Pierce Pioneer

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.

Animal Crossing: Just a Kids’ Game or a Modern Coping Tool?

Matt Slater / Staff Photo 

Young or old, you have probably heard of the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Amidst the uncertainty that is global affairs in 2020, Animal Crossing’s cheery exterior and light-gameplay have been welcomed into the public light with open arms. 

But what about Animal Crossing: New Horizons has made it so successful? Could the raging popularity be accredited to individuals just searching for ways to escape their current situation, or is there a deeper benefit? 

The video-gaming industry as a whole has seen an increase in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the current global atmosphere being very tense and many individuals stressed about COVID-19, whether it be work or health-related, Animal Crossing has offered a type of peaceful sanctuary. 

Animal Crossing can be used as a daily escape from the frightening reality of life. It allows individuals to take control of anxiety-provoking situations and vent any frustrations or fears they have about the real world. 

This pursuit of an outlet to funnel attention to is called escapism. Escapism has historically been given a bad rap because it is associated with relief from an unpleasant situation, but it is not always negative. 

Animal Crossing offers a video-gaming experience that is often compared to soothing meditational practices. The franchise is not dominated by heavy story-telling and the narrative guidelines can be completed at your leisure. This self-pacing mechanism offers players many choices, and with it, control. 

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can decide what their character does day-to-day in real-time; whether it be tending a garden, catching fish or bugs, decorating villager’s houses, or visiting friends from around the globe. Original music, characters, and dialogue make Animal Crossing quite unique in the gaming world. 

New Horizons launched on March 20, 2020; In record time, it exceeded the lifetime sales of each previous game in the Animal Crossing franchise. Also during March, the Nintendo Switch console, which is the only platform New Horizons is offered on, saw a sales increase of 150 percent. 

Individuals like Jeremy Bailenson have worked to investigate the connections between escapism and virtual enrichment. As he explores in his book, Experience on Demand, virtual reality, and social simulators can help individuals recover from trauma. 

Traumatic events, such as global pandemics, bring a degree of uncertainty, which can lead to serious psychological repercussions. 

A 2002 study of children in psychologically traumatic situations showed that playing with toys or art materials helped rebuild emotional stability. Having the opportunity to play comes with the notion that people are beginning to put their lives back together, and life is going back to normal.

In this way, Animal Crossing: New Horizons might be the relief that our modern generation needs. 

Anyone could make the argument that COVID-19 has been a traumatic experience. Life for many around the globe has completely changed. The loss of communities such as school, work, and religious gatherings, as well as the uncertainty when communities will be able to gather again, can lead to serious mental health repercussions.

Maybe the reason New Horizons has gotten so popular is that it is tending to the psychological human need to play in order to deal with trauma. 

New Horizons is fundamentally simple. It allows for easy repetition, which can soothe nerves or anxiety. Additionally, New Horizons is open to creative expression. As a player, you are not confined to a strict rule book. Almost every aspect of the game is moldable to your artistic vision. If players don’t have a specific vision in mind, the game inspires them to create one with the tools provided. 

Finally, New Horizons lets you build and nurture new relationships and communities. It has become a new resource for individuals to connect to one another. In a time when everyone is a little lonely, thousands of players congregate online to share resources and playthrough tips.  

Animal Crossing: New Horizons may pave the way for new, innovative virtual simulators, especially if quarantine persists. It will be interesting to see how different aspects of the media industry will cope with life restrictions or if more companies try to capitalize on stay-at-home requirements. Regardless, New Horizons will be written in the history books as a smashing success.

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.

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.

Love made me a good liar


In March of 2011, I began dating my partner. The problem that I addressed right away was something I made very clear: “We cannot tell anyone, especially not our parents.” The reason this was brought up was because I did not want any attention at all. I had not told anyone, not even my family, that I was gay.

It was hard to put trust into others. Being young, I had this strange idea that if even one person knew, it would somehow trickle all the way to my parents. Because of this, I allowed a select few to know of my relationship and sexual orientation. It was fun for a while, but naturally, I wanted more. I wanted my relationship to be known, but most of all, I wanted to be myself.

