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Guest  Commentary

Guest Commentary

I want to emphasize that I love Pima Community College. I’ve always felt so lucky to work in higher education. Not everyone has the opportunity to make a living doing something that they love and feel passionately about. I love our mission of “providing educational pathways that ensure student success and enhance the academic, economic and cultural vitality of our students and diverse community,” and work hard to promote it every day through my words and actions.
The new media policy, which I learned about from the Arizona Daily Star over the weekend, appears to conflict with our institutional mission, although I’m sure that was not the intent. However, when priorities shift from “students first” to preservation of our reputation (i.e. “present[ing] the College in the best light”), we lose sight of our North Star, our guiding principle. Our College Values, which “characterize the way in which we accomplish our mission,” mention “evidence-based continuous improvement practices,” “accountability and transparency,” and “open and honest communication.” A policy that only authorizes certain people within the College (“Marketing and Communication” and “on occasion, other College personnel”) to communicate specific and predetermined information does not support any of these ideals.
A truly student-centric approach would welcome constructive criticism as an opportunity to pinpoint problems within our institution in the interests of the student, and by extension, the community. Employees at all levels, even those who are considered “rank and file,” are stakeholders in our organization. Without the ability to engage in truly open dialogue and provide candid feedback, we undermine the importance of critical thinking, which is an essential component of the caliber of education we strive to provide to our community.
The volume of critical (and often deserved) press we’ve received in the past due to lack of openness and transparency under previous leadership has understandably left us feeling a bit wary of media attention. However, it was precisely such media attention that led us to make many necessary changes in how we conduct ourselves as an institution. In the spirit of “continuous improvement,” it’s in our best interests to foster authentic dialogue. We certainly  risk potential embarrassment by allowing forthcoming, candid communication with which we might not always agree. However, appearing to stifle free speech or engage candidly with the public that we both support and are supported by is guaranteed to be far more embarrassing.

Editor’s Note: The author of this op-ed asked to remain anonymous.

Scholarship student goes for the gold

Scholarship student goes for the gold


In college, completing assignments and making it to class are hard enough. When students manage all of that and end up receiving praise for their work, it is an example of how hard work can pay off.

Pima Community College student, Andrew Paxton, will be remembered as an involved, passionate academic who has worked hard to make his time at PCC count.

He began classes in Fall 2012 and since then has served as an officer for Pima’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Alpha Beta Chi, and is president of the Journalism Club. He was editor-in-chief of the Aztec Press for more than a year.

On March 23, Paxton received a prestigious national honor when he was named a 2015 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Gold Scholar.

“It was pretty surprising,” Paxton says. “Even more surprising was the reaction I got after the award. I guess I didn’t realize how prestigious the award actually is. I didn’t have much of a social life the last few years. So they didn’t just hand me the scholarships by any means.”

Paxton was one of 50 community college students nationwide to receive top honors from PTK and will receive a $1,500 scholarship and special medallion.

A former president of PTK, Kyra Harris, says her friendship with Paxton was instant and she saw him as her right-hand man.

“I cannot think of anyone who deserves that scholarship more,” she says. “Andrew is ambitious, dedicated and compassionate. Many people are like crabs in a barrel, constantly trying to pull themselves up while they pull others down. Andrew is nothing like that. He understands the value of true collaboration and I would stand beside him for anything.”

In February, Paxton was one of four PCC students named as All-Arizona Academic First Team, earning him a scholarship and two-year Arizona Board of Regents tuition waiver to the University of Arizona.

When Paxton first began his experience at Pima, it was a major turning point in his life.

“I was involved in a road rage incident in 2007,” he says. “I nearly died as a result, and during my convalesce, I realized I wasn’t really living, just existing. I had received a second chance at life and I decided to make the most of it.

“Pima has opened more doors, windows and avenues for me than I could have ever imagined.”

Of Paxton’s many achievements, he says his time at the Aztec Press is his proudest.

“I have been able to meet countless people, and share their stories and experiences,” he said. “Those interactions have shaped me in ways that will influence my life for the rest of my days.”

At the helm of the student newspaper, he led the way to statewide and national awards, increased coverage and reported on Pima news topics with unwavering commitment to the truth.

More important than accolades, Paxton inspired and led student reporters in their own journeys.

“I was able to help train the next wave of journalists on staff,” he said. “Working with a reporter to develop a story and seeing the impact, on the author and the audience, is a very satisfying feeling and one I hope to replicate in the future.”

Harris witnessed the progress Paxton has captained for the organizations he was involved in.

“Pima has been very lucky to have Andrew,” she said.  “I know for a fact both PTK and the Aztec Press wouldn’t have done as well without his leadership and guidance. He has put both of them on the national stage which is good for all of Pima.”

He retains his humility.

“I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the success I have had so far were it not for my support network of my girlfriend, mother, friends, family, advisors and cat,” he said. “I believe those that stand by us throughout good times and bad are critical to finding not only success, but inner happiness and peace as well.”

Paxton will graduate from Pima on May 21 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in journalism at UA. His plan after college is “world domination.”

“I will be an editor somewhere, probably for my own publication, so I can be my own boss,” he said. “I also will write some books, and probably teach someday. Maybe sell out and go into public relations, but only if I need the money to support my Fabergé egg addiction.”

Paxton hopes to merge his political science interests with his love of journalism.

While he was surprised to receive PTK’s scholarship, he is well aware of the fact that he earned this recognition.

His story of success at Pima just goes to show that the college experience is worth all the long hours and struggles.

Paxton will remain on West Campus as the advertisement manager of the Aztec Press.

Students positive about new Tech Corner

Students positive about new Tech Corner


This semester, Pima Community College rolled out a new Information Technology help desk to assist Pima students facing software troubles.

The Tech Corner, located in the Downtown Campus Learning Commons, helps students with issues on their personal computers ranging from software to web assignments to phone apps.

Chris Williams, a PCC IT specialist, has a bachelor’s degree in computer networking and often staffs the table during the Tech Corner’s hours.

“I enjoy helping students out,” Williams said.  “I worked for Sunnyside school district and I enjoyed helping students and staff, but I needed to do more.”

Tech Corner is a pilot program to determine how beneficial free IT help is for students who may be experiencing trouble that impacts their education. This semester, Tech Corner has helped over 150 students.

Geselle Coe, the learning center coordinator at Downtown Campus, helped put the Tech Corner in action.

“Our mission is to eliminate technological barriers so that we can increase student success and learning outcomes,” she said.

Williams says the need for free IT help arose when his former supervisor, Kevin Milton, realized that some students were dropping or unable to complete courses due to technical difficulties.

“Students were talking about dropping classes because they couldn’t get technology to work and they really had nowhere to go,” Williams said. “So we wanted to set them up with something where they could go get some help and stay in school.”

The Tech Corner now serves roughly 10 students per week, but Williams says the low number comes from a lack of advertising, especially at other Pima campuses.

Williams says his repairs go far beyond the technical aspect, and that many students leave feeling a lot of stress relief once they are no longer having technology trouble with their computers.

“A lot of courses are requiring technological projects,” Coe said. “Students may get frustrated at times with their online assignments, and here is a one stop place where they can come by and sit down and get their questions answered.”

One student even brought her home desktop in for help.

“We set it up on one of the stations here and helped her out,” Williams said. “We do a little bit of everything.”

If the program succeeds, Pima will institute Tech Corners at all campuses and fund full-time positions for the job. In the meantime, 13 employees at Downtown Campus provide service to all PCC students.

Coe said the student reviews in an online survey are encouragingly positive.

