Pierce Pioneer

Hanukkah Dishes for the Holidays

A list of dishes and recipes for those looking to diversify their tables for this year’s holidays.

The holidays are a lovely time of year for everyone, as well for me; Hanukkah is an especially great time of year because it means some of the tastiest dishes of our culture get to be indulged in for eight days. Here is a list of all my personal favorite foods to eat during Hanukkah and what makes them so special!




What it is: Braised beef.
What it means: Chances are you’ve already heard of brisket, it’s a popular meat all over the world. My grandma used to serve brisket at all of our holidays, Hanukkah, Passover, etc. The braising of the meat makes it tender and juicy and very flavorful, making it a year-round favorite for the community.



What it is: Milk chocolate circles wrapped in colored foil that resemble Jewish coins.
What it means: Gelt is something akin to an edible poker chip for anyone playing a game of dreidel. Everyone starts out with about 10 pieces of gelt and then takes turns spinning the dreidel, depending on which of the four sides it lands on you’ll either take all the gelt in the pile, take half of the gelt in the pile, lose all your gelt, or do nothing and move on to the next person. Aside from being a game currency, gelt is also gifted to children during the holidays.

Gelt can be bought from a multitude of places in Pierce County, including the Cost Plus World Market in Tacoma and Party City in Lakewood. Gelt can also be ordered on Amazon.




What it is: Fried dough stuffed with either meat or potatoes.
What it means: Unlike the other items on this list, knishes are a more unorthodox choice for Hanukkah, but since they’re usually fried I like to eat them around this time of year. In theory, stuffing a pastry full of mashed potatoes or ground beef may sound strange, but really knishes are just the Jewish version of an empanada or a samosa.




What it is: Fried potato pancakes, usually topped with applesauce and sour cream.
What it means: Next to matzo, latkes are somewhat of a staple dish in the Jewish community; they’re easy to make and a lot of regular grocery stores carry the ingredients or even have latke mix to make them. On Hanukkah latkes are one of the stars of the show since they are fried in oil, but they also make for a delicious breakfast with some cold applesauce and sour cream to complement this hot dish.


What it is: Powdered jelly donuts.
What it means: Sufganiyot, pronounced soof-gah-nee-ah or soof-gah-nee-oht, are little fried balls of dough filled with jelly or sometimes custard and they are almost exclusive to Hanukkah. Like regular doughnuts, sufganiyot can be made differently and depending on where you go, they can range from pretty basic to very extravagant; but, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with the classics.

Moving here was a bit of a culture shock for me, I didn’t realize how used I was to being surrounded by stores and delis that had everything my family needed until I was over a thousand miles away from it. 

Even though the Jewish community here is small, it still exists and with several places in Seattle like Dingfelders and Zyldberschteins that have some classic Jewish soul-food. So whether you’re a fellow Jew looking to reach out to another member of the community or you’re just looking to expand your culinary horizons, don’t be afraid to spice up the holiday season with a few new dishes this year!

Understanding the Murder Hornets and the potential threat posed to the Northwest environment

On Oct. 22, the forests of Blaine, Wash., became a hub for local entomologists, scientists whose area of study involves insects, as the trees around them buzzed with a new, unprecedented life that came in the form of a hornet’s nest.

Washington is no stranger to invasive species — from the Himalayan Blackberry, a behemoth of a rose bush that uses its strong thickets to trample over native flora; to the Gypsy Moth, an insect whose lack of predators allows it to breed rapidly and consume trees and plants just as fast. And as of December 2019, Washington now homes the Asian-Giant Hornet, aptly nicknamed the “Murder Hornet.”

This invasive insect originates from Japan and its surrounding countries in East Asia. Much like their other relatives in the Vespidae family, they’re somewhat easy to spot. With their large frame being over 2 inches long and brightly colored orange and black bodies with long stingers; these ones, however, deliver a potent venom to anyone on the receiving end. 

Justin Schmidt, an entomologist at the Southwestern Biological Institute and University of Arizona, states that an Asian-Giant Hornet’s sting is equivalent to three to 10 yellow jacket stings at once. However, Schmidt adds that despite the intensity of their sting, Japan’s death toll reveals that these hornets are responsible for less than 50 deaths a year, including those with allergies.

Murder Hornets earn their title because their main targets are the honeybees. These hornets form organized, raiding parties and with just a few small fleets are able to wipe out an entire hive. 

Naturally, this causes problems for the ecosystem as humans depend on bees for pollination, something that researcher James Crall emphasizes in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. Bees are incredibly important for human well-being, including both managed honeybees and wild bees,” Crall said. 

“Put simply: About one in three bites of food comes from crops that depend on animals for pollination, and bees are the most important group of pollinators. Losing pollinators means less healthy food and worse health outcomes for humans. Of course, beyond their role in food production, bees are incredibly important for preserving biodiversity, more generally.”

Nina Pullano, a writer for Inverse, goes on to state what makes these hornets dangerous. “Their greatest threat to humans is not their sting. Instead, it’s their proclivity for killing other insects — insects that we very much need to keep alive because of their effects on the ecosystem and agriculture.”

Bees are valuable pollinators and by extinguishing them humans and animals lose food sources, emptying out a very important niche within the ecosystem. The deaths of the bees also has an effect on their other native predators who are now cut short on their food source, making these hornets a much bigger threat to the wildlife rather than to humans and domesticated animals. 

The threat level truly depends on whether or not the hornets continue to reproduce and survive in their new environments. “It will have a massive impact on the bees, who have been facing a rapid decline in the last 10 years, as well as human agriculture which largely depends on pollinator biodiversity.” Pullano stated.

