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Artist’s difficult life won’t define her

Artist’s difficult life won’t define her


Call Pima Community College student Montessa White an artistic Cinderella. “I’m a creative, ambitious person — I like to think at least,” White said. “I think I’m pretty smart and I want to do what I want to do. I have a lot of dreams and passions and I’m trying to pursue that. I’m a dreamer.”

Montessa White puts finishing touches on a sketch at the West Campus Library.
Erik Medina / Aztec Press

White was born on June 14, which makes her a Gemini. Although White does not pay much attention to astrology, she believes Gemini actually does describe who she is.

“I can be two different people,” she said. “I can be smart and nice Montessa or really mean Montessa.”

White is originally from southern California, mainly the Yorba Linda and Placentia areas.

White didn’t grow up in an average family. She was raised by her mother after her mother and father separated. White’s mother left for California and her father stayed in Arizona.

“It’s complicated, I know,” she said.

White didn’t have a “happy-go-lucky” life as a child. She constantly movedaround and was homeless at one point.

“I was sleeping next to mailboxes with my mom’s jean jacket wrapped around me,” she said.

However, White said she doesn’t let that define her. She strives for the best, despite her struggles in life.

White can recall one moment she classifies as happy: the moment she met her stepfather.

“My life flipped upside down, like the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’” she said. “We were in a really bad situation and then we moved into a nice household.”

“Goddess” by Montessa White

Eventually White moved to Oro Valley to live with her father, and attended Ironwood Ridge High School.

White’s years of moving around meant she missed a lot of high school between her freshman and sophomore years.

She had to scramble to make up missing credits needed to graduate.

“Everyone was bitching about their classes,” she said. “I had a full schedule, plus online classes. Twice as many classes.

It was hell.”

White completed high school with top grades, and graduated on time.

At PCC, White is majoring in digital art with a concentration in illustration. She is also looking into animation classes.

Besides attending school, White works as a student aide at the West Campus library. She works along Christine Seliga,

a library service specialist who has known White since August.

Seliga describes White as a creative and conscientious person.

“She’s got amazing skills with drawing and coming up with concepts for her design class,” Seliga said. “Montessa has

some visions that other people don’t have. She’s got some talents.”

Like many artists, White started drawing at a young age.

“My mom actually told me she would find my sketches on the toilet paper while using the bathroom,” she said.

Her go-to supply is a pencil. She does have other instruments for drawing but likes to stick to the basics.

White doesn’t draw inspiration from any famous artists.

“Inner Beauty” by Montessa White

“I actually don’t look towards famous artists,” she said. “I think their work is cool. I like looking at it sometimes, but I don’t care.”

White does relate to animator Tim Burton. They do not draw or create similar pieces, but she thinks they share similar art styles.

White can’t put a name to her style. She mainly draws people but tweaks them.

She also creates feminist art, which she defines as women drawing women.

Her post-Pima plans include finding a good school with digital art and animation programs, possibly in California.

She would enjoy any job related to full-length or short films, but would especially like to work on storyboards by helping with characters or background art.

Her dream job would be working as a storyboard artist at Disney.

In fact, Disney has been a very important part of White’s difficult life. Disney movies taught her life lessons such as to have courage and to follow her dreams.

If she could be in any Disney movie, White said she’d be in either “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella.”

“Cinderella is my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m like Belle and a little like Jasmine because Jasmine is fierce and fire. I can actually see myself in any movie.”

Instructor walks her way to empathy

Instructor walks her way to empathy


Laura Milkins, a Pima Community College art instructor, has completed two “walking projects” and hosts a radio show.

The walking projects started with her realizing that she didn’t walk anywhere in Tucson because she lived in what was considered a bad neighborhood.

She had the idea to walk everywhere she went in town, but added, “What if everybody I came across, I’d ask them to walk with me and share a story?”

After she had walked in Tucson for a while, a friend and mentor suggested she try it in Mexico City. Milkins applied for and received a grant to fund the project.



Beginning on April 21, 2009, Milkins walked Avenida de los Insurgentes, an avenue that runs north and south in the center of Mexico City. She compared it to walking Broadway in New York City.

Milkins would only walk if somebody walked with her and told a story, and each night she blogged about the stories.

Soon after she began the project, the swine flu broke out in Mexico City. “I watched the whole city shut down,” Milkins said.

Nevertheless, Milkins managed to walk with 60 people. She was interviewed on national radio, and a newspaper from her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, wrote a front-page article on herself and her project.

The article discussed the United States’ relationship with Mexico and whether Americans could become good neighbors.

“I want to go trust Mexico,” Milkins said.

The project made her think about the United States, and how “we have this idea that we live in a dangerous country.”

She disagrees. “The only thing that makes it dangerous is fear,” she said.