“So far, we’ve had really positive responses,” she said. “We get a lot of students who feel more confident in their online classes as well. Before we had a lot of apprehension, but now they know if they run into any problems they can come to the Tech Corner.”

In online feedback surveys, students reported a consistent 80 percent satisfaction rate with the service they received. Student comments contained positive reviews expressing appreciation for the IT help and reduced levels of stress.

The Tech Corner is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday. You can reach them by phone at 206-7094 or at

“I just love helping people,” Williams said. “I like to see somebody go away happy, because now their stuff works.”

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IT Specialist Chris Williams stands in front of the Tech Corner at the Downtown Campus Learning Commons. The help desk assists students with technology problems free of charge. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

DOGPATCH- Angels doing hell work

DOGPATCH- Angels doing hell work


When you pull into Summit View Estates, the area dubbed “Dogpatch,” you pass a sign that reads “No dumping.” It’s riddled with bullet holes. Going down the dirt road, there’s scattered, run-down trailers, piles of worn-out tires, trash bags and miles of desert.

Not far in, there’s a small clearing that contains a five-gallon bucket and a small black trough full of murky water. There’s also two huge make-shift dog bowls brimming with dog food.

Marjorie McKellips pulls out a flowery umbrella and offers to share the little shade it provides. “I love everybody, can’t give me a reason not to,” she says.

McKellips, along with founder Nancy Maddry, runs Angels for Animals, a grass-roots organizations that looks out for the animals in Dogpatch.

McKellips says that the food and water in the clearing are one of two feeding stations.

“Our feeding stations, of course, go to hell in a hand-basket between dogs and people,” she says. “You can see, there’s trash everywhere.”

This time of year, Angels volunteers try to come out three or four times a week, when they have enough help.

McKellips points at the black trough and says, after a couple of weeks, she’s surprised it’s still there.

“Somebody’s going to steal it,” she says. “They always steal it.”

The dogs that run the area keep under any shade they can find during the heat of the day. Some of the dogs have been dumped there and others are owned by residents in the area.

McKellips says many owners don’t maintain proper fencing, and the dogs are allowed to roam free.

Most of these dogs are not neutered, spayed or vaccinated. McKellips says that’s what Angels for Animals is all about.

Dumping dead animals is also very common at Dogpatch. McKellips and the other volunteers at Angels routinely look for bodies.

“We drive through here with our windows open, air conditioning off and our noses peeled. You will smell death, trust me,” McKellips says. “Once you smell it, you never forget it.”

They also look for garbage bags and boxes.

“If there’s bags of garbage, we go check and see if it’s garbage—or is it a body?” she says.

A few hundred yards down the road, there’s a dead dog, clearly visible. Its body is stiff, its head at an odd angle, mouth open. Flies surround it. A strip of neon flagging-tape is tied around an extended leg and another is on the tree above.

If Angels finds a body away from the road, they try to move it to the road to be picked up. They use the flagging-tape to help Pima Animal Care Center find the dead animals.

McKellips said she called PACC about this dog two weeks ago.

Jose Chavez, enforcement operations manager at PACC, says they do not do a regular patrol of the area but that PACC responds to more than 100 calls from Summit each year pertaining to dead and stray dogs, dog bites and animal welfare.

Chavez didn’t know anything about that particular dog, but he says that PACC makes a point of picking up reported dead animals as soon as possible.

Farther up the road, there’s a grave marker—a crude cement headstone with a man’s name. A faded, yellow construction vest is slung over it. McKellips says the area used to be full of trash and discarded furniture.

On the other side of the road, McKellips points out a fresh death.

“He wasn’t there Sunday, but he’s there today,” she says.

The dog’s body is bloated and covered in flies. Angels volunteer Zach O’Hern was alerted to it by the smell while driving along the road that morning.

O’Hern and his wife, Sam, started working with Angels about a month ago.

They are two of eight volunteers currently working the Dogpatch. McKellips says they’re blessed to have that many.

“People come and go,” she says. “It’s an ugly place. We go through volunteers faster than some people change their underwear.”

McKellips has been working with Angels for five and a half years.

The first time she came out to Dogpatch, she came across bags full of dead roosters from a cockfighting pit, which Angels eventually helped get shut down.

Angels volunteers talk with Summit residents in their yards and homes. They offer them help getting their animals spayed, neutered, vaccinated and licensed.

Edgar Giron is a Summit resident. Two dogs run around his yard. Someone throws a deflated soccer ball to one of them. It just jumps back and stares at the ball.

“Most of the dogs around here don’t know what it means to play,” McKellips says.

There is another dog under Giron’s house with a litter of puppies she birthed that morning.

McKellips tells Giron she’s set up an appointment to spay and neuter the grown dogs and that there will be a foster home for the mother and her puppies soon. She asks if he still has enough dog food.

Giron and his cousin work in the front yard. They have witnessed people dumping dogs. Recently, Giron saw a man in a truck on the road behind his house.

“He opened the truck and started taking dogs out,” Giron says. “A lot of dogs, there was like nine of them.”

Sometimes at night, he sees the headlights of cars stop down the road where there are no houses. The next day he’ll see more stray dogs. Giron and his cousin have also found dead horses.

Giron says people dump dogs because they have more than they can take care of or because their female dogs had puppies.

Angels only takes a dog out of Dogpatch if it is badly injured, sick or too young to survive on its own. They’ve had to take three litters of puppies out in the last week.

O’Hern and his wife found and rescued most of those puppies.

“For us, every time we pull dogs, it’s not so much sad as it is satisfying and motivating,” he says. “It’s something bigger than yourself. These animals, they literally have no one. And if they did, they trusted someone and someone just threw them away.”

McKellips says they never intended on being a rescue operation. “It just became apparent there was no choice.”

It is not usually certain how the dead dogs that Angels finds in Dogpatch died.

“We have no way of knowing,” McKellips says. “If there’s enough of it left to really take a good look at the body, we try to make sure. Are their legs bound? Is there a gunshot wound? Is there anything visible that we can call the Animal Cruelty Taskforce on?”

There often is.

Many of the dead animals may not be a product of animal cruelty but rather a lack of means and understanding, says Mike Duffy, ACT officer and co-chair at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. When an animal gets sick and dies on a property, the residents of Summit don’t understand what to do with it.

“But they know there’s a place in the roadway, at the intersection of Country Club and the Old Vale Connection,” he says. “If they dump it there, somebody takes it away.”

Duffy says the residents of Summit generally don’t have the money to pay for trash collection or county landfill disposal fees, which would be viable ways to remove a dead animal. And they can’t call PACC to pick it up from their property because the dogs rarely have the legally required licensure and rabies vaccination.

Licensing fees vary from $8 to $100 depending on many factors, among them the dog’s age and if it’s fixed. Licensure needs to be renewed yearly, and late fees of $10 to $36 are applied for not complying.

The HSSA offers walk-in vaccinations for $13, though getting to the clinic may be hard for some Summit residents.

“They would be responsible for the fees and fines involved for having an animal that was not vaccinated and was not licensed,” Duffy says.

Failure to license is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $150 to $750, four months in jail, two years’ probation or any combination thereof. The fine is reduced to $75 if a license is obtained within 15 days of the complaint.

Duffy is not certain that PACC would actually cite residents for these violations. “I think the people think that would happen so it makes them that much more reluctant to get the government involved,” he says.

The HSSA has set up spay and neuter clinics in Summit as a way to educate residents. They also put literature about animal care in the schools, where they know many residents will see it. It’s unclear if these initiatives have helped.

Duffy says that putting food and water out, as Angels does, may actually be perpetuating the problem.