The WSDA is encouraging people to report any sightings of the giant hornets to them and to refrain from taking any direct action of their own, as even typical beekeeping gear is not enough to protect you from their stingers. You can also help the ecosystem not just by looking for the hornets, but by looking out for other insects as well.

According to Eric Lee-Mäder, a co-director of the pollinator program at the Xerxes Society, peoples’ fear of the hornets is affecting other insects in the area. “Fear of these insects seems to be driving people to kill bees and wasps that aren’t Vespa mandarinia,” Lee-Mäder stated.

Invasive species can be a threat to any environment, especially when their targets are such pivotal members of the ecosystem and agriculture. Exterminating the hornets is a careful and time-consuming process and the best way Washingtonians can support our state’s ecosystem and the scientists protecting it is to remain calm, report any possible sightings to the proper people, and to avoid doing any further harm by killing unrelated wasps and bees.

See how canceling the 2020 season has affected the baseball program

In baseball, someone who fails 70 percent of the time is considered elite. Yet failing only 70 percent of the time calls for hundreds of hours dedicating yourself to the game. For all the time spent in the batting cage, on the field, and in the gym, you typically get three at-bats to show for it.
However, imagine having no chance to show off your hard work, and the opportunity to prove yourself is taken away. During the troubled times of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom baseball program was deprived of one thing they loved most - baseball.
On March 17, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced the cancellation of the 2020 season for all spring sports programs. Pierce College Athletic Director Duncan Stevenson remained sympathetic to the student-athletes that he worked with.
“My initial reaction to the cancelation was a sense of devastation for our student-athletes,” he said. “Not just for this lost season, and this year’s training and preparation, but for the years of time and sacrifice they and their families have invested in getting to this point.”
According to Stevenson, over the last three decades as Pierce’s athletic director, he has never experienced anything like the COVID-19 Pandemic. The feeling of devastation extended to the program’s coaches and players. Yet, the program remained optimistic as the players began to plan for their futures and the next season.
“Within a day or two of the announcement of the decision, their spirits really turned around, especially as the enormous scope of the national and global situation became more apparent,” Stevenson said.
“They quickly switched gears from being frustrated about the lost season, to making plans for spring quarter classes and looking at options for next year. I am really proud of how resilient they have been through all of this.”
As announced online by the Northwest Athletic Conference, freshman and sophomores enrolled during the 2020 season would remain the same grade athletically for the next season. This would apply to all athletes regardless of the number of games played during the spring season.
Moreover, the sophomores have a big decision to make on where they will play during the 2020 season. Stevenson realized that the baseball program will never get this season back. “For some, this will be the end of their competitive careers,” he said. “As an athlete, you want to go out on your own terms –in the arena of competition. For those that return next year or move on to play at a four-year college [or] university, this will always be their lost season; It is really heart-breaking.”
Pierce’s baseball coach, Kevin Davis, was also crushed by the cancellation of the 2020 season. He knew what this season meant to the sophomores, as he was once in their shoes after finishing his sophomore baseball season at Bellevue College.

“I feel for the sophomores who worked their whole life for this and don't have anything to show for it,” he said. “I also feel for the freshmen who got their first chance at college ball and had that taken away.”
The NWAC was not the first conference to cancel the season, according to Davis. The decision to cancel the 2020 season followed similar decisions by four-year universities in the NCAA. Tournaments such as the NCAA College Baseball World Series and NCAA Basketball were canceled ahead of the NWAC’s decision in March.
Since the spring season ended, the program’s players have kept in touch and continue to train on their own time. “They have been doing home workouts, playing catch together when they can, and we have weekly zoom sessions to goof around and keep in touch,” Davis said.
The team now endures a long offseason where they plan to start their fall season as planned. Next season, they will have the possibility to have a first-ever season with three classes of players. This would include incoming freshman, returning freshman, and third-year sophomores.
Riley Paulino, a freshman pitcher who plans to return for next season, was let down by the cancelation and empathized with his sophomore teammates. “I was very disappointed because I felt that we had a really good group of guys all pulling towards one goal,” he said. “I also felt for the sophomores because, for some, this marked the end of their careers. It hurt me to witness their last season go down like that.”
Even though the rest of the spring 2020 season was canceled, the team was able to play 12 games out of the 45-game season. Paulino, who led the team in strikeouts, said his teammates were what made the short season and preparation worth it.
“My favorite part of this last season has to be the countless hours that I have spent grinding day in and day out with this group of guys,” Paulino said. “There is nothing like having 30 guys you know would run through a wall for you. This makes us push each other harder because we truly care about the success of each other.”

