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Aztec Press regional finalist for Mark of Excellence award

Aztec Press regional finalist for Mark of Excellence award

The Aztec Press finished as one of two regional finalists for best all-around nondaily student newspaper when the Society of Professional Journalists named its Region 11 Mark of Excellence winners March 29.

A California newspaper, the Southwestern College Sun, won first place. Aztec Press shared finalist honors with City on a Hill Press of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Aztec Press competes against student publications in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada in the “large” category for universities and colleges with a student population above 10,000.

Journalism instructor Cynthia Lancaster is the faculty adviser for Aztec Press. This year’s student editor-in-chief is Andrew Paxton.

Complete Mark of Excellence results are available at

Aztec Press finalist for SPJ Mark of Excellence award

Aztec Press finalist for SPJ Mark of Excellence award

For the fifth year in a row, the Aztec Press has been named a regional finalist for a prestigious Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for best all-around non-daily student newspaper.

SPJ will announce the first, second and third place winners at the Region 11 conference in Hawaii on March 29.

Aztec Press competes against student publications in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada in the “large” category for universities and colleges with a student population above 10,000.

Journalism instructor Cynthia Lancaster is the faculty adviser for Aztec Press. This year’s editor in chief is Andrew Paxton.

Aztec Press wins Arizona Newspaper Association awards

Aztec Press wins Arizona Newspaper Association awards

NewsAztec Press has once again received accolades, this time from the Arizona Newspaper Association’s 2013 “Better Newspaper Contest.”

Our online site,, received a first-place award for “Best Website.”

Aztec Press also was awarded third place in the “Community Service/Journalistic Achievement” category.

In individual awards, student Larry Gaurano received a second-place award for “Best Feature Photo Layout” and two third-place prizes for “Best News Photograph” and “Best Multimedia Storytelling.”

The ANA contest did not have a student category. The Aztec Press competed against non-daily state newspapers with a circulation between 3,500 and 10,000.

Fifty-three Arizona newspapers entered the contest with a total of 1,360 entries, according to the ANA.

Aztec Press wins major regional award

Aztec Press wins major regional award

Pima Community College’s student newspaper, Aztec Press, won a prestigious Society of Professional Journalists regional award for overall excellence.

Aztec Press won third-place 2012 Mark of Excellence honors for best all-around non-daily newspaper in SPJ’s annual contest.

The biweekly Aztec Press competed for the first time this year against four-year universities in the large, non-daily category. SPJ previously had a separate category for two-year colleges.

The awards were announced April 13 during a SPJ Region 11 conference in Las Vegas.

The top non-daily large-school winners in Region 13, which covers Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada and the Mariana Islands, were:

· First Place: Southwestern College Sun, Southwestern College (Chula Vista, Calif.)
· Second Place: The Rebel Yell, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
· Third Place: Aztec Press, Pima Community College

Aztec Press has won a SPJ Mark of Excellence award four years in a row, and was a national finalist in 2009.

FROM THE EDITOR: Aztec Press continues winning awards

FROM THE EDITOR: Aztec Press continues winning awards


Two issues ago, we announced that our paper was a finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2012 best all-around non-daily student newspaper at a large institution in our region.

The winners were announced April 13 at a conference in Las Vegas, and Aztec Press placed third.

Being a finalist, we knew going in that we had placed either first, second or third in our category for our region.

We got first place in our category in 2009 and second in 2011. However, this year being a finalist felt like a slightly bigger victory.

That’s because SPJ eliminated the two-year college category. Four-year universities and two-year colleges now compete head-to-head, with categories (small, medium or large) decided by the size of student enrollment.

Pima Community College’s 57,000-enrollment figure placed us in the largest category. Competing with university level funding, training and opportunities makes the competition a little fiercer.

We’re very excited to have placed in the top three. Our SPJ region is made up of publications from Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada and the Marina Islands—that’s a lot to compete with.

When SPJ eliminated the community college competition categories, the College Media Association responded by starting the Press Patriot Awards. The competition was open to community college publications nationally.

Aztec Press as a whole did not enter the competition. However, our stellar photo editor, Larry Gaurano, entered and placed second in portrait and breaking news photography and third in sports photography.

His award-winning photos can be seen online at

We are so proud of the recognition we’ve received. Each year we work to maintain and improve the quality of the Aztec Press. That isn’t easy with a revolving door of student reporters and editors.

However, the Aztec Press and PCC journalism students would greatly benefit from attending more conferences, hearing more guest speakers and working collaboratively.

For those reasons, we’ve decided to start a journalism club. It’s open to anyone pursuing a future in journalism.

Those interested can email with the subject “journalism club.”

Thank you for your support!


FROM THE EDITOR: Aztec Press ‘best all-around’ finalist


It’s award season in the collegiate journalism world.

The Aztec Press is competing for 2012’s best all-around non-daily student newspaper at a large institution in our region.

Being a finalist means we have won either first, second or third place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ prestigious Mark of Excellence category.

The placing won’t be revealed until April 13, when the winners will be announced at an awards luncheon at the SPJ regional conference in Las Vegas.

We’ve won an award in the same category for the past three years … well, almost. Until now, we were only competing against other two-year colleges.