I grew up thinking about coming out, but the idea made me sick to my stomach. I was afraid of not being accepted. I was even more terrified of being separated from her. The thought of being separated from someone I considered to be the love of my life was devastating. I had heard too many times about LGBT youth being forced to change their identities by their family. I would rather live in fear than be apart from her.

Carl Vincent Carallas / Staff photo
Karley Wise (left) and her fiancée, Savannah.

Writing all this now, it seems so silly, but the feeling of anxiety and fearfulness was something I experienced almost every day.

So we stayed together, acting as best friends, having slumber parties and spending summer days together. Chit chatting about “girl talk,” which, for us, was dreams of getting married, living together and still laughing at each other’s jokes, even in our old age. She was my entire world. I could not give her up.

Valentine’s Day came and left many times during our relationship. It was difficult. I had to sneak her some kind of gift and be able to spend time with her without question. I had to exceed the expectations of Valentine’s Day, all while trying to make it seem like we were just friends. 

I would watch as other couples got public displays of affection, romantic gifts, go on dates and express their love without fear. I wanted to do that so badly. I wanted to give her the world and show everyone our incredible bond and relationship. I wanted to be able to express just how much I loved her, but I could not. I was unable to do as others could, all because of the fear in my heart of being in a queer relationship.

This took a big toll on me mentally and emotionally. How was I supposed to be happy if I could not even be myself? I could not sit back and watch everyone be happily in love with their partner. I could not break the idea of being rejected by society. 

Social media showed loving couples post gushy texts and representations of their affection for each other. It seemed never ending, like it was something I could not escape. 

There were times that were very dark for me, but I could not even tell my parents what was wrong because the truth would be out, and it would all be over. Love made me a good liar for far too long.

In April 2016, I came out to my parents. I was 18 and I was prepared for anything. It turned out that I did not need to worry. I am lucky; I was accepted. We were accepted. 

I could not have been happier. It was like opening a door to a locked room to which I had not had access until now. I was free! I no longer needed to pretend to be someone else. I could say what was on my mind and it was amazing. It also helped that my family already liked my partner. We had an easy transition into a new, romantic lifestyle.

Carl Vincent Carallas / Staff Photo

We got to go to Senior Prom together, which I had never been able to experience; I had not been to a school dance with her the entire time we were together. We got to spend as much time together as we wanted without the fear of being caught. Life was really brightening up for me, and I could see it staying this way for years to come.

Today, we are still together. I do not call her my girlfriend anymore, though, because she is now my fiancée.

I can now spend as many Valentine’s Days with my partner as I please. This will be our third Valentine’s Day out of the closet, and it feels amazing. I can buy her as much as I want, tell everyone I want, express myself freely and finally feel like my love can be seen.

Although, there are still LGBT youth who have a difficult time during month of February. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 44 percent of LGBT youth are not out of the closet to their immediate family. Ninety-one percent are only out to their close friends. 

Without the ability to express yourself romantically with someone you love, seeing others who can is difficult. I know, because it is something I had to battle with for five years.  Consider those who do not feel comfortable with their sexuality; give them a safe place to be happy. Valentine’s Day is all about love, and to freely express it matters more than you may think.

A local LGBT resource is the Rainbow Center and Oasis Youth Center (for ages 14 - 24) in Tacoma.

2215 Pacific Ave. Tacoma, WA 98402

Oasis Youth Center:

(253) 988-2108 

[email protected]

Rainbow Center:

(253) 383-2318 

[email protected]

The holidays are over; here is how to survive the “blahs”


Holidays are a time for family to gather together and enjoy the season. It could be through the act of gift giving, sharing a meal together or simply just sitting around the fireplace sharing stories from the year and hopes for the year to come. 

In December 2006, a research survey was held by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner about positive holiday emotions. An open ended question portion asked about their favorite part of the holidays. Fifty-three percent mentioned family and/or friends and 36 percent specifically mentioned spending more time with family. 

The holidays can also cause stress on those who, for various reasons, do not look forward to the holiday season. According to the same study done about the positive aspects of the holidays, research was done on the negative aspects. Thirty-eight percent of the surveyed individuals said their stress increases during the holidays due to sadness, anger, loneliness or fatigue. Only 8 percent said their stress declined. 

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

Despite these things, the holidays boast bright lights, falling snow, time with family and festive cheer. This may be the case for many, but for others, the season can bring back painful memories of lost loved ones.

