Pierce Pioneer

Lisa Murray’s spirit of caring gains her award

Carl Vincent Carallas / Staff Photo
Lisa Murray seizes opportunities to help and to educate her students.

Advisor, bridge builder, advocate, coach these are words used to describe Lisa Murray, the 2019 recipient of the Faculty Achievement Award.

Tony Nguyen is a returning student, this time to pursue a degree in physical therapy. He had Murray as an instructor in 2016 and 2017, and remembers her as a strong influence for learning, not just for career goals, but also for life skills.

“I don’t think she teaches you like a professor, but she coaches you and sets you up for life too. She gives very good advice, and I learned from her that you need to have confidence. In whatever you do, you gotta have that confidence in you and go for it. Because there’s going to be background noise telling you to do this or do that, but you should know what’s best for you and to go for it. That’s what I learned from her,” Nguyen said.

The Faculty Achievement Award was created in 1987 as a result of grant money from Puget Sound Energy and a partnership with the Pierce College Foundation. All faculty and administration staff pick a faculty member who has proven high educational principles, fully involved in scholastic and community activities, and creates curriculum that is engaging and relevant. The $1,000 award is a nice bonus.

Kinesiology, one of Murray’s disciplines that she teaches, is defined as “addressing the physiological, biochemical and psychological dynamic principles and mechanisms of movement.” It also portrays how she connects to her students. 

“I have dabbled my entire career in all areas of having a degree in Kinesiology. I’ve coached, worked in physical therapy,  worked in cardiac rehab,  done consulting,  done health and fitness assessment,  been a personal trainer. I had fun, it served me well,” Murray said.

If there is a committee or team on campus that is devoted to student success, chances are high that she is on it. She serves on the Learning Council, is a member of the Pierce College Outcomes Team, and is the district coordinator for the Pierce physical education and nutrition courses.

Professor Murray is one of the most passionate faculty members I have known… she works to find solutions when issues arise,”

— Ron May, Dean of Health and Technology

Debra Gilchrist has been impressed by Murray’s tireless dedication to curriculum standards. “In her first year, she took the lead within the department to evaluate each course and assure alignment of course outcomes with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) standards. This work and the work with her advisory committee has led to strong, rigorous courses based on nationally recognized standards and industry needs,” Gilchrist said. 

 One of Murray’s latest projects highlights her creativity in getting her students connected to practical hands-on experience. She designed a novel approach with the dental hygiene department. Her students would work with the dental hygiene students to help them form healthy habits in their work place.

Ron May is the Dean of Health and Technology and Murray’s supervisor. Her energy in the classroom and tireless focus on finding solutions is inspiring. 

“Professor Murray is one of the most passionate faculty members I have known.  She brings her limitless energy and innovation to her instruction.  Professor Murray is easy to work with and she works to find solutions when issues arise,” May said.

Murray encourages team-work in her projects, “I’m only as good as I can be with the people around me. So many people have taught me things that I would have never known, if it weren’t for them,” she said.

Her efforts made her the perfect choice to be the faculty representative to the first AACC national Guided Pathways held in Washington, D.C. Upon her return, she put together meetings to share what she learned. “She wanted her colleagues to be engaged and help determine the best way forward. Her efforts widened the net of interest and involvement as her enthusiasm for the project was contagious,” Gilchrist said. 

 Murray gracefully accepted the award. “I don’t have a lot of words to describe it. It’s just a huge honor. I’m very, very grateful. It doesn’t change the way I go about doing what I do. It just inspires me to continue doing what I’m doing,” Murray said.

Pierce College transforms into a movie set

Marji Harris / Staff Photo
Student director Jackie Laverne (right) reflects on how the camera becomes a storyteller. A scene through a camera takes an instant that a book would take pages to describe.

Technical film students shadow real-life director

Candee Bell / Staff Illustration

Finn Ho, Student Director

What is a good movie plot?

“I just like movies that as soon as the twist is revealed, I will go back and watch the movie. It turns into a different experience.”

Jackie Laverne, Student Director

Why be a director?

“Because I want the career path that will pay my bills and the career path that will make my life fuller.... I would rather tell the stories than be the story.”

Randy Johnson, Student Director

Who is your favorite director?

“Quentin Tarantino: He does fun, exciting stories. First, he is a writer. Then, he’s a director. I feel that he is an expert in both of those fields.”

Marji Harris / Staff Photos

Lights, Camera, Action! These are familiar director’s commands associated with places like Hollywood, but they are also becoming a regular part of the Pacific Northwest.

This quarter, five Pierce College film students have the opportunity to shadow a local film director, and they do not have to go any further than their own campus to do it.

Film professor Fred Metzger is partnering up with a local movie director to create “The Hunt.” It centers around two tweens who follow a phone app on a scavenger hunt. Part of the film is being shot on the Fort Steilacoom campus; some of the scenes have already been shot in the library.

The project has been weeks in the making. At the beginning of the quarter, Metzger asked for film scripts from students across the campus. From those submitted, he chose projects for his students in his technical film class to direct.

Then he got in touch with a local director, James Winters, who just finished another film project called “They Reach,” a horror film set in Tacoma. Winters was starting a new project and the two were able to work out an arrangement to shoot part of the film on campus.

Students in the film class are responsible for seeing their scripts become a motion picture. They have to pick those who will be in the film, choose a location, and do the final cuts.

With only six students in the class, Metzger is able to do more than usual.
“I can spend more time one-on-one with them, showing them editing and other techniques that I usually do not have time to do,” he said.

One of the benefits of shadowing a director is the opportunity to see cutting-edge technology at work. Much of Winters’ projects are made for streaming online, so he uses what is called a “red camera.” Designed exclusively for digital filming, it shoots in a higher resolution at 6-8K. Conventional camera equipment, also known as the “black box,” results in a grainy resolution, which is unusable for movie outlets such as Netflix.

A director often will do more than one “take” for a scene. The amount of work that goes into creating just a 10-second scene was a small surprise to one of the students in the class, David Zink. “I was blown away by at how much work there is in this thing. I am sure that I do not have any talent or patience for that direction. I’m a writer, not a film technician, he said.”

Jackie Laverne is one of the technical film students. She found the use of a red camera fascinating. “All the studios such as Amazon and Netflix have to shoot at higher resolutions. When edited, they edit down into 4K for high definition, it is what makes it crystal clear, makes it crisp,” she said.

The project itself has a surprising result for Laverne. She was expecting more emphasis on the equipment. In shadowing Winters, she discovered the camera does not just record scenes. “It shows you how to guide the viewer through the story [in a way] that is easy to understand, enjoyable, and helps with the creative part that creates the suspension of disbelief within a story line,” she said.

Finn Ho, one of the students in the film technical class, is looking forward to the partnership project. Watching how people interact on set gives him a first-hand look into what a director does. “I want to get a sense of what it is like to work on a professional set. I want to learn more about the technical stuff like color, logistics, and getting people together,” he said.

Randy Johnson is another student in the film class. He likes the idea of a shadow project because it provides a model he can follow. “It teaches me what to expect, what kind of a demeanor a director should have; it’s work. The director is the boss. Like in construction, there’s a contractor. I think that is a lot like what directing is, you’re the boss and what you say goes. Be a leader. What I would like to learn today the most is leadership,” he said.

Winters’ film project will be wrapping up sometime in the spring. As of yet, no release date is available.

The students’ class projects will be shown at the Pierce College Film Festival on March 15 and 16.

Pierce Distinguished Alumni shares what is possible


Passion and dreams make a fulfilling career

On Jan. 24, three former Pierce College students came to share how Pierce has helped them in their careers. One became a business leader, the second a pioneer fire fighter, and the third a prominent pediatrician.

This is the second year that Pierce College Foundation has set up the “Pierce Talks” forum. Former Pierce Distinguished Alumni were invited to come speak about their learning experiences and what they did after graduation. While they came from different paths and pursued different careers, they all had two things in common – a heart to serve and to do something different.

The first speaker, Jerry McLaughlin, spoke from the heart. From the beginning, he talked about the importance of relationships. The recent loss of close family members had him reflecting on personal connections that carried him through his professional life.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
One of Jerry McLaughlin's proudest moments happened 38 years ago when he was named Pierce College's first Distinguished Alumni.

In 1969, he was a D-minus student from Clover Park High School and an assistant manager for McDonald’s. Ray Kinnaman, the assistant basketball coach for Fort Steilacoom Community College (as Pierce College was then called) recruited him. The coach would be the first of several mentors who fostered relationships that contributed to his career growth.

One of those professors was the head of the business department at the University of Puget Sound. The two would often meet outside of class. After McLaughlin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in marketing, Glenn Graves — another mentor and professor — hired him to work at his advertising agency.

He would continue to be involved in the community, creating more connections. He has served on a number of local non-profit boards, including Junior Achievement, Tacoma Urban League, and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.

McLaughlin ended his talk with strong encouragement. “It all started with relationships formed at Pierce College. So you students, get to work, kickstart your career and start building those relationships,” he said.

Karen Leming started her speech by asking the crowd if they knew what they wanted to do as a career. Years before she was recognized in People magazine in 2000, along with the other female firefighters in Fire District 10, she was still trying to answer this question.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Karen Leming met her husband, Paul, while taking a public speaking class at Pierce College, and they got married the same year she graduated from Pierce in 1981.

She did not start out to be a pioneer, to be one of the first female firefighters in the county. Like other high school graduates, she got a job and went on to a vocational/technical school for training in data entry.

In 1979, she made a decision that would also affect her career path. Working in data entry was unfulfilling, neither was pursuing a degree in fashion merchandising at Pierce College. A career assessment test pointed her to Parks and Recreation, so she decided to change her major.

Around the same time, she began to focus on training in the fitness center and the pool. The discipline led to making the swim team and added to her personal growth. “I was becoming a strong woman, and I liked it. This would prove to define who I was. Even today, I continue to train in all aspects of fitness,” she said.

Before graduation, someone suggested she try out as a firefighter. She had never seen a female firefighter before and did not know if it was something women could do in the first place. Subsequently, a seed was planted, but left dormant while she moved on with life.

But what she learned while training in the fitness center also shaped her. “During my time there, I realized some of my potential — gaining confidence, purposefulness, leadership, commitment and the power of setting goals,” Leming said.  

In 1986, five years after graduating and getting married, she again felt something was missing in her career in data entry and working for Parks and Recreation. When she heard that Pierce County Fire District 7 was looking for volunteer firefighters, she remembered the seed that was planted and decided to try out for it.

A year later, Leming was in the recruit academy. Entering a male-dominated field was not easy she said. “I had to work hard, earn respect, earn trust, and stand out because I would be under scrutiny.”

People she knew were not as supportive as her husband, yet she kept pursuing her training. Her message to the students reflected her spirit of never giving up. “The opportunities are there for you if you are willing to pursue them,” she said. “Sometimes even if it is intimidating, you have to follow your heart and see where it goes.”  

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Dr. Stan Fleming's older brother drove him down to Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, walked him into the admissions office and signed him up. Fleming says that that's where the journey really began for him.

