiFiore wishes that the city provide better insight and planning regarding parking, both on Fourth Ave and in the surrounding west university neighborhood.

But the challenges faced by businesses in changing times do not seem to intimidate those that have seen and done it all.  The pleasures of owning a business far outweigh the small and large bumps in the road. Having a vision of success, anticipating what is needed to get there, and looking good while getting there are three tenets of business success espoused by DiFiore.

Also critical to success is the ability to be a good listener. Regarding traits that she learned throughout her life that contributed to her success, DiFiore said they are “listening and hearing your words and ideas completely – and when you are done talking, then I’ll talk.”

When DiFiore is not at work, she does find time to relax at home with family.  A great evening is described as, “Working side by side with Mitchell (her husband) while he cooks us shepherd’s pie, chicken pot pie, fettuccine alfredo or one of his many great family meals at home, drinking a nice glass of pinot grigio, a nice scotch or a hearty cab, and all of us around the table telling stories.”

Having raised two college-bound children, nurturing a loving marriage and operating a successful business, DiFiore can claim to know a few secrets:

“Humor is mandatory at work and at home. Sitting at the dinner table with a delicious meal is a bonding unifying event that happens as often as is possible. Speaking factually about likes and dislikes is essential as well.”

For those seeking to open their own restaurant, DiFiore has this sage advice: “You have to be a multitasking, super-minutia-oriented, detailed person with a special hide, to train your staff, satisfy your guests, and do it every day.”

She also says it helps to do yoga and meditate daily “It’s food for the soul,” she said.

Although DiFiore as a young girl may not have envisioned a lasting career in the restaurant business, she still reminisces about summers in Cape Cod, the soft and sandy beaches, and it brings back vivid memories of superb lobster salad rolls.  Clearly, her destiny was “Delectable!”


Delectables Restaurant

Address: 533 N. Fourth Ave.

Phone: 884-9289

Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-9 p.m.




Donna Difiore enjoys the sunshine outside her restaurant, Delectables.

Donna Difiore enjoys the sunshine outside her restaurant, Delectables.

Crab cakes appetizer

Crab cakes appetizer

THE WORD: Have you been in love? How did you know?

THE WORD: Have you been in love? How did you know?

Pg03-Word-Melissa Dormady

“I’ve been in love a few times. I thought that person was amazing, with flaws and everything. I just needed to be with them and didn’t really care about being with anybody else.”

Melissa Dormady
Major: Nursing

Pg03-Word-Yancey Goines

Yes I have. I just think you just kind of do. It’s almost hard to put into words when you’re in love. When you can’t stop yourself from saying it to the other person.”

Yancey Goines
Major: Music

Pg03-Word-Melinda Hill

“I’m engaged to be married, so I am in love. You know how people say that you know, like you have a gut instinct? You have that. Once you meet someone that is just for you, you know.”

Melinda Hill
Major: Nursing

Pg03-Word-Philip Wetherbee

“Yes. I would say when you’re willing to put the well-being of that other person above your own well-being, no matter how much it inconveniences you.”
Philip Wetherbee
Major: Environmental science

Pg03-Word-Stephanie Loreto

“Yes. I know I am in love, because I want to marry this person. I’m engaged to him and I’m gonna move to another country for him. I want to share my life with this person.”

Stephanie Loreto
Major: Fitness

THE WORD: Who would you gay marry?

THE WORD: Who would you gay marry?



Pg03-Word-Savannah Thomas











“If I was gay, I would marry a celebrity. I would say Shakira. She has a nice body, she is toned and she is pretty attractive.”

Savannah Thomas

Major: Veterinarian assistant


Pg03-Word-Taylor Mantyre











“I would marry my best friend because we get along awesomely and that is one of the things I would prefer to have in a relationship with somebody, a personality I can get along with, and she is pretty.” 

Taylor McIntyre

Major: Respiratory therapy


Pg03-Word-Michael Rivera











“To marry somebody requires a lot of time and thinking and I just don’t want to marry somebody out of the wind. I could tell you who I would go after, James Franco, Channing Tatum, all the usuals, but there is also Larry David, whom I find very intriguing.”

Michael Rivera

Major: Abnormal psychiatry


Pg03-Word-Charlie Groff











“I don’t know if you are into YouTube or not but there is this guy, Markiplier. He does a lot of charity stuff and he is just a sweetheart. He is super adorable.” 

Charly Groff

Major: Undecided


Pg03-Word-Wilder Black











“Jack Black, porque él es chignon (because he is majestic.)” 

Wilder Black

Major: Undecided

Plus 50 helps mature job seekers

Plus 50 helps mature job seekers


Laughter filled the gymnasium at Pima Community College West Campus on Sept. 19 as hundreds of mature job seekers walked inside.

Some were better dressed and prepared than others. Some arrived with basic education while others had bachelor degrees, but everyone carried the same hopeful spirit. They were open to whatever the Plus 50 career and job fair had to offer.

More than 60 employers and 12 resource programs were ready to provide opportunities to job seekers age 50 and above.

Potential employers included the University of Arizona Health Center, Tucson Unified School District, Lutheran Social Services, Wells Fargo Bank and Casa de la Luz Hospice.

Participant Richard C. Valenzuela said he has worked as a technician for 20 years and was looking for a change. He also encouraged college students to continue with their education.

“Hopefully, being young, you can continue your education,” he said. “Older people don’t want to go back to school, we just stick with our own careers.”

Job seeker Susan Johnson earned a social service certificate and was looking to work in that field. She is also taking classes in hopes of earning an associate degree in applied science.

“It was difficult at first to get back into the routine, but I adapted and I really enjoy it now,” she said.

Dean Elofson said he has a bachelor’s degree in business and enjoyed a successful career in sales and management.