Hunter Bungert/ Photo Illustration

Cody Russell, a sophomore shortstop who is continuing his playing career at Washington State University, is only one of a few sophomores who knows where they are playing next season. According to Russell, he received the news of the canceled season during a meeting with this team.
“At first I was really shocked,” Russell said. “I didn’t really think it was true. It probably took me a week for it to click in; I’m not going to be completing my sophomore season up here.”
Since Russell has a sense of direction to work towards, he started his off-season early in preparations for his jump to division one baseball. But with no facilities and teams to practice with, it has been difficult to train for the next step in his career.
“It’s tough; we don't really have gyms right now,” he said. “So, we've got a little setup in our garage; my brother and I are lifting almost every day, hitting at the cages, playing long toss, and running. Just all the normal things that you can try and do without having a school gym or whatever we had before this whole thing happened.”
Additionally, Russell will be joining his brother at WSU, who is a freshman. He looks forward to the opportunity to play at the highest level with his brother. “I’m playing with my brother, what else could I really ask for?” he said. “It’s D1 baseball with your brother; It’s kind of a dream come true for both of us. I’m pumped, I can’t wait to get down there, get rolling and get with the team.”
With his junior college career at an end, Russell embarked on what he will remember most about playing for Pierce. “The grind, the attitude, and the culture that coach Davis built around the team was the coolest thing,” he said. “It was crazy how last year it was two different teams. This year it was like we were brothers, everyone was so close, hung out almost every day; everyone had classes with each other. The energy that the team brought was so different, I think that would have taken us a lot farther than last year.”
According to Russell, the majority of sophomores remain unsure about the next step in their baseball journey. Yet, the team continues to express optimism in the pursuit to play baseball for a four-year university. Only time will tell where they will end up and how the program rebounds from a canceled season.
With no way of making up the canceled season, the program endures a long off season to improve individually. COVID-19 guidelines make it hard to train as a team and each player’s commitment will be tested in preparation for the fall season. Even with a pandemic limiting the access to facilities and players, it won’t stop the program from striving to challenge themselves everyday. The program's sense of resilience will push them through quarantine and prepare for another season as a Pierce College Raider.

Pierce faculty persist through the online transition

Jezreel Proo Staff illustrator

Math professor Judy Petkovsek endured her first quarter of online classes at Pierce College. 

Petkovsek taught one online class in previous quarters at Tacoma Community College, which gave her familiarity with online courses. However, in preparation for the spring quarter, she remained concerned for the students who believed that math could only be learned in a classroom. “My biggest fear was teaching online to students who didn’t want to take online courses,” Petkovsek said.

In April, all Pierce College classes moved online. The spring quarter of 2020 marked the first time that many teachers experienced online classes, which required faculty to adapt to a mandatory virtual environment. With Canvas, teachers could reach students through an established platform that allowed for a smooth transition online.

Petkovsek is one of many professors at Pierce College who had to adjust to teaching students virtually, rather than in person. With online classes being mandatory, the amount of productivity and self-motivation of students may be in question.

“I was teaching students who signed up for online classes, and they knew what they were getting into; they knew they had to be self-motivated, and they knew they had to work hard at this on their own.”

Petkovsek noticed a small drop in the productivity amongst her students, however, but more so in the likeness and reason for taking her class. For her Math and Society class, she witnessed a drop in productivity due to the sense that this would be her student’s only math class taken while at Pierce.

On the other hand, her Precalculus II students’ productivity either stayed the same as previous grounded classes or rose. Petkovsek mentions that these students are going into the STEM field, which requires a higher level of mathematics. “They seemed really motivated and very self-driven,” Petkovsek said. “I gave them a little bit of support, and they go and take it very far.”

English professor Kayla Pohl taught English 101 for the first time online this quarter. According to Pohl, she had experience with teaching online classes in the past, but worried for the students who may not have the resources to transition to online. 

“When you just switch everyone to online, the issue is that there are already so many inequities among Pierce college students,” she said. “There are racial inequities and financial inequities, so you have some students that just don’t have the resources to be able to do online learning.”

Virtual streaming platforms such as Zoom played a vital role in the ability to speak with students in real-time. The use of the service was not required by Pierce College, as teachers had the opportunity to host asynchronous or synchronous classes. This gave more flexibility with class schedules and allowed students to complete schoolwork outside the designated class hour.

To better serve these inequities and adapt to a virtual platform, Pohl had to change her curriculum by conforming to daily lesson plans. “Every quarter, I change a little bit based on feedback from students,” she said. “But this quarter especially was about cutting down anything unnecessary or anything that just doesn’t work well in an online format.”

Changing the format of her lesson plan meant less time to teach topics that would have required longer than a small fraction of class time. “Research says that you have to keep videos as short as possible, no more than like five or ten minutes,” she said. “I mean eventually you’re going to get down to trying to deliver content in a Tik Tok format. How am I going to translate Rhetorical Theory to a quick five-minute conversation? Not easy.”

Pohl devoted time to discussions and group activities in grounded classes, but online classes have made it harder to replicate that in an online environment. According to Pohl, an asynchronous classroom is best for an online format, where people with jobs or other outside devotions have more flexibility in the classroom. 

Yet, this quarter, she and Petkovsek noticed a small decrease in student productivity. Despite some of the difficulties professors face, many remain optimistic and determined to see this quarter through.

To help ensure productivity and connections with her students, Petkovsek used Zoom to record lectures in real-time and required weekly attendance phone calls. Petkovsek saw weekly phone calls as an opportunity to connect with students and solve any difficulties with the class. 

“I check in with them once a week for what obstacles they’re having, that week or any struggles they’re having for the week,” she said. “I check in on their grades and, if I see a grade that is low or if they missed our homework assignment, I talk to them about it.”

Likewise, Pohl also contacted her students, who may have been falling behind. “I can’t get in contact with those students like I normally could,” she said. “I’ve been emailing and messaging in Canvas as much as possible to try to reach out to these students and tell them; it’s okay if you miss an assignment, turn it in late, just don’t stop; try to keep going.”

Along with communicating outside of class, allowing students to access daily Zoom recordings at any time of the day gave Petkovsek’s students more flexibility. The Zoom meetings could be watched multiple times a day, unlike a grounded classroom. According to Petkovsek, classroom interactions were still important, even though it is more difficult in a Zoom meeting. 