This year, SPJ eliminated the two-year college category. Four-year universities and two-year colleges now compete head-to-head, with categories (small, medium or large) decided by the size of student enrollment.

Pima Community College has almost 57,000 credit students enrolled, so we fit into the large category.

That means our sparsely staffed newspaper is competing with the largest non-daily college newspapers in a region that includes Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada and the Mariana Islands.

If (fingers crossed!) Aztec Press wins first place at the regional level, we’ll advance to compete against other first-place regional winners from around the country.

Aztec Press has done all right in SPJ competition over the last few years.

Photo Editor Larry Gaurano has twice advanced to the national competition for sports photography after winning first-place awards at the regional level. He was named a national finalist in 2010.

The entire student newspaper staff was a 2009 national finalist for all-around general excellence.

Here’s hoping we get another shot at showing off nationally.

Thanks for picking up a copy of the Aztec Press. Each member of our staff works tirelessly to make our newspaper the best it can be.

Apparently, someone thinks our hard work is worth something. We hope you do, too.

FROM THE EDITORS:  Aztec Press wins gold, silver awards

FROM THE EDITORS: Aztec Press wins gold, silver awards



 Last issue, we were eagerly awaiting the final weekend of March.

That weekend, the two of us, our assistant photo editor Larry Gaurano and our faculty adviser Cynthia Lancaster headed to Los Angles to attend a conference and see where our paper ranked in 2011.

Going in, we knew that we were in the top three in two categories.

In the end, we didn’t lose! The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Aztec Press second place regionally for all-around general excellence for a non-daily, two-year college paper. That counts for something, right?

But it wasn’t silver medals all around. Larry’s soccer photo won first place for sports photography, and will advance to the national competition. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he’ll rank in the top three, and can attend the national conference in September.

Because the conference was set in LA, we weren’t surprised that most workshop speakers were broadcast journalists.

And it won’t surprise you, as we all work for the Aztec Press, that we’re print people.

Despite the under-representation of print writers, we still came away with a lot. The speakers encouraged us to be well rounded in our studies, to become slaves to social media and to not get too discouraged if our first job assigns us the “dead body beat.”

When we weren’t having our spirits lowered by our speakers, we explored LA.

Our hotel was a mere five-minute walk from the Universal City Walk.

During the few free hours we had during our first afternoon, we spent an hour or so seeing what the walk had to offer. Let us tell you, it has both cupcake-flavored popcorn and Slytherin socks.

After the conference finished on Saturday evening, we sped off to Santa Monica Pier.

By the time we got to the pier, it had started to rain. Which was a good thing, really.

Larry got to show off his rain-resistant shirt, while Cynthia bundled up in a jacket. David and Chelo, meanwhile, fought an uphill battle to keep their glasses dry enough to be useful.

Proper journalism experience all around.

Porter a national finalist for depression series

Porter a national finalist for depression series

Aztec Press staff writer Liza Porter won a 2010 first-place regional Mark of Excellence award in feature writing from the Society of Professional Journalists.

The series advanced to national competition and was named a national finalist — one of the top three feature series in the country.

The Aztec Press placed third at the regional level for all-around general excellence for a two-year community college student newspaper.

Here is a reprint of Porter’s award-winning series:

Depression: Talking back to ‘the Big D’

Illustration by Isabel Cardenas


Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience with depression, with a bit of advice thrown in. Please note that her shrink made her do it.

It’s been a Tilt-o-Whirl ride—moving in and out of depression most of my life. My brain chemistry leans toward the bipolar side of the spectrum, but mostly it is the doldrums I struggle with.

It’s hard to describe depression when you’re in the midst of it; it’s equally as difficult to describe when you’re not. I have never tried to live with my depression and write about it at the same time.

The Big D is what I call my depression. The Big D convinces me I’m an imposter, that I have no place in the world. It brainwashes me into believing I am a piece of gum on the bottom of someone’s muddy cowboy boot.

When the Big D speaks, it sometimes sounds like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. “Who do you think you are?” it cackles in its horrible Hollywood screech, as it skips outside to smoke a cigarette and yell at the neighbor’s dog.

The Big D pulsates like a poorly drawn sci-fi character, blue and green and sometimes red. All the colors have a few drops of gray mixed in. The landscape is dull and monotonous. There is no neon. Only disembodied voices and gray clouds.

Sometimes the Big D is an imp calling my name from the bottom of a dark pit that it has furnished from the Goodwill store of excuses and melancholy. Not quite the Devil, but one of its attendants.

The Big D speaks in generalities and clichés. “Life is a bitch and then you die.” Or, “Forget about it. Don’t even try.” I lean closer to make sure I’m hearing it right. Yes, that was it: “Why bother? Who cares? Who really gives a shit?”

I listen to its orders like a good little soldier and give up on whatever I’m doing—a writing project, a school assignment. I close down Word, double-click into Firefox and escape into instant Netflix.

The dust bunnies continue their travels on the kitchen floor. The car remains unwashed. Cook dinner? Hah.

The Big D can be a seductress, a romantic. It lives down in that pit with the imp. It crooks its ugly little finger and says: “Come on, honey, you know you like it down here.”

