Pierce Pioneer

2020: A Year in Music



To say that this year was difficult for the average college student would be the understatement of a century. Whether you were attempting to start your life at a new university, preparing to complete a graduate course digitally or perhaps you were sequestered in your dorm for too many hours to count, new music helped us battle our way through the quarantine depression. 


With many artists bunkered in as well, we saw many ordinary homes turned into creative spaces that were used to generate some of the best music we’ve been presented in years. Here are 20 albums that made my year as a fledgling college student easier.

20.BUBBA by Kaytranda 

Genre: Dance/Electronic & R&B

Release date: December 13, 2019

A swan song to life prior to quarantine, BUBBA is a euphoric collaborative dance album. It’s lowkey afrobeats are fit for any blood pumping experience, but within it’s dance worthy beats lies a political and social subtext that feels poignant now as it did a year prior. Rounding out at around an hour in length, the album progresses both easily and smoothly, never missing a beat as Kaytranada opens the floor to a bevy of collaborators, including Kali Uchis and Pharell Williams. The result is one of the best dance records in recent memory, and is a worthwhile listen to anybody interested in Boiler Room sets and easygoing beats.

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19. Good News by Megan Thee Stallion

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Release date: November 20, 2020

Operating within a male dominated genre that seeks to objectify and sexualize black women at any moment of success, few have truly refound their agency in the same way Megan Thee Stallion has on Good News. Her debut record is jam packed with filthy sex jams and earworm hooks that are sure to populate your TikTok for months to come. Megan feels more like a larger-than-life character than ever before, performing tracks that represent her southern and black pride in joyful ways that enable necessary conversations. It is the essential rap album of the year, and is sure to please anybody looking for an introduction to her sound.

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18. Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy

Genre: Disco

Release date: October 2, 2020

After quarantine mandates closed down the clubs, several of pop music and electronic’s biggest heads ensured that the party continued in our homes. On Róisín Machine, Róisín Murphy provides some of her best tracks that have been in the works for over a decade. An incredibly fun nu-disco album, Murphy takes the traditional disco sounds we expect and expands onto them in ways that are danceable and entrancing, but also incredibly smart and deliberate. A perfect record for anybody yearning to get their groove on, my personal recommendation is to replace the standard tracks with their extended counterparts.

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17. Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Genre: Disco & Pop

Release date: March 27, 2020

When we first met Dua Lipa, she seemed like a young pop star in search of a larger identity and star power. She has always had the production power and songwriting chops, evidenced by hit “New Rules”, but prior to this year the general populace couldn’t quite make her out. Now, she welcomes us into club Future Nostalgia, where disco is new once again. Revitalizing the genre within modern pop music, Lipa crafts an album that feels timeless and quick-pact. Its short runtime allows for each track to feel substantial, and the result presents the young artist as a pop star worthy of the crown.

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Lianne La Havas by Lianne La Havas

Genre: Neo-Soul & Folk

Release date: July 17, 2020

Inspired by cycles of love and the birth and rebirth of nature surrounding her, Lianne La Havas’ self-titled and self-produced third LP feels like a serene waterfall hike. Fluttered throughout with pleasant acoustic guitars, soulful jams, and emotional ballads that feel made for television’s most dramatic moments, La Havas directly opposes those same neo-soul stylings by clashing them with rock sounds. The heavier moments on this record, such as its Radiohead cover, “Weird Fishes” feel like beautiful storms within a gorgeous forest. This album is certain to please those searching for an R&B record with edge, or perhaps a folk music fan looking for something to dance to.

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KiCk i by Arca

Genre: Dance/Electronic & Pop

Release date: June 26, 2020

Beyond the incredibly harsh tones and glitchy surface of KiCk i, any listener will hear the sound of self realization. An artist coming into her form, Arca feels more realized than ever before, finetuning her sound into a place that is both listenable to longterm fans seeking the bizarre sounds of her early work and new fans seeking conventional but off-the-wall electro-pop. The result is an album that features some of the singers best performances and production, and promises an even brighter future for what could become of the pioneering electronic artists sound.


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SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

Genre: Pop & Nu-Metal

Release date: April 17, 2020

Any longtime fan of Rina Sawayama will tell you that a major label debut has been a promising idea for years. It’s arrival feels like a blessing to pop fans around the world, a fun album inspired heavily by Y2K pop and nu-metal. Despite its clearly dated inspiration points, SAWAYAMA feels incredibly modern, relying heavily on modern pop stylings and fusing them with the characteristic production of collaborator, Clarence Clarity. It’s an album that’ll transport any listener into a nostalgic buzz, one that will feel especially poignant within the record’s political subtext. It’s a necessary album for anybody interested in sophisticated pop music that pushes the boundaries of its genre.

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how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX

Genre: Dance/Electronic & Pop

Release date: May 15, 2020

One of the earliest popular musicians to declare publicly that she would be releasing a “quarantine album”, how i’m feeling now manages to arguably be Charli XCX’s best album to date. Fusing modern hyperpop sounds with her knack for writing impactful pop hooks and the nostalgic clubby experimentation presented in her debut, the album manages to strengthen many of the elements at play in her previous full-length. Abandoning her frequent reliance on collaborators to create a personal pop album with old and new producers, the album highlights Charli’s attention to detail and refrain, stripping her larger than life sound into a more intimate and approachable affair. A digestible album for any person in search of exuberant pop sounds.

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5EPs by Dirty Projectors

Genre: Alternative/Indie

Release date: November 20, 2020

Releasing five EPs throughout the course of the year alongside his newly introduced lineup of performers, David Longstreth latest Dirty Projectors piece is an inviting and incredibly ranged piece of indie pop. Drifting by as though a breeze in a park, the album flows masterfully within each respected EP, and its result is a compilation piece that shows a band coming into full unity. There are several moments on the album about love and the power that it has over others. But its best moments are its most intelligent, subtly telling political stories in an accessible and creative manner. It is an essential indie album that jumps from genre inspiration, but is sure to please all listeners at some point.