“I tried to make it as much of a classroom experience as possible before class starts,” she said. “I try to do small talk, like, ‘How was your weekend? What’s going on?’ I get students to kind of get to know each other, and I get to know my students.”

According to Petkovsek, using Zoom for the first time online at Pierce, brought forth difficulties with the storage and memory of the recorded videos. Many teachers experienced challenges with the limits to a non-professional Zoom account that restricted meetings to 40 minutes long. But with help from Pierce College’s E-Learning Center, the transition was smoother. “It’s been nice because we’ve gotten a lot of those bumps and bruises kind of work through so that didn’t happen the next quarter; it all kind of goes a little smoother.”

During either a grounded or online class, asynchronous or synchronous, Pohl pointed to the reason she enjoys teaching English at Pierce. “Just coaching students so they can say the things they want to say and participate in the communities that they want to participate in.”

With a quarter of online classes coming to a close, Pierce College faculty adjusted to a virtual environment on short notice. They gave students the ability to succeed at home and worked diligently to connect with students outside of class. Going forward, Pierce has an improved understanding of online courses and prepares for possibly two more quarters of social distancing. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Even if you aren’t exactly a gamer, you might enjoy Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It offers a nice escape from reality, where players can explore and build their own island paradise, with the help of friendly neighbors. There’s a reason the franchise has been popular with adults and kids alike for years. There is something calming about the game, in which players can put themselves into an alternate reality and be in charge of what happens at their pace.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest in the popular Animal Crossing franchise from Nintendo. Available only for the Nintendo Switch, this game involves a lot of the same elements of the previous games: players arrive in a new land, find resources to use or sell, participate in events, and interact with anthropomorphic animal villagers. However, what makes this game different is that instead of arriving in a pre-built town, players have to create the town entirely from scratch, with the help of a Racoon named “Tom Nook.”

As a 13-year player of the Animal Crossing franchise, I have to say, there is definitely some significant progress from the previous games. For starters, the graphics are clearer. The villagers are finally able to move their pupils, whereas, in previous games, they would just turn their heads when walked by. Players can also see more detailed flora and fauna.

Also, the idea of building a town from scratch seemed like it would take a while. However, once players get the hang of the controls, it’s easy to navigate the island.

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

Speaking of the island, players can name it themselves, as long as the name’s appropriate. Alluding to my Scandinavian heritage, I named mine “The Fjords.” Learning how to find resources is straightforward, and once players take Tom Nook’s DIY workshop, resources can be used to make furniture and tools.

A new feature that wasn’t in the previous games is gifting. Building relationships with neighboring characters unlocks an option to give them presents when players interact with them. Sometimes, they’ll even give something back.

Yet another new feature is energy. Unlike previous games, eating fruit can give players energy, which can make them strong enough to chop down trees, uproot trees (which can be replanted later), or smash apart rocks. Players can have a maximum of 10 energy at a time.

In the game, there are locations players can unlock as they progress, like the museum, airport, shops, and a campsite. After playing for a while, buildings like the general store and town hall will go through upgrades.

At the airport, players can redeem tickets earned through an in-game point system called the “Nook Miles System,” head to “Harv’s Island” to take pictures at a photo studio, or visit friends via the Nintendo Online system. Players can also send postcards from the airport.

The in-game currency, “Bells,” can be confusing. For instance, players can sell a dinosaur bone for 3,000 Bells, but a giant teddy bear costs 8,500 Bells. However, Bells are easy to earn through selling items found on your island (or other islands), or, if in a pinch, can be received through “Bell Vouchers,” which are obtained by cashing in Nook Miles.

One thing that I’m on the fence about is the Nook Miles System. Even after getting the upgrade to “Nook Miles Plus” on your in-game smartphone, it takes a while to earn enough miles to cash in for rewards. A Bell Voucher (worth 3,000 Bells each when exchanged at the general store) is 500 miles, and a Nook Miles Ticket, which can be used at the airport to find resources on uninhabited islands, is 2,000 miles.

Although, in my opinion, Bells are actually a bit more complicated. Players can sell resources, furniture, and wildlife to earn bells, but prices are high at the stores on the island. A postcard from the airport alone costs 200 Bells. So be careful about how you spend your Miles and Bells!

My favorite part of the game, however, is the museum. When you catch a new species of bug or fish, or if you find a dinosaur fossil, you can take it to Blathers, the museum curator, and he will help you display your specimen.

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

If you bring him something the museum already has, he will politely reject it, but offer to teach you some interesting facts about it. Even though the museum has an entomology (bugs) wing, Blathers is afraid of bugs, so players can get some pretty funny reactions out of him when they bring him a bug. 

Now, what really makes the New Horizons museum really great, is the facelift it received compared to the previous games. The museum is very fancy, complete with a butterfly room with a fountain in the middle, a walk-through deep-sea aquarium, and amazingly detailed fossils in the fossil wing. Unfortunately, there is no art wing so far, unlike previous games. However, the museum is still a favorite for both me and my brother, Nathan (“Nate”), who has his own character in the game. 

Overall, I would give Animal Crossing: New Horizons, 88%. While some parts of the game are complicated, and there are still hiccups to get through, it is a fun game, and a great way to relax during the stay-at-home order.


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.

A Competitor by Nature

Desirae Garcia / Staff Photo

The inspiring journey of Jordan Dowd, scholarship recipient and family-made soccer player

Jordan Dowd, 18, scored goals on the soccer field ever since he was three. He’s been through many exhausting practices and adrenaline-pumping games. However, soccer wasn’t just a game; it was a way of life that his mother instilled in him. 