It winks at me, but its eyes are hard. “We belong together,” the Big D-pretending-to-be-a-lover says. “We were born for each other.”

Sometimes the Big D tries to impersonate God, all those booming pronouncements it makes. It thinks it’s omnipotent. But you cannot seriously tell me that God would actually say to someone: “You suck.”

Until about 10 years ago, when I started getting proper treatment for Big D, I thought my moods and thoughts and the actions (or inactions) that resulted were something I should be able to control.

I should be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps. Work hard. Suffer. Keep on truckin’. If I just kept doing and moving and going and doing, I could outrun the Big D.

I did that for a long, long time. Tried, tried, tried. For far too long. I used alcohol and drugs and danger to avoid the truth. The Big D. The imp. The screaming banshee that lives to destroy me.

No longer. There was help for me, once I admitted defeat. There is lots of help out there. Asking for help was hard, but it worked. And it still does, most of the time. What more can I ask for?

Next: The shrink says, “Do anything, anything at all, except listen to the Big D.”


Depression: Don’t listen to ‘the Big D’

Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.


My shrink told me a few weeks ago: “Do anything, anything at all, except listen to the Big D.”

Well, he doesn’t use the term “Big D.” He calls it depression or, sometimes, a mood disorder.

But I do listen to the Big D. It is a voice that is so familiar it is like family. It is family. It is my voice at its worst.

Take yesterday, my first day off after three full days of classes. I didn’t wake up until 8 o’clock because I was up in the night for no rational reason.

This is one thing the Big D does to lots of people, one of the symptoms of depression. Insomnia.

It’s not my fault I have insomnia and it’s only 8 a.m. and the voice is already jabbering. “You slept too late. The day is wasted.”

Now, come on, 8 a.m. and the day is wasted? What normal brain would believe that? Or would even think it to begin with? I don’t have a normal brain. I probably have never had a normal brain.

How do I counteract that “wasted day at 8 a.m.” crap? By telling my husband what I’m thinking. That is one thing I have learned to do to counteract the Big D.

This is so very important. Don’t hang out alone with the Big D. Talk to someone.

If I leave myself to myself, if I let the voice make its stupid pronouncements without counteracting them, it’s Tilt-o-Whirl time—self-destructive thoughts, confusion, the inability to make decisions.

I have believed the Big D voices so long, so much longer than the helpful ones—which on a good day sound gentle and caring like this: you have plenty of time, you have three more days after this to get things done before going back to class—it is a modern-day miracle when I can short circuit the negativity.

Speaking of circuits, it is almost all about the circuits in the brain. Brain chemistry.

It took me decades to believe there was something wrong with me. It was my fault. I should be able to fix myself, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

It took decades for me to admit my powerlessness over my own brain. I had to let go and get help. I had to start taking medication.

For a recovering addict/alcoholic, letting go was a lot. When I first got sober, the word was “no drugs, no drugs at all.” At least the way I interpreted it.

God, I was so stubborn. But I let go.

Eight years ago I gave up and went to a psychiatrist. I have a treatment-resistant depression, he said. Some medication works for a while, then doesn’t. New ones are added, then taken away. I feel like a guinea pig sometimes.

But there are more good days than bad. When I take the medication and do other things such as take walks, eat right and talk back to the Big D, there are many good days.

When the shrink told me to do anything except listen to the Big D, I had to ask him this: “Does that mean, like, even, watching ‘Law & Order, C.I.?’”

I love Vincent D’Onofrio. He’s a hunk, he’s a little crazy like me, and he always solves the mystery.

“Yes, even Law & Order, C.I.,” my doc said, with that twinkle in his eye that I love.

How many doctors prescribe television as a way to fight a disease? God bless him.

Next: Talking about rape.


West Campus counseling center. Aztec Press photo by Liza Porter.


Help available from PCC counselors


“Depression can be like gravity pulling you to yourself,” says Teresiana Zurita at her desk in the PCC West Campus Counseling Center. “It’s not necessarily negative.”

It’s a quiet Tuesday morning in the first floor Student Services Center. Zurita, counseling coordinator for West Campus, says getting help for depression can be a way to discover a “more authentic life.”

Most students come for counseling at PCC because they’re not doing well academically, not because they think they’re depressed. “They’re struggling with classes,” Zurita says.

But sometimes when she sits down to talk with a student, she realizes academics are not the only problem.

“The academic issues are really a result of the emotions that are going on, that the student feels out of control of,” Zurita says.

That’s when she might start suspecting depression. It could be a matter of helping students take steps to take better care of themselves. Eating more healthily. Getting enough sleep. Managing their time.

There are also PCC courses students can take.

“We have STU courses, Student Success courses,” Zurita says. “One is called Stress Management and Wellness.”

Another is Making Career Choices. The STU courses are listed in the schedule of classes on the PCC Web site.

Many of the courses incorporate a psychological component. Students discuss their motivations, how their feelings impact their ability to achieve goals.

Counselors are trained to recognize if a student’s problems are more serious than self-care or goal-setting.

Though they don’t have the resources to help someone who is seriously depressed and perhaps suicidal, the counselors use a model called “stabilize and refer.”