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11. What’s Your Pleasure by Jessie Ware

Genre: Disco & Pop

Release date: June 26, 2020

Disco definitely found new footing this year within the pop landscape, but this was no more clear and effective than Jessie Ware’s latest effort. What’s Your Pleasure feels like an effortless display of good pop and dance music. With an emotional opener that is certain to grasp listeners, and grooves that are fluent and evocative throughout, Ware set out to do what the best escapist music does, “Will this make people want to have sex? And will this make people want to dance?”. That idea is prevalent in fun and sweat-soaked anthems throughout, an album certain to please any listener hoping to get their groove on.

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10. Shamir by Shamir

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: October 2, 2020

Upon the release of his critically acclaimed debut record, Ratchet, it seemed Shamir was primed for indie fame with an already viral classic under his belt. In the years following that, he left XL Recordings and self-released four records that took inspiration from “outsider music, country & punk”. These ideas come to full fruition on the singer’s latest self-titled album, which contains the finest moments of the young artist’s career in a brief, engaging record. Featuring memorable lyrics and earworm hooks that are accompanied by a DIY-rock sound, you’ve got an essential lofi-indie rock that is certain to please any fan of the genre.

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9. WHAT WE DREW 우리가 그려왔던 by Yaeji

Genre: Dance/Electronic & K-Pop

Release date: April 2, 2020

Signing with XL Recordings, Yaeji was inspired by the support systems within her life to create her most playful and collaborative music yet. Whilst still clubby and fun throughout, WHAT WE DREW largely contrasts the moodier sounds of her previous EPs, with moments on this record coming across as bubbly and bouncy. The record, which was entirely self-produced by Yaeji, is at its best when it manages to fuse these unlikely elements into dance tracks that feel substantial and are easily danceable. Above all, WHAT WE DREW is the artist’s most diverse body of music to date and promises an exceptional full-length debut.

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8.The Angel You Don’t Know by Amaarae

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap & Afro-Pop

Release date: November 12, 2020

Amaarae is an up-and-coming Ghanian-American artist whose steadily subverting expectations with her progressive and stylish brand of afro-pop. Inspired by a multitude of stylistic genres, including southern trap and mall rock, The Angel You Don’t Know is wildly experimental and written exceptionally well also. The best tracks feel layered and sultry, combined by Amaarae distinctive whispery vocals. The end result is an incredibly enjoyable pop record that is fueled by its fun collaborations and genre-bouncing tracklist.

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7. Every Bad by Porridge Radio

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: March 13, 2020

It’s always a dream when a band grows with their second record, and Every Bad is an example of this. An incredibly enrapturing rock album, Porridge Radio presents a series of truths, dreams and realities, and incredibly emotional themes that are later propelled by the band’s brash sound. At its heaviest, lead singer Dana Margolin vocals highlight a harshness to the bands songwriting, which is sometimes counteracted by the bands brighter, pop rock production pieces. While its tougher moments are cathartic and encasing, the album’s strongest elements are its dramatic builds throughout, with each song feeling large and climatic. It is an enjoyable rock record and is certain to please any fan of the genre.

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6. St. Cloud by Waxahatchee

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Folk

Release date: March 27, 2020

Amassing a decent cult following and building a reputation for herself with the indie music scene as a promising songwriter, St. Cloud feels like an exuberant highlight within the young artists building discography. Where her previous records were somber and sparse, an intimacy that highlighted her prowess as a songwriter, the ‘90s rock sound exhilarating. The result is an American folk record that fits as well into indie circuit radios as it might on a big country festival stage. Featuring some of the most stylistically bright music in the young artists career, it is a transformative album that is certain to leave any willing listener impacted by the end of its concise runtime.

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5.All the Time by Jessy Lanza

Genre: Dance/Electronic & R&B

Release date: July 24, 2020

Completely uprooting her life in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Jessy Lanza prepared for a new journey as a budding popstar. Now, her most energetic record must live within the walls of a quarantined New York apartment; however that doesn’t deprive the record of its deeply effective grooves and sensations. Writing some of the smartest dance tracks in her career, Lanza pitches and plays with her vocals in fresh ways that create variance throughout the album. However, that is already easily done by the immaculately understated production that is on display by Lanza and club-pop musician, Jeremy Greenspan. Several tracks on this record depict Lanza’s resentment and emotionality towards the duo’s relationship, and when paired with glossy pop and R&B-adjacent productions, the result is sickeningly sweet and fun.

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4. Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle

Genre: Pop & R&B

Release date: June 12, 2020

With a Disney acting role inbound, and an incredibly underrated debut record in the foreground, the sister duo expands on almost every element on their debut record with an instant-classic R&B record. With religious imagery that is utilized effectively throughout the record, Ungodly Hour is consistent in quality and sound throughout. Having found a bouncy, club-pop lane within the modern R&B landscape, they greatly avoid the failures of their contemporaries with a non-excessive runtime and varied emotionality. Ungodly Hour promises sultry and romantic, if not downright sexy, jams and empowering anthems that are bouncy and relatable, yet subtle. Its pop hooks are catchy, and its production quality is airtight, which is further highlighted by the duo’s resiliency in live performances and shows. If anything, the greatest takeaway is that Chloe x Halle seemed primed for R&B royalty, with a backing system that is determined to see success.

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3. Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

Genre: Alternative/Indie

Release date: April 17, 2020

What will probably go down as the critical quintessential quarantine record, Fiona Apple’s magnum opus record is incredibly expansive and nuanced. Incorporating the best elements of her phenomenal discography, Fetch the Bolt Cutters began as a conceptual album about her Venice home and grew into a political record for the times. While the sentiment “fetch the bolt cutters” is certain to feel relatable in a time of quarantining with financial insecurity and political unrest, Apple’s themes of freedom from oppression will be deeply relatable to anybody who’s felt cast aside by society. With songs written over the course of a decade and inspired by several relationships and lived experiences, the result is an almost confoundingly infectious record, with its best tracks making philosophical assertions seem effortless.

