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MY TUCSON: Learning from difficult times

MY TUCSON: Learning from difficult times


Every time I think of Tucson I have mixed feelings, but more than anything I have mixed feelings about the University of Arizona.

I was born and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. My family and I moved to the United States on the day I turned 14.

It was very difficult for me to adapt to a new country with a different culture, odd food and a new language. I remember having to ask for interpretation from students to use the restroom.

I was placed in English as a Second Language classes in high school, and had to learn the ABCs and kindergarten songs such as “Head and Shoulder, Knees and Toes.” It was pretty embarrassing and degrading.

After that, I decided to do my best in learning the language so that I would never be embarrassed again. I went from ESL classes to regular English classes to AP English and literature.

I graduated in the top 25 of my high school class. Of the 500 people in my class, 40 of us went on to a university.

UA provided a full scholarship that paid for tuition and books for my four years of education. The scholarship also included a laptop, a printer and an iPod. I was set.

Two years later, I became depressed and my life went downhill from there. I failed two whole semesters and was disqualified from the UA. I began attending Pima Community College, and hid the truth from my parents.

I finally had to tell my parents after a year of lying about my academic situation. They were surprisingly understanding and told me they would support me in everything I do.

It took counselors and medicine, plus love and support from family and friends, to get out of that hole I was in. It hasn’t been easy but I am pulling myself up little by little.

As my thirst for improvement and success continues, I have taken most of the writing classes offered at Pima and am now taking the journalism classes.

I am doing so much better, and am now in training for my dream job as a Spanish interpreter for Cyracom. I will move to Flagstaff next semester to finish my education and graduate, finally.

Even when my experience in Tucson has been bittersweet, I have met wonderful people. I’ve also learned a lot about life, what independence is all about and how to overcome obstacles.

After this adversity, I feel ready to face anything. Thank you Tucson for all of the learning and the good times.



MY TUCSON: UA pep band, an incredible experience

MY TUCSON: UA pep band, an incredible experience


Last fall, I auditioned to be a member of the University of Arizona pep band. I decided to give it a shot even though just 52 musicians from the 250 members of UA’s full marching band are selected.

My audition didn’t go as well as I hoped, but I ended up making the cut.

Since then, I’ve balanced my dual enrollment at Pima Community College and UA with participation in the pep band.

It’s been a great honor, a fun experience and a tremendous privilege.

As fun as pep band is, however, it’s a very challenging chore. We face agonizing challenges and bitter defeats.

But when we stand to play the “Bear Down” fight song that everyone is so crazy about, we remember why we’re there.

Pep band members are expected to be a positive reflection of the school’s spirit and student life. We must cheer on the team and the crowd, and participate in various fundraisers and events.

Early in the year, we played at women’s volleyball and basketball games. I didn’t have any interest in these sports previously, but ended up respecting them and the athletes for their hard work.

Next came what everyone signs up for – men’s basketball.

Playing at men’s games is a more daunting task than any other sport.

Yes, you get into the games for free, but you are not just a spectator. You are part of the show. You stand, cheer and play your best the entire game. After all, you are heard in households across the nation.

If the team loses, you don’t get to yell and pout. You must show respect to your team and the other school for their efforts.

The music played is incredibly important. For alumni, it is pure nostalgia from their glory days. For the new kids, it starts a tradition.

Just 29 members of the pep band ensemble get to travel on road games. It takes seniority or incredible talent to go on the big trips, such as the Final Four.

If we’re selected for a road trip, we are expected to display the same energy whether it is the Elite Eight or the first game of the women’s PAC-12 tournament.

This year I traveled to places such as Seattle and Las Vegas, and got entire days to hang out with friends.

I got to ride with the men’s basketball team in a private jet and even stayed in the same hotel as them. It was a common occurrence to run into players around the hotel.

On one trip, I rode up an elevator with sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski, who used to be in band and play drums.

Being around your “idols” so much reminds you that they are normal people, just like you and me.

The tournament environment is an unforgettable experience, with hostile fans, crazy games and wins or losses decided by split-second decisions and buzzer-beating shots.

The Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin was the hardest loss of them all. Our season was cut short just one field goal away from the Final Four.

How did we react? While some fans rioted in Tucson, we kept our heads high with pride and appreciated the magical season the team had given us.

Whether the camera is on us or not, we always have one hand in the air to proudly form the number one. When the clock hits zero, win or lose, we put our warm instruments up to our face and play “Bear Down.”

Pg05-My Tucson-Will-Pep Band

Nellie Silva/Aztec Press
Will Willcoxson, who is dual-enrolled at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, proudly wears his UA Pep Band T-shirt

Occupy: A movement for the people

Occupy: A movement for the people


It looks as though the deepening economic crisis may have put a dent in American apathy.

Spurred by rebellions across the Middle East and Europe last spring, the falling dominos have reached our doorstep. Finally, we can get a piece of some good old-fashioned civil disobedience.

On Sept. 17, citizens in New York City officially waged an occupation of Wall Street. They descended in a mass of thousands and planted roots in the concrete of the United States’ largest financial district.

They remain entrenched and have been joined in action by thousands more in cities across the country.

Banks, federal buildings, public parks and plazas are being occupied by protestors willing to brave the elements and risk arrest to get their point across.

The collective voice of the people wants to be heard. We will no longer support a government that economically favors the richest 1 percent of the population.

The unjust and outright criminal practices of financial institutions cannot be tolerated. We will not idly watch our futures sneak away as war agendas and corporate predators drain the national budget into obscurity.

Financial terrorists have hijacked the economy. Our hard-won democracy has been commandeered by corporate greed and crooked politics. We demand accountability for these acts against the American people.

News of the Occupy movement has been largely ignored by the mainstream media in a blatant display of allegiance to the corrupt financial moguls who the demonstrators are opposing.

They only slow the inevitable. News of the uprising has gone viral on social networks. Multiple websites are streaming live 24-hour footage protestors’ activities. Technology has made the revolution possible.

In the traditions of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Occupy protesters are absolute in their commitment to non-violent resistance. We will not fight; we simply will not go away.

Local citizens have organized to show their support. Occupy Tucson will begin its official occupation of downtown’s financial district Oct. 15 at Veinte de Agosto Park. Working groups have been active for weeks preparing for an indefinite stay.

Like similar groups nationwide, we do not represent any particular social faction. Rather, swelling discontent has brought Americans of all walks and talks under the same umbrella.

Never have we had so much in common.

Guest essayist Karyn Walliker is a student at Pima Community College.

Demonstrators in the Occupy Tucson movement use signs to state their views. The protesters gather peacefully and pledge not to use violence.

Spectators gather in Viente de Agosto Park downtown to learn more about Occupy Tucson. The park is located near many of Tucson's major government buildings.

City provides place to heal

City provides place to heal


I love Tucson. In many ways, the city has represented a second chance at life for me.

Like many people, I have had a hard life. My family life was unstable, my education was incomplete and I did not have supportive social relationships.

I led a very self-destructive lifestyle until I was 27. I used to party pretty hard. I used to drink and do drugs.

I did not have coping skills to communicate my feelings in healthy, intelligent ways. I was depressed.

In the same year, I left an abusive relationship, was kicked out of my house by unsupportive friends and experienced major financial hardship.

On New Year’s Day 2008, I tried to kill myself. When I did not succeed, I jumped off an overpass.

Because of hypothermia, I did not bleed to death. I awoke in a hospital with half my body broken, including my pelvis. I had many surgeries and had to learn how to walk again.

My family reconnected with me, and we went through counseling therapy as well as traditional Native American healing ceremonies. It was a transformative experience.

I have healed in Tucson. Although I have had some setbacks, like a recent experience with racism perpetuated by my ex-boyfriend, nothing really bothers me anymore.

Competent, compassionate, resourceful professionals at San Xavier have provided awe-inspiring health care.

Treatment and services I received from COPE have allowed me to sleep soundly every night for a year, which was not possible for years because of insomnia.

Instructors in the writing program at Pima Community College continue to work with me despite difficulties with my learning disability. Their insistent belief in my writing abilities keeps me studious.