“I am at the end of my career, and I am looking for something meaningful,” Elofson said. “I am not going to retire because when you retire, you stop working and you die, and I don’t want to die.”

PCC is home to two grant programs that help unemployed men and women ages 50 and older. Both programs are part of national initiatives.

Back to Work 50+ helps adults develop marketing and networking skills, and provides them with strategies to land a job.

Supporters include the American Association of Retired Persons, Wal-Mart and the American Association of Community Colleges

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is part of the four-year federally funded educational initiative that was launched at 100 community colleges.

Pg05-Plus50-Richard Valenzuela participant

Job seeker Richard C. Valenzuela fills out job applications at the Plus 50 job fair. After working as a technician for 20 years, Valenzuela said he is ready for a change. (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

It helps students complete degrees and certifications by providing tutoring, computer skills and, eventually, job placement assistance. There are Plus 50 advisers at all six PCC campuses.

Details about the program can be found on pima’s website at

Roger Forrester, Plus 50 Program Coordinator, said he emphasizes the importance of networking, volunteering and internships.

“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be,” he said. “Often the best way to get a job is to network.”

Bradley Lancaster, who represented Jim Click Automotive at the job fair, said his company is willing to consider quality candidates of all ages.

“Jim Click doesn’t hire any managers from the outside, we only promote from within,” he said. “We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.”

Tormay Newman, director of caregiver education and training for Home Instead Senior Care, said the company hires part-time male and female caregivers ranging in age from 21 to 80.

“They have to have compassion,” Newman said. “We can train people, but they really have to have the heart to help others.”

Nancee Sorenson, East Campus vice president of student development, oversees the Plus 50 and Back to Work 50+ grants.

“One of the things that people who are 50 and over are concerned about is that maybe their technology skills aren’t as sharp as they should be, or they haven’t had an interview for a job for a long, long time,” she said.

Forrester said part of his role is educating employers.

“Some employers say that if you are over 50, you don’t have any computer skills. Not true,” he said.

“You’ll be surprised at the percentage of people age 50 and older that are very computer savvy, but we have to make employers more aware of that,” he added. “They’ve come a long way.”

Pg05-Plus50-Roger Forrester program coordinator

“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be.” Roger Forrester, Plus 50 program coordinator (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

Pg05-Plus50-Bradley Lancaster, Jim Click rep

“We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.” Bradley Lancaster, Jim Click Automotive (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

Same-sex marriage: Wedding bells ring

Same-sex marriage: Wedding bells ring


Nine-year-old Nevaeh Riss is already familiar with the concepts of equality and love that so many adults seem to struggle with.

“God would want us to be happy,” she says. “Instead of Him judging us, He would want us to have freedom and to love anyone we love.”

Nevaeh was raised to believe not to judge others and that we all have rights as humans to make our own choices. Her mother, Brystal Riss, was one of the many members of the LGBT community celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Arizona on Oct. 17.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick ruled the state ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional and ordered the state to “permanently cease” the ban.

Attorney General Tom Horne finalized the decision in a statement where he said he would not appeal the ruling.

“I have decided not to appeal today’s decision, which would be an exercise in futility, and which would serve only the purpose of wasting taxpayers’ money,” Horne said.

The ruling follows closely behind same sex marriage bans lifting in Nevada and Idaho on Oct. 7.  With the addition of Arizona, 31 states have legal gay marriage.

Around the entire country, a wave of change has grown. But what does this change mean for Arizona and the people who have fought for gay rights?

Triumph for families

Riss has lived in Tucson for 12 years and works in marketing. She has been involved in Tucson Pride, the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation, Wingspan and TIHAN. For her, the legalization of gay marriage is a step in the right direction for equal rights for all.

“In general, I’m for equality for all people,” she says. “There’s already too much hatred. People need to start coming together more and realizing it’s none of your business,  then we can get past that blockage in the conversation and move on to more deep conversations and know each other past certain stereotypes.”

Her daughter was a life-changing addition into her life and says the importance of acceptance is crucial for children in their developing years.

“As children, that’s such an important age for them because they are going to begin to choose if they allow the hatred and judgments people may put on them to bring them down,” she says.

“I don’t want her to grow up with people around her hating on me, judging me, saying I’m wrong for doing these things.  That’s unfair for a child, especially when all I’m trying to do is bring love into her life. I hope that one day whatever she decides to do she has every right to do it and she won’t be bullied.”


Tears stream down the face of Yazmin Mazon, left, during a ceremony to marry Vaniessia Godinez at Pima County Superior Court. An Oct. 17 ruling removed a state ban on same-sex marriage. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Protections denied

Local drag queen performer Tempest DuJour is an active voice within the community. An associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television by day, he is a hostess for charity events by night.

DuJour married his husband while they visited family in Utah last year. The state lifted its ban during their stay. The couple has two children and stresses the impact gay marriage laws have on the family unit.

“In the state of Arizona, they only recognize me as the legal parent. So if something happened to me today, the kids would be taken away from my husband,” he says.

“Legally we have no protection for the kids. It’s a huge deal for us. The marriage, whatever.  The kid part is absolutely essential for us.”

Now with the ban on gay marriage abolished, their children will be protected the same as children from a heterosexual couple would be.

According to a 2004 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, marriage provides at least 1,138 different benefits to spouses and their families. Before gay couples were allowed marriage licenses, these protections were unavailable to them.

Unmarried couples are not often considered next of kin in hospital or emergency health situations of their partners and are not entitled to property, assets or personal items if their partner passes away.

They are also denied automatic joint custody of children and joint tax returns and benefits.

Donnie Cianciotto, artistic director of local theater group Musical Mayhem, came out as a lesbian at the age of 13. Two years ago, he came out as transgendered, identifying as a male.