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2. Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Rock

Release date: June 26, 2020

HAIM has quietly been a force within the indie-pop genre, with their debut album Days Are Gone being a deliberate take on the blown-out pop productions of the early-2010s. While this momentum may have been stifled by their second record, which leaned heavier into country and pop genre-stylings than their previous had, it was evident that the band’s inspiration points, including Joni Mitchell, Destiny’s Child, and Blondie, were resulting in groovy nostalgic pop that was occasionally overcrowded. This is a critique that is nearly totally resolved by the bands euphoric and genre-fluid third record. Mastering their production with Rostam, formerly of Vampire Weekend, the result is incredibly explorative and fully realized. No melody on this record sounds like another present here, and that is quantified by Danielle Haim’s songwriting, which is stronger than ever at effectively telling stories with simple words. Women in Music Pt. III is by far the most fun album of the year, occasionally campy, entirely sentimental, and briefly political at times throughout.

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1. Song for Our Daughter by Laura Marling

Genre: Alternative/Indie & Folk

Release date: April 10, 2020

Inspired by global chaos and political turmoil, as well as the 2009 novel Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, British songwriter Laura Marling welcomes audiences into her northeast London home with a beautifully simplistic folk record. Written to a theoretical daughter, and more generally mothers and women as a unity, Marling writes ten straightforward, endearing and coyly political tracks that continue to demonstrate her unmatched talents as songwriter. Occasionally joined by sparse percussion, Song for Our Daughter mostly features Marling alongside her guitar, orchestrating heart wrenching ballads and serenades that pull on the strings of any romantic listener. Marling demonstrates a knowledge beyond her years, always skeptical of those around her and the love that she both must give and receive. While most of the themes on this record can be directly tied to Marlings visions and expectations of motherhood, Marling continues to touch on themes related to her livelihood as a woman operating love and romance in a world that allows men to control every aspect of their lives and fails to allow said security to women. One of the best tracks on the album, “Strange Girl” feels jubilant, intelligent, and above all fun on a folk album that is otherwise emotionally charged and generally weary. Even at the record’s most somber moments, Marlings vocals feel hopeful and enticing, and when the record ends on a joyfully aware note of appreciation and understanding, listeners feel as though they’ve come to understand Marling in a new way. It is the best folk album of the year, and album of the year because it manages to display emotionally fragility, strength and growth over a stunning and deliberate 37-minute runtime, a feat worth praising. It is the serene and insightful record that we all needed during our clamorous year, and is sure to be enjoyed by romantics and those with an appreciation for delicate lyricism.

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COVID Affecting the Holiday Spirit

How online shopping and COVID restrictions is affecting our yearly holiday festivities

This time of year my family would be overjoyed with the Christmas spirit. We’d watch movies and drink hot chocolate together as we’d happily wrap gifts for everyone. But now it’s different; I feel depressed and not in the mood to do anything festive this year.

This is especially the case after Thanksgiving, where all we did was buy food and go to my grandma’s house for the holiday. After we ate, we left because everyone was tired. This pandemic has affected my family so much, and has left many of us stressed and drained.

For me, it’s having to do schoolwork online with the pressure to pass that has affected my holidays. On the other hand, my parents are worried about money and having to work during the pandemic.

Gov. Jay Inslee put the restrictions to prevent more cases, such as limiting group sizes for gatherings or in-store shopping. Yet many people, including my family, have gone Black Friday shopping, by either using curbside pickups or shopping online. 

I thought Black Friday wasn’t going to be a big thing like the years before. However, while it was, it mostly took place online with events like Cyber Monday. But to me, shopping online isn’t the same as going to the store and picking the item out yourself, wrapping it and giving it to someone. Instead, if you shop online, you can just ship the gift to the person.

Many things have changed since the pandemic, but we can change too. We might not be able to shop like we could previously, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do for the holidays. Doing little things at home, such as baking and giving them to our families can return some of that festive spirit that seems to be missing.

One other thing people can do to make this year a little better is visit the Pierce County Light Shows, with the Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Lake Park, located on 14905 Bresemann Blvd. South, Spanaway, taking place daily from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. all the way until Jan. 3.

This can make someone’s day, even if that something is as little as baking cookies, watching a movie, or just driving around seeing Christmas decorations. So let’s not be as gloomy as the Grinch and get up. Watch something with your family and do the traditional things you would before. COVID does not have to define how you end your year.

Shelitia Pratt, Pierce College student and friend of George Floyd’s cousin, shares her thoughts and experience regarding racial injustices and the global pandemic.

I was born in Centreville, Illinois, and raised in Lovejoy, Illinois before I moved to St. Louis, Missouri.  I identify as African American, and recently I found out that through my father’s side I am multicultural – black, white, creole and native.  

The town that I grew up in was a settlement of African Americans escaping slavery; it later became the first black town in America to be incorporated and named after Elijah Lovejoy, who was killed by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois in 1837.  

My morals and beliefs were embedded in me through my grandparents who raised me.  They taught me to love myself before I love someone else; be honest with others and myself; be loyal; trust no one; do my best at everything I do, and treat people how I want to be treated. They also taught me that hard work pays off; two wrongs don’t make a right; silence is golden, and every response doesn’t need a reaction.  I learned to abide and respect these things as I grew older and later taught these same things to my children.  

Today these guidelines, along with my life experiences and things I have seen, have supported making me who I am today.  I believe that what makes me unique is that my heart always looks out for the best interest of others, and I tend to often recognize my blessings because I give generously. This quarter, I gave a lot.

