Pierce Pioneer

COVID-19 Self-Test Kits available at local libraries

On April 14, 2021, Tacoma Public Library and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department partnered up to offer free self-administered COVID-19 test kits, with library cards not being required. The kits can be picked up at any TPL location during their service hours, or by speaking with a librarian at one of their branches; it is unclear if the Eastside Community Center is included.

Afterwards, the kit can be registered online using the included instructions. Once that is complete and the test has been administered, the kit can be dropped off at a UPS store or UPS drop box. Postage has been included since it is required that the kit be mailed to UPS the same day it is taken. TPL advises those interested to not bring kits back to the library after picking one up.

This is a great way to give people more flexibility and privacy while also being safe. For more information regarding TPL’s pickup services and schedules, visit TPL’s Events calendar.

The student media teams are searching for creative co-workers.

It’s great opportunity for someone looking for part-time employment within the college that offers a flexible schedule. Students who work for the media teams will bring new voices to publications to give us fresh perspectives.

This is a work-from-home opportunity until campus reopens.

  • Starting pay: $13.94/hr
  • Starting hours: 10-15hrs/week

Positions begin in late August and will continue throughout the 2021-22 school year.

Positions Available:

Editor-in-Chief: The student in charge of the content and reputation of the publication.
Managing Editor: The second in charge who connects with the editor-in-chief and the team members.
Reporter: The students who research, interview, and write stories.
Photographer: The students who take photos.
Videographer: The students who create videos appropriate for the college audience.
Podcaster: The students who create podcasts appropriate for the college audience.


Team members need to take 10 credits each quarter from fall to spring and maintain a 2.7 grade point average.

Contact adviser Teresa Josten at [email protected] for more information or detailed job position descriptions.


Littering in Local Wetland

EDI Cares Student of Color Empowerment Summit

On Feb. 25 and 26 students took time out of their evenings to enjoy a moment of positive thinking and self-improvement with Pierce College’s EDI Cares community. TheEquity, Diversity, and Inclusion College Access, Retention, and Engagement Services seeks to empower students to achieve their academic, professional, and life goals, according to their official page on the Pierce College site.


This mission is profoundly evident when attending their Students of Color Empowerment Summit, which provided holistic support and self-improvement methodology that is incredibly valued in our trying times.


The event was primarily hosted by the associate director of EDI Cares, Ciera Graham, and had a mission statement of discovering the power of you. EDI Cares seeks to build a structure that sees and hears students and how when nobody else is around for support, you will always have yourself. This is often not available to students of color at primarily white institutions.


For many students of color at Pierce College, the past 12 months have represented a period of bitter social unrest and political turmoil, which could be further compounded by the stress of starting a new school or re-adjusting to life on a digital platform. 


With a wide array of activities, from lessons on criminal justice to talent shows that demonstrate the multi-faceted creativity of the black diaspora, the empowerment summit’s strongest power is that it managed to balance moments of light-heartedness and fun with earnest stories of loss and the power of fighting on.


The event opened with an icebreaker from Pierce College’s community engagement specialist, Kiana Fuega. Each participating audience member was asked to name their real-life superpowers, before transitioning into words from EDI Cares Vice President, Charlie Parker. This was to demonstrate how we are people with multiple purposes on this Earth, and that our superpowers are not solely individual, but developed through lived experience. 


The other primary focus of the event was wellness and the things that we do to preserve our purpose and have conversations with ourselves. They developed the idea of Habits of Excellence , which refers to the actions that you take in your life that improve your physical and mental well-being.


The event coordinators used a mixture of fun and lighthearted activities, such as giving yourself a theme song or taking selfies to appreciate your image, with earnest expressions and stories of mental health struggles and rejuvenation. The result is a presentation event that is incredibly accessible to students at Pierce and representative of a minority group that is deserving of a safe space and community at Pierce College.