During the 2001 Christmas season, I moved from Tacoma to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was a hard move, not only being some thousand miles away from home, but also because it was the first Christmas that my godfather would not be around for. 

He was shot and killed on the Pacific Lutheran University campus in May, seven months prior. Even though it was December, the pain of that event had not gone away.  I have had a lot of family deaths growing up, but this one was the hardest. He was more of a father to me than my actual father was. 

I made some pretty good friends during my year in Minnesota and was not truly alone. However, I had trouble not wishing I had been able to be home with the ones I really wanted to spend that particular Christmas with. Unfortunately, travel conditions and funds made it too difficult.

People get lonely during the holidays, which carries over into post-holiday time.  A lot of people are lonely, homeless or did not have the money to make a “true” holiday happen. Another reason is that often, the holidays are not that happy due to the loss of a loved one, lack of employment, family issues and more.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

I, for one, enjoy the holiday time, especially Christmas. You might think that it is hard to be depressed during the festivities. However, life happens. A loved one gets sick or dies, you lose a job or home or you never really had a home to begin with. Maybe you stay wherever you can for however long you are able to. Not everyone has the best of luck during the holidays.

Even though you could be around several people and yet still feel alone can cause depression during and after holidays. Even so, there are ways you can beat the “blahs” and still enjoy life after the hustle and bustle is over.

Finding ways to be happy during the holidays will also help in the post holiday “blahs” as well, there is nothing wrong with remembering and reminiscing about loved ones that have gone before during the festive times, just do not dwell on it too much, for there lies the problem. You would just be making yourself, and those around you, miserable.

You can stay active and get in a routine. Whether it is going to the gym, going for a run or just simply pushups and situps at home, be consistent and stick with it. Hobbies are always a good way to pass the time when you are feeling down and out. Take up photography, painting, rock painting or whatever else you choose to do that will make you happy.

If you are one who takes the time to make New Year’s resolutions, fulfill them. That would definitely help conquer the “blahs.” I bet you would feel really good about it – and yourself, as well.

If none of the above works, the best thing you can do is find someone to talk to. It could be a good friend, pastor, teacher or mental healthcare professional. Talk about how you are feeling and what you are going through. It will get you the help you need. I am preaching to myself on that one as well, as I, like a lot of people, do not always like asking for help when I really need it.

Live in 2019 happy, healthy and of good mind. Beat the “blahs” and embrace the joy.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

Homeless for the Holidays


The holidays are a time to be thankful. It is also time when we stop ignoring those we pass on the street and chip in a few dollars for a hot meal or beverage.

I believe that when one person sees an act of kindness, others will want to do good, too. So why is homelessness still a growing concern for communities worldwide?

This isn’t going to be another sanitized article that explains the growing need for affordable housing, food, clean water and security. I want to believe that you and I are seeking a higher education so we can gain the necessary tools to fight for our basic human right to those things. So we can come up with solutions to the problems that plague our society, so we can build the future we’ve all dreamt about.

Candee Bell / Staff Photo
The Pierce College food pantry is located next to the Student Life office across from the cafeteria.

I lost count the number of times I have heard someone say that homeless people are homeless because they want to be. Many people have this strange idea that homelessness is like the flu, as if you simply get a flu shot and you won’t be homeless anymore. That would make a wonderful Christmas story… But this is the real world.

If you have lived from paycheck to paycheck like I have my entire life, then you know what it is like to be constantly worried that you might not have enough money for food or gas. Making too much money for assistance and not enough to survive is something that is very rarely discussed.

We have become a sadistic society. Many proclaim, “I had to suffer, so they should have to suffer too.” Instead, we should say, “You are suffering? What can we do to change the system so that you are not suffering and those after you do not have to suffer?”

I apologize if I have made you feel uncomfortable, but there is nothing comfortable about being homeless. The holidays can be especially difficult for homeless students emotionally.

When most students are thinking about which gifts to buy for the holidays to show their appreciation for friends and family, homeless students may be trying to find shelter for when school is not in session. If you are reading this and are worried you will not have a warm place to sleep, you have options. Notify a staff member, tell a trusted friend or make an appointment with Pierce College counselor Megan Irby, so someone can help find you a safe place to sleep.