They will take action if they suspect a student is planning to harm himself. “We will definitely get them connected with mental health agencies in the community,” Zurita says.

Since counseling can be expensive, there are several resources that allow payment on a sliding scale. One is SAMHC Behavioral Health Center (see box for information).

It can be scary to ask for help once, and sometimes the second time is even harder. Zurita hopes to help students feel safer making the new connection by helping them with the call.

When she refers a student, Zurita will call SAMHC, put them on speaker phone and say “I have a student here I’m really concerned about, what kind of services do you have?”

Zurita knows it can be hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. “You may want to talk to a counselor for a session,” she says. “Just to help you know what you can do to help.”

She realizes that mental illness still has a certain stigma in our culture.

“I really want to stress that depression is not a weakness, that it’s treatable,” she says. Sometimes the first place to seek help is with a friend, or a minister or rabbi. It doesn’t always have to be a counselor.

But the Counseling Center is there to help. “You don’t have to suffer alone,” Zurita says.

Depression screening
If you feel any of these, especially if they get worse over time, it’s time to get help.

  1. Been feeling low in energy, slowed down?
  2. Been blaming yourself for things?
  3. Had poor appetite?
  4. Had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep?
  5. Been feeling hopeless about the future?
  6. Been feeling blue?
  7. Been feeling no interest in things?
  8. Had feelings of worthlessness?
  9. Thought about or wanted to commit suicide?
  10. Had difficulty concentrating or making decisions?

Source: National Depression Screening Day—College Screening Form
by Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

Counseling centers on campus 

  • Community Campus, 206-6408
  • Desert Vista Campus, 206-5030
  • Downtown Campus, 206-7260
  • East Campus, 206-7662
  • Northwest Campus, 206-2200
  • West Campus, 206-6699

Other resources:

  • SAMHC: 2502 N. Dodge, #190; 622-6000
    Available 24/7 by phone or walk-in.
  • Information & Referral help line: 325-2111 or 888-575-2111


Sexual assault contributes to depression

Editor’s note: This series portrays one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.


I’m going to talk about a difficult subject.


Better to just say it out loud than tip-toe around it. Which is what I’ve been doing for too many years.

I’m pretty sure I can say that being raped contributed to the depression of my teenaged years and beyond. I know that not dealing with it did.

I interviewed a staff member at the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault and learned that many sexual assault victims aren’t ready to get emotional help for six or seven years after they have been raped.

They go on with their lives as best they can. They survive it.

Survivor. That’s a better word than victim.

And I am one. I am a survivor.

But it’s been a lot longer than seven years since it happened. More like 30.

I didn’t even realize it was rape. There was no such term as acquaintance or date rape back then. Out of ignorance, I thought it wasn’t rape because I knew the guy.

I thought because I was drunk, it was my fault. In my habitual self-destructive way, I chalked it up to me getting what I deserved.

And because I blamed myself, I didn’t tell anyone about it.

No one.

I hadn’t even told my husband of 23 years about the rape until the topic came up for the investigative reporting I’m doing for the Aztec Press and for this column.

It’s about time he knew. But more than that, it’s about time I dealt with it.

I was 17. Joe was a high school acquaintance who came to a party my sister and I put on one Friday night. A big pot of spaghetti and a gallon of Gallo wine. And probably several bottles of cheap whiskey.

I got drunk, as usual. Joe and I flirted all evening.

After everyone left, my sister and her boyfriend went to bed. Joe and I made out on the living room floor, and he raped me. He got up, pulled up his pants, tucked in his shirt and walked out the door.

For decades, I didn’t remember struggling under him on the floor. I didn’t remember the helplessness and pain. I didn’t remember the blood stain on the carpet.

The SACASA Web site says 73 percent of female victims are raped or sexually assaulted by people they know.

An American Association of University Women research study on sexual assault found that 20 to 25 percent of women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college career.

If you have been raped, don’t wait as long as I did before dealing with it.

You don’t have to keep it a secret. There is help.

Tell someone, but only someone safe. Watch the video on the SACASA Web site: Call them when you’re ready.

I’m dealing with my rape now. It’s worth the pain.

Next: Talking back to the “fat” voice.


Depression: Don’t listen to ‘Fat Voice’

Editor’s note: This is the final story in a four-part series portraying one woman’s personal experience of depression, with a bit of advice thrown in.


The Fat Voice is back. I hadn’t heard it in years, until the other day when I heard it say: “Don’t eat that. You’re too fat.”

That voice is part of my depression.

I’ll bet I’ve gained and lost several hundred pounds during my life. And that’s probably a low estimate.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve used food to help me deal with my depression. Binging on sweets made me feel better, for a while.

Dieting and starving, especially over a period of days or weeks or months, also felt good. There’s a high that comes with denying yourself sustenance. Just ask the yogis in India.

So, food has been a mood changer for me.

Even now, pushing 54, I’m known to “use” sugar and caffeine to get me through bad days.

When I was younger, I obsessed on my body and everything that went into my mouth.

I’d start on a diet, usually on a Monday, and stick with it for a week or so, if that long. I’d lose maybe five pounds and then “cheat” on my diet because I was always so—grrrr—hungry. Pretty soon, I’d start binging again.