Dowd’s mother began teaching him the fundamentals of soccer, helping him surpass his limits and inspiring him to reach his full potential. Then last summer, he reaped the benefits of his hard work when he received a partial scholarship to play soccer at Pierce College.

After receiving the scholarship, Dowd realized how dedicated he was and the effort it took to get there. Playing for Pierce only confirmed that his passion for soccer can go so much further. “It’s really cool to see it pay off during the season in our games and practices. It’s something that I want to keep doing even in life after Pierce or after college.”

Though Dowd was born in a small fishing community in Gig Harbor, he was more adept at defending the goal than he was at trailing bait. As an infant, Dowd was strapped to his mother and lulled to sleep by the sound of cheering fans and blaring horns. 

His mother, a high school girls soccer coach, played the sport for a couple of years in high school, but she still had the determination of a professional. She coached Dowd’s recreational team when he was in elementary school, during which he remembers his mother telling him to put his best foot forward; otherwise he’s only cheating himself. “I feel like my mom was pretty hard on [our recreational team], in a good way, because she knew our potential and wanted to get the best out of us,” he said.

Dowd shared the same passion as his mother, chasing his own dreams in soccer. As his love for the sport grew, so did his competitiveness. He signed up for a local team, Harbor Premier, making friends, perfecting his craft and creating memories that will forever remind him of why he plays. 

During Dowd’s freshman year of high school, he switched teams, which allowed him to get out of his comfort zone and get mentored by professionals. He chose Washington Premier Football Club, which had coaches with years of experience either playing professionally or for a club post-college. That was exactly what he was looking for someone who can help him grow his zeal for the sport.

Traveling all over the nation and playing teams of various levels, sometimes playing one to three times a week can seem like an arduous journey, but Dowd said his love for the game kept him going. Dowd said that he loves to showcase how much he’s invested and how passionate he is for the game. “I feel like it’s an opportunity to express who I am, who I want to be, and just show my love for the sport and show off all the hard work that I put into it.”

As much as Dowd loves the game of soccer, he said the connections he makes with his teammates on the field are more valuable. “You work with the same guys day in and day out, and you really have each other’s back on the field; you have a great love for the sport, and you share the passion with each other. That’s something that’s carried on with me from elementary school now to college.” 

Not only is Dowd passionate about his love of the game, but he also wants to write about it professionally. He’s now pursuing a sports journalism degree at Pierce College and playing on their team. He said he’s happy how it all worked out for now, and he plans to continue his soccer career at a four-year university such as Whitworth University, Gonzaga University or an institute in California.

As much as he loves to play the game, he wanted to follow a path that allows him to capture his love for sports and creative storytelling. “My career goals after Pierce is something related to journalism on the sports side of things or politics,” Dowd said. “I loved sports ever since I could remember, and I guess I’m decent at writing, so I thought I’d put those two together.”  

Dowd said becoming a professional soccer player feels like a pipe dream, but if he got the chance, he would take advantage of it. “I’ve definitely thought about [playing soccer professionally] all my life. Sure after college, if the opportunity is there, I’d take it.” 

He hopes to inspire the next generation to pursue soccer professionally. “I dream to continue soccer, continue the game and to pass it on to friends and family and my future kids.”

Toxins in Pierce College’s Backyard

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer
Waterfowl release nitrogen and phosphorus into the lake after eating, contributing to the algae. (Feeding the ducks is against the rules.

Waughop Lake and the toxic algae residing within

Down the hill from Pierce College Fort Steilacoom is Waughop Lake, a small body of water on the edge of the forest in Fort Steilacoom Park. The lake is surrounded by a trail where people can walk their dogs, ride a bike, or go for a quick jog. However, while the trail itself is peaceful, the lake says otherwise, as it’s home to numerous toxic algae blooms.

A neurotoxin in the lake causes a potentially lethal nerve disease in mammals; if ingested, it can cause paralysis. According to the Suburban Times, no humans have died from exposure to the toxic algae blooms, but several dogs have died after swimming in the lake.

In 2019, the City of Lakewood implemented a clean-up strategy that would remove phosphorus from the lake using Aluminum Sulfate (“alum”). However, Earth and Ocean Sciences professor, Michele LaFontaine, who did her Master’s Thesis on Lake Waughop, is against this plan. 

“It’s kind of like a Band-Aid solution,” LaFontaine said. “It fixes the condition right now, but the problem is that a lot of the chemicals are in the sediments in the lake. So what the alum treatment does is clean up the toxins that are in the water. So then the water’s clean, but then more of the toxins come out of the sediment. So you’re treating the symptoms, not the actual cause.”

Due to the potential threat of paralysis, people should avoid going into the lake. According to LaFontaine, the toxins do not affect the fish, turtles, or birds who live in and around the lake, such as the yellow perch or the largemouth bass. However, if a human or other mammal eats the fish, the toxin will affect them.

LaFontaine said a major contributor to the algae bloom was a farm previously owned by Western State Hospital. “They used to dump all kinds of garbage and debris into the lake,” LaFontaine said.

The pollution in the lake caused Waughop to go from 30 to 12 feet deep. It is also blocking a natural spring that used to feed water into the lake. Since the lake does not connect to any other body of water, the algae stay in the lake, continuing to grow.

Elysia Mbuja, Fort Steilacoom’s Biology Department Coordinator, said that the lake has an overload of nitrogen and phosphorus, which feeds the algae. “That is partly because of the waterfowl that are being fed, but mainly because there’s no inlet or outlet of the lake, so it’s dependent entirely on the water cycle,” Mbuja said. “So, when the water evaporates, the nutrients become concentrated, and that feeds the algae that grow in the lake.”