Being biracial myself, I have never completely “taken a side”.  However because of the one-drop-rule, I do know that I am African American and will always be looked at in this manner, because of the color of my skin. Black lives and every life has always mattered to me growing up.

These days I have been speechless, confused, depressed, and anxious back using my meds to support my anxiety along with increased blood pressure. My reaction to the injustice black Americans have recently faced is mind-blowing, but it does not surprise me at all. 

These injustices have been this way for hundreds of years and nothing has changed.  I have raised my children here in Puyallup, Washington and we all have faced injustice, discrimination, and racial profiling. 

Not all cops are bad and not all black people are criminals, but to wake up every day and know that because of my color I have to work harder than average and still get turned down opportunities, not because of my educational background, but because of the color of my skin; it breaks my soul and aches my heart, to the point that I continue to educate my children, siblings, and nephews.  

Black communities, and other communities, are in pain due to recent events and how things have continued to play out along with our President.  I am friends with George Floyd’s cousin and I’ve had to be a huge support for him, allowing him to vent to me on his feelings, and the family and him just needing a safe place to come to and get away from things. 

During the protesting, my friend got a call from his son’s friend in Bellevue. His son had been racially profiled and the police had his son and three of his biracial friends handcuffed on the curb. He saw his son on television while talking to me about the protest the night before that he and his family attended.  

I am not sure how the Pierce College community can help support those of us who are grieving the injustices that communities of color face. I personally have been just over it and have given up; I have never done that on my education or anything. I’m afraid every time my kids leave my home, and I call them more often because of it.

If someone has to be harassed or killed for being black, out of my children and family, I would rather it be me. I am aware that I should not feel this way, but it’s been a norm to live a life like this; from my hometown to here and across the world, this is the life of being black in the world.

My experiences during this pandemic and social unrest have been very hard to describe. Right now however, I am most concerned for my family. If things open too quickly in Phase Two, they may get sick. I am also concerned about whether my children and I will pass our online classes during this time. 

I have been attending Pierce College for the last three quarters taking classes to finish up getting my degree in human services, along with taking some CMST courses to better educate myself on some of the cultures that I work within my career field.

When I learned that Pierce College was going online, I was planning to withdraw because I am a hands-on learner and learn best being in a classroom. I freaked out a bit and asked my college student kids who have taken online classes what it would be like.  

I anticipated being frustrated often because I don’t navigate computers as well as I could. This online journey has been a struggle for me, as I anticipated it would be, but 10 times worse given how much of my time was devoted to serving others.

I realize this year has been especially hard on several families. At times, I wasn’t even aware of my own coming and going and just stress ate to the point where I gained over 10 pounds.

My household went from two people to six. My two college students came home from Canada and the other from Eastern Washington. I struggle with health issues myself, and fear for my daughter-in-law who works in an emergency room dealing with COVID-19 patients. I fear for my two-year-old granddaughter,  and for my daughter who has one kidney; all-the-while, I continued to fear every day that I could lose my salon business. It is important that I go to work to support my family and keep the business I built.

I was able to navigate through those challenges with lots of prayers; reaching out to my instructors, my supervisors, and my co-workers; and being honest to my building owners about what was truly going on in my life. If only they could have seen how regularly my eyes filled with tears and how constantly my voice cracked. Things constantly happened in my family.

I will do it all over again until I complete it to my satisfaction, but I will be glad when it’s over and I will continue to fight for injustice and peace.

My COVID Experience

COVID-19 has brought discomfort to the world as we continue to physically distance ourselves from each other. We all feel somewhat trapped and overwhelmed with what is going on; within three month of quarantine the United States isn’t taking the shutdown well. The COVID-19 virus, in my reality, isn’t what I envisioned. However it’s all I can visualize during these times. 

Being the type of individual that craves freedom on repeat every day, adjusting my schedule has been very difficult. Spring Quarter has always been something I loved, and having to sit inside, rather than taking my normal walks from school, makes this quarter less exciting. 

The shutdown defeats the purpose of school. Having school from home feels as though it is taking away some freedom we have. Although online classes already existed, it’s hard to not question and stay motivated without being in school physically. 

When it comes to the scheduled times of classes on campus, not only is that being disrupted by the shutdown, but it also has been extremely inconvenient to my ability to learn. My schedule consists of Math, English, and Art for the most part, and all of these thrive in person. With programs such as Zoom taking over and having to wake up for a lecture that is harder to understand due to the lack of interest I have in learning now.

With classes being online, I’ve noticed a shift in the amount of work we are now given. Normally each quarter, our professors would give a manageable amount of work, most likely due to the fact that we’d meet in person. The first week of school was tough with almost two assignments each class due back to back. My math class continues to have work every single day. It’s a surprise being able to catch a break.

Stress has filled up my life just from these first two weeks of school. However usually I give myself a break every other day to feel less overwhelmed. Consistency right now is hard and distractions are all around. The workload is not fair, but we have no choice but to get it done if we want to succeed.

However we now have a reason to get in contact with our professors for help. Before this, it would have been brushed off.  

We are still able to use this time for self-care, extra time with loved ones, and the things we always wanted to do but always put off. In these times, we are all able to evolve and become better as one. Looking towards the positive aspects of this pandemic is definitely something we all can work on.

As we all wish for face-to-face contact, schools, and civilizations to run back up, and just normal to come back to all of us. We all aren’t sure when the end of this pandemic will come. In the meantime to get back to that lifestyle, it is very important that we all are staying safe. 

So when we do leave our homes, we should keep a minimum of 6 feet of distance from everyone, wash our hands often, cover for protection, and go to the doctor if ever feeling ill. So that we can avoid getting this virus as this is a worldwide setback. In the end, we can all come back stronger, connected, and together as a whole.

Autism Awareness

A Pioneer writer shares his personal experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome.