Craving food and denying myself became an addiction.

Sometimes I’d binge and vomit every night when I got home from work or school. That became its own sort of addiction.

I even used to exercise compulsively. For a while in my early 20s, I swam so hard every day that standing up from a sitting position was painful.

When I deprived myself of food or exercised too much, I thought the world was a better place. I was on top of everything. I’d set a goal. I was following through, my stomach felt flatter, my insides were hollowed out. I could feel the weight stripping off my “fat” body.

The problem was, I wasn’t even fat! During most of the time I spent on diets, on the compulsive binging and vomiting, I didn’t even need to lose weight. My view of myself in the mirror was warped. The bathroom scale ran my life.

The National Institute of Mental Health’s guide for eating disorders says one in five women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating.

That’s 20 percent of women who are right now obsessing about food, about their body weight, about their looks.

With me, it was a full-time addiction. If I multiply all the years I spent dieting and binging—well, I don’t want to! It’s too much of a waste to think about.

We are supposed to eat to fuel our bodies so we can do what we need to do in the world. Eating is supposed be a pleasure, not some shameful, secret activity.

We are not meant to worry about every little thing that goes into our mouths. Or go exercise for two hours because we ate a donut.

And yet 70 million people worldwide have eating disorders. Thirty-five percent of “normal dieters” (whatever that is) progress to pathological dieting.

The American Journal of Psychiatry reported that a young woman with anorexia is 12 times more likely to die than other women her age without the disease.

Time Magazine stated that 80 percent of all children have been on a diet by the time they have reached the fourth grade.

These are some horrible statistics. That last one makes me want to scream! Children ages 8 and 9 dieting!

Anorexia is a killer disease. I am lucky to be alive.

And none of this obsessing over food and body ever helped my depression. Feeling better lasted for a few hours, if that.

I hereby refuse to listen to the Fat Voice. I’m disgusted with it. Sure, all the compulsion and obsession probably got me through some tough times I might otherwise have used for something worse (like drugs or dangerous decisions) to get through.

And maybe I’ll forgive the part of me that wasted all that time, some day. Be a little gentler with that young girl inside me.

But today I’m pissed about it.

This is what I say to counteract the Fat Voice: I’m OK the way I am. A little overweight. Trying to eat healthily. Exercising regularly, sometimes. Trying to accept myself the way I am.

If you have problems with food, please ask for help. Anorexia is a serious illness. And your eating disorder might be masking chronic depression.

You are not alone.

See below for some places that can help with eating disorders:

  • SAMHC Behavioral Health Services, 622-6000, 2502 N. Dodge Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716-2675,
  • Overeaters Anonymous,
  • Mirasol Eating Disorder Treatment Center for Women, (888)520-1700,
Aztec Press receives prestigious SPJ Mark of Excellence awards

Aztec Press receives prestigious SPJ Mark of Excellence awards

For the second year in a row, the Aztec Press student newspaper has been named a regional finalist for two Mark of Excellence awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. The actual places awarded will be announced April 30 during an awards luncheon.

SPJ notified the newspaper it will receive a Mark of Excellence award in the Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper – 2 Year/Community College category.

Former staffer Liza Porter will receive an award for Feature Writing in the 2 Year/Community College category. Her multi-part series on depression was published during the Spring 2010 semester.

SPJ’s Region 11 covers student newspapers in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.

Last year, the Aztec Press received two first-place Mark of Excellence awards at the regional level, for best all-around community college newspaper and for feature writing. Porter picked up the feature writing honors for a series on non-traditional students.

At the national level, in competition against 11 other regions, the Aztec Press entries reached the top three and were named national finalists.

Aztec Press picks up national awards

Aztec Press picks up national awards

Aztec Press received two prestigious national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists during the SPJ national convention in Las Vegas.

At an awards luncheon on Oct. 4, the Aztec Press staff was honored as a 2009 Mark of Excellence national finalist for best all-around two-year college  newspaper. Faculty adviser Cynthia Lancaster accepted the award on behalf of the staff.

Senior reporter Liza Porter was named a 2009 Mark of Excellence national finalist in feature writing for her series on non-traditional students, “Going Back, Moving Forward.” She also traveled to Las Vegas to accept her award.

At the regional level, the Aztec Press won first-place Mark of Excellence awards in both categories.

First-place regional winners advance to the national level. In competition against 11 other regions, the Aztec Press entries reached the top three and were named national finalists.

Aztec Press senior reporter Liza Porter was named a national finalist in feature writing by the Society of Professional Journalists.

