Pierce Pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PNAJE 2018 winners in college journalism  contest


The Pioneer staff earned three, second-place awards this year along with numerous individual awards in the 2018 Student Journalism Contest.

Sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Association of Journalism Educators, the contest is open to community, technical and small four-year institutions in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The contest drew in 339 entries, according to contest coordinator Liz Wishaw.

In the publications sweeps category, which counted the most first-, second- and third-place finishes for a school, The Pioneer placed second as well as second in best website. Pioneer production manager Debbie Denbrook earned second in the individual sweeps category.

Pioneer current and former staff members winning awards included Marina Chetverikov, Lorelei Watson, Justin Ngo, Chrystal Patterson, Megan Quint, Megan Sokol, Hannah Nguyen, Beatrix Cendana, Carl Carallas, Craig T. Hiblar and SuYoung Park.

“The results of the PNAJE contest reflect that student journalism is healthy and kicking in the Pacific Northwest,” PNAJE president Rich Riski of Peninsula College said. “PNAJE believes the role of a vibrant Fourth Estate is well served by this generation of student journalists shining a light of truth and inclusion through creative storytelling and reporting.”

The staff of 18 judges included communications professionals who work or worked for publications across the United States such as The (Tacoma) News Tribune, Tacoma Weekly, The Peninsula Gateway, McClatchy Newspapers, The Detroit News, Ludington (Mich.) Daily News, Holland (Mich.) Sentinel and MSN.com. Other judges included communication professors from Western Washington, Pacific Lutheran University and Everett Community College.

“Thanks to all the judges, retiring adviser Michael Parks, and PNAJE contest coordinator Liz Wishaw for carrying this contest into the future,” Riski said.

Remember all mothers


May is full of reasons to celebrate. Gardens come to bloom, bringing life and color to a dismal landscape. Birds and other critters sing and chatter in the backyards as another season starts fresh and new.

It is a season budding with promise. Moms get breakfast in bed or treated to lunch. Weddings are held, graduations are planned, summer plans are hatched. Frowns and worries give way to smiles and lighter steps.

Yet under the all of the color and the gaiety, there is a shadow of sadness. Not every mom sees Mother’s Day the same way.

There is the mom who keeps a box tucked away in a closet or attic. Each piece has a specific memory: This is the hat that he wore when he came home from the hospital. This is the blanket that grandma made before she passed away. That is the onesie he wore when he took his last breath.

There is the mom who felt all through her pregnancy that she was not “mom” quality. When her daughter was born, she could not explain to anyone why she could not hold her newborn. Words like “crazy” and “mental” bounce around her head.

Whatever the reason, her house is quiet and only shadows of giggles hang on the walls. As she watches the neighborhood kids ride their bikes past her house, she remembers the skinned knees she had to patch.

Sometimes the kids come home from college or wherever their lives took them. When they do, she will sit at the kitchen table, listening and wondering who this stranger is that bears her child’s name. What happened to the child she knew, the one missing teeth and bubbling over with enthusiasm, telling her about school?

Mother’s Day is about memories, old and new. It is about honoring the world’s second oldest profession (Erma Bombeck’s definition). It is easy to honor the mom who is surrounded by her kids. Just don’t forget the one who has only ghosts to hold. She is still a mom, too.

Net neutrality needs to stay



“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment

The First Amendment gives the citizens of this country the right for freedom of speech. But on Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to overturn net neutrality rules. In a way, this is an issue of freedom of speech. When the First Amendment was written, the internet, YouTube, Twitter, Skype and other ways of communication would have been science fiction to the writers. But the internet exists today and is a primary means of communication.

Without net neutrality, internet service providers are legally allowed to slow down content or block content of websites of their choosing. Net neutrality law came into existence in 2015 because of certain internet service providers “throttling” or slowing down content on the internet and restricting access to certain sites. Without the protection of net neutrality, the potential is there for them to do it again.

This country was founded on the principle that it was to be a government of the people, for the people and by the people. However, by the FCC overturning net neutrality it appears to be listening to businesses instead of the voice of the people. These internet service providers have the money and resources to get this law overturned, while the voice of those against this are currently being ignored.

Stay informed, do not keep silent. The Pioneer will continue to exercise our freedom of speech.


It is not the girl’s fault

Girls are taught from a young age that what they wear, how they walk, where they go, and what they do can make them a victim, and that boys are little more than rabid wolves on the prowl. Boys are taught that they can do as they please. After all, boys will be boys, right? Eventually both philosophies will collide.

Rape is more than just being forced to endure non-consensual sex. It is theft of innocence, theft of a person’s soul and security, and theft of one’s mental wellbeing.

The disconnect between the two philosophies creates different accountability. If a girl is assaulted sexually, she must have acted a certain way to invite the attack. If the boy did it, all he did was act naturally.