April is Autism Awareness Month, with World Autism Day falling on the 2nd. Autism is a group of developmental and neurological disorders characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication skills in general, as well as high probabilities of repetitive behavior and thoughts. 

Autism is a spectrum: some people may have severe symptoms which may present as non-verbal and limited function and may require constant care. Others, like myself, can function independently, but still have difficulties with social skills and sensory issues.

According to the CDC, 1 in 59 American children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The mission of Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Day is to help more and more people learn about and understand autism as well as help with the acceptance of those with an ASD.

I have a type of high-functioning Autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. I am able to function independently and fairly successfully in the “real world”, but all my life I have experienced difficulties with social skills and sensory issues.

I have a sincere desire to make friends and have personal relationships. However, I have trouble navigating social situations. Sometimes, I will say the wrong thing, or something I don’t necessarily mean. I have trouble making eye contact or speaking up when I’m uncomfortable and have difficulties gauging and connecting with the emotional needs and responses of others.

However, while there are courses of treatment and practices that can help me control and increasingly limit the symptoms and the negative effects of Autism, there is currently no cure. Autism has affected me for most of my life and will most likely continue to do so.

My journey started around the age of three. I had started performing repetitive motions (aka ‘Stimming’), like hand-flapping, jumping around, and even talking to myself. I still Stim to an extent nowadays, but I’m able to control it at school and in public. But when I come home, I have to find ways to release built-up energy and sensory overload.

In early elementary school, along with social skills, I had difficulty writing my thoughts down on paper, which created difficulties for me in school. I had a 504 plan that allowed me accommodations and services at school. I would sometimes be taken out of class to go to workshops that helped me learn how to write and type. I also went to speech therapy, and had six years of occupational and physical therapy after school. These were resources that helped me overcome the challenges my Asperger’s was presenting me in school.

I was taken off my 504 plan during middle school, and became more independent in my studies through high school, especially after enrolling in Running Start here at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom back in 2018. I also received my driver’s license when I was sixteen.

I’m excited for the next stage of my life – going off to a four-year university. However, one of my main concerns is being around people who may not have had any understanding of autism, and how I may be perceived by others.

I have struggled to make friends and maintain friendships because I have a hard time connecting. I want to do better when I attend a four-year, and beyond that, along with my family wishing the same thing.

I’m thankful that I’ve never really been bullied or harassed, but I realize there are many people who don’t understand me, and I get that. I struggle with understanding other people, too.

So, while Autism Awareness Month helps people understand those like me with Autism, I am working on my own skills and struggles with socializing and connecting to the world. I joined the Pioneer last fall, and the challenge of the job is helping me with interactions, and even with eye contact when I am interviewing people.

As I learn to navigate in the “real world,” I’m thankful for the people who have helped me. I hope I can meet more great people as I go along in my life.

My autism doesn’t define me, but it’s part of who I am. I hope this article helps people understand Autism better. As well as reading this article, may you consider taking the time to try and connect with an autistic person such as myself, setting aside your differences and finding connections.

For more information, go to autismawarenessmonth.org, autism-society.org, or follow #celebratedifferences on social media.

Modern-Day Love Story

Ciara Williams / Staff Illustration

Online dating and the modern day view on dating and romance

I met my husband on Tinder.

It excited me that an app allowed me to be picky without judgement. I practically lived on Tinder when I was 18-years-old, and fresh out of high school, especially since I’d never been in a relationship before. When I came across my soon-to-be husband, I almost didn’t even give him the time of day. But something compelled me to give him a shot.

After going on a few dates with him, I soon found out that my husband had been lying to his friends about us. Rather than telling his friends and family that we met on Tinder, he instead told people we met at a mall.

The way he describes our fake meeting makes it almost sound like a cheesy Rom-Com. “I saw her sitting by herself in the mall when I decided to strike a conversation with her,” he said. “Soon after, we hit it off.”

At the time, I found this reveal to be funny. I never found it a big deal telling people, “Yeah, we met on Tinder.” I could see why he felt the need to lie about it however. Very rarely do I hear success stories involving Tinder, or any dating platforms for that matter which do a disservice to the apps themselves.

For awhile, stigmas circled around online dating, which painted these apps in a bad light. Pewresearch.org once conducted a survey, where 23 percent of Americans said that people who use online dating sites are desperate. From my own experiences, I can say that without online dating I’m not sure I would have been able to find a relationship. It’s easy to come to this conclusion however, with just how accessible dating apps can be.

Alongside, SwipeLife wrote about how some people believe that relationships that start from apps don’t last long. Part of this stims from the belief that people can’t make an authentic relationship with one another without that first initial connection that’s made in person. Online relationships, whether friendly, or romantic, are still fairly new, and thus still create doubt amongst those new to the idea.

Part of the reason I believe these stigmas exist is because of the aura of mystery that still lingers around online dating and strangers online. Shows like MTV’s Catfish have proven that you should never 100 percent trust who you meet online, no matter how much you may hope that they’re indeed that person you’re talking to.

Stigmas like this keep some people from admitting they’ve met someone they like on these apps. Nonetheless, in today’s age of technology and speed dating, I’ve found that you’re less likely to meet someone in the classic Rom-Com way than by just connecting with someone via an app.

According to eHarmony’s 10 Online Dating Statistics, around 40 percent of Americans currently use online dating, with 52 percent of these users being male. That’s almost half of America participating in this trend of online dating.

Online dating became a reality in 1995, after Gary Kremen created a site known as Match.com. At the time, sites like this were for a more niche audience, the idea of finding a potential spouse via the internet being widely judged by the public.

Online dating has changed the way people go about dating. Before the 2010s, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to say they met their significant other through friends or while they were out. That was the norm; and while many people still do this, that norm is slowly beginning to change.