In 2004, he joined in a domestic partnership offered by the city of Tucson with his then-girlfriend and spoke about the very few protections it offered.

“I remember thinking ‘a domestic partnership, yay how exciting’ but it really didn’t do much for you,” he said. “It gave you some legal protections, but not the whole shebang.”

“Don’t placate us by saying ‘here’s your domestic partnership. It does nothing for you.’” he said.

“This affects the whole family. People don’t realize how many issues are affected just by this one thing. It’s more than just, ‘oh great, gays can get married.’ There’s a lot more tied up in it.”

Cianicatto has many friends within the LGBT community who have now married, including a lesbian couple with a baby on the way.

“It’s good to know my friends, people in the community who are good people and good parents have more protection. It baffles me that people don’t think of the kids in that,” he said.

“Now they are legally married and that kid doesn’t have to grow up thinking my mom doesn’t have the same rights as my friends’ parents.”

Allies in Tucson

Alongside members of the LGBT community cheering the ruling were large factions of Tucson.

April Moss is currently in her second year as Tucson Pride Alliance president and says Tucson has always been a leader in the fight for gay rights.

“The history speaks for itself that Tucson has always been very much supportive,” she says.

“Tucson Pride Alliance was developed in 1977. Tucson was one of the first communities in the nation to pass a law protecting people from anti hate crimes,” she says. “Tucson has always been a leader in stuff like that. The people of Tucson have always reached out and said here, let’s make a difference.”

Cianicatto says Tucson is on average for gay friendliness with other places he’s lived.

“There are some benefits about the LGBT community of Tucson. It’s pretty supportive of itself and relatively close knit,” he says. “We have the other side of the coin which is that it’s not very big, not well funded.”

For DuJour, Tucson is a city to be proud of.

“I’m prideful of diversity in the Tucson community. This is an amazing, warm and welcoming community,” he said. “It always has been, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Support for the gay community has a strong voice at Pima Community College with its own  Pride Alliance. The group strives to create a safe space for LGBT and allied students to be themselves and become educated about the community.

They host various events at the campuses and have plans for future speakers, Q&A sessions, an LGBT film festival and a coming out stories board where students can share their own personal experiences.

Vice President Melissa Medrano-Jossler says she is happy to live in Tucson instead of another city in Arizona.

“I feel like Tucson is a lot more liberal than other places and more accepting,” she says.

Pg09-Family unit-Nick

Ladd and Rob Keith pose with their son Liam and daughter Rowan on the courthouse steps after their marriage ceremony in downtown Tucson. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Wedding bliss

Couples statewide flocked to the courthouses immediately upon the lifting of the ban.

According to the Pima County Superior Courthouse, clerks issued double the usual number of marriage licenses the day after the ban was lifted.

Local actor and singer Aaron Singleton was one of the Tucsonans to marry at the courthouse when the ruling came down. He met his partner online four years ago and they hit it off instantly.

Their choice to marry was based on their love and the benefits that come with a marriage license.

“We’re looking forward to filing joint taxes the most,” he says.

Though their marriage was a personal triumph, Singleton speaks on the greater good legalization has brought to the state.

“The ban lifting was not just a win for LGBT folks, but a win for the constitution. We are all equal under the law, and laws should reflect that.”

Ally Booker identifies as queer and had a ceremony with her partner to celebrate their love before the ruling. They plan to officially marry once children enter their lives. She opened her sexuality resource center and boutique, Jellywink on Fourth Avenue this year and offered discounts to gay couples with new marriage licenses.

“Our emphasis is on making sure everything is body-safe, educating our customers on what they should look for (and look out for), and providing a friendly and non-judgmental environment where people feel safe to ask questions and explore,” she adds.

“Almost every U.S. city already has a woman and queer-friendly shop like this, and my friends and I have felt a vacuum in Tucson when it came to something like this for a long time,” she says.

“Now Tucson finally has a woman and LGBTQ friendly sexuality resource center.”

Booker believes that the legalization of same-sex marriages will positively affect not only the LGBT community but the community as whole.

“Same-sex parents can now legally adopt their own children. We now don’t have to depend on the whim of individual health care workers to visit our loved ones in the hospital and make important life decisions on their behalf should the need arise. Gay marriage will also affect the business community. The wedding business is a huge industry.”

Moss questions businesses that seek the right to discriminate biased on orientation, race, religion or status.

“Business owners, sometimes I wonder about them because it doesn’t matter who’s spending the money.  Whether you’re black, white, yellow, green, purple, interracial marriage, gay, single parent, the money all spends the same,” she says.

While many couples have married since the ruling, not all are rushing to the courthouse.

Riss does not herself intend on getting married, but is happy those who do now have the right to that choice.

“Personally I don’t believe in marriage due to my own dealings but the whole point of equality is that everyone has a choice.”

Motorcyclist and educator Pablo, who declined to give his lat name, rides with an all-inclusive motorcycle group called The Lost Boys. The Tucson Chapter of the group is made up of men, women, straight, gay and transgender members.

Pablo also does not know if he will ever marry.

““I may never get married and I’m OK with that but for my friends who have chosen to do that I think it’s amazing. It says a lot for our country that we have come this far in this amount of time.”


While people statewide are celebrating this historic ruling, there are still those within the community and local government who have continuously fought against gay marriage.

Attorney General Horne was one of the last holdouts in the state defending the right of Arizonans to only allow “traditional marriages.”

“A number of attorney generals have refused to defend laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I have not been among that group. I have fought to defend the laws as passed by the voters of Arizona, which I believe is the duty of the Attorney General.”

The law he previously fought to protect was Proposition 102, voted on by Arizonans on Nov. 4, 2008.

The amendment to the state constitution defined marriage as “the union between a man and a woman.”