“The folks out there that don’t have money for dog food, they open the gate and let their dog go because they know they can go down the street to where that pile of food is and get something to eat there,” he says.

Members of ACT go to Summit on a regular basis, as well as members of the sheriff’s department and other organizations.

“Plus, the Pima County Animal Care Center has an office here that’s responsible to drive through there a couple times a week,” Duffy says.

Duffy says that because those other organizations patrol the area, the HSSA no longer goes there.

“The complaints continue to come in to us, but the thing is, we really don’t know how valid the complaints are because the people that are finding the animals out there aren’t that religious about filing police reports,” he says. “If there’s not a police report on file, it didn’t happen.”

Last year, Angels for Animals found two young dogs that were shot, but alive. The HSSA gave both the dogs amputations and found them homes.

McKellips heard from a Summit resident that one of the ranchers in the area had shot the dogs.

She says a lot of the residents are fearful of police, and some are even fearful of their neighbors.

“If you’ve got a neighbor who’s shooting dogs because they’re on their ranch, you’re not going to tell anybody if you’re being threatened with losing your life because you said something,” she says.

McKellips says everybody knows everybody around there and most of them have gotten to know Angels pretty well.

“They like us because we don’t turn anybody in,” she says. “We don’t make them talk to police.”

She also finds campsites in the area and on occasion, drugs.

“You’ll also find a lot of paraphernalia from drug drops,” she says. “We have come out here and found full drug drops that hadn’t been picked up yet. You back away rather quickly and calmly, and you just go away and leave it alone.”

Ranch cows and bulls also roam the land and die on it. Angels volunteers have come across sick and injured horses in need of help. They’ve found dead goats in the wash. Last year, they found a huge dead boar.

One night McKellips had to stay late because of what she found.

“There was a horse down there, well, pieces thereof,” she says. “So I had to wait for the Animal Cruelty Taskforce to get out here.”

She thinks the horse had been cut up because it was too heavy to move in one piece.

“I’m assuming,” she says. “I have learned in five years you can assume anything you want, you’re never going to freakin’ understand this.”

One time, just off of Swan Road, they found a dead dog glued to a board. It had been propped up, facing the road. Someone had put a burrito in its mouth.

“We’re hoping it was dead when it was done,” McKellips says. “God, I hope.”

By the time she got to it, most of the body had been eaten by animals.

McKellips says despite everything, there is goodness in Summit.

“There are some very, very nice people out here,” she says. “They just don’t have the means to do a lot of the things that they should do, so we help with that.”

Average family size in Summit is larger than the average for Pima County and the nation, but the average income is less than one-third, according to a report for the Pima County Health Department by an evaluation team through the University of Arizona.

Angels has brought vaccination clinics to Summit and performed the vaccinations themselves. It’s getting harder for them to do that though. McKellips say a lot of veterinarians and PACC do not accept those vaccines as viable.

State law requires the rabies vaccination to be given by a licensed veterinarian. When it comes to parvovirus and distemper vaccinations, if they are not properly stored and administered, they won’t provide the proper immunity.

McKellips says people need to have more pride in their community and join in the effort to stop the dumping.

“Tell their neighbors,” she says. “Tell everybody that they can about the problem in that area and that they want it to stop. Take down license plates if they see something. You’ve got to stop being afraid to tell the police when you see these things happening. It’s education, spay and neuter, and taking responsibility.”

Angels for Animals is always looking for donations, volunteers and fosters.

They have a running tab at Valley Animal Hospital, where they make regular payments. They also need gas cards.

People can send gas cards or donations of any kind to Angels for Animals Tucson, 1121 S Eli Dr., Tucson, AZ 85710.

For more information visit the webpage, visit the Angels for Animals Tucson Facebook page or call 490-5492.

“I don’t think in my lifetime we’ll ever not have work out here, unfortunately,” McKellips says.

“This is hell work. This is ugly, dirty, disgusting, hell work. Why do we do it? Cause nobody else is going to do it.”


Marjorie McKellips talks with a reporter about the work she routinely does in Dogpatch. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press)


During a recent visit, Angels for Animals founder Nancy Maddry feeds one of the dogs that roams the Dogpatch. (Ben Barocas/Aztec Press)


Dead dogs like this one are found in Dogpatch on a regular basis. Reasons for death are often preventable diseases, neglect and abuse. (Ben Barocas/Aztec Press)

Struggling to balance work, class

Struggling to balance work, class


From classes to hours of homework and balancing a social life, the college experience is a demanding time in many students’ lives.

Throw a work schedule into the mix and responsibilities reach a maximum stress level.

Although the demands for working students are high, the motivation to keep moving through the long days are worthwhile with help from family and friends. Personal goals help students continue to move forward.

For 22-year-old Pima Community College student Troy Terry, the balance between working two jobs, attending classes and trying to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle has been quite the challenge. But even through the nonstop days, he remains motivated.

“My mom is a huge motivation for me,” Terry said. “Unfortunately, she passed away last May. She was my motivation to keep moving and to never stop. She would always tell me, whatever you want to do, you can do, just put your mind to it and always stay motivated.”

A normal week for Terry consists of working roughly 55 hours between GNC and Hi Fi Kitchen and Cocktails, attending classes three days a week through PCC’s police academy, completing anywhere from 7-10 hours of homework and trying to keep up with eating well and working out.

“The hardest part is getting my homework done and turned in on time,” Terry said. “They want us at a high standard, so sometimes I can turn in an assignment, that if I would of had a little more time, I could have done it a lot better. I tend to rush a lot of things.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 78 percent of undergraduate students work a rough estimate of 30 hours per week, while attending classes. About 25 percent of those students work full-time jobs.

PCC counselor Todd Slaney can relate personally to the difficulties that many of his students face while trying to  balance a work and school load.

“You have to sacrifice something,” Slaney said. “I wasn’t able to sacrifice school or work, so it was having a social life. I wasn’t able to go out three nights a week and be successful at school. I had to minimize what I did with my friends and even my family, sometimes.”

A survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine found that many colleges recommend or even mandate that a student’s work schedule be limited to no more than 10-15 hours per week.

Colleges want to see their students succeed academically but unfortunately for many students, paying bills and tuitions is a major factor and anything less than 30 hours is not a plausible amount.

Slaney said managing both loads is easier if a student is going to school part time and working part time. It becomes more overwhelming when both work and school are full time loads.

When a small amount of time is stretched between two time-consuming activities, a high rate of success is less likely. Something must be sacrificed in order to maintain balance.

“Often when I talk to students, they need to drop a class because they weren’t being very successful in that class,” Slaney said.

“They tell me that they can’t reduce their work hours because that’s what pays their mortgage or rent or what puts food on the table,” he said. “Often when they do have to let something go or give something up, it’s school, unfortunately.”

An online article, “Learning and Earning: Working in College,” from weighs the pros and cons of students attending classes while working. The report notes statistical differences based on the number of hours a student is working.

“Part-time student employment may have beneficial effects: for example, an on-campus research position may spark a student’s interest in further academic programs or provide important work experience that will improve future labor market prospects,” it says.

However, the report also finds that students who work 35 hours or more may suffer academically.

● 55 percent have negative effects on their studies.

● 40 percent limit their class schedules.

● 36 percent are limited on class choices.

● 30 percent limit the number of classes they take.

● 26 percent limit access to the library.

For Terry, this type of strict life structure came slightly easier to him because of his athletic background and commitment to playing football throughout his high school career.