As a woman, I hated being approached by strangers at the bar, even despite some being attractive. I could hold a conversation, but I could never shake away the idea that this person could potentially have bad intentions for the night. After all, how should I know if this guy I’m talking to isn’t the next Ted Budney?

Online dating has allowed me to chat with the people I’m interested in digitally, before meeting in person. That way, if I don’t like them I could just block them and move on. Online dating had also made it easy for me to pick a location to meet, as opposed to being caught off guard in person. But most importantly, it provided me the option to safely say no if I wanted to.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, if you’re still thinking twice about whether or not you should download a dating  app and meet someone, I’d say go for it. As long as it’s safe and you trust who you’re meeting. So what else do you have to lose?

Hallway Hassel Question:

What are your dating preferences and deal-breakers?

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“They need to have a good attitude and be positive when we are out together.”

— Rodrigo Torres —

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“If they talk too much. You are having a conversation and you are not able to give your side because they are constantly talking.”

— Christine Krysiak —

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“Motivation to succeed, just don’t be lazy. It’s a no-go.”

— Ben Murrell —

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“They need to have table manners and not [be] indecisive.”

— Matthew Soeum —

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“You can’t be clingy. I like my independence, so if we’re in a relationship obviously I will give up some of that for you; but you can’t hang onto me all the time. Be reliable, not clingy.”

— Charles Johnson —

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

“If they’re on their phone too much on a date. That’s a bad one.”

— Richard Soeum —

Dating Apps for the Season of Love

Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Courtesy Photo / Pixabay

Find Love in the World with Swiping

Dating is a very special thing to many people. However, finding a relationship is the tricky part. In the past, it was common to attend social events, and perhaps find someone who caught your eye. In recent years however, this has become less common with the introduction to online dating. This new age of romance can be intriguing, but with so many sites and apps, it can be hard to choose which one is for you. To help with this, here are four potential apps you can download: Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and Hinge.


Tinder is the most popular dating app among people. It invented the swipe gesture, and is patented, with the current owners of Tinder, Match Group LLC. Other dating apps have used this invention in their own apps, making Tinder a pioneer in the dating world. 

Since Tinder is the first of its style of dating apps, most of Tinder’s features are very basic. You have the option to include 10 pictures of yourself, along with a bio and the choice to display your age and distance. It’s a perfect set up for users who don’t want anything over the top. 

Swiping right means you like someone, swiping left means you don’t, and swiping up means you’ve left a Super Like, signalling that you really like them. Tinder gives you one free Super Like a day, but you have unlimited likes. 

Although Tinder has plenty of great free features, you can pay for more. One of the most promoted features is Tinder Gold, which allows you to see who likes you before you swipe. It gives you five super likes a day, one boost a month which increases the chances of you matching with someone, passport to “travel” around the world and meet people in different countries, and no ads.


Bumble is similar to Tinder in the swipe gesture feature and format. It was founded by Whitney Wolfe, who also founded Tinder, but parted with them after filling a sexual harassment lawsuit against Tinder and its parent company at the time, IAC. Using the rough amount of $1,000,000 she won, she launched Bumble, and it has become one of the most successful dating apps in the world. 

Although Bumble is a dating app, it also has three modes: Bumble Date, Bumble BFF, and Bumble Bizz. Bumble Date and Bumble BFF are exactly how they sound - Date is for finding a partner, and BFF is for finding friends. Bumble Bizz is for professional networking. Each mode has its own profile, so there isn’t a need to worry about your personal life conflicting with your professional one. 

Bumble’s most popular feature is that women initiate the conversation. Once a match has been made, women have 24 hours to send a message, and then the guy has 24 hours to send a reply. If neither party messages within their time, they are no longer a match. In the case of same-sex couples, either one can message first. Once both parties have messaged each other within their time limit, they can text, call and video chat whenever they want.  

Similar to Tinder, Bumble has its own in-app purchases as well. However, unlike Tinder, it doesn’t offer as many new features. With Bumble Boost, you can see everyone who has right-swiped you. You can also extend your matches by 24 hours and rematch expired connections. 


OkCupid, like the previous apps, uses the swipe right gestures, except with its own unique features built in. For starters, when creating your profile, it has you take a quiz about your viewpoints on certain topics, from your taste in certain styles to your political views. Your answers to the quiz are displayed on your profile, and come into play when you begin matching. Since everyone’s answers are on their profile, it allows users to see what they have in common and what they don’t have in common with a potential match, allowing more insight into a person rather than what they show in their pictures and in their bio. 

Once you swipe right, you now have the option to send an intro, which is just a small greeting or first message. If you do send an intro, it notifies the user that they have been sent an intro and can also look at your profile and decide if they want to swipe right as well. 

OkCupid has three options you can pay for: A-List, Premium A-List, and Incognito mode. A-List is the most paid option according to OkCupid, with exclusive features including no ads, being able to see who has liked you, unlimited likes, and being able to see who has read your sent messages within conversation before they reply. Premium includes the A-List features, plus one automatic boost per day during prime time, to see and be seen by more attractive matches. Incognito mode is a bit different, with the main goal being to keep you hidden from the public eye. You can turn it off and on, and will also have no ads. Incognito is separate from A-List however, so if you want both you will need to get both.


Hinge likes to show off how they are going to eventually be deleted, whether it be for its success or for its simplicity some may not like. Compared to the other dating apps, Hinge has one of the most simplistic designs and features available. 

As most dating apps, Hinge shows you people, allows you to like or dislike, and have a conversation. One major difference is that rather than show you users one at a time and let you swipe right or left, it gives you a list of people to choose from, and lets you choose a question similar to an icebreaker, to help get the conversation going. Hinge also uses your Facebook to connect you to friends of your friends. Of course, you don’t have to connect your Facebook to your account at all. 