Governor Jan Brewer also released a statement after the ban was lifted defending the decision made by 55 percent of voters several years ago.

“In 2008, Arizona voters approved a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Now, with their rulings, the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people and further eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold our laws.”

The definition of traditional marriage is one backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian legal organization was created in 1994 “to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world,” according to their mission statement.

Lawyers of the alliance supported Horne’s team and in a July filing to the federal court they argued, “Only man-woman couples are capable of furthering the state’s interest in linking children to both of their biological parents.”

Horne’s decision not to appeal the ruling legalizing same sex marriage was one that surprised members of the LGBT community.

“My instinct was that he was going to appeal it,” Cianciotto says. “It’s a fight that so many people are willing to fight to the death, just going to choke the hell out of it and not let it go.”

Despite being happily surprised, he feels Horne merely “went with what was going to be easiest.”

“I have friends who say ‘email Tom Horne or go to the Facebook page and say thank you for him not appealing this.’ Why on earth would I thank someone who has a record of being very homophobic just because he did the right thing?”

Moss, the Tucson Pride president, says she commends Horne’s decision, though she feels it was an inevitable choice.

“I was glad he didn’t want to challenge it. He realized, ‘My job is done. I need to move on and get over this.’ I applaud him for that. I would shake his hand and say ‘Thank you.’”


Rev. Owen Chandler conducts a marriage ceremony for Vaniessia Godinez, left, and Yazmin Mazon at the Pima County Superior Court in downtown Tucson on Oct. 17. They were one of the first same-sex couples married after the ban was lifted. (Aztec Press/Nick Meyers)

Equal rights

With the number of states lifting marriage bans and religious affiliations stepping forward to show support, why is there any opposition left?

Moss says that the issue isn’t restricted to the LGBT community, but rather is about equal rights as a whole.

“People need to get their heads out of the bedroom and they need to accept people for who they are,” she says.

“What it is in all actually is about human rights. It used to be if you were African-American you had to sit at the back of the bus. If you were a woman you could not vote,” she adds.

“These things have all evolved and changed and that’s where it basically is right now for the LGBT community.”

Though the Bible is often cited as the source material defending “traditional marriage” supporters of marriage equality are challenging how it has been interpreted.

“I was raised in the church and was taught that love one another,” Moss says.

“You taught me to love and be accepting and that’s exactly what I am.”

Riss also came from a religious background and her father was a Jehovah Witness.

“The biggest thing I say is don’t judge.  It’s huge for me because that’s what it says in the Bible,” she says.

“They seem to miss a lot of that for what they may be uncomfortable with and they aren’t ready for the change. A lot of people in society like their safety and their comfort. This is their life in a box.”

Her daughter Nevaeh gave simple advice to those wanting to place judgment upon anyone.

“I think that people who want to judge people should stick it to themselves instead of telling other people. They might be really sad because they don’t like how they are or they are jealous,” she says.

“You should choose your own path, you shouldn’t choose their path because then you would be sad and lonely.”

Final words of pride

The legalization in Arizona is a harbinger of change within our society as a whole. Though many feel the fight for equality and gay rights still faces obstacles and challenges, joy and pride are the feelings most prevalent among the LGBT community and its supporters.

Booker from Jellywink says there’s more work to be done.

“There’s still a lot of haters out in mainstream society and policies and attitudes that reflect that hate.   And there’s also that age old problem of when a certain portion of an oppressed community is finally accepted within the folds of the establishment, they forget the struggle of the rest of the community.”

“Social change is a never ending process that ebbs and flows,” she says. “I’ll just focus on celebrating each achievement.”

She is offering a 40 percent discount at Jellywink through Nov. 6 to any newlywed gay couples who have read this article.

Drag superstar DuJour was surprised at how soon licenses were being issued once the ban was been lifted.

“Truth always wins. Love always wins. We always knew it would just be a matter of time but didn’t know it would be this quick.”

Moss hopes the change and equality continues to spread.

“I think that day is coming, hopefully sooner than later, slowly but surely, the states are coming around.”

Riss remains optimistic of society learning acceptance.

“It’s amazing to be able to see people able to be happy with who they are,” she says. “Once people see that the world is not going to implode they will see it is OK.”

For young Nevaeh, gay marriage boils down to a lesson most of us learned as children; treat others as you would like to be treated.

“I think it’s cool how we can marry whoever who want because what if someone loves someone and it wasn’t allowed? That would be very heartbreaking,” she says. “You don’t want to hurt people.”

The Word: If you could accomplish your biggest dream tomorrow, what would you do?

The Word: If you could accomplish your biggest dream tomorrow, what would you do?

Photos and interviews by Mariana Ceja on Downtown Campus

Pg03-Word-Sabrina Serrano

“I would take action on a book I’m trying to write, and get a job where it’s almost guaranteed I would make something of myself, in case my book fails miserably”

Sabrina Serrano

Major: Computer science

Pg03-Word-Francise Acing

“Learn English well, because right now I am not speaking good English, and also learn computers.”

Francise Acing

Major: English

Pg03-Word-Katelyn Landwelen


“I would be playing on the USA female softball team. Probably partying after.”

Katelyn Landwerlen 

Major: Early childhood education


Pg03-Word-Carlos Medina

“One of my biggest dreams is to get my four-year degree, my bachelor’s degree in accounting, so I would be celebrating and reminiscing with family.”

Carlos Medina

Major: Accounting

Pg03-Word-Daisy Torres

“My goal is to be a pediatrician, so I guess I would just get right to it — accomplish my dreams, actually start working.”

Daisy Torres

Major: Pre-med


The Word: What new movie do you want to see?

The Word: What new movie do you want to see?