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New Members of Phi Theta Kappa

Phi Theta Kappa honors their newest members. They read as follows:

Kara Adams
Hari Adhikari
Sara Alcazar
Lori Alford
Camiee Allen
Hanan Alsakka
Frank Ambrose
Kossigan Apedjinou
Ouindinqoudi Apedjinou Sam
Negar Ardebili
Dana Argubright
Linda Arnott
Kirsten Artwohl
Luis Arvizu
Catherine Austin
Asheley Baker
Kara Baler
Ming Beckwith
Keandra Begay
James Berens
John Bergmann
Laura Bjorndahl
Sheldon Bonnell
Heather Bradley
Meara Brielle
Lisa Brown
Danielle Bunting
Lacey Burch
Bethany Burger
Giselle Camacho
Nicole Canett
Maria E. Cantu
Maria G. Cantu
Corina Carlson
Mary Castaneda
Diana Castro
Steven Cates
Roxanne Ceballos
Beatriz Cervantes
Thomas Chandler
Hannah Chase
Victoria Chavarria
Ernesto Chavez
Steven Clinkscales
Anthony Colbert
Edmund Colell
Sarah Cook
Nicole Cooke
Stephanie Copenhaver
Mark Cromey
Angelina Cruz
Cliff Daigler
Bita Damadzadeh
Mic Denfeld
Peter Dewoody
Rick Deyo
Fatimata Diallo
Isla Diaz
Tatiana Diulgher
Sarah Dougherty
Catherine Draper
Kyle Duffy
Zoe Dunaway
Stacey Eddington
Alicia Eller
Charly Ellsworth
Clint Etchart
Elyssa Felix
Ashley Fenbert
Chrysanne Fife
Anna Figueroa
Debra Flanagan
Timothy Fleshman
Tiffany Ford
Amanda Frazier
Amber Frey
Marleigh Freyenhagen
David Fritts
Brianna Fugere
Joseph Gamez
Jose Garcia
Ann Gasker
Luz Gaynor
Kris Gedney
Timothy Gilbert
Alan Gildersleeve
Johnathan Gill
Joseph Gingo
Joan Gipson
Levi Godkin
Teresa Goldberg
Kimberly Goswitz
Donna Grimes
Samantha Groner
Gustavo Guerrero
Alizia Gutierrez
William Guyn
Nanette Halasz
Kalen Halter
Sarah Handy
Eddie Hanna
Katherine Harper
Jacqueline Hart
Mary Hauge
Marissa Hawkins
Samantha Head
Beth Hendrix
John Herran
Trevor Hinske
Marie-Noel Hiol-Hiol
Steven Ho
Renee Horton
Debra Howard
Jason Hoxie
Nicola Humbarger
Joshua Humbert
Kelli Ivanisko
Christopher Jabczynski
Debra Jaggers
Robert Jaggers
Guinevere Jagiello
Adam James
Jonathan Jett
Nicolette Jimenez
Edgar-Saul Jimenez-Virgen
Patricia Johnston
Kirsten Jorgensen
Janelle Joseph
Brendolyn Kargel
Kathy Kent
Kevin Kent
Michael Kinsey
Krista Kippes
Surya Kurniawan
Kleo Kwok
Constance Lavery
Ngan Le
Kenneth Lee
Suzana Lemcke
Diana Liang
Erin Long
Adolfo Lopez
Jeannette Lopez
Elena Lorona
Victoria Lowe
Ivette Lugo
Ivonne Lugo
Johnny Lujan
Eric Lynch
Robert Madrid
Kevin Magee
Lorelei Mahrer
Monique Manuel
Sherryn Marshall
William Marshall
Aurielle Martin
Timothy May
Reilly McManus
Brandy McQuillen
Kimberly Mccloy
Ruth Mendez
Breshka Meyer
Kassi Molfetas
Beverly Moreno
John Morris
John Mothershed
Joshua Moyers
Martin Nakajima
Israel Navarrette
Miguel Navarro
Daniel Nelson
Larry Nester
Donny Newman
Lisa Newman
Ngoc Nguyen
Oanh Nguyen
John Nofs
Sherry Nurre
Estrella Ochoa
Anthony Ojeme
Keith Olson
Wael Osman
Marie Papiano
Javier Pastor
Gabi Payne
Christina Pearson
Janetta Peck
Nikki Pennington
Jacquelyn Pereira
Anuruddhika Perera
Joseph Perez
Teresa Pfleiderer
Kevin Polite
Aaron Postillion
David Potter
Melissa Preciado
Shandra Pruet
Winifred Quartermaine
Yvette Quijada
Elizabeth Quiroz
Lucas Raisor
Heather Ramirez
Annette Ramos
Amanda Reding
Samantha Reed
Karla Reyes
Wylwyn Reyes
Paul Roberts
Latoshia Robinson
John Roldan
Vanessa Romero
Kyree Ruiz
Megan Sage
Fernando Salas
Alondra Salazar
Elizeba Saldivar
Jeremy Samuelson
Melissa Sanchez
Sabina Sariyska
Royale Schulze
Lawrence Seligman
Rachel Shatto
Homa Shayan
Samuel Simmons
Brenda Singer
Karen Sisson
Savannah Stanley
Heather Stevens
Alexis Stevenson
Kurt Stillman
Sienna Stone
Kyleigh Stringer
Om Subedi
Astride Tchoffo
Antonio Teran
Randall Throp
Priscilla Timler
Mary Torgerson
Jackie Tran
Kimberly Tzintzun
Jessica Ugstad
Eva Underwood
Mario Uribe
Nubia Valle Orozco
Gloria Valles
Rosa Vargas
Ruth Villegas
Clark Wager
Chris Wallenmeyer
Sharmayne Wardell
Kevin Waterman
Jason Watson
Wendy Webster
Laura Wilkins
Ian Williams
Loren Williams III
Samir Youssef
Angela Zarzyczny
Kathy Zavala
Heather Zenner
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Phi Theta Kappa Owl Mentors