Megan Irby has helped many homeless students get the resources they need to improve their situation. “I don’t want people to believe it is their fault for being homeless. You can achieve your goals despite these barriers,” Irby said.

Students can dial 211 or call REACH Tacoma Center at 253-573-6590. There is a stigma that shelters are not safe. Pierce College takes care of their students and will not send you to an unsafe environment.

Candee Bell / Staff Photo
Current food supply in Pierce College’s food pantry.

This time last year, I lost my rental space because my landlord needed the room. I found myself having to make the difficult decision to quit my low paying job and stay homeless in California or find a cheaper alternative by living in a different state. I was lucky enough to have a friend from Spain help me move to Las Vegas where living is much more affordable.

I remember this sense of dread slowly crawling up my spine as I waved goodbye to my friend at the airport. By the time I reached my vehicle, panic had set in. I had no job, no place to live and very little money left. I felt defeated, alone and scared. I didn’t think I would be able to climb out of the pit of despair I had fallen into.

I was thankful I had my truck and that the weather was still warm. Many homeless people don’t have the luxury of owning a vehicle. When Vegas did not prove fruitful job results, my family in Washington offered to give me a place to stay. I left all my belongings behind and drove toward salvation.

I have been working toward getting my degree for years, but something always kept me from completing it. I immediately enrolled into a graphic design degree program here at Pierce College. I didn’t shy away from telling the staff about my situation and to my surprise, there are many programs offered to homeless students.

Programs like Basic Food, Employment and Training (BFET) help students who are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits to get started on their educational journey. They will also report your school participation, so you can apply for Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)-subsidized child care and help guide you into affordable housing.

For more information on this program, you can contact Gunnar Jaeck BFET Coordinator at 253-912-2399 ext. 5770. You can also send him an email at [email protected] to schedule an appointment at his office at the Fort Steilacoom Campus.

Candee Bell / Staff Photo
Canned and packaged food can be found in the food pantry.

Did you know that Pierce College campus has a food pantry? Director of Student Programs Cameron Cox said, “Anyone that finds themselves strapped for cash and needs a meal can rest assured that the pantry is there for them. Donations are always appreciated and can be dropped off in the Student Life office.”

The food pantry is located just outside of Student Life offices across from the cafeteria. “We will be having a food drive starting on November 1st and personal hygiene drive this coming February,” said Aidan Helt, Issues and Awareness Coordinator. “We recently got a microwave, so students can heat up their meals when the cafeteria is closed. We are also hoping to get a second pantry, so we can hold more donations.”

Often times we want to make a difference in our communities, but we do not always know what we can do. Food and personal hygiene donations are accepted year round. Take your donations to Student Life across the cafeteria at the Fort Steilacoom Campus and at the Puyallup Campus Student Life office.

I would like to thank each and everyone of you for making Pierce College community one of the best. By helping others we in turn help ourselves.

Donations can be brought to the Student Life office and will supply the food pantry.

Dad and Lies

Hannah Nguyen/Staff Illustration

People always say that dad gets along with boys more than girls, but I did not find that in my house. Since the day I was born, my mom always grumbled that she officially lost her husband because I had all of his attention. He would say “The most important thing is being honest, and honestly, I love you more than anything in the world.” I chuckle with pride to know that he is total “my possession”.

Back then, we did not have any type of transportation except for walking. I remember when I was four or five, every morning the neighborhood would see a man walked to the nursing school with a little girl sleeping on his back. Mom always wanted to wake me up, but dad just refused to do so because he wanted me to sleep a little more. Until we got a bike, I still enjoyed sleeping in the back seat with arms around him and face leaned on his back.

Dad was the one who tried to make my hair. His big clumsy hands would create a tangly braid but I did not care. He also made unique handmade toys for me when mom did not allow me to buy any.

I thought things were so beautiful and perfect for me and my dad as years went by. That changed  the day my mom announced she was pregnant and I was going to have a baby brother.

When my brother was born, the doctor told us that he has some problems with his heart and lungs, which could severely affect his life. The only way to minimize those risks was to prevent him from crying too much because crying took away the amount of oxygen he needed. There is no doubt that my younger brother became a real “prince”. He got all of the attention from our dad, probably more than the amount of oxygen that he needed, and mom never refused to buy a thing for him.