“Football definitely helped prepare me with my time management,” Terry       said. “Everything in high school is class, then practice, then homework, dinner, shower and sleep. You wake back up and repeat.”

It’s not an easy task for students to consume everything that has been placed on their plate but with the right amount of dedication, time management skills and willingness to sacrifice extracurricular activities, the results can bring great benefits.

“Following a schedule is important and just make sure you have everything written down,” Terry said.

“Just make sure you have everything scheduled out,” he added. “That’s huge because it makes it a lot easier to manage and stay on top of grades, even if you have to sacrifice a couple hours at work to get things done.”

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(Aztec Press photo illustration by Tanisha Knutzen)


The writer behind Writing 101

The writer behind Writing 101


He sits in a darkened room, fingers hovering over a keyboard while sweat drips down shadowed cheeks, concentration enhanced by gentle Italian techno music. Shell shocked and numb, he realizes his book is finished.

Writing 101 instructor Andrew Foster, 34, has worked part time at Pima Community College for eight years. He said teaching writing helps keep his mind fresh when it comes to his own writing.

“Last week I finished a memoir I’ve been working on for several years,” he said. “Proud but sad my baby’s all grown up and gone.”

Foster has drawn up a dream list of 20 agents and has started the process of querying them. “I need to find an agent that has had memoirs and biographies published before,” he said.

The first chapter of his memoir was recently published in a Baltimore publication, Cobalt Magazine.

“This chapter was rejected at only three or four other magazines before Cobalt took it,” Foster said. “I feel pretty lucky on this one. My usual rate for acceptances is about one in every 100 submissions. If you want to be published, you have to get used to constant rejection.”

One of his first publications was a poem in the Colorado Review in early 2000. He has also been published in a Tucson literary journal, Spork.

Foster submitted a chapter of his memoir to this year’s Tucson Festival of Books writing contest. He was a runner-up for the grand prize and received a chance to participate in a literary workshop.

The workshop included talks led by several well known authors, including author and poet Ray Gonzalez of the University of Minnesota.

Foster enjoys reading both nonfiction and fiction.

He is currently reading “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Written in the ‘30s, it is a classic in African-American literature.

His favorite authors are William Shakespeare and James Joyce. He has the full collection of Joyce’s books, including “Ulysses,” “Finnegans Wake” and “Dubliners.”

Foster likes to teach by using multiple visuals in his Downtown Campus classroom and takes time to provide detailed explanations.

“He uses his personal time to help us with our assignments,” said Charity Brian, 21. “He makes it easier to understand the concepts of writing. He is a good communicator.”

Brian is in her first semester at PCC and is taking WRT 101 as part of the requirements for her major in law and criminology. She takes three other classes and is exhausted by the end of her day, but she looks forward to her writing class.

“He has opened my eyes to new creative writing techniques and ideas,” she said.

Foster has a family connection with words. His father, Michael Foster, studied languages and traveled to Canada to study Cayuga Indians.

Foster’s father met his mother, a native Canadian, and they married shortly after. Two years later, Foster was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

He was raised in Norwich, Vt., and in Philadelphia. While attending a boarding school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Foster participated in the school newspaper and in creative writing workshops.

He knew he liked writing in elementary school and decided to become a professional writer during high school.

When not teaching or writing, Foster enjoys a game of chess.

“I’m a total beginner, but it’s fascinating,” he said. “It’s humbling.”

He is also a whiskey aficionado.

“It’s actually a much less expensive hobby than wine tasting,” he said. “A $50 bottle of wine will last you one night but a $50 bottle of single malt scotch can be slowly enjoyed over many months.”

Extending his passion for teaching outside of the traditional classroom, Foster recently taught a WRT 101 class for employees of Tucson Electric Power. TEP not only paid the tuition, but also paid the employees for each hour they spent in the classroom.

“WRT 101 was a required step in their process of becoming journeymen electricians,” Foster said.

What does writing mean to Foster?

“Writing is the secret life of the soul, encoded in this thing we call language, which was the first virtual reality that humans invented,” he said.

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Writing 101 instructor Andrew Foster answers his students’ questions. Foster, who just finished writing a memoir, says teaching writing keeps his mind fresh for his own work. (Aztec Press photos by Shana Rose)


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Instructor Andrew Foster explains the daily lesson to his Writing 101 class at Downtown Campus. (Aztec Press photos by Shana Rose)


The high cost of DUIs

The high cost of DUIs


Making mistakes is a part of life but some mistakes cost more than just a lesson learned.

A promising future for “Joe Smith” changed dramatically after he was convicted twice for driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Pretty much, it’s a life sentence,” he said. “One poor decision changed my life, to an extreme.”

Smith is a real person, but asked that his true name not be used.

College classes and studying filled his days before the convictions, while nights revolved around alcohol and partying with friends.

“I was in school when I got the DUI,” he said. “I had to leave because I couldn’t afford to stay.”

In one arrest, Smith registered a blood alcohol level of .289. The legal limit is .08.

“It took away any career I could have potentially had,” he said. “I had the potential to be a Navy Seal. I passed all the tests, at the top of my class. I had the potential to be in the Air Force Academy.”

The DUI convictions eliminated those possibilities.

“I was forced to change my career path to something more fast-paced, money-wise,” he said.

Most college students have heard the catchy slogans: Don’t drink and drive. Drive hammered, get nailed.

It seems the slogans haven’t convinced student to stop, however. One in five still drives under the influence, according to

Perhaps a look at the costs involved would carry more impact.

A first-time DUI conviction can cost $10,000 over time, according to statistics compiled by the law offices of David Michael Cantor.

That approximates the cost of enrolling full time for five semesters at Pima Community College.

Smith said his price tag was much higher.

“It probably cost me a little bit over $120,000,” he said. “By now, I could have bought a house and a boat.”

Americans spend $62 billion annually on college tuition and expenses, according to The Atlantic. By comparison, Mothers’ Against Drunk Driving says the U.S. spends nearly $199 billion yearly on drunk-driving costs.

An article in The College Investigator by Robert Farrington touches on ways a DUI can impact a student’s college career.

“Generally, the police report the DUI to the college,” Farrington wrote. “As a result, you may lose your scholarship funding if you are currently on scholarship. You may also lose your housing if you reside in campus housing. Most severe of all, you may be expelled from the college.”

Time lost during DUI processing also holds potential to hurt a student’s finances. Anyone arrested will spend a minimum of 24 hours behind jail cell doors.

Additional time off work is required as the case works its way through the court system.

Upon conviction, some students lose their driver’s license. For others, freedom to drive might only be unlocked with an interlock ignition device.

An interlock ignition device, similar to a breathalyzer, requires the driver to breathe into the device before starting the vehicle.

If the device detects any traces of alcohol, the car won’t start.

Arizona is a zero-tolerance state, which means a driver could be convicted of a DUI while driving under any level of alcohol impairment.

In simpler terms, a beer at a local restaurant could quickly go from costing $4 to reaching thousands of dollars spent, hundreds of hours taken and lifelong consequences.

With these kind of statistics, a decision to opt out of driving seems obvious and cost effective.

“I would have paid any amount of ridiculous cab ride ever in existence,” Smith said. “I would pay a thousand dollars for any cab ride before I ever drink and drive again. It would be cheaper than going through the process of the court and all the other stuff.”

His mistakes changed his outlook on life and caused a drop in his confidence level, Smith said.

“I went down a bad road for awhile,” he said. “I started drinking more because I was depressed.”

The DUI convictions also caused a rift with people who loved him.

“The negative consequences of seeing a loved one hurt is always a bad thing,” he said. “I would never choose to put anyone through that but it took me two tries to figure it out.”