By the end of the event, students were left feeling more powerful and capable of taking on the world than they had before. The 31st Annual Students of Color Conference — “Hear Our Voices: Resilience Powered Change” will take place Thursday April 15 from 11am-3pm and April 16 from 10am- 6pm. More information can be found on their FaceBook, linked here.

Vice President of Learning and Student Success Debra Gilchrist parts ways with Pierce College after 30 years

Pierce College president Julie White announced March 3 over email that on June 30 will say good-bye to Debra Gilchrist, who is retiring after 30 years of service to the school. 

As the vice president of learning and student success for the last 9 years, Gilchrist has continued to gain the respect of her colleagues through her dedication to excellence.

“Throughout her time, she led the re-visioning of the library into an award-winning program, guided us through successful accreditations with the NWCCU, and collaborated on a district-wide model of academic leadership,” White stated. “Deb has been a strong, quiet, persistent voice for continual improvement.”

White commented on the difficulty to replace Gilchrist’s role as vice president for learning and student success, but the search for a successor will begin and the announcement will be given in the near future.

“Please join me in wishing Deb the very best,” White stated. “We will be sure to celebrate and wish her well before June 30.”

Kicking it with Q – Episode 3 – Food for Thought: Valentines Day

Quintin Mattson-Hayward and Daniel So go around asking students about their Valentines Day thoughts.

Editor: Quintin Mattson-Hayward

Logo: Jesus Contreras

Chaz Serna: passionate about reform

Meet your new Fort Steilacoom Student Government President

Bigger than life with a radio voice, a gentle smile and a hearty, kind laugh – that’s what students experience when they meet new Student Body president Chaz Serna.

“This door opened up and I took it,” said Serna. “It’s very exciting.”

Serna views himself as a mediator between the activities board, the student government, and what they collectively do together.

“I see my world as finding ways to reach out to and connect with the student body and to interest them in building a community here at Pierce College,” said Serna. “My role is to facilitate those things and bring them about; to be the voice in the presence of the legislators and the Board of Trustees and to oversee the respective projects the senators have going on.”

His vision for Pierce College Fort Steilacoom starts with easing stress and beating down barriers to education.

“We’re trying to enhance the educational and health experience that people can have here because health starts in your mind,” said Serna. “Your body can really react to the things that are going on in your mind — stressors and stress levels – so we’re trying to ease that. We’re trying to reach out to our more at-risk population, people who are on the cusp of having issues of not being able to pursue their education. We’re all about trying to beat those barriers down and build bridges, build pathways, build roads, if need be, out of one place to another for an individual.”

His term for 2019-2020 started this summer with workshops, conferences, and joining Director of Student Life, Cameron Cox, and Student Life Program Coordinator, Allie Morrow, for training.

“Chaz ran his own nonprofit and has experience working with people, teams, and communities,” said Cox. “Those are unique skill sets that he’s bringing. Not every student body president in the past has had those specific life experiences.”

I will continue to listen, to see, to implore, to ask, to try to get students to engage, and to teach them that they can come to us with issues,”

— Chaz Serna, Student Body President

Cox went on to say how he believes Serna to be a very goal oriented man; passionate about his values and genuinely caring about making a difference. He cares about Pierce College and his fellow students.

Serna immediately went to work tackling three issues before fall quarter even began. One of the main issues is the Health Administration Center (HEC) fee which he hopes to eliminate.

“Another one of my larger issues is financial aid – the way it happens, the way it doesn’t happen, the loopholes,” said Serna. 

“Other colleges have up-to-date ways of dealing with and distributing funds.”

Serna is also trying to bring self-compacting, solar powered recycling trash cans to the campus, as a way to encourage recycling.

“The ones we have now, the birds get into them and spread trash everywhere, and nobody wants to clean it up,” said Serna. “These trash cans, they cannot get into. They hold five times the capacity of a normal trash can.”

Serna hopes to knock off these challenges left and right. “If they give me authority to do things, I’m going to use it,” he said. “It’s not about trying to leave my print or name on anything, I’m just trying to leave something that future student body generations are going to be able to appreciate and enjoy. What matters is the lasting legacy.”