The last speaker is a humble pillar in the community, Dr. Stan Fleming. He noted that all three speakers had a common thread, even though they did not plan it. They all wanted to talk about servant leadership and dreaming dreams.

For Fleming, part of his message he wanted to emphasize was the power of having a dream. “You gotta start with daring to dream dreams because if you don’t have a dream, you don’t get a vision, you can’t set a course. You will never get where you want to go or hope to go as you grow up.”

In his experience, he saw that every dream begins with a conviction of what is capable. Sometimes that conviction is shaky. “You have to convince the person in the mirror,” he said.

Fleming also stressed the importance of career identity in life. He said he sees titles as nothing more than a short form of a job description. It is not as important to get the title or degree; what matters is what is done with it.

He summed up his speech by encouraging students to have a vision. “Do dare to dream dreams because the possibilities are really unlimited. The only thing that will keep you from achieving your dream and your goal is yourself,” Fleming said.

Life’s unexpected turns brought Parks to Pierce for 29 years

Random coincidence, impulses led him to his careers as a reporter, documentarian, teacher

Note from editor: This article was updated.

M Parks File Photo
Michael Parks posing with a book in the fourth grade. That was the book that started his life long interest in the Custer Fight that led to a documentary and will be the backdrop for his first novel.

As punishment, Michael Webster Parks’s fifth-grade teacher made him write 100 words as to why he shouldn’t speak without raising his hand. Each subsequent offense increased the wordage by 100. By the time Parks reached 600 words, he convinced his teacher instead to let him write stories about a fictional boy who had joined the Union Army during the Civil War.

After three such installments, Parks was convinced he wanted to be a novelist some day. In fact, when in high school his parents urged him to choose a college, he refused. “I was going to be a novelist – or nothing!” Parks said.

However, wiser heads prevailed and after graduation in 1972 he attended Everett Community College, where he took creative writing courses and began work on a (still unfinished) novel. In his senior year at Seattle Pacific College (now University), “that ‘nothing’ option began coming up real fast, so I figured I needed a third doorway,” he said.

Parks enrolled in a journalism course and began writing for the student newspaper, The Falcon. He still wasn’t convinced journalism was his best bet, and got sidetracked in studying biblical history, graduating SPC in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies.

“For a while I thought I might go into the ministry, but then I regained my senses,” he said. “Or maybe God did; I’m still not quite sure who drew first.”

After graduation, Parks spent a year working at a car wash, a pizza parlor and even for a forestry service before deciding to return to school to pursue news writing, receiving a bachelor’s degree in editorial journalism in 1978.

M Parks File Photo
“Parks’s three generations of teachers”
From left: Michael Parks’s uncle, his father, Michael Parks, his grandfather, (Michael’s brother and his nephew).

Almost immediately he was hired as a fulltime reporting for the Centralia Daily Chronicle. “I was the first person the editor interviewed and he hired me on the spot,” Parks said. “I didn’t even have that much experience, having done only a little freelancing with the university’s paper.”

Parks said he is sure he was hired because the editor who interviewed him had become a born again Christian a few months earlier, and probably saw Parks’ degree in biblical studies.

“So it all kind of weirdly worked out,” Parks said.

For the next three years he worked as a reporter for the Chronicle and then as an editor for a community weekly in Lake City, a suburb of Seattle. He said one of the highlights of his reporting career was being able to use his credentials to be let past a police barricade of the road leading to Mount St. Helens after it began steaming.

Marina Chetverikov/Staff Photo Illustration
Michael Parks started his career at Pierce College in 1989

“I was standing on Goat Rocks,” Parks said. “Two months later, when the mountain blew, Goat Rocks was incinerated.”

After the paper he was working for was sold, the entire staff was laid off, so Parks returned to school to pursue a Masters in Communications from the University of Washington. As his thesis, Parks wrote a 300-page script scenario for what he envisioned as a docudrama miniseries on the political machinations that led to the Sioux War of 1876 and the infamous Battle of the Little Bighorn, or more popularly known as Custer’s Last Stand.

One of Parks’ personal passions is anything Custeriana. He blames it on a children’s book he read in the fourth grade titled “Custer’s Last Stand.” As soon as he picked it up and started reading it, he said he was hooked. It was that interest that led him to his docudrama thesis for his master’s degree.

While Parks was wrapping up his thesis in 1983, a fire broke out at Custer Battlefield in Montana that burned off more than 100 years of thick vegetation and brush. Tourists began reporting finding bullets and even human bones, which led to a five-week archeological dig of the site.

Parks volunteered for the full five weeks and in the process managed to convince two dozen news crews to donate a copy of their footage to his efforts to create a documentary on the dig. With a few small grants and much donated help, Parks was able to complete the film, titled “History Recovered: The Custer Battlefield Survey of 1984.” The program was aired on PBS and was narrated by Dick Cavett, a well-known talk show host.

Parks said his career is marked by half random coincidence and half impulse, and the documentary is an example.

“That a fire would break out at the Battlefield just as I was wrapping up my thesis about this battle and that I would be accepted as a volunteer?” Parks asks in wonder.

As for the impulse: “I had no clue what was involved when I started the film project. I had never even operated a camcorder, let alone done any kind of film work,” Parks said. “If I knew what I would go through to make it happen, I probably would not have tried. There is a joy in ignorance sometimes.”
His interview with the editor at the Daily Chronicle is another example, with the editor just having become a Christian and seeing Parks’ degree. “When he offered me the job, he asked me if I wanted some time to think about it. I was a little in shock so I said, yes, I would. I stood up, and a voice in my head said, ‘Seriously dude?’ I sat down and asked when he wanted me to start.”

Marina Chetverikov/Staff Photo
Parks with Victoria holding Pioneer transition from Newspaper to Magazine.

Parks worked at a Greyhound bus depot in Everett for five years while going to school and working on his film. He decided a career in teaching might be his best bet and applied for a position teaching English at Everett Community College. He didn’t get it, but something better was waiting.

“I had been working at the bus depot when one night I had to ‘escort’ a drunk out the door,” Parks said. “He lost his footing, bounced off a wall and almost went over a railing. He stood up, looked at me sadly and said, ‘It doesn’t take much to push a drunk around, does it?’ The next morning I quit.”

Parks said about a month later, as his money was running out, he lay in bed one October morning wondering if he had made a terrible mistake in quitting. Just then the phone rang and it was the humanities dean at Everett Community College.

“Their journalism instructor had had to go out on medical leave suddenly,” Parks explained. “They had seen my resume from when I applied for the English position, recalled I had journalism experience and a master’s degree, and wanted to know if I would finish up his year teaching and advising the school paper. I said sure; when do you want me to start? Winter quarter? They said: yesterday. I accepted and was at the college within an hour.”

Marina Chetverikov/Staff Photo
Michael Parks and his Pioneer team from last year holding PNAJE certificates.

One could say teaching was his destiny. “I never set out to be a teacher; it was somewhat inevitable though,” Parks said. When he accepted the position at Everett for the year, he was third generation there, with his father (who taught marine biology), his grandfather (business) and his grandmother (home econ) having taught at that same college. Aunts, uncles, great grandparents and numerous relatives on his ancestral tree all were teachers, including Noah Webster, who was not only the creator of a dictionary but also a teacher and a newspaper man.

After four quarters of teaching at Everett, Parks accepted an offer to teach journalism as a full-time, tenure track professor at Pierce College in 1989. However, he said it has been his advising work with The Pioneer that has been the most rewarding.

“In the classroom, the students have to be there for a degree requirement. Some want to be there; some don’t. Some take it seriously; some don’t,” Parks said. “But with The Pioneer, staff members want to be there. They are hungry to learn and to grow. And because of that, I have been able to work with the best, the brightest, the most creative and most hard-working people I’ve ever met. For almost 30 years, it has been not just a career, but an honor.”

Parks said he hopes now to return where he left off 30 years ago to pursue teaching, and to finally complete that novel still sitting unfinished in his desk drawer.

“Sometimes, as I come to the final days of this career, I feel a little bit like Dorothy Gale,” Parks said. “She had this fantastic adventure in Oz, only to wake up and find herself back in Kansas where she left off, better for the experience.”

Marina Chetverikov/Staff Photo

Raiders women’s softball finds redemption this season

For new coach Amber Coburn, anything that could go wrong did before the season was half over.

The season started with just enough players to call a team. Then, one-by-one the players either got hurt or life got in the way. Thankfully, other players were able to join the team – but the roster never got over the required 10.

“The biggest challenge being a new coach is coming in to (train) athletes that you didn’t recruit and then putting that team together with very few athletes,” Coburn said.

Natalie Vollandt is one of those players recruited by previous coach Mark Edmonston. Vollandt is a pitcher and first base player and played under Edmonston for several years before coming to Pierce. Edmonston was the deciding factor for Vollandt to play for Pierce. Her mom, Kellee, and the family dog, Bentley, have followed the team all season.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Riley Reyes-Redhair prepares to connect with the ball.

“Other four-year schools were looking at her. I suggested that she go play for “E” (that’s what we called him) for two years, get your prerequisites done. She’s not ready to give it up yet,” Kellee Vollandt said.

Another factor the team faced: games are double-headers with no extra players. Any injury meant they were done.

“That’s what’s challenging when you have only 10 athletes, 2 pitchers. That’s our challenge, when somebody is getting hurt or sore or tired, that’s our biggest challenge of how many players to fit into a game,” said Coburn.

It is hard enough to get a mix of seasoned players vs. green players to play as a team. Other teams they were competing against have been able to play as a team the whole season. The season was about half over before the team started coming together.

When the Raiders played the Bellingham Bulldogs on April 20, the players were starting to show the pressure.

“The last few games have been a struggle. We are short on players midseason. Girls getting hurt, girls getting tired, just trying to piece it together,” Coburn said.

But their spirit is undefeatable. Despite the challenges, Coburn said the team is in good standing to be in the playoffs in Spokane. As of April 30, the team is in last place in its conference.

“This team has it, we have the talent. We stay competitive. How exciting it would be for the sophomores to finish their season up and for the freshman their first season to make it there, my first year as a coach, it would be exciting to make it,” she said.

Freshman centerfielder Michaela Houglane signed on last year under Edmonston, too. Coming together as a cohesive unit with new players in the middle of the season has not been easy, she said.

“It’s been challenging just because you’re having to work with new people constantly. You don’t know them, you don’t know their styles as well and then people leave and you get attached. It’s sad because it is a very team-oriented sport,” she said.

Coburn’s optimism is felt by the team’s potential.

“I believe in this team. I believe in them a lot. There is a lot of mental challenges, as well as physical. This team is very much in their heads. But we do have a good chance at the playoffs, keep getting better every day. It is just a matter of coming together as one, working together,” she said.

Debbie Denbrook / Staff Photos
Michaela Hougland slides into second base.

Students demand real solutions to gun control debate

On March 14, 30 days after Nicholas Cruz opened fire at a South Florida high school,  thousands of students across the country walked out of their classrooms. Locally, students from Lakes High, School Harrison Preparatory School and Steilacoom also walked out.