Another point of view centers around attitude. A comment made in an online discussion highlights how some people view the subject: “If you women would stop crying so much about it (rape) happening and maybe learning to enjoy it, the world would be a better place.”

But are the people who are making these comments also individuals who have experienced sexual assault, or known someone who has? Or are they just the same people that make it a point to say, “Well, what was she wearing? What did her makeup look like? What was she doing to provoke her attacker?”

These comments are, and always have been, rampant in almost any sexual assault case. This is something that parents teach their children, and those children teach their friends.

Because these children have grown up this way, girls – from young to old – are terrified for their safety. Where a man can walk down a dark street and feel confident in making it home safely, a woman fears for her life. Part of this lies in the hesitancy of saying, “No.” In every case of sexual assault, someone’s consent, or lack thereof, is disregarded.

And, of course, not every victim is a woman. There’s a problem in assault against men, as well, simply from saying things like, “He got lucky,” to, “Sex is all men want.” These victims are also incredibly important – but it cannot be denied that women’s lives are heavily affected by the culture surrounding rape.

When it comes down to it, sexual assault is a choice. A person chooses to harm another. They choose to ruin a life. It’s not a boy’s natural behavior, and it is not anyone’s fault but the attacker.

Rape will never be funny. To learn this, we all need to take a step towards the support of sexual assault victims and make a difference in the ideas of the attackers, potential or otherwise.

Carl Carallas/Contributing Illustration


Surprises of color bring joy

The holiday decorations are put away and it seems the laughter and gaiety has gone with them. The New Year celebration with the bubbly and good cheer has come and gone. A look outside only serves to add to a spirit of melancholy.

The world looks dull, gray, lifeless. The never-ending rain occasionally gives way to snow, but even then, does little to lighten the mood.

Then a whiff of the peppermint mocha wafts up from a cup, while the barista sends a wish of a good day.

Bright colorful stocking caps bob up and down as children and adults go about their day. With a spot of red here, a wild mishmash of purple, green, and yellow there, it is like the canvas of “Fantastic Beasts” where things that are magic are just about the only things with color.

And like a spell has been cast, the weight upon the soul is not so heavy. Footsteps are lighter, laughter returns.

The world outside the window is a detailed coloring book brought to life. Walking by a rose bush brings a smile at the sight of a rose that refuses to acknowledge it is winter.

Random acts of kindness spring up, much like the crocuses, those cheerful heralds that pop out of the ground to say that spring is coming. At the coffee shop, someone pays for the person behind in line, and it starts a chain reaction. A bag of groceries is dropped off where a single mom is looking at near-empty cupboards.

In the world outside that is full of green and gray, seeing color gives hope that there is a brighter future ahead. Just one more day, just one more step, just one more thread, that is all that is needed.

Light a candle at Christmas

A candle flame does more than light up a room

A lit candle is more than a source of light in a dark room. All civilizations and religions have used it as a focal point for something.

For the Hindu, an oil flame represents using knowledge to conquer the ugly side of human nature – lust, anger, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, envy, etc.

Jewish rites center around lamp flames as they symbolize God himself present among His chosen people. A Roman Catholic Mass uses candles in the sacred rites for the same reason.

The sight of flickering candles on top of headstones in graveyards around Finland creates an almost ethereal air as family members remember past loved ones.

This ritual is used in many homes where a lit candle is more than just scent and ambience. They are often lit to remember a loved one who is no longer here.

Losing a mother or father is hard and can make the holidays difficult to handle. Watching children climb onto Santa’s lap in the mall brings back painful Christmas memories of Dad or Grandpa playing Father Christmas.

Having to bury a son or daughter is devastating. Tiny Tim proclaiming “God bless us everyone” can bring a never-ending flood of tears.

Lighting a candle is a symbolic way to represent the soul. For those who believe in spirituality, the soul never dies. By lighting a candle, in a way that soul is once again a part of the holiday.

As long as the candle is lit, memories can be shared and the ache is less. The instant the lighter touches the wick, it is as if a magic spell has been cast.

As the flame dances with the air movement in the room, it is as if the spirit has joined the festivities. For just a moment, a wisp of air on the cheek is a kiss.

This year for Christmas, light a candle and welcome the memories. Hold tight to the hand of the ghost of Christmas Past as you peek through the windows.

Attend a Christmas Eve service and as the candles are lit around the room, make plans to create new memories.

Seek to become your own candle and light the world around you. When a candle is lit in your memory, may it ease away the ache that was left behind.

Communities come together to heal

Americans face recent tragedies by helping neighbors

The faces of Americans dominating the news and social media recently have told a story. It is a story of grit and hope that is so deeply woven into the American identity that it is almost taken for granted.