Photos and interviews by Alex Fruechtenicht on East Campus

Pg03-Word-Samuel Perez


Samuel Perez
Major: Aeronautical

Pg03-Word-April Harlow

“As Above, So Below”

April Harlow
Major: Liberal arts

Pg03-Word-Rodolfo Canales

“The Hobbit: The Battle
of The Five Armies”

Rodolfo Canales
Major: Mechanical

Pg03-Word-Bridgette Montano

“The Book of Life”

Bridgette Montano
Major: Liberal arts

Pg03-Word-Ben Paric


Ben Paric
Major: Science
associate degree

Pima welcomes international students

Pima welcomes international students


Forty-nine Mexican students descended the escalators at Tucson International Airport on Aug. 30 to the cheers of Pima Community College students and faculty. A large sign read “Welcome International Students.”

Many of the visitors remained speechless. For some, their shocked expressions were remnants of their first time on an airplane. For even more, it was their first time in America.

“It was a celebratory greeting,” said Geneva Escobedo, assistant to the West Campus president. “It was also emotional. The students saw us with the sign and they stopped.

They looked shocked, and then the smiles came. Even I got a little teary-eyed.”

Preparing for visitors

PCC administrators, staff, faculty and students have been preparing for the arrival of the Mexican international students since February.

Part of a program called SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades, the students join 250 more Mexican students who are studying at five other colleges around the United States.

Bécalos is a pilot program for President Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong for the Americas Global Initiative, in conjunction with a Mexican equivalent named Proyecta 100,000. The programs hope to introduce 100,000 American students to higher education in Mexico and vice versa.

The Mexican students were drawn from three technological bilingual universities:

• Universidad Tecnológica El Retoño in Aguascalientes,

• Universidad Tecnológica de La Zona Metropolitana del Valle in Hidalgo,

• Universidad Tecnológica de Saltillo in Coahuila.

The international students will spend the fall semester studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, subjects on Pima campuses.

They will live in 13 apartments close to the West Campus.

“We are honored to be part of an important initiative that infuses international awareness into our institution,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release.

“Programs such as this are examples of the college’s commitment to bring the world to Pima and help prepare students for life in an increasingly global society.”

A first visit to America

The students involved are distinctly aware of this.

Aaron Mata lives in Aguascalientes, a city of nearly 1.2 million people about 300 miles northwest of Mexico City. He attends Universidad Tecnológica El Retoño, as do more than 30 of Pima’s Bécalos students.

“I am extraordinarily happy about being here,” Mata said in heavily accented English. “Arriving to America was one of the most exciting and happy moments in my life, because I have never traveled before,” he said. “When I arrived, I was dazed because of the plane. It was a new experience for me, uncomfortable indeed.”


Mata wishes to become “a citizen of the world,” a sentiment that pervades his conversation.

Every experience thus far in his life built toward his current adventure, he said.

“I arrived to America with the hope of building a new, better life and learning everything I can to be a better person and a better professional — a human being that is useful for society.”

While many of the Mexican  students know enough English to make conversation, they will take some English as a Second Language classes with a STEM focus intended to develop their language skills..

Thirteen Pima students are involved as ambassadors through the West Campus Student Life Office in a program known as Positive Engagement Education Resources, or PEER.

Mentor hopes to help

Alma Gonzales, one of four PEER mentors who speak Spanish, was born in Mexico and immigrated with her parents to the United States when she was young.

“It was a little awkward not knowing anyone and barely understanding the language,” she said of adjusting to life in the U.S. “You don’t click right away. There’s no mediator, so that’s what we are.”

By now Gonzales has lived most of her life in the U.S., and hopes to transfer to the University of Arizona to continue her studies in psychology.

She juggles responsibilities as the West Campus student government president, a vice president for Young American Libertarians and a member of the cheer team. She intends to run for office in the International Student Club.

“I guess you can say I keep myself busy,” she said.

Gonzales hopes her experience will benefit the new arrivals. “In the end, it worked out. My family is happy and I got a better education,” she said.

“I know it will work out for them, too, but I just want to make their transition easier. It’s hard leaving friends and family behind and sometimes you can’t help feeling just a little homesick.”

How Pima got involved

Bécalos came to Pima after Ricardo Castro-Salazar, an instructor in the social and behavioral sciences department, contacted Maggie Suarez of Fundación Televisa, a large Mexican corporation that supports Proyecta 100,000.

Suarez met Lambert at a conference in Washington D.C. for the 100,000 Strong Initiative.

The two arranged for Suarez to tour the West Campus with Escobedo and Campus President Lou Albert.

Suarez was so impressed with Pima’s leadership and international focus that she insisted on raising the number of students who were to visit from an initial 24 to the 49 who arrived last month.

While the program is still in its infancy, administrators hope it will expand both at Pima and around the nation.

During this semester, Pima officials will evaluate the program and work in conjunction with Fundación Televisa and the Universidades to decide how to continue.

“It is a labor of love,” Escobedo said. “We’re here to teach all students and the international students are part of that too. Frankly, they’re having a blast.”

Pg05-International students-main

Several of the Mexican exchange students attending PCC this semester gather around PEER mentor John Paul Luxardo on the day following their arrival in Tucson. For many, it was their first time in the United States. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Crash course in Comic-Con

Crash course in Comic-Con


Congratulations! After registering on months ago, keeping track of the monthly emails about purchasing badges, remembering your member id, waking up the day of the online sale, logging in at exactly 9 a.m. while never hitting refresh, sticking in your queue although it looked hopeless, having the money required to purchase all those badges on one credit card…

If you have ever tried to register for the world famous, San Diego Comic-Con International, this should all sound very familiar. Every year people from across the globe go through this process for the chance to attend the convention.