While Lakewood’s solution for the lake involves using alum, LaFontaine would rather the city go for a different method. “I think the only real solution is to dredge the sediments out of the lake and get that mucky stuff with all the excess nutrients and toxins out.” LaFontaine adds that while this is expensive, it would be a more long-term solution.

The area around Waughop Lake has since faced problems created by these toxins. Partly due to the pollution and algae altering the ecosystem, native species aren’t able to thrive. Meanwhile, the current environment is favoring invasive, non-native species, such as Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberries.

Pierce College, along with Fort Steilacoom Park, is working on the Garry Oak Restoration Project. The project works in the land behind Pierce College to remove the invasive species and replant native species like Garry Oaks. 

Garry Oaks, known as Oregon White Oaks, are the only oak tree native to the Pacific Northwest. It is an acorn-bearing tree with brownish-gray bark and dark green leaves. Garry Oak woodlands in Washington and British Columbia provide food and habitat for numerous species that are rare in these areas.

“We’re really fortunate to have the park and the lake right next to the college that we can study and be part of the cleanup efforts. Because it’s our neighborhood, and we need to take care of it,” says LaFontaine

For more information on the Garry Oak Restoration Project, or about the lake itself, Mbuja and LaFontaine can be contacted on Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s campus, or via email.

Is Everyone Accounted For?

Brianna Wu / Staff Illustrator

A deep dive of the 2020 Census and its potential impact on state funding

Many students of diverse backgrounds face challenges in various aspects of their life. For some, the quality of education can be a critical factor to securing success in their future careers. It can be difficult to find transportation to school resulting in being late or missing a class altogether. Textbooks could be outdated and in need of being replaced with new information. As rent increases, some students even face homelessness on top of balancing work and school.

It’s important to know what society struggles with. Every voice matters. That’s why the actions we take are significant, like participating in the 2020 Census. 

The census is an official count of the population for those who live in the United States, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. It counts how many people live in the same household as well as including those who are homeless. Workers of the census who gather this information are called census takers. They visit shelters, soup kitchens, and tented communities to gather answers from those who do not have a place to live.

The answers received from taking the census help legislation decide on where the federal funds will go. Certain areas contain a specific demographic. For example, a lot of college students may populate a large portion of one area or there are a lot of elderly who live in one particular place. These areas could be targeted to add more resources that are specifically tailored to that demographic. 

The structure of states and communities will be affected for the next decade. Billions of dollars will be distributed among our cities infrastructures, education, health care, housing programs, child care, and other services that affect our lifestyle.

For families who struggle to find affordable access to health care or who have the responsibility for children, these all can negatively impact one’s education. When all of these issues become too big to handle, it’s easy for students to give in to the outside pressure. The responses to the census can improve educational resources, public transportation, and on-campus housing. We can alleviate these problems by being accounted for as students in our population through the census.

People of color tend to suffer most from the harmful effects of being undercounted. This tends to happen due to language barriers, a person’s citizenship being questioned, and not having the funds to reach rural areas. Another reason is by moving the census online. Not everyone has access to the internet in their household. The only way to participate is through online, by phone, or by mail. However, Libraries can provide easy access to taking the census online, if anyone is unable to do otherwise.

Brianna Wu / Staff Illustrator

The struggles that ethnic groups face in their communities would only grow worse if undercounting continues to be a problem. Funds would be pulled from support programs like food stamps, education, and housing. Some students rely on similar programs to assist their families and to get by in an expensive economy that continuously raises the cost of living.

Pierce College student Marko O’Kelley relies on educational programs such as tutoring services, Financial Aid, and the College Bound program to achieve his educational goal. He plans to transfer to a four-year university once he’s done at Pierce.

“Financial aid is a good resource because I am currently living with my mom who is a single mother and she is struggling financially, so that means I also need to help her out financially with like, the rent or other things in the house that need to be helped with,” O’Kelley said.

O’Kelley is an advocate for the Hilltop Scholars Program, he hopes the funds will go towards similar programs within a huge community of youth for the next 10 years. “I feel like our youth are, and probably is, the gateway to a better future,” he said. “A lot of youth within a community or city would be inspired to do more because of gifts and talents that they have but hide because of the community that they live in.”

The long term effects of not participating in the census could result in a shortage of funds toward important sources for an increasing population. There may not be enough hospitals to take care of sickly patients, not enough schools for young children, and not enough houses for new families. Funds going toward care for the elderly, people who are disabled, and those living in poverty would not be accommodating to the number of people in these categories for the next 10 years. These resources may not be there in the future.

The importance of raising awareness about the census stems from the fact that not every voice is being heard. A rise in public awareness is needed for everyone to get well-informed and participate in the census. There is a potential risk that distributed funds will not have a strong focus as it should be in areas that need help. The demographics of students, especially for students of color, in regard to services provided by the community, would be negatively impacted for an entire decade. That is why every person counts.

The U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for sending out surveys by April 1. As it is part of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2), everyone is required to participate by law every 10 years. The survey inquires about who you identify as and the relationship to others in the house, along with asking what place of residency you are for your home. According to Title 13 U.S. Code § 221, people can be fined up to $500 for not responding to the census completely. Census workers could show up at your door or call by phone to follow up. 

The amount of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is determined by the population of people who currently occupy the state. The representatives create laws that affect the population. The amount of power in representation for specific groups will go down if not everyone is accounted for.