Milkins set out to prove that if you get to know and meet people, you will actually live in a safe place. “I think it’s a mindset,” she said.

With that, she decided to walk from Tucson to Grand Rapids.



Beginning May 1, 2011, Milkins recorded the 2,007-mile walk from Tucson on a live webcam 24 hours a day.

Milkins Skyped weekly with videographers to make short episodes recounting her week. The episodes can be found on YouTube.

She stayed the nights with people she met through community organizations. Milkins did so because she couldn’t tell who a person is on the Internet, and because everyone knows everyone in community organizations.

Milkins’s mother would look up information and call ahead to the next town she would stay in, often as small as 250 people. Her mother would even call the post office to find out who the nice people were.

Milkins often had chains of people who would call a friend in the next town that she could stay with. She cooked for and chatted with her welcoming hosts.

Eventually the chain ran out, so Milkins tried another tack.

“I would walk into City Hall and be like ‘Hi, I’m doing a project,’” Milkins said. “And I’d end up staying with the mayor that night.”

She would have the people she stayed with pick her up and drop her off at the same point. “I walked the whole thing,” Milkins said.

“People would stop on the side of the road,” she said. “They’d, like, have a care package and a hundred dollars and they’d just give it to me.”

Some asked Milkins if she was afraid. Her reply? “We do not live in a scary country, we live in a country full of the nicest people.”

Five months later, she made it to Grand Rapids. Her stepfather had died the day she told him she was starting her journey, and her father died two months after she arrived.



Milkins returned to Tucson looking for a job, and thought about PCC.

A friend called soon after her arrival, and said she had just given her notice. Milkins then applied and was teaching the same year.

A year later, she was thinking about how she wasn’t the type of person who would give money or a care package to a stranger. “I need to think about who I am,” she said.

This inspired Milkins’s next project. “I did a whole year where I thought about the ways in which I am and am not kind in my life,” she said.

She also thought about how water consumption and other actions affect others. It caused her to become more of a conservationist.

Milkins made her own face cream from scratch, ate organic food, patronized area businesses and bought into a local farm share. She volunteered to teach classes at a penitentiary.

She described this project as more personal, receiving little press for it, but still “definitely life altering.”

Milkins currently teaches art classes at the Downtown Campus. She receives positive responses on the ratemyprofessor website. Typical postings include:

“Such an incredible individual. She’s so understanding and really takes the time to make sure her students are completely understanding the projects she assigns.”

“Laura is hands-down one of my favorite professors at Pima. She’s an incredible teacher and she genuinely cares about her students. I would absolutely take another class with her!”

“This teacher has a great energy and keeps things interesting. It is a lot of work, but you get a lot of class time and if you listen and apply yourself, you should have no problems.”

 Milkins also hosts a Tucson radio show and podcast called “The Depression Session” on FM 99.1 on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Her personal struggles with depression inspired her to encourage others to come on the show and speak about their depression.

Milkins plans on living in Tucson for the rest of her life. She said all of her travels made her realize there is nothing special about being somewhere different.

“Go live life,” Milkins said. “Don’t be more amazed by going halfway across the world than you are amazed by the birds in your backyard. Have your adventure be rooted where you are.”


Downtown Campus art instructor Laura Milkins tackles both public and personal “life altering” projects. (Photo courtesy of Laura Milkins)

A man on a mission: Trejo takes travel lessons to court

A man on a mission: Trejo takes travel lessons to court


Landon Trejo returned to Tucson last August after two years in Oregon where he talked to strangers about the gospel.

A sophomore at Pima Community College, he finished a two-year hiatus from the men’s tennis team to serve his Latter Day Saints mission. Head Coach Brian Ramirez says the experiance has helped “get him out of his shell.”

“You’re going up to people you’ve never met before and talking about one of the most difficult things there is to talk about,” Trejo said.

His mission helped him build a better perspective off the court and he thought it could help with adversity on the court. Knowing more about himself, the break would benefit his mental approach to the game and how he reacts in tough situations.

Physically, he kept in good shape while traveling over 500 miles through Oregon, from Eugene (the hometown of Nike) and the coastal area of Brookings to the highlands of Klamath Falls.

In some spots the missioners had a car to drive, but traveled on foot and rode bicycles as their main mode of transportation. Oregon offered a unique scene compared to Tucson.

Trejo found little time to get on the courts while in Oregon.

“I basically took a two year- break,” he said.

Returning to Tucson before the fall semester in August, Trejo had enough time to transition back to school life before the tennis season.

Teammate Jesus Lopez characterizes Trejo as a positive person to be around.

“Landon always has a smile on his face and is first with positive feedback,” Lopez said.

He highlights Trejo’s work ethic as he’s “eager to go early and stay late to get better.”