When tickets become available on the website, they sell out within minutes. Social media then explodes with exclamations of joy from those who got badges and complaints from those who hate the system. Love it or not, they are doing it again next year.

I’m a native San Diegan and I’ve been going to the SDCC since 1994, way before it was cool to be a nerd. Back then it was much more about the comics. Instead of registering months in advance, you would just show up to buy your tickets.

Things are much different now. The SDCC is considered to be the pop culture and entertainment expo of the year. People have it on their bucket list to attend, and telling people that you have gone before makes you a celebrity.

But is it all smooth sailing once you purchase your badges? After all, the hard part is over right? Wrong.

“If you have no idea what the San Diego Comic-Con is like, you’ll miss the whole thing even if you were here,” an attendee told me as we waited in line for 6 hours.

I will give you the rules on how to survive and get the most out of your SDCC experience, while paying homage to the rules in the film, Zombieland.

Rule #1 Shoes

You’re going to spend 95 percent of your time at the Con on your feet. You’re going to stand in line just so you can stand in another line. Without warning, you’re going to be expected to run or hike countless stairs. It’s best to be prepared. Get those gel inserts to make your feet happy.

Rule #2 Badge pick up

You will get an email about picking up your badges on Wednesday, the first day of the Con. It will say to go to the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley of San Diego. It will also say you can’t pick up your badges before 3 p.m. that day. A quick, pro tip is to pick them up early, like 12 p.m. early.

Park at the Fashion Valley Mall because the resort will be packed with cars trying to park. The mall is one block north of the resort. Just walk to the resort and grab your badges. Staff will be giving them out as soon as they are done setting up.

Rule #5 Preview night

You just got your badges and were lucky enough to get preview night access. I guess you have time for lunch or to check in at the hotel, right? No, head straight to the Con. It’s a 15 minute drive south in downtown San Diego. When you get there, no matter how early you got your badges, there will already be a ton of people in line.

Rule #11 Hotels

You should stay at the hotels near the Con, right? Wrong. Your car is almost useless downtown during the Con. Public transportation, such as the trolley, will do you better.

You know the saying, “you don’t need a fancy hotel because you’ll just be sleeping in it”? Not at SDCC. All you’ll be using your hotel room for is storage for all your purchases. Go book a hotel in Mission Valley. It’s where the tourists stay, as it is centralized in San Diego. You’ll save money and have access to amenities that are not available downtown.

Rule #12 Mission Valley

I’ve mentioned this part of San Diego multiple times. Your badge pick up is here and the majority of San Diego’s hotels are here. The best part is there are grocery stores and malls here along a direct and short route to downtown.

Stop at Target for snacks that you can carry. You may not want to deal with the hassle of carrying stuff, but do you really want to spend hiked up prices on food at the Con? Every dollar saved is another dollar you can spend at the Con.

Rule #15 Bags

When you pick up your badges, you get a cool, oversized backpack that becomes a badge of honor for attendees. People will use them at other cons as a type of trophy that says, “Look at me, I’ve been to SDCC.”

They usually give out about eight types of bags and they don’t let you pick the design. If there’s a design you want, don’t spend the effort trying to trade or buy someone else’s bag. On the last day of the Con, in the final hours, staff gives out the remaining bags. You can get as much as you want and whatever you want.

Rule #28 Celebrities

From what you’ve seen on television, so many celebrities attend the Con that you’re sure to run into all them, right? Wrong. Most celebrities make brief appearances which are unannounced. While some go to their press conferences then leave, others are in complete incognito. The best way to see celebrities is to spend time in downtown’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Pay attention to social media as well for possible sightings.

Rule #29 The Buddy system

Just like in Zombieland, it’s important to have a buddy. You need a friend that can hold your spot in line. A friend that can wait in one line while you wait in another. A friend that can do a food run while you hold your spots in line. Most importantly, you need a friend to hold you as you weep when you find out that the exclusive you want is sold out.

Rule #32 Panels

Professional conferences are meant to educate by sharing information from the industry. The SDCC prioritizes that same purpose. Be sure to attend different panels. Use the guide to plan out your schedule ahead of time. Panels are free to attend, but just like everything else at SDCC, you’re going to have to stand in line.

Rule #39 Going multiple days

You cannot see everything the SDCC has to offer in one day, even if you speed walk. In fact, you can’t speed walk because of everyone in your way. Your best bet is to create an agenda for each day. Spend one day going to panels, another day shopping in the vendor sections and dedicate a day to lining up exclusives.

Rule #40 San Diego

San Diego is considered to be “America’s Finest City”. It would be a shame to go there, attend the con and then leave when it’s all over. Arrive early or stay late to see the sights. Balboa Park, Coronado Island and the beach at La Jolla are all worth seeing.

Rule #51a eBay

Has the idea of selling SDCC exclusives at 200 percent of what you paid for sound enticing? Well, unless you have five people with you to pick up multiples of each item, it’s not worth it.

After online selling fees, shipping supplies and the cost of postage, I find the average net profit to be around 40 percent. This sounds great until you consider how much time you spent waiting in line, what you missed out on while waiting in those lines and the costs associated with your hotel and travel.

The best time to sell exclusives is the day you get them. Prices drop considerably after the Con ends and don’t pick back up until months or years later.

Rule #51b eBay

People must be crazy to pay those prices on eBay when the item only cost half of what they were selling for at the Con, right? After you experience the pain of trying to get the exclusive, only to fail, you’ll realize the prices are worth it, especially if the line you’re in is only for one of many items being offered. The best time to buy is two weeks after the Con, as the market will be saturated.

Rule #67 Exclusives

Hasbro and Mattel are the companies that offer the most coveted exclusives each year. If you want a chance to get them, plan on lining up around 12 a.m. Once you are in line for the exclusive, have a buddy or yourself go purchase them from the smaller companies. These exclusives usually have no limit and no line. They sell out by the second day of the Con.