Hinge has the basic filters for gender, location, age, distance, ethnicity, and religion. With the Preferred Hinge membership, you not only have those features, but also filters for height, whether someone has children or wants them, politics, drinking, smoking, marijuana, and drug use. You also get an unlimited number of likes to use, with the option to see everyone who likes you. 

These are just a few of the most popular dating apps available to the public.

What Does it Mean to be Equal?

Photo Illustration by Ciara Williams

After Affirmative Action was rejected in Washington’s November elections, the state is left to face the future of diversity amongst college campuses

Affirmative Action was once an active initiative in Washington State. Created for the usage of colleges to improve opportunities for women and minorities; Affirmative Action was made with the intent of leveling the playing field for everyone in America. Washington State then banned this initiative in 1998 during a state vote.

Fast forward to today and Affirmative Action was reinstated in April of 2019 by our state legislatures. This caused an uproar within our community, as many found this to be an attack on everything this country stood for.

A petition was led by the Washington Asians for Equality, as an attempt to keep Affirmative Action banned in Washington State. “It would abolish the standard of equality for all, regardless of race, as required by I-200, and replace it with a system that uses different rules for people of different races,” states the petition.

Finally, the state settled with letting this decision be made by the people, as they included it in last November’s votes. Results came in, and Affirmative Action was rejected by Washington State citizens by a vote of 50.54% to 49.46%, reinstating the ban.

One of America’s most important values included making this country fair and equal for all who choose to live here. If freedom was America’s first goal in mind, then equality is arguably the second goal. But what does it mean to be equal?

Equality is the act of treating everyone equal to one another, regardless of upbringing, race, or systemic advantages. To me, this means also considering the disadvantages an individual in America may realistically face, and making it so despite these hardships, there’s still the possibility of having an equal chance in this country.

Others would argue that true equality would be to not consider these elements in a person, but instead place every individual on the same playing field as one and the same. I would say it is impossible to do this without first considering every individual’s disadvantages in life.

Photo Illustration by Ciara Williams

In an American system originally created to favor white men, this country has spent years trying to create a balance that is fair for every citizen here. However, it is difficult to make this balance when it still remains an issue to just be considered by those who run the system.

As a 22-year-old black woman, I understand the extra hindrances I must face in this country if I wish to get an education. I also understand the challenges I will face outside of college.

Affirmative Action was viewed as a way for minorities to be seen and considered in an educational environment, where diversity has been lacking for decades. Pierce College has been one of the most diverse colleges I’ve ever been to; a campus that has helped me best experience what it’s like to feel equal to the student next to me, regardless of who we are.

However, on my tour at Seattle’s University of Washington, I found that the only other black person I saw on campus that day was one other student on tour with me. Suddenly, I was made aware of my own race again, and how much more colleges could be doing for minorities with admissions alone.

Despite this, I’m not as confident believing Affirmative Action would actually solve any of these issues I face. I’m aware that the educational system is in need of improvements when it comes to admissions. But I have instead found that Affirmative Action may just be a double ended sword, rather than the shield it hoped to be.

Affirmative Action makes it so colleges have to take race into consideration. At first I saw no issue with this, until I started to think about it. This action would now make it where my race is the most defining part of my identity, and the real reason as to whether or not I’m accepted into a college. I can see immediately the problems that could come from this.

This Action actively puts races against one another, versus it currently just being an equal playing field. I would personally find it insulting if a college only accepted me because I am black, rather than because of my qualities. And I would hate to hear that someone else was denied just because of the race they were born with.

Diversity on college campuses is still an issue however. Minority groups still often make up only a third of the population of most college campuses. Affirmative Action may be counterproductive, but it’s intents were made out of wanting to increase educational opportunities for those who may otherwise not have them. The idea of Affirmative Action shouldn’t be scrapped, but instead improved upon in the near future.

A solution to this problem may not be clear yet, but we are on the right track.

Keeping “I Have a Dream” Alive

Photo Credit / USA.gov

One of Pierce College’s core themes is centered around equity, diversity and inclusion. All students are given the opportunity to be apart of a community of people who are here to grow their knowledge and create relationships.

As a mixed person, I have experienced not feeling like I fit into any group. I am not “light enough” to relate to a white person and I am not “dark enough” to relate to a person of color. Even though I have felt unsure where I fit in, Pierce made me feel a sense of belonging. Pierce would not be able to provide this security without the constant work of Civil Rights leaders.

During the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. was a well-known activist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. 

The fight for equal rights for black citizens was a difficult road. Black citizens had very few rights to community services, recreational activities and quality education. His work and other black leaders alike paved the way for the society we live in now.

Today, black citizens face some of the same difficulties on a slightly smaller scale. 22.72% of black citizens in Washington state live in poverty, while only 9.83% of white citizens live below the average means. Communities are separated by income and success, so in turn most white citizens live in better neighborhoods. No one’s housing, job opportunity or education should be affected by race.  This is evident in more luxurious parts of Tacoma-Lakewood area.

Although segregation isn’t as severe as it used to be, there is still a divide between a person of color and a white citizen. This is based on personal prejudices and discrimination. Because race is a socially constructed system created by the individuals living in it, people are judged based on what they look like and even how they talk.

This is what King stood for; equality among all people, according to his “I Have A Dream” speech. He said he wanted his four children to be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin.

Progress has been made, but there is more work to be done. Every person has the right to respect, freedom and equal opportunity. As a community, we must work together to keep this city and campus a welcoming place for everyone.

We must do away with biased views of a race and realize we all have something in common.

We are human. 

How to stay motivated in keeping and achieving your New Year’s Resolutions


Set yourself up for success in 2020

It’s the beginning of a new year, which for many people can feel like a fresh start. This is a time when people start setting goals in their life in order to start the year off right. Making New Year’s resolutions has been a tradition people take part in all around the world for years.

However, although telling yourself that you will exercise everyday, or cut out sugary drinks may sound simple, it is often hard for people to stay true to their goals for very long. According to Business Insider, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. 