The census is an essential part of how well our government can take care of the community for the duration of 10 years. The actions we take now not only affect us, but future generations. It’s our civic duty to make sure we participate in the census.

Expanding Your Creative Horizons

Jesus Contreras / Staff Photographer

Pierce College’s Digital Design Studio and the Maker Space provides students with new creative opportunities

Pierce College is full of useful resources and commodities put in place in order to help students succeed. Many of these outlets, such as the library and tutoring center, are widely known about, and regularly give needed aid to a multitude of students. 

However, there are some resources the college has to offer that are not quite as recognized as others, and many students would be astounded to find the tools they’re missing out on. Made available mainly for students studying design at Pierce, although any student can use equipment and software, are the tools found in both the Digital Design Studio and the Maker Space.

Located in CAS 405, right next to the classroom in the library, the Digital Design Studio looks like a normal computer lab at first glance. Look further into the creative space however, and you’ll find it to be much more.

The computers in the lab, besides featuring massive curved monitors, are equipped with a host of Adobe programs that cannot be found on most other computers on campus. Students wishing to try their hand at Photoshop or After Effects have complete eligibility to do so at any time the studio is open, which should be for the majority any weekday.

Myra Fehling / Staff Illustration
Illustration of 3D printed models from the Maker Space

This resource can, has and will save students much time and money, as these programs can be quite pricey when purchased personally, even for students. Josseline Benitez, a student who works in the STAT department said, “A lot of people do use the resources, and they want to do some side projects, which is completely fine.”

On the ground level of the Olympic building is a space filled with colorful tables, chairs, and room for almost any activity. Many students see this area as just another place to study, but this largely unrecognized area has much more potential. This is the Maker Space, an area where students can not only use equipment like a 3D printer or laser cutter to create whatever their imaginations can devise, but also a space for games and art.

Design student Diane Russel works in the Maker Space and has used its resources for many of her own projects. “I would say we’re a pretty valuable resource,” said Russel. “The tables in the front are usually pretty full, people come to study and do homework.” 

Russel notes that while the space is often packed with students, few know of and utilize the actual equipment they have available. “I wish I had known about the 3D printer when I was taking my 3D class, I think that would have been fun and would have helped me understand the spatial aspects more.”

“I would like to see more people use the Maker Space, using the 3D printer and laser cutter for projects, and to expand their knowledge of the programs, and to use the skills they have in different, hands on ways. I think that would be a great thing.” Russel noted in a recent interview.

These two useful resource centers, although widely neglected, have the potential to be much more of a help to students than they currently are, simply because of how few students know they exist. Dion Jacobs, another STAT employee and student who sees the small number of students who use these assets said, “I think if there was more word on where this stuff was at, there would be a lot more students here, and it would help them with their classes, and give them a better experience here at Pierce.”

Resolving Your Concerns

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator

In light of the Harvey Weinstein trials, learn what you can do if you feel unsafe on Campus

Films such as Scream, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and Shakespeare in Love are just a few of the movies that represent the filmworks of an Academy, Tony, and Golden Globe Award winner that was once seen as Hollywood’s most powerful film producer.

Seeing Harvey Weinstein now, one wouldn’t guess they were looking at the person who once represented the kind of fame and success all producers strived to reach. However, since October of 2017, more than eighty women have made allegations of sexual abuse from Harvey Weinstein. 

Soon, he will be facing five felony charges in court. A court date that was once set for early September of 2018 has now been moved to January 2020, as a result of a new emerging indictment from actress Annabella Sciorra. 

In light of these sexual abuse allegations, new movements such as #MeToo have emerged, encouraging women to speak out against their abusers.  The emergence of #MeToo shows just how many people from all different kinds of  communities suffer from abuse. In places such as school and work, women may be in unsafe situations where they are unsure of who to go to for help.

Fortunately, Pierce College offers many resources in helping people who feel uncomfortable in school, the workplace, and at home. Holly Gorski, District Coordinator for Title IX and Vice President for Human Resources, is an important contact in supporting students who need help on campus. 

Title IX was created to ensure that nobody feels discriminated against, taken advantage of, or left out based on their gender. Gorski said, “We are really here to be supportive and help students who have these concerns that fall under the big umbrella of Title IX.” 

“I want to encourage people to resolve issues at the lowest level. If you feel like you can talk to someone about something that is happening, please do that, I think that can be really effective.” 

Of course, it also depends on the situation. If you’re trying to resolve an issue yourself when  communication isn’t an option, there is plenty of help and support offered through different resources at Pierce.

One place that may not be known to many students is pierce.ctc.edu/complaint-process. This site offers a place for students to go if they have any kind of issue on campus they wish to report, but aren’t sure where to go for help. “We are connecting students with resources, trying to get them to the places they need,” as Gorski said.

A report of concern can be in regards to themselves or a friend. This can be accessibility accommodations, a student conduct violation, an accident, or just a general complaint that doesn’t seem to fit into any of these specific categories. 

In addition, by searching “Pierce College Get Help” [pierce.ctc.edu/help], individuals are offered a complete page of resources offered to students looking for assistance in places such as food, transportation, health, legal support, transportation, and more. This can serve in providing help and support to someone who needs it, but doesn’t know where to look.

Allison Stewart, a student at Pierce College, said, “The first step in helping people on campus is to advertise that they actually have programs.” Stewart pointed out that she has never seen anything advertised regarding student support on campus. More effective support can be given if these resources are further publicized to the general school population.