Serna enjoys supporting each student government senator and their programs, and leading by servitude.

“I will continue to listen, to see, to implore, to ask, to try to get students to engage, and to teach them that they can come to us with issues,” said Serna. “Whatever it may be, if we ourselves can’t help you we’re going to direct you in some path where you can get help. We want to do as much as we can, to be the servants we were hired to be.”

His humble heart has roots in a very tough childhood and upbringing, during which he learned powerful lessons about people and life that he plans to use while at Pierce.

Serna did prison ministry and taught Sunday School for six years. He also started his own nonprofit organization, called CJS Urban Outreach Ministries that reached out to homeless children, to give back to the things he didn’t have when he was a kid.

“That’s what I sought to do, hence my major of clinical psychology,” said Serna. “I want to work in abnormal psychology with kids.”

In the meantime Serna has big plans for students at Pierce College this year, specifically to create a community.

“We don’t want sects of individuals here, and cliques of individuals here and there,” said Serna. “We want to show people: Have pride in where you go to school. Don’t just come, go to school, and then go about your business. Be part of this community. Serve in ways that you can. Give back.

“We want the student body to know they have a real voice. Student input won’t fall on deaf ears, fall through the cracks, or get caught in bureaucratic red tape. We want to create a vibrant, viable, healthy community that’s inclusive to all.”

Julie A. White and what it means to be involved

Kotone Ochiai / Staff Photographer
President White getting interviewed by Lizzy Rowe

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president Julia A. White goes in depth on her life and what her goals and intents are for the students under her.

Pierce College centers its focus on providing educational opportunities through equity, inclusion and accessibility to all communities. Julie A. White, Ph.D and current Fort Steilacoom Pierce College president keeps those key components at the core of her work.

White was looking for the next step in her career and had her eye on Pierce for some years now. “Pierce is a national leader and trendsetter in the community college sector,” she adds. “When I saw this job opening was available, I was excited, and I got right on it.”

Growing up in a rural community in Indiana, White’s family had never been to college. Her father dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, and her grandfather couldn’t read or write. “Academics came easily to me, but I did feel adrift. It wasn’t something my family had experienced,” White disclosed. “They definitely supported me but didn’t know how to.”

In high school, White was encouraged by her English teacher and music instructors. They brought out her potential and helped her through tough times in life. “I experienced the power of literature and music to help me understand the human experience and connect my own emotions to the broader world. I wanted to bring that to others,” she states.

As a first-generation college student, White says not to let anyone limit you or define what you can accomplish. “There are so many people with stories like mine who have accomplished amazing things. Get to know those people because those are the people that can help bolster you.”

Julie White / Courtesy Photo

Equity is the accessibility of student opportunity and success with the individual needs of students at the heart. White says people with less opportunities or lack of resources create a separation and a less vibrant culture for all. “We have a lot of work to do in this country around historical racism, sexism and the conditions we see today are rooted in those histories. We can’t go back and change that, but we can address the current conditions.”

With the national presidential election underway, many candidates ran on a platform of reducing or eliminating student debt, particularly for community colleges. White states that college should be free to everyone because financially it’s a huge barrier that if removed gives more opportunities to students. 

“There would be funds for daily living expenses for students who work full time and part time.” She proposes this innovation so students can work less and focus more on their academics.

The Washington State Legislator has increased funding so more students can receive grants. There is no effective plan for the grants between federal and state financial aid regulations, but White is continually working with community college presidents on innovative projects. “We are creating a virtual hub of community resources that will help students identify their financial needs and services in the community,” White says.

White’s first steps in her new role is to listen and to learn. Having conversations with students, faculty and examining student success data will help her understand where the barriers lie and how they can improve them. 

When she is not in the office or at a community event, White enjoys yoga, hiking, biking and being outdoors. She is excited to experience the culture and beauty Washington has to offer. White also has a son and a daughter who are musicians and are enrolled in graduate school. “I think there are some helpful genes there, but they have worked really hard. I am very proud of them,” she states.  