Over a period of weeks, Americans experienced and watched events unfold that tore at the fabric of their lives. Out of those events, people have rediscovered what really matters — community.

American faces showed desperation as they cried for relief. Mud and muck gives a commonality to skin tone on those who arrange rescues from fast-moving water.

They shouted with fear as they seek to protect the ones around them even as they run for cover themselves.

They are white and scraggly, mingled with brown and bearded. They wear skull caps or prayer shawls. Designer clothes are just as dirty as the neighbors’ second-hand threads.

Barely a month ago, the hottest neighborhood buzz had passionate debates about who was going to win the Mayweather/McGregor boxing match. Fantasy football players had their teams picked and fans were hotly debating their favorite players against their opponents.

Social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter were full of people freely sharing their angry opinions without any regard to the human soul that would be affected.

Now they are desperate for survival. In an instant, their lives changed. Conversations now centered around who survived the night.

When the water is rising and it is still raining, citizenship status does not matter. All victims equally; no one stopped to ask to see proof before accepting a ride in a boat.

Bullets make people bleed and are indiscriminate in their victims. Those running for cover the day before may have been loud and vocal about gun rights.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes strip away the material stuff of life. They leave in their wake the bones of an infrastructure that is either healthy and capable of supporting the community or is just as shattered and broken as the people.

Mass shootings also strip away facades. Those with personal and political agendas use the events as examples to further their causes. The faces of the victims become trophies or targets, depending on the stand.

Behind those faces are human souls that have the same needs. The needs for clean water, food, shelter, feeling safe going to public even — these are basic necessities for life.

For a moment — political agendas, immigration status, social injustice — none of those mattered. For a moment, Americans showed the faces of who they really are. They came together united as one spirit to tackle what was in front of them.

Hey, Can we talk?


Communication is a wonderful thing. In today’s world, technology takes microseconds to send information to a select few or to the masses.

Emails are sent out to the students on the campus daily. Most of the time they barely get recognition.  There are announcements for Student Life events, Canvas notifications for those whose teachers use it, and emergency alerts as needed.

Among them recently was a notification about a “Code of Conduct” meeting. Details were provided about location and time, but very little else. The very small handful that showed up learned that the Pierce College Student Conduct Code is being revised in places. The meeting was to garner feedback for the changes before being implemented.

There is also a buzz on the campus about the purchase of a food trailer. Was it purchased? What is the purpose? Where did the money come from? Details have been hard to pin down.

Current students have been trying for about a week to get classes set up for the next quarter. Because class codes and details about class times have being reworked, this has been a complicated process for some.

At least the Legislative Panel hosted by the student government was promoted, sort of. That promotion was done for those who walked by the table where they were handing out voting ballots for the outstanding faculty.

Those interested in coming to the Standing Rock play also found problems. Unlike other productions, tickets for this show were available only online – regardless of student or guest

Overall, they are a symptom of a larger problem. The community still needs to know what is going on.

Yes, it is the end of the quarter and for many, graduation is just around the corner. Campus life is busy.

It takes just a few minutes to take the time to send out an email, to post a sign, to get the word out.

The community does want to know what is going on. Details are important; they determine the course of action if someone is going to participate or not.

We all have a responsibility to tell people what is going on in their world. Things that happened, events coming up, changes in policies, all of these deserve their own spotlight.

Spike in use of dangerous synthetic drug Spice


A potentially dangerous drug called Spice has become common among users of marijuana as a cheap and interesting alternative.

The drug creates high risk for those who consume it, as it is coated in untested, ever-changing brain stimulating chemicals.

Depending on the crowd, synthetic cannabinoids have street names such as Spice, K2 or fake pot and is usually used by people under the legal dispensary age or those who want a less expensive alternative to marijuana.

Spice is a mix of herbs and man-made chemicals. The combination produces mind-altering effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. This entails a number of hazards, as the shifting chemical makeup makes Spices use a gamble at every use.

The drug is so widely varied throughout its many incarnations that it’s impossible to pin down any particular symptoms of use or overdose. Even so, the number of cases surrounding synthetic cannabinoids and visits to the emergency room hit more than 25,000 in the US in 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

The majority of its distribution is as a street drug, but it is sold disguised as a product other than a recreational smoke in stores, often as incense. Because of its harmful nature, the FDA has found it difficult to monitor and outlaw the drug, making it a prevalent threat.

Although synthetic cannabinoids is pushed as a natural offshoot of marijuana, its added chemical nature can lead to an increased risk. Addiction and withdrawals develop in many users. As the effects do not last long, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain an addiction. This leads to a higher percentage of overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

According to spiceaddictionsupprt.org, addiction to the substance develops quickly.