Rule #71 Security

There are two types of security. There are security staff that work for the exhibitor and security staff that the SDCC has hired. Exhibitor staff are there to help manage lines for their appropriate booths, but are quickly overwhelmed. They rely heavily on SDCC staff.

Befriend both types. There will be times where they will tell you the line is closed off for now, but you can come back later to see if it opens up. People will try and stand around the line but it quickly blocks up, creating a fire hazard. If you become friends with security, just like with bouncers at night clubs, they’ll remember you and hook you up when they can.

Rule #80 Buying decisions

You’re going to be bombarded with different things to buy, but you have a limited budget. When in doubt, buy exclusives, artist alley or small press items. Items that you can find on Amazon are usually going to be cheaper than at the Con. Who knows when you’re going to have a chance at a unique item from an artist here?

Rule #92 Sunday funday

You made it to Sunday, but that probably means you’re also broke. There are so many free things to do at the Con, including video games and movie screenings. They are usually going on at the extended parts of the Con, located at the neighboring hotels.

Rule #95 Collapsible chairs

Invest in a high end, compact, collapsible chair that can easily be carried in a backpack. Sitting on the floor gets old fast. You can find them at outdoor sports stores.

Rule #99 Downtown

There are many other Comic-Con experiences going on downtown. Businesses capitalize on the Con by renting out their businesses to companies who were not able to get a space. For most of these events, you don’t even need a comic-con badge to attend. However, you will have to stand in line.

Rule #101 Your first Comic-Con

If you have never attended a Comic-Con before, don’t let San Diego be your first. Seasoned Comic-Con attendees are overwhelmed with SDCC. Get your feet wet by going to a smaller con. I find the Phoenix Comic-Con much more enjoyable and it’s a great con to start off with.


Demo games

Video game developers including Square Enix provide fully functional demos such as the new Kingdom Hearts to play before they are released. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press)

Instructor rethinks economic education

Instructor rethinks economic education


There is an academic economic revolution taking place around the globe, and Pima Community College instructor Amy Cramer has taken up arms in support.

Cramer has been teaching economics at PCC for the past 12 years and taught for six years in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management starting in 2005.

Now Cramer is taking her methods outside of her own classroom.

With the assistance of the Thomas R. Brown Foundation in Tucson, Cramer has created an initiative called Voices On The Economy.

VOTE aims to expand the teaching of alternate perspectives in high school and college classrooms around the state of Arizona and the United States.

“We have to arm our students with the different types of economic systems,” Cramer said. “All sorts of countries are trying to figure this out. So let’s give our students the power to figure it out.”

Over the course of the school year, teachers from high schools across Arizona will join Cramer as she explains her process to them through the same techniques she uses with students.

From June 18-22, high school teachers of subjects including history, economic and biology participated in Cramer’s method first-hand, taking part in describing each perspective and using them to debate modern topics.

“It’s kinda forcing me to think about my own opinions,” said Kelly O’Brien, a sixth and seventh grade history teacher from the Sonoran Science Academy.

O’Brien intends to use components of Cramer’s style to help teach her students about events in human history, such as the farming revolution that took place nearly 12,000 years ago.

“If they can relate to what they have now, they can better understand it,” she said.

In her classes, Cramer stresses the importance of considering alternative viewpoints in economics. In most modern economic classes, she said, students learn only neoclassical economics supported heavily by graphs and equations.

However, with many different economic systems existing around the world, Cramer sees importance in teaching students the perspectives that helped form modern economic systems.

She relies on Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who are considered some of the major influences in modern economics, to describe how today’s various economic systems arose with a focus on neoclassical, classical and radical theory.

“These three perspectives are the theories that largely underlie our law and policies,” Cramer said in a video describing her methods. “Those alternative perspectives allow us to see further into the realm of economics.”

She uses these three distinct perspectives to stage classroom debates in which students discuss modern economic issues such as income inequality, the environment and anti-trust legislation.

“The learning process is enhanced when a student argues a perspective other than his or her own,” Cramer said in the video.

“Students in my classroom are assigned to take rotating perspectives in a series of debates so they get a chance to argue from each viewpoint.”

In this manner, Cramer intends to allow students to find their own voices in order to better understand and interact in today’s world.

“The goal is not to tell our students what to think,” Cramer said. “But to teach them how to think.”

Cramer’s program echoes the sentiment of students and educators alike across the globe. At the head of the charge is the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics.

A group of more than 65 associations from 30 different countries, the student-led ISIPE pushes for use of a variety of theories, methods and disciplines, rather than simply neo-classical theory, in order to describe economics as a more complete social science.

“This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research,” the organization explains in an open letter on its website. “It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century.”

“There are billions of people living in other countries that operate under economic systems other than our own,” Cramer said.

“In a global economic environment it is imperative that our students understand those other economic systems. What I do is invite you and invite our students to join the conversation.”

VOTE students

Instructor Amy Cramer observes as high school teacher Bill Craigs provides impassioned debate. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Tucson streetcars draw crowds

Tucson streetcars draw crowds


Tucsonans heading to Second Saturdays Downtown on Sept. 13 will likely pack the city’s new streetcar route.

About 6,700 passengers filled the streetcars during the monthly Second Saturdays event on Aug. 9, and approximately 60,000 people hopped aboard July 25-27 during the transit’s system’s free opening weekend.

Sun Link’s 3.9-mile route runs between the University of Arizona, Fourth Avenue, Downtown and the Mercado area just west of Interstate-10. Visit for full details on using the system.

Travis Hall, 38, stood attentive and eager to board the streetcar from a Fourth Avenue platform on opening day July 25.