This especially rings true in college students. Many students living a busy lifestyle have a hard time finding time or motivation to stay true to their goals outside of school, work, friends, and family. With keeping a few strategies and tips in mind, anyone can stay motivated to keep their New Year’s resolution all year long.

First, come up with a reasonable goal. If you spend 3 hours a day watching television, and tell yourself you will only watch 20 minutes of television a day, that goal will most likely not be met for very long. Set reachable expectations in the beginning, and slowly work up to what you hope to achieve. 

Setting a realistic goal comes hand in hand with making that goal as specific as possible. If you say something vague such as, “I want to eat healthier,” your ideas of what constitutes as healthy may change over time. Instead, come up with a plan such as a specific food you will cut out, or a healthy meal you will eat a few days a week.

After you make your goal, you are now ready to start achieving it. Think about what ways you stay motivated in other parts of your life, such as in school or hobbies. You could set an alarm to remind you to exercise in short increments throughout the day, or get a friend to remind you. 

Finally, reward yourself for accomplishing your goals. It’s ok to take time for yourself to celebrate your successes. If you finally get an A in a difficult class, go out with a friend, or buy yourself something new to praise your hard work.

By following these steps, you will find yourself succeeding in keeping your New Year’s resolutions more than you ever have in the past. Things that once seemed impossible to reach, will now become a regular habit in your life. Set 2020 up for a great year from the very beginning.

Should College Athletes be paid?

Kevin Collins / Staff Photographer

The debate of whether or not we should be paying college athletes has come to prominence with the introduction of a new California law regarding the subject. Recently, California governor Gavin Newsom signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which would allow college athletes to make money from sponsorships and product endorsements.  

The National Collegiate Athletic Association objects to this law. According to NPR, they see it as a threat to the traditional model amateurism in college athletics. However, considering that colleges make money off of the athletic games, it doesn’t seem so fair that the students aren’t being compensated, but their professional counterparts are compensated with significant payment.

Take Zion Williamson, a basketball player from Duke University, for an example. According to The New York Times, Williamson is college basketball’s best and most prominent player. 

However, back in February, he suffered an injury to his right knee after his sneaker split open during a game. 

This unfortunate event led to calls for him to stop playing college basketball, seeing as he was already an NBA draft prospect. 

This drew criticism towards the NCAA for not paying student athletes. In another case years earlier, a college football player chose to end his college career prematurely after receiving an injury more serious than Williamson’s. This was due to the fact that he wouldn’t be compensated, along with the athlete wanting to limit the risk to his professional payday, according to the NYT.

Of course, there are arguments against paying college athletes. Some college athletes get numerous privileges from the schools they’re at – scholarships, reduced fees, and getting priority when picking classes for each term. However, the law does not say that the students would get paid by the college itself, or by the NCAA. 

The money would come from sponsorships by outside companies to use their name, image, and likeness for product endorsements and advertisements. 

If the money paid to athletes came from the university, the student athletes would become student employees, presenting Title IX challenges.

There are cases of athletes being drafted into the professional leagues right out of high school, meaning they might not have to play in college in order to get a position in a major sports league like the NBA or NFL. This may distract them, and prevent them from pursuing an education, which is a risky way to go. Besides, the odds of getting drafted right out of high school is small, and having a good education is the safer route.

So, while I still support college athletes being paid, I can see reasons why others would go against this.

Who I tried to be and who I am

The arrival of my son had fulfilled a dream I did not know I had.”

— Diane Russell

How becoming a single parent helped me follow my dreams

In 2014 I started at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom with the intention of becoming a Registered Nurse. I was not one hundred percent happy about my career choice. For seven years I had worked as a Certified Nurses Aid and I was burnt out.

I believed that my key to happiness was stability. And stability meant a secure job with reliable income. Happiness was in the future and I had to hold on for a while longer. I was right, but not in the way I thought.

My son arrived two days after my birthday in 2015. I became a single parent two weeks later. It is an understatement to say my life turned upside down. It turned upside down, sideways, and inside out.

I had left my job as a CNA and the relief had been immediate. The nursing field did not need one more burnt out person only in it for the paycheck. Gazing down at my son’s innocent face, I knew I had to change my life to make ours better. The arrival of my son had fulfilled a dream I did not know I had. It was time to realize all my dreams.

Alyssa Wilkins / Staff Photo
Diane Russell is so thankful for everything her son has taught her.

From an early age I had known I wanted to be an artist. For my third birthday I received the paint box and real acrylic paints I had asked for. But as I grew older, I was told more and more that artists are called “starving artists” for a reason.

I did not want my son to be told that his dreams were unrealistic. Or that money mattered more than living the life he wanted. I had to be an example of someone that followed their heart. I changed my degree focus to digital design in 2016 and the relief was immediate.

Being a single parent is hard. Being a college student is hard work. Add those two together and you have a recipe for overload, poverty, and massive sleep deprivation. But there has not been a single day that I regret my choices.

I have had some help as a single mom and even more as a student. Without the Basic Food Employment & Training (BFET) program I would not have been able to attend school. The Milgard Child Development Center at the Fort Steilacoom campus provides an unexpected source of emotional support for my son and me. I recommend Milgard to any parent looking for daycare or preschool.

The instructors at Fort Steilacoom have been hands down the best I have ever had in my long school career. There are days when I realize how lucky I am that I chose Pierce. I am not the only one benefiting from my choices; my son is too.

Sometimes, while driving to school I wonder how I ever thought I needed to be someone other than myself. Looking back, I realize I believed that happiness was not really an option for me. My son made me happy in ways I never knew. His love made me feel lovable.

How wonderful it is that I am the artist I always wanted to be and have a wonderful son with me on my journey. My life might not have turned out the exact way I dreamed, but in many ways it is much better.

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