While students are able to report a concern anonymously, the most fulfilling assistance can be given in cases with the most information provided. “Sometimes students come to me with concerns and they don’t want the college to do anything or they don’t want the college to use their name, and I provide support to those students,” said Gorski. “But if I have someone telling me not to do anything, then whatever help I can provide to help resolve the situation is really limited.”

It is understandable that giving school officials details of a sensitive situation could make a student nervous, but staff members can aid students and connect them with more help if they get all the information they need.

Jasmine Ford, a student at Pierce, said that one method that might help offer help to individuals is to have an anonymous hotline available. While Pierce doesn’t have it’s own emergency line to call, there are plenty of numbers in the Pierce County area that are available 7 days a week. Many of these are listed on Pierce College’s ‘Crisis Resource Page.’ [pierce.ctc.edu/counseling-crisis-situation]

Many of these resources at schools have become more prominent as a result of the #MeToo movement following the Harvey Weinstein trials. Stewart said, “It creates a forum for people to say ‘I believe you’ and ‘This happened to me too’ and makes you feel like you’re a part of something.”

Compassion for yourself and others

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrations

The Key to Reducing Anxiety and Depression

Compassion. The word itself can create feelings of warmth, relaxation and happiness. It’s like a soft hand-knit blanket or a steaming cup of yummy hot chocolate.

In a world where anxiety and depression are increasing among young adults and the general population, mental health specialists are looking for ways to help people and have been turning more toward teaching clients the concepts of compassion and self-compassion.

Compassion is defined as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distressed together with a desire to alleviate it, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Self-compassion would be showing compassion to yourself.

Both compassion for others and self-compassion are proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Both are free and available any time. At its core, all you need to do is reach out to yourself and others with empathy and a helpful attitude. 

You might show self-compassion by taking 15 minutes twice a day to do something you enjoy, by keeping a gratitude journal, or by talking to yourself in positive ways, for example. You might show compassion to others by regularly writing to an elderly relative, by calling a friend who’s having a tough time and encouraging them, or by smiling at a struggling parent in a grocery store.

These simple acts of compassion reduce the fight-or-flight response that anxious or depressed people often feel. It is a natural survival instinct, but sometimes the response can go into overdrive and escalate. That’s where compassion and self-compassion can help de-escalate feelings such as fear, danger, being overwhelmed or being alone.

Pierce College Mental Health counselor Brenda Rogers, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, encourages both types of compassion. “Having compassion for others is just as important as having compassion for ourselves,” says Rogers. 

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrations

“Often I will see people who will come in for depression or anxiety and they will give a lot of grace to everyone else but not themselves. And that’s really hard. Compassion is a beautiful thing in this world. It’s how we help each other. It’s what underlies how we do good things in the world, whether that be donating your time or playing with a child. It’s giving back to the world.”

Students at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom are fortunate to have a culture of compassion. It exists like a fine piece of silk thread, woven through the various student support programs and activities on campus. The thread winds from the Food Bank truck to counselors available through the Welcome Center, to name a few.. 

In December they had massages, games, tutoring and more during finals week.  Their mantra?  ‘Friends don’t let friends go through finals week alone!’ Friends Leahana Dunahoe and Aminah Lambertis, students in the Social Service/Mental Health program, lean on each other regularly for compassion and support, as Lambertis explains.

“You never know what people are going through, even your friends or someone that you think looks fine and has it all together,” said Lambertis.  “When people show compassion to me, it makes me feel really good. It makes me feel, you know, that I can do it because sometimes when you’re at your lowest low and you feel like you can’t go any lower, all it takes is that one person.”

Dunahoe, mother of seven children ranging from infancy to a 22-year-old, reflects total joy as she recounts the many ways her children have helped her.

“When they say the things that they say to me, I can’t even tell you how much it really has kept me going.” she said.  “I cried on my way home and thought, ‘God, you just really have thought about me so meticulously. You’ve put these people in my life when I needed them the most.’

“And I’m the type of person – I’ll have a smile on my face and I’ll be dying inside and I’ll be going through the worst hell I could even think about going through, and I don’t tell people. I don’t talk to people about it. I don’t want my stuff bringing people down.”

Abri Wilson / Staff Writer

As Social Service/Mental Health students, Lambertis are familiar with these sorts of topics, and have some suggestions about self-compassion. “Words of affirmation can be very important,” said Lambertis. 

“Just wake up in the morning and say: ‘You are beautiful. You are going to do something good today.’ Maybe write something – put a sticky note on my mirror or a sticky note in my car that I have to see every day.”

If you have difficulty feeling compassion for yourself or others, know that compassion can be cultivated, according to Psychological Science. Athlete Bergland wrote a nice summary of a study that proved this. It included the use of ‘loving kindness meditation’ (also referred to as LKM) which is frequently used by counselors including St. Martin’s University (Lacey, WA) Assistant Professor Johanna Powell, Ph.D., LMFT.

Powell suggests that students look at what they’re saying to themselves – their inner dialogue. The goal is self-compassion rather than negative, judgmental self-talk. She suggests that students try reflecting on where they’re at, possibly by journaling,  (which helps people reprocess and analyze better). Next, students might want to fill up on things that are positive and affirming.

“Whether you look at YouTube or at Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, do some of the loving kindness meditations,” says Powell. “Once we’ve identified how we want to be with ourselves, we can have this course correction that’s helping invite us to engage ourselves differently.”

Remember, people care, you are not alone, reach out to others in kindness, and give yourself lots of loving affirmations.  You are a good person and you will get through this.

Abri Wilson / Staff Illustrator
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