The shots Cruz fired that day have become ones heard around the country. Students have had enough. They are tired of the debate in Congress regarding gun rights. They are demanding that their right to live and be safe while going to school become the focal point of the discussion.

Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shooting took place, said, “We’re not going to let the 17 bullets we just took take us down. If anything, we’re going to keep running and lead the rest of the nation behind us.”

The Women’s March youth branch and students from Connecticut helped students at Stoneman Douglas organize their planned march that took place March 24. On the “March For Our Lives” website (marchforourlives.com), their mission is clear.

“School safety is not a political issue. There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing. The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues. No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country,” the organization’s site said.

School shootings have been part of these students’ lives since they were born. The shooting at Columbine in 1999 was the worst mass high school shooting – until Feb. 14’s event. Since then, there has been a shooting at a school at least once a year nationwide.

The reality for students is a constant underlying state of fear. “A lot of students are feeling helpless and ticked. Just do one thing, do something effective,” said Delisha Ellis, Pierce (Fort Steilacoom) special events coordinator for student activities.

Each shooting incident has followed a predictable pattern: troubled kid or adult takes gun to school, police and SWAT respond and either arrest or kill the shooter while paramedics tend to the wounded or dead. Cue the raging debate between parents, state representatives and the National Rifle Association. Accusations are thrown around using words like “targets of bullies” and “gun rights” with no solution ever reached.

By organizing in the marches, students seek to make those who create policies to pay attention. They want to be heard.

“These walkouts draws attention to the problem, gives them a voice,” said Elijah Ellis, Pierce (Fort Steilacoom) student government president.

The debate about gun rights versus people safety has gone on for so long that the dialogue has become repetitive – and divisive. Sporting goods stores are being forced to choose between the right to sell hunting rifles, and therefore be supportive of the NRA, or stop selling them and face angry customers.

Alyssa Olson, a Pierce College student pursuing a certification in forensic science and a degree in criminal justice, comes from a family of police officers and hunters. She has reservations about gun bans.

“I do not think it would work. The government wants to take my guns. What does a gun ban mean? What do the hunters do?” Olson said.

Another heavy part of the debate is the issue of mental illness. Many of the accounts of school shootings have a common thread. Family, friends, teachers tell of a troubled kid. In the case of Cruz, he was struggling in school and had recently lost his mother to the flu.

Mental illness is only one part of an overall picture; consequently, there are no easy solutions.

“It’s horrible. Mental health is an issue. Taking our guns away will not work. If someone wants to do bad, they will. Everybody is blaming the president or whoever, but nobody wants to talk about a solution,” Olson said.

Finding an answer between opposing camps is never easy. Everyone can agree that children dying because of gun violence needs a permanent solution. But people are inherently worried anytime they hear about the government putting limits on their rights.

Jamie McDonnell, adjunct professor in the criminal justice program, has years of experience as an active shooter team leader and trainer.

“Here’s the people for gun control – they hear ‘we are going to take your guns.’ Then over here are the people who see other causes and have other solutions – and they hear ‘NO!’. No one is saying ‘I hate America.’ No one is saying they’re anti-second amendment. No one is saying (pointing to the gun control side) “I want little children to die,” said McDonnell, about social bridging and how it could be used to have the hard conversation about gun control.

Pierce student Porsche Sturgis sees gun control as a tool to be able to get a handle on a bigger problem that communities have to deal with. She said there is something deep inside the communities that needs to be fixed to help others.

“It’s up to the community to have unity as far as in schools with bullies and everybody,” Sturgis said.

Carl Carallas/Contributing Illustration

















Vet Tech Students

Questions spur Black Lives Matter movement


It is supposedly the age of diversity and acceptance. The nation even progressed to electing a black president, who served two terms in office.

Tammy Pyne, a professor in the Business and Social Science, remembers a speech then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama gave at the Democratic Convention in 2004 in which he said there are no red states, there are no blue states, there is only the United States.

“That opened the floodgates, opened people’s hearts and souls because that is what they really wanted. They wanted us to come together. He gave us that hope and that change and that is what he was pushing for all of us to be,” she said. “It is why people could reach out, why he could say, ‘This is what our government could be.’ The connection between us having a biracial African-American president to now (Black Lives Matter) is the fact of how justice is being handled in the criminal justice system, that is the issue.”

Yet, people are still taking to the streets in protest, crying for justice. At first glance, it appears that the Black Lives Matter movement is a recycled civil rights agenda left over from the 60’s.

Some say the Black Lives Matter movement began in Ferguson, Missouri. The reports of an unarmed black man being shot by police seemed to be the match that lit a fuse.

High-profile cases, such as Trayvon Martin, a 16-year old boy visiting his father in a gated community in Florida, whose only crime was to talk a walk late at night for a bottle of tea and some candy, help to fuel that fire.

The argument has been made that if people would just cooperate with the police, there would not be any problems.

And in the case of Martin? Pyne has a question of her own.

“Why is a community watch person getting into an altercation with a 16-year-old? It comes down to common sense. What was it about this young man that was a threat? A 29-year-old man should be able to say ‘Hey, young man! What are you doing?’ Now, if the 16-year-old said, “It’s none of your (expletive) business, I’m here,’” she said. “Even if all the 16-year-old did was talking smack, he still has bottle of tea and a package of Skittles that he bought. Why can’t he just be allowed to go home?”

In the case of Philando Castile, he was a pillar of the community – loved and active at the charter school where he worked, according to a report published by the Washington Post. The report said: “What the police officer who shot Philando Castile said about the shooting, there were a number of contributing factors. The girlfriend’s account and the video dashcam from the officer give credibility to the testimony that Castile was doing everything right, yet the officer was jumpy and not in control of his emotions; he shot Castile out of fear.

These stories, along with many others, have contributed to Black Lives Matter.

“It is to say that people are tired of the injustices done to black and brown people. And it doesn’t mean that only black people matter. If you flip the script, then we wouldn’t have (Black Lives Matter),” Pyne said. “This is not a perfect society, it isn’t a fair justice system. The only way for our youth and the mothers in the movement, they are really tired. It is like civil rights No. 2. These are just two of a multitude of stories. It is part of a pattern. It’s the powder keg of the (Black Lives Matter) civil rights.

“We can jump right into Tamir Rice, 12-years-old, who had a BB gun. In the video, it took the police 2 seconds to decide to shoot. Flip it around, what if that had been a Caucasian boy?” she said. “Would people be in an uproar? I would hope so, but it would be a different kind of uproar.”

Jane William, a student pursuing an associate of arts in medical coding, can see several contributing factors to the protests and why they are still necessary.

“If so much stuff has been hidden too many times, it’s like nothing is being done. How many black people have been killed? How many white people have been killed? How much of it has been ‘what is really going on in that community?’ That’s what it’s really about to me,” William said.  “It more about why is it taking so long for us to protest? I think it has taken this long to get fed up, like in the case of Ferguson.”

She wants to emphasize the focus is not that black lives matter more than other ethnic races and backgrounds.

“It is interesting to me how we have evolved from how Martin Luther King Jr. did his protest versus what we are doing now. It is not like the other races do not matter, but if the right audience hears it, then every other ethnic background will ask ‘Is this happening to us, too?’” she said. “What it is specifically about black lives that makes us alone? It seems we are still segregated.”

Pyne said the justice and policing system is stacked against people of color, as shown in cases where the outcome was different when the suspect was white.

“You have a gunman in Aurora, Colorado, who killed how many people? Yet the police were still able to contain him. Las Vegas hotel shooting, he killed himself. Dylan Roof, the young man involved in the Charleston, Virginia, church shooting in 2015, taken into custody. (The police) even took him to Burger King. What do you say about those people, when the…person of color is “acting out” gets shot? What happened to shooting in the leg? Why shoot to kill?,” she said.

“We charge our police officers to protect and to serve. When they become judge and jury at the same time…there have been instances where excessive force has to be used to contain the threat, but it cannot be the rule for all. This is happening all throughout the U.S.; it is not just one particular area….there has to be a concerted effort for people to come in with cool heads. I know it is a tense moment, it can be especially so for those who have gone to war, then go into law enforcement.

Another contributing factor is the apparent lack of accountability, Pyne said?. As in the case of X and X, officers did not take ownership for their actions. And people do not feel satisfied with the outcome of the internal reporting from the police agencies.

“If they said, ‘We are sorry, this was a mistake that we took this person’s life,’ then yes, you would probably have less people protesting, because they owned up to it,” Pyne said. “It is when they don’t own up to it, not being honest and truthful, and turning a blind eye, this is why you have Black Lives Matter. They want justice, they want reform, which is something we all should want.”

*For more statistics go here: www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/

A year later: Food pantry sees expansion, need on campus


Justin Ngo/Staff Photo

Food and resources available for students in the food pantry.

It has been nearly a year since Student Life opened the food pantry, located right ouside the student life office. What started as a place for students to grab a lunch if needed has grown and expanded.

A community resources list and other helpful information now covers half of the inside of the pantry doors. Translations in other languages are also being implemented.

The idea grew from a request made to Becky Anderson, the campus community resource counselor, several years ago. While Anderson, was collecting from food bins placed around campus for local food banks, a student approached her and asked if some could be shared with students before going to the food bank.

With planning and support from the poverty committee, the student government and college president Denise Yochum, the idea became a reality Jan. 5, 2016.

As student vice president, it is William Syhlman’s role to make sure the pantry is replenished. He found he also liked the responsibility.

“It became fun to see what is taken and what is left,” Syhlman said.

Other times he finds it challenging to keep it filled. “Sometimes it is frustrating to get students to take one thing,” “The pantry was intended to be just to fill in the gap, one meal at time. I stock it every morning at 8 a.m. and some days is cleaned out before lunch.” Syhlman said.

When class schedules permit, he will stock it again around noon for those looking for lunch options, and then again at 3 p.m. for those taking night classes.

Food that is left more than a week is donated to a local food bank, after checking expiration dates.

There is one major change in the works. The current configuration creates a challenge for many students in reaching the top shelf. Student government is working on a plan for a different set-up that makes it easier for people to reach those shelves.

Issues and Awareness Coordinator Nathan Devish has also helped to keep the pantry stocked. He is working on ensuring resources and opportunities are available to students who are struggling with life challenges. He said the biggest impression came when he saw a dad bring his little girl with him to the pantry.

“It was a little disheartening to watch the dad send his daughter to pick out food. I could tell he wanted some too, but he was only concerned that his daughter had something to eat. As a dad that hit me hard,” Devish said.


Most useful items for food pantry:

* Top Ramen
* Peanut butter
* Campbell’s soup
* To-go microwave meals
Personal hygiene products:
* diapers
* lotion
Donations may be dropped off at Student Life during regular office hours. Any questions can be directed to
[email protected]


St. Leo Food Connection
The largest food bank in Pierce County. You can visit the Food Connection once a week to get three days’ worth of food for your family.
Location: 1323 S. Yakima Ave.Tacoma 98405
For days and hours,


Nourish Food Bank
1704 E. 85th St.
Tacoma, 98445
Monday and Friday:
11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

More food banks

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.