Smith thinks he sees a dim light waiting for him at the end of the road.

“I’m now a different person,” he said. “I was a dumb person for doing it originally but a better person now.”

It took Smith two tries, but he says he has learned an expensive life lesson.

“I will never do that again,” he said. “I have never gotten behind the wheel, even after having a glass of wine. And I just really hope nobody chooses to drink and drive. It’s, like, six bucks to get an Uber.”


(Aztec Press photo illustration by Tanisha Knutzzen)


WAITING TO EXHALE! Some student desks a tight fit

WAITING TO EXHALE! Some student desks a tight fit


Returning to school late in life was a monumental move for me. I actually drove to my first class the night before and turned on the lights because I wanted a feel for the room. I planned to pick my desk, then arrive about 30 minutes early the next morning to make sure it was available.

When I was in school 30 years ago, I had a young man’s 29-inch waist. Over the years, my waist size has increased. I was never more reminded of that when I walked into the classroom to discover those wretched, unforgiving desk/chair combinations from middle school. Even back then I found them dysfunctional.

Those kiddie desks are great for classrooms because you can fit a ton of them in the room, and the chairs remain with the desks.

However, this poses a problem for more than just the token fat girl or guy. There are many body types that do not fare well in these metal death grips.

It’s hard to get into some of these desks comfortably. Yes, I know life would be easier if I lost 10 or 50 pounds. I’m working on it, OK?

However there are 18-years-olds who look obviously uncomfortable when they must squeeze into these made-for children-desks. Their breathing is restricted and half of them are hanging off the seat.

Missed opportunities

This is truer for older students like myself who return back to school later. Our bodies generally aren’t as small as they used to be.

You may be aware that enrollment numbers at Pima Community College continue on a downward trend. A tremendous opportunity exists to reverse the trend by marketing the benefits of a community college education to both young and older potential students.

Many students desire to springboard their education from a two-year to a four-year college. But a large demographic exists that wants to learn a new trade or skill, or simply improve their knowledge and expand their horizons.

Older students represent a very marketable group to help fill the empty desks that exist in many of our classrooms. But, they must be able to fit in those desks.

Students asked to comment

Many of the desks throughout all of our campuses are either too small, or made for a right or left-handed student. Some are only accessible on one side, but most have a small kidney shaped desk.

If you’re more than 10 to 20 pounds overweight, take a deep breath and push yourself in. Smile and try to look pretty. You may exhale after class.

I’m sure these desks were state-of-the-art a long, long time ago in a time called the ‘80s in a variety of elementary and middle schools. But by today’s standards and average waist size, they’re a bit out of touch with function.

Recently, PCC’s administration asked students to comment on and pick their favorite desk among a varied selection. There were clear favorites.

Some of the choices didn’t adequately accommodate the basic function of a student — room to sit and put a book or notepad on a flat surface to take notes and study. Others were more fashionable than functional.

Some seemed like over-the-counter, snap-together quality whose longevity and quality could be questionable.

The top two winners were sleek and functional. They were both a table-styled desk rather than a traditional student desk.

The model “F” gave two students space to sit next to each other thus allowing ample space for a laptop, book and notepad. Additionally, you could rest both elbows, lean into it and relax during lectures.

Model “E” allowed the same advantages, but was a table sized for one individual student.

These table/desks are ideal for adult students of any size or frame because there is no restriction between your free-standing table and the disconnected chair.

Why do chairs cost $1,300 each?

Campus Director of Administrative Services Andrew Plucker, who also holds the title, “Support Coordinator, President’s Office,” said the state has granted the Downtown Campus  $129,000 to purchase student desks and chairs.

The following is a paraphrase of my discussion with Plucker:

“How much do the desks cost, so we can figure out how many can be purchased?”

“$1,300,” Plucker responded.



“Per desk?”


“You are kidding me, right?”


“Why do they cost so much?”

“They are rugged and built to last — they come with a lifetime warranty,” Plucker said. “They need to be really well built in order to outlast the rough treatment they get from the students. In fact, there is a whole warehouse full of broken desks and chairs that are not useable.”

Perhaps Plucker shouldn’t have mentioned that.

“I thought they came with a lifetime warranty.”

“They do,” Plucker responded.

“Then why do we have two warehouses filled with broken desks? Why don’t their lifetime warranties fix them?”

“The manufacturers don’t make the parts anymore and no one wants to deal with it after 10-15 years.”

“Then why are we paying exorbitant fees for a lifetime warranty at the time of the original purchase if no one is redeeming them?” I asked.

“My coffee maker came with a lifetime warranty. When it stopped working after six years, the company claimed they no longer made that particular model but they still exchanged it for the latest one they made in its class,” I added. “Someone needs to toughen up and step up to the plate and insist on getting these desks fixed, or negotiate lower prices and warranties that are honored.”

“The state has a department that does that,” Plucker explained. “They negotiate the best price so administrators don’t have to.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Really? Show me a state employee that’s negotiating the best prices for this campus and I’ll show you a state employee that’s getting taken out to lunch far too much. We’re paying medical equipment fees here, not fair prices for student desks.”

Find a negotiator

The conversation highlights a pressing need for the college to find a good negotiator for furniture and supplies.

Unfortunately, our campus administrators are overworked and underappreciated. They just recently were able to take their own deep breath after an exhausting audit and academic probation period.

Some administrators, like Dean of Students Pat Houston at the Downtown Campus, have been asked to wear two hats during this transitional time.

It’s clear Pima administrators do not have time to negotiate prices when the state has its own department that is supposed to provide that very service for us.

So, who up north is not doing their job? Why are we getting charged these outrageous prices?

It kind of reminds me of the $100 bolts and $500 hammers purchased by the Department of Defense a few years back.

If we have any hope of increasing the enrollment at our college, we need to make sure that there are functional desks.

We also need to make sure there are enough desks to accommodate all students in a way that encourages lifelong learning in comfort and efficiency. Students come in all shapes and sizes.

There needs to be a thoughtful discussion about the type and size of desks required, and then an aggressive negotiation for the best unit price. We cannot afford $120K for barely three classrooms of desks.

How does $300 sound?

I took it upon myself to go online and found $300 desks almost identical to the two student-sized desk that was clearly the winner in our recent student poll. The quote came from the professional division of Office Max.

In minutes, a sales department head returned my call. The company was eager to work with me, and offered a lifetime warranty.

The Internet is an amazing tool for price match or cost comparison.

Pg07-Desk chairs illustration

HEALTH CARE SIGN-UP Feb. 15 deadline nears

HEALTH CARE SIGN-UP Feb. 15 deadline nears


Connor Tate, a 22-year-old dual Pima Community College and University of Arizona student, has “Obamacare” figured out — well, depending on your point of view.

Despite the Feb. 15, enrollment deadline for President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation, also known officially as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Tate has decided he is not going to sign up.

He believes particular mandates incorporated within the law have caused the cost of insurance to skyrocket for the young. “Why should I get it?” he asks. “The fine for not getting it is only $95.”

He expresses frustration with what he feels are health care procedures that are outrageously overpriced. “Right now I pay out of pocket. If anything catastrophic happens I can always sign up on my parent’s health plan,” Tate said.

Since Tate knows he can no longer be singled-out for pre-existing health conditions, he has calculated his financial options, “For now, I’d rather pay out-of-pocket,” he said.

Danielle Neal, 20, a business major at PCC isn’t too worried about insurance right now. Fortunately, she’s under the umbrella of her parent’s insurance plan until she turns 26. She is certain she will obtain her own insurance independently or through her workplace in the future.