Hall works downtown, and receives a monthly bus pass from his employer. He considers himself a foodie who depends on the bus system, and has set a goal of eating at every restaurant on Fourth Avenue.

“I can see myself using it at least two or three times a week,” he said.

He thinks the streetcar system will improve accessibility.

“I’ve been downtown on the weekend and it’s hopping,” he said. “So I suppose it would be easy to get from one place to another if somebody was going to bar-hop.”

Pima County voters approved a Regional Transportation Authority plan in May 2006. The special election set in motion a 20-year $2.1 billion RTA plan that included $87.7 million to build a downtown trolley.

The streetcar service mirrors transit systems found in cities such as Portland, Ore. and Tacoma, Wash.

Daniel Matlick, president of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, took to a podium set up at the Sixth and Seventh streets stop during one of many ribbon-cutting events held on opening weekend.

Matlick first delivered a warm good morning and a bright grin that matched his crisp yellow dress shirt.

He welcomed the 50-person crowd before making a pointed acknowledgement to business owners, merchants and patrons who endured almost two years of road construction on Fourth Avenue.

“Today we give thanks and show our appreciation for all of you that displayed perseverance, and had enough creativity to sustain your business through adverse conditions,” Matlick said.

He gave a special shout-out to patrons.

“I would like to especially thank all of our Fourth Avenue customers that remained loyal and true to our local businesses, because that is what sustained us,” he added.

Sun Link’s local funding included $75 million from the RTA, $12.6 million from grants and public utilities, $13 million from the Cushing Street Bridge construction, $20 million from a Tucson Certificates of Participation grant and $2.9 million from the Gadsden Company.

But the streetcar became possible after Tucson was approved for a federal Transportation and Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery grant, according to Sun Link.

The federal streetcar budget included $63 million from the TIGER grant, $6 million from a New Starts grant and $4 million from a Federal Transportation Authority grant.

The Sun Link unveiling hub was centered on Congress Street at South Fifth Avenue.

A tall, well-dressed couple rolled their eyes as they walked toward Fourth Avenue, but said their glare of disapproval stemmed from a shared disdain of crowds.

As they continued north past The Book Stop, the pair said they were excited about the streetcar system and plan to use the trolley regularly.

Nowhere to Land, a self-proclaimed shop of kitsch antique treasures at 414 E. Seventh St., posted a special opening-day message on its sandwich board sign: “Clang. Clang. Clang. Went the streetcar. Yay, it’s here.”

Co-owners Anthony Hinckley and Lori Miller opened Nowhere to Land a block from the corner of Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue in November 2012, at the tail-end of major streetcar construction.

Hinckley is grateful that “awesome” local customers help support his shop, but said he relies heavily on out-of-town visitors.

He thinks the streetcar system will bolster tourism.

“Most of our clientele is tourists and I think the streetcar is going to bring much more tourism,” he said. “And if there’s economic growth down here, it’s going to affect the entire city.”

Hinckley said he is realistic about obstacles the Old Pueblo faces.

However, he believes the streetcar system places Tucson among the handful of U.S. cities developing exponentially, which will provide economic viability for future generations.

“I don’t think there’s any point in complaining about it and we’re all in this city together,” he said.

“Adjustment periods are hard for everyone but a change has come. This is a major project but I think it’s going to be a good thing for the city ultimately.”

Streetcar main

Sarah Harris watches Tucson’s modern streetcar travel south on Fourth Avenue toward the final ribbon-cutting stop during the unveiling ceremony held on July 25. (David Del Grande/Aztec Press)

Graduation speaker applies philosophy

Graduation speaker applies philosophy


Athanasia Chalkiopolous strives to be an “inspirational warrior” and an enthusiast of a better future for everyone.

These are a few of the qualities that led to Chalkiopolous being chosen as Pima Community College’s 2014 commencement speaker.

Chalkiopolous applies one of her favorite Greek philosopher’s principles — Aristotle’s principle of collective happiness through democracy — to conclude that solutions to modern problems can be found by looking to the past.

This philosophy will be the theme she conveys in her commencement speech.

“I looked back to the past to outline how practicing democracy has been redefined throughout the decades, to represent either an extreme individualistic ideology or an oligarchy,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the ideal principles of democracy are not being upheld.”

Chalkiopolous then wondered, “how do we raise our expectations?” She reflects on her experiences at PCC for an answer.

“I realized that the teacher holds the key to unlocking the mental door of apathy,” she said.

Chalkiopolous said she learned that when people are challenged to excel beyond expectations and impose greater standards upon themselves, “they will also become inspired to support nothing less than the best for all people around the world.”

As a future history teacher, Chalkiopolous hopes to emulate the spirits of her heroes for her students in the same way that her instructors have done for her.

“Pima personally reignited idealism for me and reinforced the concept of what a community means,” she said.

Chalkiopolous is graduating with an associate degree in liberal arts and transferring to the University of Arizona to obtain a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

“With hard work, self-discipline and perseverance, I earned this diploma,” Chalkiopolous said.

Christine Yebra, events coordinator for PCC, said the committee looks for a student that not only has an inspirational message, but one that will unify students.

“Athanasia exemplified our expectations and her words were profound in a way that made her stand out from the other outstanding applicants,” Yebra said.

“I think she’s going to be an excellent teacher because her passion in the world was so vivid.”

How was Chalkiopolous able to achieve so much during her college career?

“With support from my husband, family, friends and Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church – this is the spirit of collective happiness – people working together to make life better for everyone,” she said.

She credits much of her success to the assistance and she received from her instructors and tutors at the library and learning center.

“No one succeeds alone,” Chalkiopolous said.

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Athanasia Chalkiopolous clutches a graduation teddy bear. (Nicholas Quihuis/Aztec Press)