Raiders win first round in tournament

Stronger, faster, better Raiders show what they are made of


Pierce College Raiders (left to right) #14 Ryleigh Burdick and #6 Kenzie Seltz after NWAC Tournament at Pierce College Health Education Center Monday, November 20, 2017.

Chloes Galiki and Caleb Bromley/Video Credit

From the start of the game the Raiders showed they meant business. #2 Julia Heronema, an outside hitter, dominated the court with repeat power hits. Two minutes in to the game and the score stood at 12-2.

#12 Allie Bauer, team setter, seemed to have the skill of a seeker. When the Saints (Mt. Hood) sent the ball over the net, more often than not Bauer would be there to either set it up for a power hit or just send it back.

The Raiders would win the game 25-10.

The Saints caught their rhythm in the second game. Nearly every point the Raiders gained, the Saints answered. Three minutes in and the score was tied 14-14. For the rest of the game each side fought point for point, keeping the score tied.

When the score reached 20-20, the Saints managed to gain the upper hand, winning 25-23.

In the third game, Raiders again scored almost immediately, but the Saints answered right back, tying the score 3-3.

Then the Raiders suffered a reversal of fortune. They continued to fight to get ahead, but the Saints defense would knock them down, gaining the lead at 12-6.

Then the Raiders sent a combination of power hits and sneak attacks, bringing the score to 17-11. They held their ground, slowly closing the gap to 20-18.

Despite the Raiders’ best efforts, the Saints had a few sneak attacks of their own. They won 25-19.

The Raiders started the fourth game with fresh energy. They haven’t made it passed the first round in the tournament in 3 years and today they were determined to change that.

The Saints also came in the game with fresh energy. Both teams answered point for point, but eventually the Raiders were able to score just enough to stay 2-3 points ahead of the Saints, ending the game at 25-20.

The Raiders kept the energy going into game five. They needed to win it if they wanted to stay alive. Otherwise it would be the survival round later that day if they were to stay in the tournament.

Again, they wasted no time in scoring, but the Saints weren’t about to let them get comfortable. Both teams wanted this win bad.

The Raiders kept finding holes in the Saints’ court, but the Saints never let up the pressure, staying just a few points behind.

But the Raiders never lost their lead and would win the game 15-12.

At the end of the game the coach, Greg Finel, was proud of his team. “It was a great opportunity for the players to show what they are capable of. Great champions get knocked down, but then get right back up,” he said.

When asked what made this team different than other years, his answer came without hesitation. “They play for each other. They look out for each other. They care about each other. It makes a difference,” Finel said.

Christmas traditions are not the same the world over

Culture influences Christmas traditions

The Christmas season is full of traditions. For many people they evoke memories filled with bright lights, elves who make toys and Bing Crosby singing with Danny Kaye.

But Christmas traditions are not always about Santa, reindeer, or even about a Jewish baby born in a Bethlehem barn.

According to christmastraditions.com, Christmas in Sweden is celebrated in honor of St. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind. Several traditions exist around how a young girl lost her sight, but all agree that it was connected to persecution of the early Christians.

The holiday season starts on Dec. 13. The oldest daughter in the family rises before the rest of the family, dresses in a long white gown tied with a red sash. She takes a crown fashioned with twigs and set with nine candles, lights the candles, and carefully places it upon her head.

As “Lussibruden” (Lucy’s bride), she wakes the rest of the family, and then they gather around the breakfast table and dine with candles lit around the room. Torches were used when hunting or fishing was done and at the end of the day, a parade would be held with the people carrying torches to light a bonfire in the common area.

In warmer and drier climates, snow does not exist, nor does the scent of pine fill the air. In Egypt, the holiday is primarily celebrated by a small portion of the population. According to whychristmas.com, only about 15% are Christians. Christmas is considered an Advent and the season starts on Nov. 25. and finishes Jan. 6. For 43 days, they do not eat any animal products, including milk and eggs.

On the eve of Jan. 6, everyone goes to the Christmas service. They start about 10 p.m. and end around midnight, but sometimes can run as late as 4 a.m. Afterwards they break the fast by serving foods with all of the animal products they went without. Sweet biscuits called kahk are baked and given as gifts as they wish each other Eid Milad Majid (Arabic for merry Christmas).

In Banglidesh, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday. According to whychristmas.com, Muslims and Christians wish each other shubho [or shuvo] bôṛodin, which is Bengali for merry Christmas.

Nishans (small pink paper triangles strung on string) are also hung to decorate buildings. In rural areas, people gather at the church after the Christmas service for dinner, called the “Preeti-bhoj” or the love feast. Chicken and vegetables cooked with curry is served along with “pitha” which are sweet rice cakes made with rice flour mixed with milk, coconut and molasses.

Christmas in Greece has its own legends and stories as well. According to history.com, the primary difference are the mischief makers. It is believed the “kallilantzeri” (goblins) appear during the 12 days of Christmas.

Also, gifts are not exchanged until Jan. 1, known as St. Basil’s Day.

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.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday

Not everyone sees the holiday as something to celebrate

It is said that the victors are the ones who write history. In most schools across the country, this is a fact. A tradition is passed down, that of benevolent “Indians” helping the Englishmen survive the winter. Thus, a harmonious celebration was born.

However, Native Americans history is very different than the whitewashed version taught in school.

They have watched as their land was taken from them, either by force or by treaties, which were then broken. In return, they were given pockets known as reservations, sometimes land considered worthless by the European settlers.

If they did not willingly relocate, they were sent on a forced march thousands of miles from their home to designated “Indian territory” imposed by a federal government. The Trail of Tears was just another example of a white man breaking his word.

Native Americans have been fighting for more than 200 years for the right to maintain their customs and be their own people. Given than reality, it would be hard to fault them if they thought that the head of Wampanoag nation should have left the Plymouth colonists alone to starve.

Last year’s events at Standing Rock only served to highlight the battle they face for survival of their customs and their land.

Granted, there are tribes that have accepted, even embraced the Thanksgiving holiday. There are two tribes within 50 miles Pierce College that operate casinos. They will be among others around the country that will serve the traditional turkey and ham dinners on Thanksgiving Day.

They recognize the reality in which they live, that history cannot be rewritten. Some, like the Navajo, have managed to find a way to coexist with their neighboring white man. They are part of the local Thanksgiving Day parade and will set up tables to sell their wares to passersbys.

They still hold out hands to welcome those who would come to visit. The native American, has always held hospitality to be a commendable and necessary trait. Even as their homeland and culture shrinks, they continue to hold that man, if he truly recognized what it means to be part of a community, he would come to the table in fellowship.

Chance meeting brings couple together at Pierce

35 years later, visit back to campus recalls their meet


Marji Harris/Staff Photo Illustration

Patricia and Dennis Balls recreate the moment they met.

Dennis and Patricia Balls stopped in recently at Pierce for a visit to see who is still at the college and what might have changed since Patricia graduated 30-plus years ago.

Then Patricia McKinney, she had one goal in mind in the 80s: get an associate’s degree in business management. The other degree — known as a “MRS degree” —  that many women were getting in the early 80s had no appeal to her at all.

All Dennis Balls wanted to do at that time was visit a friend in the area. He was just laid off from General Motors in Detroit and had no job prospects on the horizon. But his friend was busy with classes, so he told Dennis to come hang out on the campus.

As fate would have it, Patricia said she was walking up the stairs leading to the cafeteria just as Dennis was starting to head down.

He said saw Patricia first and made sure that she would have to see him over her armload of books. “I just really liked her smile and wanted to get to know her better. It wasn’t until that I met her for dinner later that I realized she was a bit taller than me,” he said.

At first, Patricia said was not that impressed, it was just another guy trying to keep her from her classes. But she said stopped and they started talking.

They found that they mutually enjoyed each other’s company, she said, and she did not mind too much the distraction Dennis brought to her studies.

Some months later, on his birthday, he was called back to work at General Motors. Because she wanted to stay in Washington to finish her studies, they decided a long-distance relationship was worth the extra effort.

However, once she graduated from Pierce, she said she decided she could get her bachelor’s degree at Northwood University in Midland Michigan. She graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2013.

Patricia said they married about a year later and she made Michigan her home, continued her business career and he stayed on at General Motors.

Dennis said he will be retiring from General Motors soon and Patricia said she still has ties to the South Sound area, so they are looking forward to traveling and reconnecting with old friends.

Students strike a pose for fashion show tryouts

Pierce grad looks to raise funds for Nov. 4 charity event at Museum of Glass


Chloes Galiki/Contributing Photo

Johnson Sisters Breauna (left) and Mikayla (right) wait for auditions to begin at Pierce College Health Education Center on Friday Oct. 13 2017 in Lakewood.

What happens when an announcement goes out on a college campus about a fashion show? Dreams of runway stardom are born.

On Oct. 13, students and young people from the community showed up for a fashion show audition in the HEC building. Some of them had hopes of being a model; others were enthusiastic about supporting a charitable cause.

Zach Swanson, a Running Start student from Pierce College Puyallup, was one of them. He is pursuing a degree in fashion design and was one of the youngest fashion model hopefuls.

“It is a good experience for my major, and it sounded like fun. Why not?” he said, with a smile.

Briana Thompson, a business major, was also excited about the opportunity.

“It is a great opportunity to advance my career,” Thompson said.

Raevyn Williams, a business degree major, was here to boost her self-confidence.

“I used to be heavy. I lost a lot of weight, so now I am feeling more confident in myself. Because honestly, something like this scares the hell out of me,” she said.

The show may be about fashion, but the real star of the night will be Plato’s Closet and students with financial needs.

Ashlynn Sauvageau-Pirone, a new student at Pierce, was also one of the model hopefuls and is all too familiar with some of life’s challenges.

“I was homeless until about a week before school started. I don’t want fear to control me,” she said.

She may be attending college as a social services/mental health major, but she still has a dream of becoming a model.

“I’ve always wanted to be a model. I’m tall so it was either that or play basketball. I want to step outside my comfort zone,” she said.

Current and former students were also on hand to help coordinate the event. For them, it was more about the benefit rather than the fashion.
One of the volunteers was Rahma Mira, who is at Pierce to get a business management degree.

“The purpose if for charity scholarships. I’m an activist and like to poke my nose in other’s business. I like the focus,” she said.

One of the event coordinators is a former Pierce alum. Aladia Gan graduated last June with a degree in business.

“It is a great opportunity to step outside one’s comfort zone. It’s for a good cause. It’s not your typical event for this area,” she said.

The fashion show is being put together by Pierce alum Gregory Marks, who was on hand to offer encouragement to those lined up in the hallway.

“We are looking more for smiling faces than we are anything else. So when you come in, come in smiling. Be upbeat. This isn’t ‘American Idol.’ Relax, breathe,” he said.

His own smile was easy-going and bright. He mingled with the crowd, switching easily from taking live video for Facebook to posing for selfies with the model hopefuls.

The fashion event will be on Nov. 4 at the Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma., from 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. It will feature performances by Xola and Kendi Fresh Cosmos; Miss World 2013 Megan Young will be one of the judges.  Local news television stations will be there to cover the event.  Ticket and event information can be found at tinyurl.com/ybcblyup. All proceeds for the show will be going to the Pierce College Foundation.