Pima Community College’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society shows recognition for their Owl Mentors. The Owl Mentors are:

Toufha Alkhlifa

Brenda Ayon

Odell Baskerville

Jon Bell

Mary H. Ber

Dr. Cheryl K. Blake

Dr. Katherine Broneck

Lucia Cataldo-Ottieri

Dr. Jodylee Estrada Duek

Melinda Franz

Alan Glazier

Dr. Mischala Grill

Khalil Halawani

Susan Heinrich

Dr. Matt Hinojosa

Lisa Jurkowitz

Billy Kidd

Andrea Kooshian

Larry Kull

Meagan Lehr

Rene’ Luedeman

Linda Marks

Evelyn Martinez

Sarah Masse

Edward L. McDonald

Tommie Miller

Karrie Mitchell

Sandra Paulick

Dr. Michael Radloff

Donald “Uncle Don” Roberts Sr.

Andrea Robinson

Dr. Steven Salmoni

Dr. Thomas Selegue

Dr. Matthew Price Smith

Mary Speidel

Dr. Pamela Sulger

Leslie Taylor

Pamela Walter

Donald Wark  – Was nominated by two people.

Bonnie K. Willis

Aztec Press wins prestigious national awards

Aztec Press wins prestigious national awards

The Spring 2010 Aztec Press staff gathers for a group photo. The student newspaper will resume publication in the fall, on Sept. 2.

Aztec Press won a pair of prestigious first-place regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, then was named a national finalist in both categories.

At the SPJ regional conference in San Francisco on May 1, the Aztec Press won a first-place Mark of Excellence award for all-around best newspaper for two-year colleges.

Senior reporter Liza Porter captured an individual first-place Mark of Excellence award in feature writing for her series on non-traditional students, “Going Back, Looking Forward.”

First-place winners advance to the national level. In competition against 11 other regions, the Aztec Press entries reached the top three and were named national finalists.

Aztec Press Editor in Chief Daniel Gaona accepts a first-place regional award from Kevin Smith, SPJ national president, in San Francisco.

Related story: Opinion page  farewell column by Editor in Chief Daniel Gaona:

Going back: moving forward 1: Single parent makes college a priority

Going back: moving forward 1: Single parent makes college a priority

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Jessica Canchola

Jennifer Stockdale has had a difficult life, but is determined to earn an associate degree and go on to the University of Arizona to study political science. After that, she plans to attend law school.

The single parent is in her last semester at Pima Community College. Born and raised in Tucson, Stockdale earned her GED soon after dropping out of high school. She tried college then, but was working full time and couldn’t handle it.

In the midst of an abusive relationship, Stockdale woke up one day and saw what a bad place she was in. “I realized I didn’t deserve it,” she says. Starting over was a long process. She began believing in herself and enrolled in college.

Despite her difficulties, she maintains a positive attitude. Her laughter is contagious.

Stockdale, 34, has red hair and freckles. On interview day, she wore a green T-shirt that accents her eyes, and tan knee-length shorts. Like many women in the desert heat, she pulled her hair back into a scrunched-up ponytail.

Working part time, going to school and raising two daughters ages 6 and 14 is difficult. In fact, “it sucks,” she says, laughing.

Then Stockdale changes her mind. “It doesn’t suck,” she continues. She appreciates the opportunity to go to college and do something more with her life. She works very hard at her classes.

Money is tight but Stockdale and her daughters live with her mother. “She’s not charging me rent, which is a huge help,” Stockdale says.

Her mother raised Stockdale and her siblings alone. “She really did it on her own, so she understands.”

Stockdale is the only one of her siblings to go to college. Her mother was the first one in her family to get a degree, as well.

One reason Stockdale went back to school is because she read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand when her oldest daughter was a baby. The book affected her deeply, partly because the characters were older.

Stockdale realized, “I’m still young! I still have time to live.” She promised herself that when her daughters were in school, she’d go back to college.

A job provided another reason. While employed as a nanny, the couple she worked for told her: “We’re not renewing your contract. We love you and the kids love you, but what are you doing here?”

She laughs as she tells the story. “They said ‘Go back to school! You’re fired!’” She laughs again. She sees the couple as role models. They are several years older than Stockdale, and have become very successful.

Besides working as a nanny, Stockdale has a Montessori teaching certificate. She’s also worked in restaurants and retail stores, and she’s been a delivery driver. Sometimes she held two or three jobs at a time to support her children.

Now she works Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Target, in addition to attending PCC full time.

Stockdale’s weekdays go something like this: Get up at 6 a.m., wake her daughters, make sure they have breakfast, get them to school. She uses the time before and between classes to do her homework, and schedules her classes so she can be with the girls in the afternoons.

“They’re very independent,” she says. She wants her daughters to be successful, and often tells them: “Get the scholarships, work hard now.”

Besides traditional classes, Stockdale has taken one online class in biology. She liked the class and recommends online instruction but says she “failed miserably at self-paced.” Laughing, she admit: “Can’t do it.”

Her favorite subject is political science, “though Plato was kind of crazy.”