“The first withdrawal symptoms usually occur within the first few hours of ending drug use and typically persist for days or weeks,” the website said. “The most common spice withdrawal symptoms include nightmares, paranoia, extreme nausea and diarrhea, cold sweats, insomnia that can last for days, tremors, anxiety and restlessness.”

The website provides information on how to get help, including detox methods and facilities, counseling and group therapy, and ways to assist in self-recovery.

Combatting synthetic cannabinoids is in an ongoing legal battle, resulting in heightening the risk of new, experimental strains with no end in sight.

Homegrown News Goes Viral

Is it news or gossip?


Set into the floor of the main entrance of the University of Washington is a mosaic of a compass. The points of the compass are set so that it spells out “NEWS.”

In today’s world, news travels fast. With one tap of a button stories can reach all corners of the world in less time than it takes to pour a cup of coffee. Consequently when a story is breaking, the pressure for news outlets to be the first to get the word out is high. No one wants to be behind.

However, the standard for accuracy has not changed. In today’s world with technology being used so much, it may be more critical.

People have always shared things that are emotional or sensational, but the facts are often missed. For example, does any one know the real story behind why Brad’s wife got fired from Cracker Barrel?

In the news world, there is only one chance to get the story right. Retractions and corrections happen, but by then people have already acted on what came first. Look at how many times have people cried because Betty White or Chuck Norris died.

It is one thing to share a story among friends. Conversations like, “Hey, guess what I saw in my Facebook today?” are common. The problem becomes when those stories are taken as fact. A picture of students facing a hallway is used to support claims that Islam is being taught in schools. All it takes is a click of the mouse to determine that in fact it is a tornado drill.

An extra ten seconds to stop and think if a story is real and checking the facts supporting it means the difference between credibility and gossip. While the gossip may be more sensational, the facts are the cornerstone on which news rests.

Social media and the Internet as a whole is a great place to find news. Those presenting the news have a responsibility to be honest and accurate. Those reading about current events have an equal responsibility to check the truthfulness before sharing

The Smoke Pit


         The smoke pit, the vile eyesore of a health-conscious Washingtonian. Opinion of smokers, who suck down cancer sticks like they’ll live forever, ranks low nationwide. Smokers are considered social pariahs, cast aside because the habit they share is widely considered disgusting and extremely unhealthy. While the health issues are medically proven, the health consequences pale in comparison to the smell of freshly burned carcinogens on a smoker’s clothing.

         Many people are afraid to visit this center of intellectual stimulation. This gathering place, in my experience, is a trip back in time to what I imagined a college experience is supposed to be. Not the parties, the athletic events, club rushes or other activities with like-minded students. I picture the time when college was there to open your mind to beliefs, ideals, and points of view that conflict with the bubble college students were raised in.

         In this place, the Socratic Method is alive and well. There is no Powerpoint, Wamap, or Canvas. There isn’t a group of kids with headphones in; drowning out the world while blindly scrolling through algorithmically programmed social media. This is a place of free idea, opinion and speech where almost no topic is off limits. In this archaic institute of free thinking, spurred by a lecture, there was discussion about the allegory of Plato’s cave and how it relates to the modern day.

         In the short ten minutes between classes discussions ranging from the geopolitical implications of North Korea’s continued aggression, the link between Afghanistan’s opium production and heroin addiction, and the effects of prolonged warfare fill the air between puffs of smoke.

         Talks of what could happen if a nuclear device or an electromagnetic pulse detonated in Seattle. Imagine the chaos if the world’s largest tech companies were abruptly left without power. Or worse yet, watching as your entire internet social life disappears in an instant.

         As these stimulating conversations fill the air; smokers watch as other classmates idly stroll by on their way to class. Most of them glued to a screen where programmers and psychologists are purposely coding the content of your life: reference Plato’s Cave allegory and the shadows on the wall.

         If one were to put away the shackles that bind you and see the smoke pit for what it really is,  one would have a wonderful tale of intellectual stimulation unlike anything ever experienced before. Sadly, your friends will refuse to believe the story you tell. Instead, they’ll be too busy staring at their phones believing only what is being shown to them.

         In my opinion, Pierce College shouldn’t ban smoking completely. In this group there is no divide based on the classification systems human’s created. The perceived divide depicted by the media amongst race, religion, ethnicity, gender preference, or other human classification systems is virtually nonexistent.

          Smokers are already part of an endangered minority in this country. They realize the health consequences of their actions. But they will not forget the people they met, the conversations that were held, and the laughs that were shared. Because they spent time actually being social, not pretending to be.

         Remember in eight minutes a sudden burst of energy from the sun, traveling at the speed of light, could destroy the magnetic field and obliterate all life on earth without any warning (because nothing travels faster than the speed of light). You should lighten up a bit; smokers do. Let them enjoy their assigned safe space, because being social is a rare commodity these days.

Leave a Comment