In his final semester at Pima, Trejo aims to finish strong but it won’t be the end of his academic career. In the fall, he will begin work on completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University in Utah.

For those who know Trejo, his teamwork is always present and he is a dedicated athlete.

“Landon has all the best interest for his teammates and all he meets,” Lopez said.

Sophomore Landon Trejo poses before practice at the Tucson Racquet Club. Trejo returned to the Pima Community College tennis team this season after a two-year mission for his church. D.R. Williams/Aztec Press

Sophomore Landon Trejo poses before practice at the Tucson Racquet Club. Trejo returned to the Pima Community College tennis team this season after a two-year mission for his church.
D.R. Williams/Aztec Press


Selfless player determined to succeed

Selfless player determined to succeed


Nineteen-year-old Deontay Townsend is one of the most determined athletes. Day-in and day-out, the Pima Community College sophomore running back has a simple mindset – to put everything in God’s hands, to be an everyday leader, to play smart.

Originally from Little Rock, Ark., Townsend moved to the greater Phoenix area when he was in sixth grade. At 10-years-old, his interest in football took off. He’d watch football and post-game highlights over and over on every available sports channel, including ESPN, when he had the opportunity. Townsend said that watching football was not enough for him and that he wanted to play it.

“My biggest influence is my mother. I just see how hard she works and takes care of her three children that she raised. That made me want to take care of her and I saw football was a way to do that because it’s something that I love and it’s something you can make a career out of,” Townsend said. “I want to work my hardest to keep my goals and meet them so I can make my family happy.

At 13, Townsend began his football career at Peoria High School. He later transferred to Mountain Pointe High School following the first semester of his freshman year.

“I always loved working out. I had descent speed and I decided to play,” Townsend said. “If I’m going to do this then I’m going to put my heart into it. And in the offseason, work out hard and be ready for the upcoming season.”

In his senior football season at Mountain Pointe, Townsend anchored his team’s offense by scoring five touchdowns on 36 carries for 279 yards. Mountain Pointe finished the 2013 season with an undefeated (14-0) record, including a state-title win over Hamilton High School. Townsend recalled that it was one of his most memorable highlights of his career thus far.

“That team there was such a great team. It was a great set of guys to be around. They were all about the football family. We all had team dinners and stuff like that,” Townsend said. “We took care of each other, helped each other with homework and made sure everyone had a ride home. You just got to love those guys.”

Quite a few teammates of Townsend’s have played for Mountain Pointe and Pima which include Antonio Hinojosa, Wesley Payne, Timmy Hernandez, Isaiah Jones, Keondre Churchwell, Natrelle Curtis, Markell Simmons and Zach Blohm.

Following graduation, Townsend was ready to start the next phase of his football career, playing running back for a junior college, Pima Community College under head coach Jim Monaco.

“Great work ethic. Deontay has made himself as good as he is. When he came out of high school, he was a very good running back,” Monaco said. “And he’s worked incredibly hard to make himself better, make himself faster, get himself stronger, learn more about the system and its paid off for him.”

In his first season as Pima’s running back, Townsend rushed 99 times for 436 yards while scoring five touchdowns in 10 games played. He was satisfied but was driven to improve even more. Following the conclusion of the season, Townsend went back to the training room to improve.

In 2015, Townsend was named WSFL Player of the Week twice. The first coming after Pima’s Sept. 5 game against Eastern Arizona College when rushed 36 times for 209 yards while scoring two touchdowns in a nail-biting 36-33 win. Townsend was named WSFL Player of the Week again for his performance in a 34-19 win over Glendale Community College when he rushed 25 times for 162 yards while scoring two touchdowns.

In response to his recent recognition, Townsend said, “My family was so proud. I have great fans and family. My teammates, they goof around and say, “Oh, hey, player of the week, you got any interviews that you got to do and stuff like that?” It’s good to see it but I don’t like to talk about it. I always want to be humble about situations, just going on to the next and try to be Player of the Week.”

In 11 games this season, Townsend has set career highs in every offensive category, nearly doubling it, in rushes (213), yards (1160), yardage per game (105.5), average yards per carry (5.4) and touchdowns (14).

“He’s in the top-5 in rushing and touchdowns in the country. He’s done a tremendous job,” Monaco said.

And Townsend has done a tremendous job on the field.

“Honestly Townsend is probably one of the best backs I’ve played with,” red-shirt sophomore offensive lineman Alex Rios said. “When we get heated as a whole line, he keeps us cool and focused on the goal or winning the game. He’s just very focused in every game.”

At Pima, Townsend is working on a Liberal Arts Degree in Business where he has a particular interest in sports management. After he transfers, Townsend would like to play in the Big 12 or the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Townsend is determined to stick with sports and make a career out of it.