Instructors at Pima have been very tolerant about her role as a single parent, she says. During a family emergency last spring, her instructors were understanding.

“But, you have to be a good student,” she says. In her experience, instructors aren’t as flexible with people who don’t take school seriously.

When asked what type of law she’d like to practice once she obtains a legal degree, Stockdale says, “not criminal,” and laughs. She might specialize in family law, estate planning or tax law. She wants to help people navigate the legal system, noting “that is really hard.”

She’s tolerant of other’s viewpoints and doesn’t have rigid stances on issues, so doesn’t think she’d be a good litigator or criminal attorney. “I don’t know,” Stockdale says. “We’ll just have to see.”

Stockdale notes there are more women in law school than ever before. “And older people,” she says. “They want me. I’m old.” She laughs.

By the numbers:
(Source: Pima Web site)
• Average age: 27
• 56% women; 44% men
• 71% part-time; 29% full-time
• 42% ethnic minorities

Originally published September 17, 2009

2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching

Going back: moving forward 2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration

Going back: moving forward 2: Work at Orphanage Provides Inspiration

Editor’s note: The Aztec Press presents its award-winning series from Fall 2009. This series, “Going back: moving forward,” tells the stories of nontraditional students who have returned to school—some after a few years, others after many. “Going back: moving forward” won first place for Feature Writing in the Society of Professional Journalists regional 2-year/community college category. It reached the top three nationally, to become a nationalist finalist.

Story by Liza Porter
Photo by Jessica Canchola

When Christina Lee worked in an orphanage in Indonesia for six weeks during the summer of 2008, it changed her life. It is one of the reasons she decided to go back to college.

The 28-year old is tall and thin, with long brown hair and piercing brown eyes. She pauses as she thinks about what to say next, and laughs easily as she relates her experiences.

Like the orphans in Djakarta, Lee knows about starting over.

“I’ve been in a lot of really bad, abusive relationships,” she says.

She did not believe in herself. If you’d told her a few years ago she’d be attending Pima Community College any time soon, she might have called you crazy.

“I didn’t see any purpose for the academic side of high school,” Lee says. “I think it’s just because of the way I grew up, without any structure.” She had a hard time focusing in school, with all the chaos in her home.

When Lee dropped out of high school she went to work. She has worked many different jobs: camp counselor, house framer and painter, bartender, waitress and pastry chef, among others.

When she was 18, Lee passed the GED. “It was pretty easy,” she says, laughing.

Lee believes a higher power was watching out for her during her troubles earlier in life.

“Some people are taught what they’re supposed to do,” she says in a reflective voice. “Some people have to learn everything on their own.”

It’s almost unexplainable, Lee says. “When things got really bad and scary, something would happen to get me out of the situation.”

One relationship made her fear for her life.

“You’re so blind when you’re doing this stuff… you have to be slapped in the face” to realize you should be doing something different. “Sometimes several times.” She laughs again. Her sense of humor is part of what keeps her going. She feels lucky to be where she is today.

Working in the orphanage in Jakarta opened her heart to a different world. She’d worked with children before, but “never with kids that had been through the things these children had been through.”

The children in Jakarta were so afraid they had to sleep with their eyes open. “Some of the kids are beaten so badly, they can’t talk,” Lee says.

She realized her problems paled in comparison. “It’s one thing to hear about stuff like that, it’s another to see the effects, you know, of the horrible things that happened to the kids.”

Lee thinks people in the United States don’t know how good they have it. “You can do anything you want here and get help. There are resources for almost everything. It’s not perfect, but there’s no perfect place, anywhere.”

When Lee got back from Jakarta, her roommate kept telling her to go back to school.

“I had somebody who made me believe that I could do it,” she says. “And once I started thinking like that, that’s when I took the first class. It’s like you can’t go backwards.”

Lee tried an eight-week online psychology class. Her mind was “just a huge bubble of confusion and emotion,” she says. Studying psychology helped narrow things down, made her think about “why this might happen, why that might happen.” And she got a good grade in the class.

Her first on-campus classes at PCC were perfect. She wasn’t anxious, which surprised her. This time she was going to school for herself, and that’s all she cared about.

Political science opened her mind to a wider world. Her favorite part was “the study group. It was fun, it’s more fun to have somebody to talk to about what we’re supposed to be learning.”

In her financial accounting class, she learned the ways a business has to be organized in order to be successful. Though the class didn’t cover non-profit corporations, Lee would like to start one someday.

“Something to do with the homeless,” she says. “Giving someone a chance to kind of clean up and find a job, the people who are serious about it.”

But Lee is not yet sure what major she wants to pursue. As she goes through school, it changes. She’s only taken a few classes so far and feels it’s narrowing her path “to do what I need to do. Or want to be,” she says thoughtfully. “I kind of think everything’s going to fall into place.”

Finishing her first full semester with good grades made her realize, “I can do anything!”

Originally published October 1, 2009

1: Single parent makes college a priority
3: Self Taught ‘techie’ re-engineers himself
4: Life ‘controlled chaos’ for military student
5: Retiree takes classes just for pleasure
6: Renaissance woman enjoys life-long learning
7: Journalist switching careers to teaching