Of course, I loved my brother, but for a while I could not accept the fact that I was not my dad’s  priority any longer. I started to hate my dad and wished my brother would disappear. I was a hurtful, hateful, and sorrowful little girl.

So, I decided to take revenge for everything I was experiencing. I chose to attack the most important rule that my parents insisted on – that of being honest.

Mom and Dad had a small business; money fromm that business paid for my brother’s treatment. I knew where the money was kept and took the money when everybody fell asleep. The amount was only $50, but was huge 10 years ago.. With the unprofessional plan of an 8-year-old kid, I am now not surprised that I was caught red-handed. Dad was smoking outside and walked in when he overheard some noise in the living room. When he saw me holding the money, he said nothing but gave me a look of deep disappointment, shook his head then walked away like nothing happened. His look stuck in my mind and my soul, left me scared with more regret than I have ever felt before..

Hannah Nguyen/Staff Illustration

Those next couple of days were hell to me. Dad did not tell mom about what I had done nor would he talk to me. It was agonizing to me, I wished that he would just punish me instead  of ignoring me that way. The look he gave me appeared everywhere, even in my dreams. Then, with all the bravery of 8-year-old I could bring, I admitted everything to my parents. Mom was dismayed to know how her daughter could think of stealing, while Dad gave me a smile of relief. I knew that being honest might make him forgive me and I began to hope that dad would love me again.

In that evening, dad came to my room. We had a long talk about what both of us did and felt toward each other. I asked: “Dad, do you still love me more than anything in the world like you used to say?”

He shook his head, formed his hands into two loose fists, put them together, said:” I only love you this much.”

I almost teared up. “Dad, I am so sorry for what I did, please forgive me, I need your love. I do not need attention anymore, but please love me like you did,” I said.

Dad smiled, and said the words that make me swear to myself that I would never lie to him again: “The size of these two fists is equal to a heart. I love you with all my heart.”

Happy Father’s day, Dad, for being the one who taught me the most important lesson in my life, being honest.

Amazing expectations for the future

Marina Chetverikov/Staff Photo Illustartion
Beatrix Cendana walks in this spring’s graduation ceremony. She will receive her associate of arts degree from Pierce in the fall.

June 15 is graduation day and I am really excited to walk in the ceremony. But I am still asking myself what am I going to do after graduation? Some students decide to come back home to enjoy the short break during the spring, some students decide to transfer to a four-year university and other students get internship for a year.

Graduation means a lot to me. I feel something different inside. It is not my first time going to college but it will be my first graduation ceremony. I have studied at university for two years in my own home country. But at university, there is no graduation ceremony after finishing. Students are notified from the school whether they earned their degree or by checking the transcript through the online system. But here, once requirements are met, I can participate in to the ceremony.

After graduation, I will have a big decision to make. Should I work for a year or transfer to a four-year university? Whatever my decision, I still hope to always serve my community with my skills and knowledge at my future job.

I wish for this big day that my parents could see me walk in to the ceremony, but they are too far away. The next best thing I can do is to show them the pictures of me wearing a gown and cap.

After a few years of waiting for this big day, I think I have been patient in the process to get my associate of arts degree. The most significant thing that graduation means to me is what I learned in college. I was able to meet more people, I got involved in many kinds of volunteer and Student Life activities, and know more on what I am really passion about.

When I decided to study in the U.S., I thought I would have a hard time studying or speaking with other students at Pierce because of my language barrier. That’s why I never thought to look for ways to grow. But I found I was wrong. I discovered that from a small thing I can produce big changes in my life.

During my time here at Pierce, I was more than a student working towards getting my degree in one year. By working in various jobs on campus, I was able to gain professional experience and made good friends.

Another thing is the way education system works in the United States. Here, I never find that studying is a duty but it is more like a passion to reach my goal. In my country, education is a must-do thing and it is a duty if we want to get a better job. Also, ages are limited. To get a bachelor’s degree, everyone has to be under 21 years old to get accepted into every university.

During my time spent in college, I learned that a degree is not the only what we thing I need to get a good job. I also need to know who I am and what I want in the short term and long term for my future.


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