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.

Fashion show offers students chance to shine

Pierce Alum to give back to Pierce


This Friday, Oct. 13, students will be given an opportunity to star as a fashion model in a show being held at the Tacoma Glass Museum in November. The show is a partnership between Right Now Today, Plato’s Closet, and the Museum of Glass. It is a benefit night to raise awareness of student homelessness and poverty. Proceeds from the event will go to student resources intended to combat these challenges.Tryouts for the show are being held in the second level of the HEC building.

Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to come to the tryouts; there are volunteers needed as well.

Information about the fashion show and ticket prices can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ydcoj4w7

Golf scramble puts money in students’ pockets

Annual fundraiser raised $46,000 in August


Every year the Pierce College Foundation hands out thousands of dollars in scholarships. Recipients are not just Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students or enrolled in the criminal justice program. They are veterans, military dependents, homeless — the list is endless.

One of the major fundraisers for these scholarships is the annual golf scramble. The 24th scramble was held Aug. 10 at the High Cedars Golf Club in Orting.

The foundation traditionally has been the beneficiary of some generous donors who use the scramble and the auction at the dinner banquet afterwards as a way to contribute to the fund.

Nicole Ferris from the foundation was one of the volunteers who coordinated the event. Due to a very successful fundraising event earlier this year, the foundation is making some changes to how the money raised is distributed.

“What we want to do is meet the greatest need of the student. Scholarships traditionally have been tuition-based, but we are expanding so it is more about the cost of attendance and everything that rolls up into that,” Ferris said.

Volunteers also contributed to the success of the event. Staff and students fill various key positions, from handling raffle drawings to directing traffic. For the donors, it is a way for them to put faces to the names they helped.

“We rely so much on our volunteers to make this happen. Our donors really live to interact with our students. They are the ones who benefit from the donor’s generosity,” Ferris said.

Pierce College Chancellor Michelle Johnson is enthusiastic on how the event benefits the students.

“Our students are here, showing the golfers how they have been committed to helping be part of this. That is the key part, showing how it helps students. We have always had a student speaker who talks about the impact,” she said.

John Gibson, owner of Cool Cycles Ice Cream Co., had a prime location in the middle of the course. He is a Pierce alum and received a scholarship during his term there.

“When I first went to Pierce College, I had no confidence at all. All I wanted to be was a businessman. Now I build a million-dollar apartment building and have 5 different companies. It all started at Pierce College,” Gibson said.

At the end of the day, the event raised about $46,000. It is money waiting in a scholarship or grant, ready to be put to use.

“I would encourage every student to apply for a scholarship. You’ll see something around October. That is when we do our next review,” Ferris said.

Information for applying is available at pierce.ctc.edu/foundation-scholarships.

New students mingle, meet over ‘New Raider Welcome’

Guest speaker Tom Krieglstein encourages students to look for new opportunities


It’s a new quarter and for many students coming in, it is their first time on a college campus. A community college does not have the same challenges and pressures that a university has, but it is still different than high school.

Sept. 14 was a day just for them. Guest speaker Tom Krieglstein helped the Running Start students and those fresh from high school break the tension. According to his website, Swift Kick, the entrepreneur, speaker, and professional travels to colleges giving presentations on “how to build a culture of connection.”

His message was not centered around the academic’s expectations. His approach used a mix of his own stories with interactive exercises to get the audience engaged. By the end of the morning, they knew things about each other that otherwise they may have felt shy about sharing.

They knew that the worst thing they ever did on a dare maybe wasn’t really as bad as they thought. They learned each one has a super power that is unique. One student shyly admitted to twirling a baton, while another has an IQ of 158.

There were two parts of the presentation that had a significant impact. The first was a video about a young man, Matt Harding, who randomly would pick a location and set up his cell phone to record as he danced. Then, he would post the video on YouTube. People would jump in and join Harding at later events.

Harding later received a job that allowed him to travel all over the globe for a year —  expenses paid — doing what he did originally. Only this time, it was people in the countries Harding was visiting that jumped into the video.

The second half of the presentation, “Take a seat, make a friend,” was a video put together by SoulPancake.

Strangers were invited to sit and talk in a large bin, containing plastic balls with questions written on them. Some of the questions mirrored the same ones the students answered.

Krieglstein encouraged students to look for opportunities. Going to college can be more than just showing up for classes and finishing assignments, he said.

“When I graduated from college, I already had a billion-dollar business going. I started by selling textbooks on Ebay that no one needed any more,” Krieglstein said.

After having them team up and create their own secret handshakes, it was time to break for lunch, catered by Lancer Hospitality.

Around the room, tables from various support teams and other groups on the campus were present.

Sitting at the Veteran’s Center table were William Cole III and Holland Cooley. Cooley, who is usually at the Puyallup campus, was here to welcome new students.

The center’s primary mission is to be a support system for students who are military veterans. Part of that support is a revised program, Vet Navigators.

“We want to be a resource of resources for veterans. Whether they need help with housing, mental health, anything for transitioning to civilian life,” Cooley said.

“Having an actual presence on campus gives better communication between vets and staff,” Cole said.

A new support group, ASPIRE, was also present. Miguel “Aki” Smith is the retention manager and Kiana Fuega is the outreach specialist.

The organization’s goal is to serve and support students on campus who are of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.

“These groups historically are underserved and we want to expose then fill gaps in services. Language is not the only barrier, Sometimes the barrier to a successful education can come through stereotypes. For example, often the perception is that Asian students do not need preparation or assistance when coming to school,” Smith said.

“ASPIRE seeks to reach across those cultural barriers to successful academics,” Smith said. By assisting with goal-setting, personal growth, and development, they will reach, support, retain, and see their students graduate.

At the WorkSource table, Jayna Petterson had pamphlets with information on the criminal justice program and the B-tech program. She enjoys events such as this because students can get a lot of information at once.

Because she is also connected to WorkSource, she has funding connections. “Students can look here for additional, possible funding resources,” Petterson said.

getting to know you2

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A Time to Reflect on Memorial Day

Remembering those who gave all.


Once again red, white, and blue will hang from light poles and businesses in the communities will cater to those who wear a service uniform. Many restaurants have free meals for veterans, military I.D. will grant free admission to museums and state parks.

While Memorial Day recognition may seem appropriate to show honor to those no longer here, this is not a day off from work for everyone.

For veterans, every day is a Memorial Day. They remember comrades who did not come home, or those that who came home as shadows of who they used to be.

The demons inside will not let them leave the battlefield. They constantly ask why did they get to come home instead of their fallen friends and comrades. The battles fought have left deeper scars than the ones seen on the outside.

They can list without hesitation the names etched in blood across the memories they have of their deployment. They go to the cemeteries, stand in front of the memorials and barely keep from falling apart.

It is almost an insult that the sacrifice that they made is acknowledged so infrequently. How many times has social media shared pictures of homeless vets who fell victim to nature’s harsh elements, yet the public outcry is mostly silent?

If a service member falls in combat, full honors are given. A service is held, and family and friends come to pay their respects.

Let that service member come home, injured inside and out, and it is a different story. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Health poll, “One in two veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars say they know a fellow service member who attempted or committed suicide.”

Perhaps the best way to honor the memories of those who served is to just sit quietly, be a voice of calm amid the raging pain. “Life goes on” does not always bring healing.

Saying “thank you for your service” is not enough. Those that have come home made a vow to serve and give their lives if needed. They watched others live up to that vow and have a deep sense of a debt that must be paid but never can. There is no celebrating for them.

People’s Assembly

Taking back community one voice at a time

Politics and social issues have always been breeding grounds for grass-roots community groups. The groups give voices to those who feel helpless and ignored in their circumstances.

The People’s Assembly, one such grass-roots group, came to Pierce on May 2.

It was the last visit in a small series to gather community feedback.

Michelle Voo, one of the co-organizers, said, “We are a grass-roots collective. We work to address social inequalities, specifically anti-blackness and intersections of marginalized identities.”

Cathy Nyugen also a co-organizer, said, “We started in 2014, shortly after the Michael Brown shooting (in Ferguson, Missouri). We promote advocacy, we are anti-racial, and pursue for justice. We want people to know what it looks like to create a holistic freedom.

On the walls around the room were long sheets of paper. The group created an interactive display where people could write. For example, one heading read “Freedom _______ feels like, smells like, etc.

We use these as one of our tools to get feedback from community. We want to know what are the commonalities,” said Brianna Jones, another a co-organizer.

The mission of the group is to connect with community, to give them place where people can express their experiences. By the end of the year they expect to have enough data to give a comprehensive presentation to city and state governments and be able to make recommendations.

Miss Pierce Washington

It is not every day that a celebrity graduates from a community college. Yet, next month, Mrs. Pierce Washington will be doing just that.

However, before she dons the maroon mortar board, Ronda Johnson-Dove will be hoping to keep her current crown.

The Mrs. Washington Pageant being held in Olympia in just a couple of weeks is a cousin of the other pageant, Miss America.

Ronda wants to emphasize that beauty and looks are only a part of the Mrs. Pageant. The winner must also show a spirit for community service; she has to present what she is on the inside.

She was not always a pageant contestant and winner. She was a wife and a mom, but felt a need for girlfriends, to be connected to something to make a difference.

Carla Richards, Mrs. Washington for 2010, and a friend from church, asked Ronda for help. She was going to be running again in the pageant and wanted Ronda’s help. While helping Carla, she not only made more friends, but became inspired to run herself.

Last fall Ronda won as Mrs. Lakewood. She said “Paul Gerhardt, a professor here helped play a pivotal role. His constant encouragement challenged me to run in the pageant.”

After talking with the state director, she was able to expand her title to Mrs. Pierce County. She felt the additional exposure would give her a broader base to make connections.

Each contestant is encouraged to pick her own platform. Ronda’s platform is childhood emotional and mental abuse. Part of her inspiration is personal. “It was part of my childhood. I am okay today because of a lot of counseling and a lot of God got me through it,” she said.

She uses her title as a way to bring awareness to the lasting life effects that childhood abuse can cause. She said, “Any event I am invited to start conversations. I ask questions, do they know what about looks like. I ask them if they know what effects does it have. I see a lot of people overwhelmed with life and I want to make sure they get help.”

In five weeks Ronda, aka Mrs. Pierce Washington, will walk across another stage under flashing photographer’s lights. With her Associate’s degree in hand, and a satin banner across her shoulder, she will walk tall, head held high and proud. If asked which one she cherishes the most, she may just give a graceful parade wave with a wide smile as her only answer.

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

Restoring self-respect for homelessness

Changing the fate of homeless one camp at a time


“I am homeless.” These words are hard to hear, and are even harder to say. For many people, homelessness equates with drug addiction and mental illness. While these can be contributing factors, homelessness also wears other faces.

Gregory Marks has not only seen those faces, he has lived with them. He once had a crack cocaine habit that took over his life and left him on the streets. He remembers clearly what it was like to mix ketchup with water, add some salt and pepper, and call it soup.

That changed about five years ago when and he suffered a work injury and an L & I claim sent him to Pierce College in pursuit of a degree.