“I want to be a sports agent or I want to do something involved with sports because that’s what I love so much,” Townsend said. “And I just want to help anybody else out. I like to see other people become successful.”

Townsend’s ultimate goal in life is to be remembered as a great football player and an overall better person.

Townsend was named first-team All-ACCAC and second team All-WSFL.

Aztec Press photos by Steven Fowler Townsend was named first-team All-ACCAC and second team All-WSFL.

Sophomore running back Deontay Townsend scores his second touchdown against Snow College in the WSFL Title game. Townsend led the ACCAC and WSFL in carries(213), rushing yards (1,160), yards per game (105.5) and touchdowns (14).

Sophomore running back Deontay Townsend scores his second touchdown against Snow College in the WSFL Title game. Townsend led the ACCAC and WSFL in carries(213), rushing yards (1,160), yards per game (105.5) and touchdowns (14).



Student working to be chief inspector

Student working to be chief inspector


From an early age, Tucson native Anthony Johnson dreamt of becoming the chief inspector for the Metropolitan Police Service in London, England.

“I want to become the chief inspector because it will allow me to put my specialized skills to use,” he said. “London is the business center of the world. This means that there are more cyber-crimes there compared to Tucson.”

Johnson discovered his passion for working with others in the summer following eighth grade when he had a “life-changing experience” while visiting New Scotland Yard in Westminster, United Kingdom.

Interested in what he learned regarding the police headquarters, Johnson began researching information about the police force, where he interviewed a member of the Royal Protection Unit.

“The metro police are one of the few municipal police forces that have a dedicated general cyber unit,” he added. “That combined with being in one of the most diverse cities in the world is why I want to work there.”

Johnson knew what he needed to do to accomplish his goal. That summer, he took the first step by volunteering for the Oro Valley Community Recourse Unit.

“When I first began volunteering, there were mixed emotions,” he said. “On one hand, I was very excited but on the other hand, I was not sure what I was getting into. Gradually, I was able to connect with fellow officers who shared past experiences working in the community.”

In a high school computer-science class, Johnson learned how to create and disassemble websites, and the basics for hacking. He believed that these skills would play a pivotal role for him as an officer.

“I trained with Pima Regional SWAT, I learned how to clear buildings, conduct high-risk traffic stops and working at special events around town such as football games and other specialized events,” he said.

Johnson continued doing this until his junior year at Canyon Del Oro High School in 2012.

Growing tired of participating in the same tasks day in and day out, Johnson was in need of a change. He filled out an application for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, hoping to get a different perspective of what law enforcement was about.

Under state law, the required age for becoming an officer is 21 years old.

Due to Johnson’s age at the time and the need to provide a high school diploma, he was unable to become an officer. After graduating from high school in 2013, he applied for a volunteer position.

Johnson was accepted into the program and served in various roles, from working on websites to assisting people who walk in or call the station.

“The Volunteer Unit at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department lets you do anything that you do not need a post-certification for,” Johnson said. “This can range from administrative work to conducting code 9’s. We also help with search and rescue for people in dire need.”

Keith Cook is a life-long friend of Johnson’s.

“He is a man who knows the law,” Cook said. “He also knows that he will hold a privileged position in our society, and yet he is not one to wave that position around like a sword.”

One of his favorite experiences, Johnson said, was a recent ride-along. He and a police officer patrolled streets across the city throughout the night.

During the ride, he watched as the officer ticketed speeding cars and helped out an older woman in need.

“The ride-along tested my mentality,” Johnson said. “If my experience had gone sour, I would have second-guessed becoming an officer.”

Currently a sophomore at Pima Community College, Johnson is ahead of schedule to transfer to a university by 2016.

As soon as Johnson turns 21, he plans on joining the Oro Valley Police Department as a patrol officer.

Johnson will continue pursuing his education at the University of Arizona after he becomes a police officer.

At UA, his goal is to double major in law enforcement and computer science. By continuing his education, it will become easier to obtain a work visa with the necessary skills when he moves out of the country.

After Johnson earns his law enforcement degree, he plans on starting a new life in England.

“To be able to become a chief inspector for the Metropolitan Police Station, I need to have lived in England for at least five years,” he said. “I figure that once I move there, I will use my knowledge in computer science to help me find a high-paying job.

“When the five years are over, I will be ready to obtain my citizenship and soon after become an officer,” he added. “I am very excited about what the future holds.”

Steven Fowler/Aztec Press Pima student Anthony Johnson stands in front of a Pima County Sheriff’s Department vehicle, where he volunteers. He plans to continue his education at the University Of Arizona then join the police service in London.

Steven Fowler/Aztec Press
Pima student Anthony Johnson stands in front of a Pima County Sheriff’s Department vehicle, where he volunteers. He plans to continue his education at the University Of Arizona then join the police service in London.