My strong network of female friends and two male friends has helped me reestablish trust in people. Finally, I am in a healthy, loving, relationship with a good person who treats me respectfully.

I have my family and an array of community I depend on. I hike, run, do yoga, meditate, cook and enjoy life again.

When life is overwhelming, all I have to do is look up at the Rincon and Catalina mountains, wait for a beautiful sunset or walk through my neighborhood. It helps me remember that I am home and I have a purpose.

Now happy and healthy, Elliot smiles brightly while attending classes.

MY TUCSON:  From the lights of New York City to dark skies

MY TUCSON: From the lights of New York City to dark skies


New York was the only place I had ever known. The cracked sidewalks, the crunch of freshly fallen leafs, the Tudor-style houses that lined my neighborhood. It was all home.

I grew up in Westchester, 23 miles north of New York City. I used to take the train and visit my dad at work in the city.

He would take me to a little bagel place near the university where he taught. Plain bagel toasted, chocolate milk. We’d stroll near Lincoln Center and I’d stare in admiration at all the ballerinas walking around. At these moments, I was truly happy.

I was in sixth grade in 2001 when my parents told me we were moving to Arizona. The Sept. 11 tragedy had just occurred, and they felt it was time to leave. New York was not New York anymore.

We first moved to a house in Scottsdale, where I resided for three years. When I turned 14, my parents decided to move again, this time to Tucson. I couldn’t have been more annoyed.

To me, Tucson was nothing. I had only visited a few times and it seemed, for lack of a better word, boring.

I started my sophomore year of high school at Catalina Foothills. I remember how nervous I was, my head hung low. All I could think was, “get me out of here.”

At first, I didn’t appreciate Tucson’s beauty. Only the negatives stuck in my head, such as the ugliness of Speedway Boulevard. And why wasn’t there a Nordstrom department store? (Seriously?!)

In recent years, I’ve recognized Tucson’s beauty. The smell in the air right before a monsoon, those famous Tucson sunsets that always require a mobile upload to Facebook.

I now have new moments when I’m filled with utter contentment, especially whenever I drive the curved roads of Campbell Avenue, windows down, music blaring and the mountains as my backdrop.

It may not be Lincoln Center, but for now I’m more than OK with Tucson being my home.

Chloe stands next to her twin brother, David, in her native New York.

MY TUCSON:  Learning to feel at home in the arid Southwest

MY TUCSON: Learning to feel at home in the arid Southwest

Herd at 29 works as an outrider.


 I was 28 the first time I came to Tucson. I was working as the ranch foreman and guide at a “dude ranch” in the mountains of Colorado. A friend, who was a guide and wrangler, and I were tired of the snow so we came south looking for work.

 Vision Quest, a national program for adjudicated youth that is based in Tucson, hired me. I worked on a wagon train, teaching horsemanship and animal care. I also taught groups of young men how to break wild mustangs.

 After four years of wagon train trips and adventures around the western United States, I returned to Colorado. Three years later, I came back to the deserts of Tucson with a wife and children.

 This time I worked in the copper mines for several years before going to night classes at Pima Community College to learn the air conditioning trade.

After a couple of semesters at Downtown Campus, I started a commercial refrigeration company while learning to love Tucson and the beauty of the desert southwest.

 I have spent the last 25 years riding horses and bikes on pine- and saguaro-covered mountains. I’ve had family vacations boating and fishing in beautiful lakes, and enjoyed the magnificent sunsets and clear night skies for which Arizona is famous.

When I want the advantages of “big city life,” Tucson provides me with some of the most creative chefs in the state. I can dine on a variety of cuisines and attend concerts, shows and festivals.

 Traveling around the world has shown me many countries, each with unique cities and towns. Each location offers its own beauty. I like living in the Tucson area because it has a diversity of cultures and the beautiful Sonoran desert.

 When a person leaves the asphalt, the southwest has wonderful sights to share. People from all over the United States have visited Tucson, if only for the winter months.

We stay because Tucson has become our home.

Herd at age 29 works as an outrider.

Herd, 57, still rides dirt bikes. This photo was taken on a New Year's Day Outing with his daughters.