He took his life experiences, combined them with his education, and created an organization called “Right Now Today” or RNT.

He said, “At Right Now Today we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. I can have a homeless organization or a domestic violence organization or whatever, but why do that when I can take the people I have in my group and help enhance another group to help them reach their goal?”

Bringing solutions to existing problems comes naturally to Marks. His education gave him focus and direction to those skills that he uses daily.

Those skills came in handy when a good friend called him up to help with a project. His friend, Eric Davis, had driven by a homeless camp, and became inspired to get involved. Marks saw the potential the camp had, knew he wanted in.

They were able to make arrangements with the City of Seattle to lease the property for a year for $1. The next step was to get the site expanded to allow up to 70 people. However, they were far from done.

He watched as winter hit the camp. He said, “During the winter months when it was snowing really bad, a bunch of their tents collapsed. And I started thinking about it, it was a terrible thing. 90% of these people in this camp work regular jobs. They catch the bus, go to work, they catch the bus back home, and they’re coming home to a tent. He had something better in mind. “As opposed to walking in and seeing a tent, they walk in and see a house. That was my idea.”

When the tow men came up with the idea of microhousing, they were very specific about their description. Marks said, “We talked about how we didn’t want them to be called “tiny houses” … we wanted to call them something that set them apart.”

Marks and Davis see the camp to be a model from which others could be created.

Davis runs Camp Second Chance. He has extensive experience with the challenges that being homeless can bring. He was one homeless himself. Today he is a clinical counselor and has run the camp since April 2016.

 It is drug-free and alcohol-free and secured with a fence and a gate. Before anyone is allowed granted residency at the camp, the rules of conduct are explained. There are three main rules: participate in the upkeep of the camp, take a security shift, and attend the Monday evening meetings.

Emphasis is placed on personal conduct within the camp. It is understood that people have struggles. If conflicts arise, they are used as opportunities to practice being better. However, finding drug paraphernalia is grounds for immediate dismissal.

If an eviction becomes necessary, Eric said, “We will never put someone out on the street. We have a Lyft account. All that individual needs to do is give an address of where to go and we will not only help that person get there, we will help with transporting personal belongings.”

Currently, there are four houses and each one has windows, electricity, and running water. One of the houses was donated by a former Pierce alumni. Marks and Davis hope to have the camp with all microhouses by the end of the year. It is a daunting goal; they are fully dependent on donations and volunteers. The most recent build had the help of a construction company in Seattle.

Marks sees the camp as a promise that can be made to the homeless. The best thing they can have is the ability to be self-sufficient. At the camp, they have to responsible for the property and for themselves. That is the key for helping someone put a life back together. He said, “I think it means more when they are working for it; you can help them get their life back together.”







Serving in Pierce College Student Government a great learning experience


Campaigning is never easy.

A young person, fresh out of high school or someone who has not been in school for a few years, can find it intimidating to get up in front of people to talk about how much he or she is qualified to serve. It require persuading the crowd that he or she is better qualified than the other candidate who is also asking for the same thing.

Cameron Cox, the Director of Student Programs, said this lent itself as to why the process was changed some years ago. “Not enough students were expressing interest in running for the offices, so either there was no debate between candidates or one would be running unopposed.”

Application packets are extensive. Along with the usual “tell us about yourself” form, signatures from 25 peers are also required.

Terrell Engmann, one of the Legislative Senators, remembered what it was like when he first applied last year. He said after getting permission from his psychology professor, he got up in front of his class and talked about his interest in participating in student government. He finished his speech by asking for signatures of support from those in the class.

“The hardest part,” he said, “was when I went to the STEM Center. There, the students were not satisfied with general statements as to why I wanted to serve. They would ask pointed questions and I had to be able to answer them clearly.”

As Terrell has learned, serving as Legislative Senator can be a great experience. Because he had to be able to connect with the students, he said had to refine his values and focus on character development.

Additionally, he was able to build problem-solving skills. He said in meetings between the clubs senator and the various campus club representatives, he saw opportunities where the clubs could be regulated better.

He and others like him fulfill the mission of the Associated Students of Pierce College as stated in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Student Government. “We, as students…will take an active role in identifying and addressing the needs of the student body; we will work to benefit the college and community through leadership, representation, and service.”

Applications for Student Government and Student Activities are available at the Student Life office, room C422. Serving in any of the positions can give students an opportunity to practice some of the skills they will use in their careers.

New Pierce College Student Life President

Life sometimes has a way of making surprising changes and sometimes those changes affect the workplace. An unexpected vacancy can give an opportunity for growth.

Such is the case for our student government president. Kate Hummel recently chose to step down serving as the SG president and with another quarter left in her term, the vacancy needed to be filled.

Normally the vacancy would fall to Jacob Smith, the VP, but he declined. After some discussion, the members of the student government agreed that Zoe Sundberg, who was serving as the Legislative Senator, would step up to serve as the president.

She is from Bethel High School in the Running Start program and is in her second year here.

She joined the student government at the beginning of the 2016-17 year. While serving as the LS, she planned last year’s Constitution Day and Civics Week.  with American Honors and Phi Theta Kappa. In her spare time she also sits on the Board of Directors for the Washington Community and Technical College Student Association; she seeks to advocate for students and help make an impact on legislators.

She has high aspirations as she serves as the ASPCFS president. When asked what she hopes to accomplish, she said, “As the ASPCFS President this year, I am working hard to make a true impact on the campus. With only one quarter left, we do not have much time to do everything we would like to, but we have still set our goals high. I have encouraged my teammates to think big and explore creative ideas for this final quarter. Although this year’s SG team has managed to implement the food pantry on campus, I believe we have so much more potential to make an impact with our students.”

Also on her list of her priorities are:

  • Fort Steilacoom and the Puyallup Campus are working together to update all of the hardware/software on campus to ensure the screens displaying student information are in working condition. Updating the system would allow the campus to have up to date technology. 
  • Creating a partnership with Pierce Transit to alleviate transportation barriers to students pursuing a higher education at Pierce College. Her ambitious goal is to get students free bus passes.
  • More charging stations for electronic devices on campus

After graduation in June, she intends to transfer to PLU in September to add a business degree to her general AA-DTA she earned here. Her end goal is a career in business law.

While she did not seek the position of student President, she sees the growth she will gain as something that will help her in her career. She said, “I have gained an immense amount of leadership skills. I have strengthened my skills as a teammate and I have also improved my public speaking and have been working closely with administration. The professionalism and skills I have gained will help in anything I wish to pursue in the future.

She ended by encouraging students who are looking for something to do besides a class schedule. “Joining Student Government was the most valuable experience I have gained this far. I would encourage any student that is thinking about getting involved on campus, to join Student Life.”


In a letter sent to the press in 1934, Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Presbyterian pastor, said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”

Indivisible epitomizes what ordinary people can accomplish. It started in December 2016 from a 26-page document created by ordinary people for ordinary people. In just 4 short months its members number almost 6,000, just everyday people who are very interested in being involved with their government.

Joe Colombo, a resident in Puyallup, is also the head of the Puyallup chapter of Indivisible. Like many members, the most he participated in the election process was to check a box on a ballot.

That changed last March. He attended the opening caucus for the Democratic Party. At the time all he wanted to do when he volunteered to help was to make sure things ran smoothly.

Shortly thereafter there was a need for a PCO (precinct committee officer) so he volunteered to fill the vacancy. Later he was formally elected to the position.

Throughout the whole election season he continued to serve in the caucus, even up to the election itself.

About the middle of December he heard from three different people about Indivisible, told him it was something he’d be interested in. He never met them, they were mutual acquaintances of friends he had on Facebook. He had also not been particularly vocal about his personal political views so he did not really pay much attention. Until someone put the “Indivisible Guide” in his hands and told him he should read it he thought it was something for one of the political parties.

When he began to read it over and saw that the primary purpose was to resist President Trump, he began to be more interested in what the members were trying do accomplish.

He said, “I feel like taking these actions empowers us to be part of that change, to hold our leaders accountable. I need to get my hands dirty. I do not agree with all of the actions suggested, but I get to pick and choose.”

At the top of the list of things he is choosing is the Russian link. He sees it as having a significant impact as it could contain grounds on which impeachment charges could be brought against Trump.

Indivisible Puyallup currently has 280 members; the only requirement for being part of the group is to be against President Trump and Vice President Pence and their regressive policies. No specific party affiliation is needed; the group itself is bipartisan.

In the group’s charter, their mission is clear. They seek to engage senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and District 10 Representative Denny Heck to remember “protecting our hard-won, cherished progressive values such as affordable healthcare for all, economic justice, environmental protection, racial equality, gender and sexual equality, peace, and human rights” is part of the job.

They meet every regularly to keep members appraised of current events. They know which bills are being discussed in which governing house and the status of each one. As Indivisible Puyallup is still a fairly new group, they are still ironing out which topic has the greatest priority. So far in the top three are 1) the Russian Investigation, 2) healthcare, and 3) the environment. Tracking the budget and immigration were also hot topics.

. SuzAnne Kuhiski, one of the members who serves on the communications team, described the group as “former arm-chair political activists. We are ordinary people who see democracy threatened. It is not good enough to be angry and sad. We needed to get up and do something.”

By and large the members come from all walks of life. They are retired, hold day jobs, some have actually worked in public offices as administrative staff. They are parents, grandparents, neighbors, and all have a heart for civic duty.

Otto Rogers is another member who was inspired to get up and do something. He remembered after the election being detached. “It did not feel real,” he said. “I would share links on Facebook and sign online petitions, but I still felt removed. None of what I was doing felt like they were really working. What I really wanted to know was what can I do to resist?” He found his answer with Indivisible.

Colombo encourages anyone who wants to see what they are about to come to their meetings. Each member is more than willing to talk about why they are doing what they do.

When asked what is his end game, what is the one thing he hopes to accomplish, Columbo said in a quiet

So I have a seven and half year old daughter and I do not want her growing up in a dystopian future, where it is okay for men to sexually assault women, where women do not have the right to do what they want with their own body, pollution is running unchecked, and somebody cannot go to college because it is unaffordable. That is not the future I want for her or anyone else growing up. As a Generation Xer, we had it rough and the next generation had it rougher. It is my job as an ethical person to make this world a better place. That is what I want to do.”

Resist Hate.

One voice, turning into millions participate in march.


On Jan. 21, 2017, an estimated 2.6 million people marched, some in outrage, some in protest. Some marched to express what they saw as an unfair result to the presidential election. Others joined out of concern for how Donald Trump’s policies were going to affect women’s rights, immigration, and Muslim communities.

In the days that followed, Trump picked his advisers and began to lay out policies that came from his campaign promises. People began to see a growing animosity towards certain groups. The Muslim ban and emphasis on illegal immigration only seemed to add fuel to the hostility.

Here on campus, students have expressed uncertainty and fear. Ishmael Rodriguez, a student pursuing general studies, echoed their concerns. “What I see, I don’t agree with the policies. They create distrust and fear. I can see where their fear about being deported is coming from; I’m Puerto Rican and share the same fear.”