She states she realizes the importance of health coverage and knows she will always have it. “You never know,” she says.

It is difficult to understand that under the current U.S. health care system it is possible to be forced into bankruptcy and to spend your life savings on paying for treatment for a disease or a condition that is simply out of your control.

Director of Provider Outreach in the Department of U.S. Health and Human Services, Matt Heinz, has advice for Pima students.

“Like education, health insurance is an important investment we must make for the future so that we can live long healthy and productive lives without fear of financial ruin from an unexpected injury or illness,” he said.

The subject of health care, primarily the Affordable Care Act, is a complex issue.

Creating a health care system for a country where health care has long been a choice is not only a complicated journey for some of the world’s brightest health care consultants, but it’s also a very upsetting task for those enrolling in the program itself.

With that being said, it will definitely take time to work out the imperfections. And while there may be much criticism along the way, Americans must realize that insurance works best when everybody has it.

In a broader context, the act has led to a robust discussion of the “right vs. privilege” debate in health care.

Should every American be afforded the right to health care and insurance coverage? Or, is it a privilege afforded only to those that have the means to pay for insurance or the treatments?

An argument can be made that much of the overall health of any one individual is determined genetically and out of their control. Other diseases or conditions may be influenced by environmental factors under the control of the individual, for instance, diet, smoking habits or


Not surprisingly, despite “affordable” being in the title of the act, most of the discussion on the benefits of Obamacare have centered on the increased access to health care. A number of provisions in the Act expressly improve access for millions of Americans.

ACA addresses the access and affordability of health care in numerous ways as previously discussed, but “What does it do for the overall cost of health care?” After all, part of the reason for enacting the ACA was to address the increasing costs of care and to “bend the cost


One of the reasons for our increasingly expensive health care is related to the way in which we pay our doctors and hospitals for the services they provide.

Compared to other developed countries we don’t visit the doctor more. It just costs us more.

In Germany for instance, people visit the doctor an average of 9.7 times per year compared to 4.1 per year in the U.S.

Currently, there is little concern in the present system for the quality of care and outcome each of these services provide. However, the ACA seeks to “bend the cost curve” by using pilot programs in Medicare that pay doctors and hospitals for the quality of the care they provide


than the quantity of services.

Health care provider structures, such as accountable care organizations, or ACOs, bring together physicians, hospitals and insurance companies in arrangements that encourage shared accountability for the cost and quality of care.

The rationale for providing no out of pocket costs for many preventive services is also intended to decrease the nation’s overall health care spend. Accessing and using more preventive screenings is intended to nip in the bud many costly diseases and the resulting use of health

care resources.

“Taking preventive measures to insure the proper protection of our bodies is really the way to go,” said Health Net Pharmacy Services Vice-President Scott Wert. “The American Southwest is second in the world for malignant melanoma and many Southern Arizona transplants of

northern European descent do not take preventive measures with sunscreen.”

Remember, preventive measures, certain cancer screening and colonoscopies are also examples of services intended to improve the lives of Americans, and reduce our overall health care costs.

The deadline for this open enrollment period is Feb. 15.

Pg07-David Todirita

David Todirita David Todirita: He’s currently on his parent’s health plan. ACA is not a priority, but he recognizes its importance. He says he’s only been to the hospital maybe five times in his life.

Pg07-Danielle Neal

Danielle Neal: She is under her parents’ insurance coverage until she’s 26. She plans on obtaining her own insurance after she no longer qualifies for her parent’s coverage.


Tucson, U.S. need the A-10

Tucson, U.S. need the A-10


We’ve all seen them in the sky: pairs of fighter planes orbiting Tucson’s airspace. They are A-10 Thunderbolts, also known as “Warthogs.”

They will be gone soon if some in the military have their way. The Pentagon is trying to retire the A-10 and replace it with the ultra-modern F-35 Lightning.

Retirement a bad idea

That would be a terrible mistake with potentially dire consequences, not only for us in Southern Arizona but for our ground troops deployed throughout the world.

The 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base contains a large percentage of the country’s A-10 forces, and most of the plane’s pilots train in Tucson.

The A-10 was introduced in 1977 as a ground-attack aircraft to support troops in combat. Its primary weapon is a seven-barreled, 30mm rotary cannon that can fire almost 4,000 rounds per minute. It can also carry a wide array of bombs and missiles.

It has two primary jobs: to kill tanks and to provide air support for troops on the ground.

Providing accurate, close air support requires an aircraft to go low and slow, which makes it vulnerable to attack by enemy anti-aircraft units.

Plane does its job well

To protect it from enemy fire, the A-10’s cockpit and vital control systems are encased in a “titanium bathtub” that can withstand direct hits from 57mm artillery.

The plane also has two engines and many redundant systems to make it hard to shoot down. It is probably the most durable combat aircraft in the world.

The A-10 is also incredibly good at its job.It wreaked unimaginable havoc on Saddam Hussein’s armored units in 1991 during the first Gulf War, and saved countless American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror. The Taliban is terrified of it.

“It’s a game-changer” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell has said. “It’s ugly, it’s loud, but when it comes in and you hear that ‘bvvrr’, it just makes a difference.”

Economic impact on Tucson

Production of the A-10 ceased in 1984, and the fleet is getting old.

This has led many in the Pentagon to advocate for its retirement. Its combat role would be filled by the F-35 Lightning, a multi-purpose aircraft.

Plans were made to cut funding for the A-10s after 2014. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated $338 million in July to fund the program through 2015.

This might only be a temporary reprieve. The A-10 program is still very much in jeopardy of being dismantled.

If the A-10 fleet is retired, the primary function of Davis-Monthan would be eliminated. That would make the base an easy target in the next round of Pentagon base closures.

Davis-Monthan generates about $1.1 billion in economic impact in the Tucson-area, according to a 2013 report issued by the base. It employs about 10,000 people, including almost 3,000 civilians, making it Tucson’s third largest employer.

The loss of the A-10 program would have a severe impact on Tucson’s economy. The loss of Davis-Monthan altogether could be devastating.

F-35 can’t fill same role

That might not be a good enough reason for our military to keep the Warthog around, but its importance to our ground troops should be.

The high-tech F-35 program is hyper-expensive, costing more than $400 billion to date. The eventual cost will be roughly $185 million per plane.

The F-35 has also been plagued by technical problems. An engine fire in June prevented its international debut at the prestigious Farnborough Air Show in July.

Even after all the issues are eventually solved, the notion of the F-35 filling the A-10’s close support role remains laughable.

The A-10 is effective because of its ability to go low and slow enough to tell friend from foe, and to linger over the battlefield for periods of time.

The F-35 can’t go slow enough to identify friendly units, will not be durable enough to withstand anti-aircraft fire and will not have the loitering capability of the Hogs.

History repeats itself

It would be easier to believe the F-35 backers if our military didn’t have a long history of trying to prematurely retire effective weapons and tactics. One prominent example is the .45 caliber pistol.

During the Spanish American War of 1898, the U.S. Army determined that its .38 caliber pistols lacked adequate stopping power to deal with determined opponents. This led to design of the .45 ACP round and the 1911 Colt .45 pistol, versions of which were used until the 1980s.

That weapon was then replaced by a 9mm sidearm. The 9mm round is basically the same as the .38. Almost immediately after invading Iraq in 2003, our troops realized that the 9mm lacked sufficient stopping power and tried to get their hands on .45s.

If only someone had figured that out 100 years before. Oh, that’s right, they did.

The Pentagon has a rich tradition of such mistakes. Retiring the A-10 is one mistake that neither our city nor our armed forces can afford.


Aztec Press photo illustration by Nick Meyers

Blame the shooter, not weapon

Blame the shooter, not weapon


People have a tendency to blame an inanimate object for tragic killings such as the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings or the 2011 Tucson massacre in by Jared Loughner.

We are taught that guns are dangerous to us and everybody around. Some government officials are fighting to get guns under control.

But we as a society must understand that the person pulling the trigger is the real danger.

Human beings are born with a sinful nature. It doesn’t matter what weapon they use when they harm others.

Knife attacks

Guns aren’t even used in many cases of violence. Instead, weapons like knifes cause the harm.

A 16-year-old went on a knifing rampage April 9 at a high school in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He hurt 21 students and a security guard.

“The rampage came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings,” KWY-TV said.

The station said the Murrysville school was prepared for attacks with firearms but not weapons like knifes.

Gun enthusiasts

My sisters and I grew up in a house full of guns, with a father who is a gun enthusiast.

Each of us shot our first rifle at age 8 and our first handgun at age 11. Our father taught us to use them recreationally for hunting and target practice only.

With close guidance, we learned to handle firearms properly. Our lessons included how to control weapons, what not to aim at  and what not to do.

We were taught to respect the weapons, but also to fear them because they are dangerous in the wrong hands.

Once we learned how to handle shotguns and semi-automatic handguns, we lost the fear we had when we were introduced to the weapons.

Mental illness

In some cases, the person who commits violent attacks against people is dealing with mental issues. People with a mental illness may act in irrational ways, which can lead to heinous crimes.

Shooters who suffered from mental illness include Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon; John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan, and Robert John Bardo, who killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to foresee an attack on others when mental illness consumes the mind of the gun holder.

Some researchers argue that mentally ill people are not at high risk for violence.

Shannon Frattaroli, Ph.D., says people with mental illness are responsible for only about 4 percent of the violence in society.

In an article, “Guns, Public Health and Mental Illness: An Evidence Based Approach for State Policy,” Frattaroli outlines steps states can take to keep guns out of the hands of people who are at an elevated risk for violence and suicide.

She says her plan also respects the rights of people with mental illness.

Instead of banning guns, we must make sure that people can safely handle weapons. This would keep mentally ill people safe from themselves and help protect everyone else.

Banning guns

Strict gun laws have not prevented high gun violence crime rates in some cities across America. Examples include Chicago and Washington D.C.

James D. Agresti argues on his website “Just Facts: Gun Control” that a ban on handguns increases the murder rate.

“During the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law was in effect, the Washington D.C. murder rate averaged 73 percent higher than it was at the outset of the law,” Agresti writes.

The same thing happened in the Windy City.

“Since the outset of the Chicago handgun ban, the percentage of Chicago murders committed with handguns has averaged about 40 percent higher than it was before the law took effect,” Agresti said.


The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. We have a right to protect ourselves from criminals who don’t follow the law.

In the end, the most dangerous element in our society is people themselves, not the weapons we make to hunt or protect ourselves.

We as a society must understand that people are unpredictable. Blaming an inanimate object will not prevent violent crimes. Remember that old saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”


(Aztec Press illistration by Larry Gaurano)

Cannabis shows economic, medicinal promise

Cannabis shows economic, medicinal promise


Green is the color of progress, but it’s marijuana not money that is ushering in change.

Marijuana may provide tomorrow’s medicine of choice for those with chronic illness, and the economic change that Arizona needs to turn a new leaf.

America has a sordid past with cannabis.

When the United States was a much younger country, farmers were encouraged to plant hemp for production of cloth and other material. Marijuana was a staple trade plant during the Civil War era and a respected medicine during the Industrial Age.

However, it was mysteriously outlawed in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act.

Today, as Colorado and Washington experiment with legal regulation, cannabis shows promise as both a growing economic venture and as a medicinal treatment.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have emerged in more than 20 states, and physician-journalists like Sanjay Gupta have explored the plant’s medicinal benefits.

Though the legality and effectiveness of medicinal treatment remain under a political microscope, some patients consider marijuana an alternative to prescription drugs.

Highly debated points include health factors and side effects.

Many people opposed to marijuana think long-term effects should be considered before society takes steps to formally regulate cannabis for the masses.

The American Medical Association took an avid stance against medical marijuana in 2013, saying cannabis is a dangerous drug and a public health concern. The AMA opposes legalizing the sale of cannabis.

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, chair-elect of the AMA, believes hard science will prevail over frivolity.
“We can only hope that the public will listen to science – not ‘big marijuana’ interests who stand to gain millions of dollars from increased addiction rates,” Gitlow said in a news article.

In Arizona, medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. Patients can obtain treatment through a doctor’s recommendation and a state fee of $150. Tucson has 10 medical marijuana dispensaries.
Many patients turn to the Downtown Dispensary, where manager Michelle Sweetapple, 29, is proud to be an advocate of legal weed.

“It’s harder to come off of pharmaceuticals, and they have a longer term effect on your body,” Sweetapple said. “The difference is you can’t overdose on marijuana. You would pass out before that could even happen.”

An article posted on an addiction website,, also says no one in the United States has ever overdosed with cannabis alone.

Debate over medical marijuana includes discussion of the long-term effects of prescription medicine. Having been diagnosed with Crohn’s syndrome, an inflammatory bowel disease, I can tell you first-hand that relief and treatment is limited.

Legal treatments include the prescription medication Humira. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Humira can cause respiratory infection. In extreme cases, it may cause sepsis or cancer.

Many states have approved the use of cannabis as an alternative for treating Crohn’s and other serious diseases.

Side effects may include light-headedness, euphoria and a case of the munchies.

Granted, pharmaceutical companies would have stiffer competition if cannabis treatment were legal, but is that reason enough to hold off on legalization?

A 35-year-old Pima Community College game design student who calls himself Aaron doesn’t think so.
Aaron suffers from ailments like neuropathy and venous reflex disease, which affect the function of nerves and lower body blood flow. Aaron has been a certified medical cannabis patient for three years in Arizona.

“I’ve been educated in the use of marijuana medically for a while now and I self-medicated before it was legal,” Aaron said.

“I went to get my first certification in California after I had to have a vein removed,” he said.
“In California, it’s easier to get a card and sometimes it’s frivolous, but the doctor said I had to get one.”

Aaron believes marijuana will be legalized soon because of the shift in perception of cannabis for medical treatments.

Back at Downtown Dispensary, Sweetapple said her patients can range in age from 7 to 90. They seek treatment for numerous conditions.

“Everyone’s here for a different reason,” Sweetapple said. “You have recreational smokers and people who medicate themselves. You have people who have never touched it in their lives who literally just use it for medicinal purposes.”

With a history of bad policy-making and debacles like Senate bills 1070 and 1062, medical marijuana is the only progressive action Arizona has going for it.

Some may argue it’s a seed worth looking after.


Just how much is a degree worth?

Just how much is a degree worth?


Census data analysis shows the growing value of a college education despite rising tuition costs, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

The earnings gap between young college graduates and those with a high school diploma is at its highest level in 50 years, according to the report.

College graduates ages 25 to 32 who work full time earn about $17,500 more per year than employed young adults with a high school diploma, according to the analysis. The pay gap was much smaller in previous generations.

The college graduates are also more likely to be employed full time (89 percent versus 82 percent) and are much less likely to be unemployed (3.8 percent versus 12.2 percent).

A worthwhile investment

College graduates are also more satisfied with their jobs.