When looking at the news feed on any social media outlets, it doesn’t take long to see the growing divide among people. Accusations on Facebook display a definite polarization. If someone voted for Trump, then automatically that person is labeled racist and supports bigotry. On the other hand, in sharing news reports one can be accused of promoting “alternative facts.”

Dennis Escobar, a student pursuing an AA/DTA, sees mainstream media as a contributing factor towards the antagonistic attitudes. “Media seems to be focusing on what’s wrong, what’s dividing us. I see them manipulating the truth to serve their own interests,” he said.

In his opinion, self-interest groups can also add to the division. By focusing only on their agenda they limit the conversation that could be had to find common ground for a solution. “I see a lot of hate and it is not just one way, but they tend to reciprocate,” Escobar said. “A simple conversation won’t be possible until their leaders stop focusing on themselves and start focusing also on others. People need be willing to sit at the table to ask, “Are you okay? What can I do to help?”

Getting involved in the community is a great way to combat the sense of helplessness many feel. Still, it can be difficult to know how to take a stand and resist hate.

One of the newest members to the college, Oneida Blagg, has some ideas to consider. She is the Executive Officer of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Basically what she does is bridge the resources between students and their achievement goals.

She had this advice: “Being informed and being respectful of opposing points of view are the best things. College is learning about academic ideas and how to present them civilly. Talking about controversial things is important. Do you want a good idea to be rejected because of how it was delivered? Talking in angry tones can prevent a conversation towards a solution. Learn how to respond rather than react.”

The global march in January grew from a statement one person made on Facebook, “I think we should march.” News reports and pictures show what could happen if one became thousands, then millions. What can one person do? Apparently quite a lot.
















Community on the Menu: Seven courses to Cultivate Familial Bonds

Food can keep a neighborhood together


It is hard to imagine any event or gathering that does not involve food. Birthday parties, school fundraisers, and any holiday celebration all center around food. It is one that transcends culture, race, and religion.

David Purnell, an adjunct professor at Pierce College (P) campus has written a book due to be published this coming June. It highlights how the simple act of eating a shared meal can connect members of a community.

He first came up with the idea 17 years ago while living in Tampa, FL when he and a friend started meeting with neighbors once a week for potluck dinners. The whole idea was to meet regularly to “break bread together without focus on politics or religion.” Purnell said in an interview.

At first, they started with themed dinners, but it quickly became too big to plan ahead. One idea that stuck and became a tradition was a “clean out your fridge pizza party.” They would set out several pizza dough stations and people would build their pizzas based on whatever was on hand.

Purnell also noted that what make the idea work in his community was lifestyle and neighborhood layout. Houses were older with porticos instead of attached garages. Families weren’t always on the go with sports activities; people coming home didn’t always go straight into the house, so waving “hello” often would lead to catching up. Fences were smaller so it was natural to linger and talk while doing yardwork.

One memorable dinner stands out for Purnell. Because everyone behind him in line was in a hurry to get their plates, he spotted what he thought was fruit salad and scooped some onto his plate without looking at it too close. He then went and sat down across from his good friends Norbert and Oliver. When he took a bite of the salad, instead of sweet fruit, found herring. He promptly spit it out, only to discover that Norbert and Oliver were the ones who brought it. They all had a good laugh but his friends never brought that dish again.

Despite the risks in bringing unfamiliar food, he encouraged people to try his experiment. Relationships are often built around food and in the communities where people who have different ethnic backgrounds, food is a great way to come together.

His old neighborhood still hosts the weekly dinners. Additionally, smaller groups were born. A few examples are bicycle clubs, book clubs, and poker nights.

One of the main benefits of the dinner nights was how neighbors came together. Because they all knew each other, they also looked out for each other. If a house was starting to fall into disrepair, they would come together to fix it up. If an alleyway needed cleaning, neighbors would pitch in to clean it.

In publishing his book, David Purnell said, “I want people to come together as a community, to use what they have to help others.”

Link to the PDF version: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6031&context=etd


Contribution to Black History Month Musicians

talented and aspiring influential black artists


With the celebration of Black History Month, the Pierce College community would like to bring focus to some of the most influential black musicians in music history, beginning with Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was one of the most inspiring musicians in the creation of jazz, famous for his works such as “La Via En Rose,” “Star Dust,” and “What a Wonderful World,” which are loved to this day. From the music of jazz, the exciting sensation of bebop was born with the talented skills of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker, opening the doors for John Lee Hooker, a master in blues who influenced the U.K community and inspired great artists such as The Beatles, and creating a pathway for great musicians such as Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, all the way to recent artists such as Snoop Dog, Alicia Keys, J. Cole, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Nicki Minaj, and the late Prince. Each of these artists create messages with purpose that ring today through their music and actions, touching all who appreciate them to build upon what is already formed. In the words of Usher, “We have to come together as a country to solve these problems, and this is one way I can contribute.” Without the influence of the black community, who gave life to jazz all the way to today’s R&B and rap, music would not be the same as it is today. Please, take a moment to listen to these honored artists and appreciate the gifts they have given to future generations, living on beyond the mortal lifespan through their music.

Michelle Obama Leaves a Legacy of Grace and Service

In showing a world what was possible, she made a world of difference


The Verge

Courtesy of the Verge

Michelle Obama is a mother, lawyer, and community outreach worker. For eight years she was also our First Lady.

Barack reflected on Michelle’s heart in the documentary “South Side Girl.” said, “Her dad was a sweet man, a kindhearted man, someone who felt that everybody should be treated with dignity and respect. I think that carried over to Michelle.”

Growing up in Chicago’s South Side, she saw first-hand the struggles poverty can present. Even though her parents instilled in her a goal for a college education, her mother would tease about kids getting that education and never coming back. Michelle never forgot something her parents had said, “If just a few people would come back and live in the community it would make all the difference.”

In 1985, Michelle graduated from Princeton with a B.A. in sociology, three years later graduated from Harvard with a law degree. Soon after she went to work at a prestigious Chicago law firm. It was there where she met Barack Obama; she was assigned as his mentor while he was an intern while studying law at Harvard.

The call of community service would eventually take her from the firm. She worked for a time in the Mayor’s office, then started a Public Allies division in Chicago. In 1993, she became the Executive Director of Public Allies.

In the “South Side Girl” documentary, Yvonne Davila, one of Michelle’s coworkers in the Mayor’s office remembers when Michelle left for Public Allies. “It didn’t matter that (the job) didn’t pay any money; this was important to her, it was her mission, it was what she wanted to do,” she said.

Public Allies is a program from AmeriCorps that partners young people in diverse backgrounds with leaders in nonprofit organizations. By using nonprofit partnerships, they learn how they can make a difference in their communities. That they can earn an income while learning skills is additional bonus.

In the same documentary one of her co-workers at Public Allies, Travis Rejman recalls “her uncommon gift how she could see the potential for community leaders in young people that were seen as having no potential at all.”

Jobi Peterson Cates also remembers Michelle’s warmth and encouragement. “Just by her presence, a comment, a hug Michelle could make you feel like you can do anything,” she said.

Michelle’s commitment to public service would not stop with Public Allies. In 1996, while the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, she started the Community Service Center. Here she lead the community outreach efforts at the University Hospitals.

Six years later she switched hats at UChicago to become the executive director of community relations and external affairs. Then in 2005 she was promoted to vice president in the same department, serving there until Barack’s inauguration in 2009.

At the same time, she also served as a board member for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. This gave her the experience she needed later as the First Lady.

A small group of men and women started the Council in 1922 as an impartial forum for discussing foreign affairs. Since then it has expanded and evolved to include concentrating on European development and human rights. Representative speakers have included leaders from other countries, such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Despite her experience serving in the public eye, including that of a Senator’s wife, the thought of being in the White House was a bit daunting. In a “To The First Lady, With Love” column the New York Times ran on October 17, 2016, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and speaker, wrote that she remembered Michelle was somewhat hesitant about the prospect of being the First Lady. Nonetheless, when her husband was elected, she molded herself to fit the role without compromising her own identity.

Perhaps the image that had the biggest impact was how Michelle conducted herself. “With her grace, poise, and style, she became an icon, especially to young black women,” Adichie wrote.

Because Michelle was a working mom, she could encourage others how to balance a career and family. She became the face of a successful working mother and encouraged others that is was possible. In the same column Gloria Steinem, a journalist and social and political activist wrote, “Even living 10 years in the public eye she managed to live a public life without sacrificing her privacy and authenticity.

In addition, she did not stop in her mission of community service. She and her husband would continue to volunteer at homeless shelters and soup kitchens when schedules and other commitments would allow. As she was taught the value of volunteering in her community, so she would teach others.

Throughout the eight years she was in the White House Michelle was constantly bringing people together. Her second year in she partnered with a local elementary school to replant a vegetable garden on the White House south lawn, the same place that Eleanor Roosevelt had planted hers.

Not satisfied with that, she also created “Let’s Move!” She brought together a wide range of professionals nationwide with an ambitious goal. Using education, physical activity, and corporate effort, she started a movement to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation.

Whether the issue was military service members and their families or encouraging young woman around the world in education and business, she helped to form networks and bring solutions.

In the end, Rashida Jones, actress and comic book author, summed up in one sentence the legacy that Michelle Obama has as the First Lady. She wrote in her letter to the Times, that her strongest impression of Michelle was that she made you believe you could be anyone, go anywhere, and be yourself.”







“South Side Girl” official Obama website www.barackobama.com









Obama: Yes, he did.

As his presidency comes to an end, Americans reflect on the past years under President Obama.


January 20, 2009 was a day some of our founding fathers had envisioned when they set an experiment in governance in motion. A black man was being sworn in to the highest public office of the United States even as some were still arguing whether or not Barak Obama was a legitimate US citizen. But there he was, holding his hand on the Bible, swearing his oath to serve, calmly ignoring the controversy surrounding the election results. 

For the next eight years that same sense of calm and serene disposition stayed, despite the controversy and opposition he continued to face. He felt deeply in the American capacity for change to make life better for the next generation. That belief in hope for a better future was woven through his entire farewell speech to the nation given on January 10, 2017. 

Just like every other president before him, decisions were made by a man. Some worked well, some created problems he was now charged with fixing. He didn’t spend much time dwelling on the mistakes President Bush made. Instead, he focused on doing his job, that of keeping the country moving forward.  

For Obama, our democracy on which the country was built is in a state of motion. As he stated in his farewell speech, it “is in a constant widening of our founding creed, to embrace all, not just some.” It is why he asked Congress to consider guaranteeing affordable health care for every American. It was the driving force behind securing rights and protections for the LGBT community.  

If he was pushy on his agendas, it is because he is passionate. He would see the faces of the working class, the waitress who worked too many double shifts, the factory worker who was unemployed and he would feel their pain. These people live in America, the richest country in the world, with the greatest opportunity for its people, and holds the greatest economic potential for its citizens. This only holds true if it recognized the greatest gift it has ever been given, wrapped in these inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. He strove to help people to see this gift was going to work only if it was available for every American. 

He was not perfect, no man ever is. He made decisions that, in retrospect, could have been handled better. But like every president, he can only do with what is before him. But he never lost sight of why those decisions must be made. The Oval Office never asks for a perfect man to sit in it, it only asks for one to serve and that he did every day with his whole heart. 