“Employed college graduates are more likely than their peers with a high school diploma to say their job is a career or a stepping stone to a career (86 percent vs. 57 percent),” the study found.

“Those with a high school diploma are about three times as likely as college graduates to say their work is ‘just a job to get by’ (42 percent vs. 14 percent).”

C.J. Karamargin, Pima Community College’s vice chancellor for public information, said the study shows that higher education can be valuable.

“A college education is a worthwhile investment – it’s an investment in yourself, it’s an investment in your future, it’s an investment that will pay you significant long-term dividends,” he said.

“Life doesn’t have many sure bets but this sure comes close,” Karamargin added. “You are more likely to get a well-paying and satisfying job if you have a college degree.”

Paving way to career

Recent PCC graduate David Patrusevich said he could not have expanded his career opportunities in biology without a college education.

Patrusevich said his degree paved the way to a career in his chosen field.

Matthew Gautrex, a PCC student and Air Force airman, said it’s essential to have more than a high school education.

“Education is the key, it opens more doors, more choices,” Gautrex said. “Lack thereof leaves you empty handed.”

Best-educated generation

In today’s work force, a bachelor’s degree is almost required for a stable career.

This is a significant increase in the amount of education needed compared to previous generations.

“Today’s millennials are the best-educated generation in history; fully a third (34 percent) have at least a bachelor’s degree,” the Pew study said.

In contrast, only 13 percent of people ages 25-32 in 1965 had a college education, according to the study.

At the same time the share of college graduates has grown and the value of their degree has increased, the study said.

Finding a sustainable career depends both on the education students have and on the field of study.

The Pew study says an engineering or science degree is most beneficial.

“According to the survey, only a quarter of science and engineering majors regretted their decision (24 percent),” Pew Research said.

“This compared with 33 percent of those whose degree is in social science, liberal arts or education.”

The need for more science and engineering majors is also high, which creates more career opportunities.

PCC nursing student Calli Stoeckman said being a science major led to more prospects.

“I believe having a science degree opens more doors,” Stoeckman said. “For example, I’m going into nursing. There are several kinds of nurses and I can specialize.”

Like science majors, engineering students have more opportunities available to them in their work field.

An article by Rebecca VanderMeulen titled “What Can You Do with an Engineering Major?” discussed the opportunities a degree provides.

“They expect a large number of opportunities for aerospace engineers and engineers focused on transportation and health care,” VanderMeulen said. “Environmentalism is sure to drive the demand as well.”

Former Pima student Mike O’Malley said the amount of work students put into their education is as important as how much education they have.

“My education isn’t about just dates and facts, it’s about hard deadlines with real consequences,” O’Malley said. “It’s also about managing my time and being self-motivated, no matter what’s going on.”

Seek ways to reduce costs

Karamargin cited a need to reduce the high cost of education.

“In our brutally competitive 21st century global economy, when the need for a well-educated workforce is greater than it ever has been, we need to figure out a way to confront the economic barriers to higher education,” Karamargin said.

“The best education system in the world is useless if students don’t have access to it.”

Read the full Pew report at:

Freedom fights from Kiev to Caracas

Freedom fights from Kiev to Caracas


I woke up today feeling aware of the world, and I noticed that it has begun to spin more and more erratically while we stand at the precipice of unease with revolutions and conquest.

Fires light city squares, barricades line the streets as men with guns march steadily towards those who believe in change, citizens in Kiev and Caracas wonder what tomorrow will bring, struggling for a semblance of order and prosperity.

People of Kiev fight for reform and behind the scenes Russia and the U.S. make power plays to coax the Ukraine into their ideologies. This seems eerily reminiscent of a Cold War-like strategy that both employed through out the world to expand territory through foreign governments.

For those who don’t know think back on the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Russia’s in Afghanistan, both examples of proxy war.

It seems like a proxy war is on the world’s horizon. Though there is difference in landscape both countries tread today.

Unlike the old Cold War, Russia hasn’t found a strong enough ideology to grasp in order to reach its former red glory. While the arms race happened back then, the Olympics in Sochi has shown the world that the country is still not up to par economically.

Some have said that Putin has a Soviet re-Union in mind and with recent developments one would be hard-pressed to agree.

Given our history with Russia, we are at a certain disadvantage in dealing with the Ukrainian situation. This dilemma mimics that of Germany during the years of its division between east and west. Some of the population is asking the U.S. for aid, while others still maintain their strong Russian ties.

Tension is rising as Viktor Yanukovych was finally toppled, but recently Russia has sent armed troops into the Crimean border to bring order, according to Putin.

“It will be legitimate and correspond to international law because we have a direct request from a legitimate president and it corresponds to our interests in protecting people who are close to us,” Putin said in a press conference.

In a video clip released by CNN, a single unarmed Ukrainian officer approaches Russian forces and was greeted with rifles and an aggressive tone as he neared.

So far Russian forces have invaded 10 military bases and have deployed warships in Crimea.

Mounting troops in that magnitude and asking the Ukrainian army to lay down their weapons, sounds much more like a large-scale offensive than anything else. Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N. said that Russia has overrun the country with nearly 16,000 troops and though both countries claim to discourage war, tensions are extremely palpable.

Secretary of State, John Kerry, traveled to Independence Square in Kiev to observe the tragedy that befell it. The western powers threaten Russia with sanctions but they show little signs of backing down and trouble brews closer to home.

In Venezuela, Presidenté Nicolás Maduro sends scores of police to contain student protestors who are fed up with the lack of necessary commodities to live. Maduro has scorned the protestors as coup-mongers, though his opposition Leopoldo Lopez seeks only to make him step down via legal means.

Lopez is a Harvard educated ex-mayor of one of the districts of Caracas.

In a testament to his resolve, Lopez surrendered himself to the Venezuelan government on Feb. 18 on alleged murder charges by the government for those who have died protests.

“We are going through a dark period, where thieves are rewarded by the government. The Venezuelans who want peaceful change in accordance with democracy and the constitution are being imprisoned,” Lopez said during a protest.

The protestors, comprised mostly of college students, say the government is corrupt and does little reduce the gargantuan crime rate, and the economy is crumbling before them with shortages of flour and even staples such as toilet paper.

Venezuelans are silenced as Maduro has diabled the citizens use of social media. People of the country cannot upload photos or video, Maduro explained to CNN that this was due to a “connection problem” that began in northern Venezuela and affected the country.

Revolution, it is indeed a proper word.

The world is spinning and we turn with it, these countries may be in far away lands but they make me think if we will ever rise from our conformity.

Economic crisis, social discord and the proverbial Big Brother not letting us escape his glance. When will we have enough?

Pg07-Warm War illustration

Aztec Press illustration by Rachel White

Local pizzeria takes a stand

Local pizzeria takes a stand


Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria, on East Broadway Boulevard at Sawtelle Avenue, showed its opposition to SB 1062 with a sign.

The now-famous poster reads “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Arizona Legislators.”

It mocks SB 1062 by claiming a right to refuse service to Arizona lawmakers, such as bill sponsor Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.

The sign was created and submitted via Facebook by customer Barbie Donovan. After owner Rocco DiGrazia printed and displayed the sign, it gathered more than 20,000 “likes” on Facebook and received national media exposure.

Though DiGrazia is no longer speaking to press, he told Time magazine that he has regular customers and staff who would have been affected by SB 1062.

“Why discriminate against anybody? I’m just trying to make some food,” he said.

The sign continues to hang on Rocco’s storefront, in the upper corner of the shop’s door.

Pg07-Poster-Serving legislators

Aztec Press photo illustration by
Jayden Becker-Norman