Even in the sunset of his service he was pleading for people “to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given, to continually to try to improve this great nation of ours because for all our outward differences, we all, in fact, share the same proud title…citizen.” 

He will leave office as he entered, with grace and dignity. He leaves with a head still held high, holding the hands of his best girls, saying “Yes, we did. Yes, we still can.” 

Many iconic celerity figures left us in 2016

The legacy they left touches and inspires us all


Celebrities are born, live a full life, and die just like other people. It does not matter if they play professional sports, have regular leading roles on the big screen, or use a six-string to sing ballads. Perhaps it is because of the type of lives they lead that they tend to touch us all in some fashion. They represent our hopes and dreams of what is possible.

However, it seemed 2016 was a never-ending funeral for another piece of our souls. The new year bell had barely finished when David Bowie left this earth. There are many fans convinced he transformed into the Starman and became his own space oddity.

There were no deathly hallows for Alan Rickman when his time came. One can only hope he found Lily. This was when people began to suspect this was not going to be an ordinary year.

The hits kept coming with band members moving on to join a singing group of a different kind. Who knows, Phife Dawg and Prince might have teamed up with Glenn Fry to sing about a five-foot assassin driving easy in a red corvette.

At least once a week another well-known name was added to the list, sometimes four in one day. The last three were the most heartbreaking of all. Carrie Fisher, actress and out-spoken advocate for mental illness went the way of the Force. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds followed her a day later. Then, just when we thought the year was done and we could put away the tissues, William Christopher exchanged his rosary for a halo.

They were astronauts, respected reporters, political activists, authors, musicians, sports players, 160 names in all. Their passing left a gaping hole in our souls. For most of us, we only knew them in roles they portrayed, recognizable faces on TV as they sit smiling and giving interviews. We didn’t really know them, but we could swear we did.

They taught us there could be more to life than what is in our walls. In showing us how people could be, they reinforced the goodwill that humanity can hold. They gave us ways to embrace at our dark side and it was okay. In showing the good guy has flaws he became more human and less like superman. The villain is not always evil that needs to be defeated.

It is also what they did with their lives that touched us so much. Many of them were involved in the community around them, seeking to leave it better than what they found it. They were not satisfied with the world as it was. They looked for ways to make it better and they did.

Pierce College’s Faculty and Alumni Celebrate 50 Years

A profile of how Pierce College has morphed from beginning to present


2017 will mark Pierce College’s 50th anniversary. All over the campus and in the current catalog there are banners and signs celebrating the milestone.  As part of the celebration Pierce College will be having its first Homecoming game on Saturday and entertainment open to the community on Sunday. Along with a car show and food trucks, festivities include alumni reunions and artists booths. But the fun will not stop there; other festivities are planned throughout the school year.

However, a look at the history of Pierce College revealed it is much older than that and bears very little resemblance to its origins.

In the 1940’s, Clover Park School District had a partnership with the federal government. The district taught government-sponsored programs to government workers and members of the military. Then, as the men were coming home from the second World War, members of the district began teaching adult education classes, known as the 13th grade.

Arthur G. Hudtloff, the Clover Park Superintendent at the time, coordinated with the WA State Education Board to create an education system to serve the growing need for business education as these were not classes being taught at the technical college.

The work was hampered somewhat by politics as the state legislature was slow to change a law that prohibited junior or community colleges in regions that had 4-year universities.

The Clover Park Community College, as it was known then, shared space with Clover Park High School. Finally, in 1967, the Community College Act was passed. This separated junior and community colleges from the regular school districts and allowed a bridge between high school and universities.

 Once the act was passed, the college was able to operate independently of the district, so it no longer needed to share space with the high school.

The first location was an abandoned grocery store. “Alberton’s U,” as it was affectionately known, had its share of challenges. Because of the open design of the building, heating consistently was difficult.  To maximize the use of the space, rolling portable dividers were used to make classroom walls. Consequently, the students in the history classes held at one of the building could also hear the psychology professor at the other end. The teachers often joked that they were teaching each other’s classes. Additionally, the student lounge was located in the former walk-in freezer. Even so, the community college finally had its own space.

Finally in 1970 the Board purchased property for the campus However, when the sign went up, the name of the college had been changed to Fort Steilacoom Community College to better reflect the surrounding community it was intended to serve.

From 1970 to 1974, students used portables parked on the muddy ground and watched the future of their college take shape.

By 1974, the first building was finally open for administration and classes. It still carries the name it was given, the Cascade Building. It still hosts the same administration and registration offices, but the building has expanded to include the library and cafeteria.

The Ft. Steilacoom campus has changed considerably over the years. One of the biggest changes took place in the Cascade building. In the 70’s performances were held in the Performance Lounge. Setting the stage was not the only challenge; seating was also problematic. Danny Marshall, who currently serves as one of the guest directors for the theater programs, remembers being a student at that time and the challenges presented. “When doing a stage production, you want people to be able to see everything on the stage. Having people sit in evenly spaced chairs made that nearly impossible. We were very happy when we were able to salvage theater seats from an old theater being remodeled in DuPont.” Risers were built for the seats as they came only as a set of theater seats attached in single rows. The only drawback was they would have to be brought in from storage when a production was being performed. Once the theater was built in the 80’s productions were easier. More changes came when the library was expanded and the theater was moved to its current location.

Since its creation, the College has served Pierce County’s residents in several ways. In the 70’s and 80’s it brought its “Possibilities Realized” motto to inmates on McNeil Island as well as provided internship training at Western State Hospital for those working towards a degree in Health and Human Services.

Additionally, due to the growth of Pierce County, a satellite campus was built in Puyallup’s South Hill in 1979. This campus continues to thrive and actually hosts around half of the student body enrolled in Pierce.

To continue to meet the demands, construction was done on both campuses. More classrooms and more programs for degrees and certifications were added.

Eventually, since the school reached farther than just Fort Steilacoom, the name was changed again to Pierce College in 1986.

In keeping with the commitment to serve the community, in early 2000’s a partnership was created with the Lakewood Clubhouse and the Web Design Program. In an interview given in October of 2006, Aishe Dent, and student in the program served as one of the coordinators for Lake City. When asked about the program, she said, “It is really important because in Lake City there aren’t all of things for kids to do after school…. not only that but it uses their creativity and expand their interest in technology.” The program still continues today and includes classes with emphasis on STEM courses.

Today the Board overseeing the College is still looking toward the future. Most recently, it has expanded the degree programs to include Bachelor’s degrees. It has come a long way from the 9 faculty members who had to decide what to teach.

Over the years Pierce College has earned a more than a few awards and recognition in various programs. After winning the Reno International Jazz Festival in 2006, one of the members summed up the spirit of the school. “Our greatest strength is probably our individual strengths, because we all bring something different,” said Brecklynn Bradford.

 This year the graduating class of 2016 had over 2,000 graduates; of those graduates 1,500 students earned Associate’s degrees, 500 students earned certificates, and 62 students crossed the stage with a high school diploma.

Today, over 20,000 students are enrolled in the Pierce College system, between the Fort Steilacoom, Puyallup, and the partnership between JBLM. Over half are first-generation students and each one is here to see possibilities realized.

Reflection on a college experience

College may be important to an education, but there is more to the experience


Why go to college? This is a question I wrestled with for days, talked over with family and friends, trying to come up with more reasons why I should rather than reasons why I can’t. After all, I have a lot of years of work experience, do I really need to bother with homework again? And I’ll be honest, my last experience with school wasn’t anything I’d care to repeat. What happened in high school will stay in high school.

But as I took an honest look at what I was doing, song lyrics kept playing in my head, “Some nights I stay up cursing my bad luck, some nights I call it a draw.” Did my work life really reflect what I stand for? I didn’t like the feedback I was getting.

In deciding to go to college, I knew there was more to it than just picking what degree I wanted to earn. I could just come to class, participate in the class discussions as necessary, do my homework, and get a fancy piece of paper or I can come away with so much more.

So from the first day I jumped in like my first dive in the deep end of the pool without a life jacket. Yes, I was way out of my element, at first it was hard to breathe, and it took a little bit to get my bearings. But by the end of the second week, I rediscovered why I liked Math, English was still fun and I started looking at what else college has to offer. I like to write and what a coincidence, the Pioneer uses freelance writers. There are clubs where I can experience diversity in ways that isn’t a part of my everyday life.

When I’m done here, I’ll be playing a different set of song lyrics in my head. Who knows, I might even write some of my own.

S & A Allocations Distributions Have Been Decided


I recently sat down with Alyssa Garrido, the Student Government President, to

get some background information about how the decision process works.

First of all, S & A stands for Services and Activities. Funding sources for these

entities come from college tuition and fees and are used to cover a wide variety of

activities on the campus. The deadline for budget submission is the end of the winter

quarter. This gives the committee time to sit down and review all of the requests. They

are evaluated based on several criteria. These are: 1) how well were the needs

presented; 2) were there any changes from the last budget submitted; and 3) what can

be trimmed if needed? Considering the size of the budgets, they need the 8-10 weeks

to meet and evaluate the requests, and is finished by beginning of the spring quarter.

The Writing Center and the Tutoring Center, the Athletic department, Performing

Arts, Student Life, and The Pioneer just to name a few all submit budget requests

because they have large departments and have a large operating budget. For example,

the Writing Center and the Tutoring Center uses the money from S & A to cover a major

portion of their budget to pay their tutors. The Performing Arts has set designs and

costumes for their performances that need covered.

Cameron Cox was helpful in explaining how the money is distributed. A

committee comprised of a mix of Student Life Staff, a member of the Pierce College

faculty, a staff member from the finance office, and five PC students chosen at random

oversees money allocated for different organizations on both of the Pierce College

campuses. While all on the committee can offer input on the various budget requests,

the only ones who have a vote are the five students and Karen Scott, the PC faculty

representative. This ensures that the vote is fair and impartial and at the same time

gives the student body a voice in how the funds are distributed.

In the overall budget there is also a general fund for clubs and other

organizations. This is to ensure that money is distributed fairly. Activities like the recent

Clubs Rush, which is done four times a year, would tap into this fund. Individual clubs

can also utilize it for one-time incidental purchases. This is helpful because new clubs

such as the OASIS club and the Comics-Verse club that recently formed can still tap

into funding for their specific activities.

This year the budget requests did not vary much from last year. While there were

not any large increases, there were some that had an expected lower operating budget

than last year. These budget requests are almost automatically granted, since this

equates to money that can be put elsewhere.

However, Terrell Engmann, the Administration Senator, did explain to me that if a

club does not agree with the committee’s decision, they can submit a formal written

appeal. In the appeal they can state their case and offer additional reasoning or

additional clarification to support their position. The committee will review the budget

request again and then make a decision. Only one appeal can be submitted. Once it

has been reviewed, the decision is final.

Finally, there is a reserve fund that can be tapped. For example, if a club planned

an event and found a situation that put them over budget, they can submit a request for

more funds. Whether or not it is granted depends on the amount and the circumstances.

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