White says you can expect to see her on campus attending student events, and she welcomes any new ideas students bring forth. “They should know I am out in the community talking about how great they are and trying to spread the word about Pierce so more students can take advantage of the opportunities that we have.”

Homestay & New Student BBQ

Pierce College Connecting with Students Through Art

WOWHAUS Art Studio / Courtesy Photos
A large replica ctreated to showcase how the Ascent art piece will look once completed.

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s new art installation is meant to connect and inspire students attending the campus.

How do you define art?

Scott Constable of WOWHAUS Art Studio says it is a way of interpreting and understanding the world. “Art is the cousin to science and a mode of inquiry,” says Constable. He is the creator of the ASCENT sculpture located in the stairwell of the Cascade Building, which is a central hub for students. “I believe it’s a good metaphor for education by climbing the stairs,” he says. “And I was inspired by the students.” 

Suspending from the four-story stairwell, the piece appears like a large fan with several smaller shaped fans on top. Every shape and angle capture a student’s growth and success in school. “When you are in school, you are exposed to many different viewpoints, and with those you create your own narrative,” says Constable. The sculpture is meant to be viewed from different angles while each view gives you a different perspective. “It’s always dynamic- just like the students,” he added. 

The process of creating this art piece began around 6 years ago when the committee wanted to incorporate an artistic element to the school. David Roholt, an art professor at Pierce, said it was a collaborative project with the artist and the Washington Art Commission. “Being able to work with various colleagues on campus was rewarding, and the artists were easy to work with,” says Roholt.

WOWHAUS Art Studio / Courtesy Photos
Scott Constablemaking the measurements for the Ascent art piece.

The ASCENT sculpture is made of wood and took four months to craft, both by hand and computer. There were some challenges to making this piece work in the stairwell so that it wasn’t easy to touch. Constable stated he made a model and took measurements. Afterwards he had a structural engineer make it earthquake proof.

WOWHAUS is based out of Oakland, California and consists of Scott Constable, his wife Ene, and his daughter Aili. “When my daughter was about one and a half, I was building a tiny studio in the backyard that was seven feet by nine feet. She would always say I was in the wow house,” says Constable. “It’s also a take on BOWHAUS in Germany who were the inventors of modernism.”

Nature is Constable’s main source of inspiration. He became interested in art at a young age and began by just drawing trees. “Drawing taught me to see in color, form, compositions, line and shade,” says Constable. He loves to experiment with 3D, abstract and moire patterns. Growing food and raising chickens with his family in the California Redwood Forest would constantly spark his imagination and creativity.

The sculpture has many meanings to everyone. Roholt says it’s pivotal to the environment, being that Pierce is an academic institution. The intent is to add color and something unexpected for students. “It will add an artistic element to make the campus even more beautiful,” he says.

Constable says the most rewarding part of the process is when the sculpture is displayed. “When it’s installed, it belongs there, and it belongs to the students through generations.”

There are many students pursuing a career in the arts, and Constable knows firsthand what it is like… “Making a living as a professional artist is notoriously difficult and is often frowned upon as a career path,” he states. “My advice to any young person interested in pursuing a career as an artist is to be an excellent communicator. The sweet spot is in understanding your strengths and limitations, finding the best medium to express your ideas, and understanding how the marketplace relates to your artistic endeavors.”

New changes to the Campus Safety Office

The Campus Safety Office went through remodeling over the summer with the hopes of improving student experiences

I need help.

It’s not unusual for college students to say this on campus. Whether that help be navigating the campus, or needing personal assistance and not knowing where to get it. It’s a normal part of being a college student, and it is important to know where students can receive that support.

Pierce College’s Campus Safety Office, located on the third floor of the Cascade Building, is here to assist both new and returning students with any burning questions. Jeffrey Schneider, the Director of Campus Safety, wants all students to know that they can come to them for anything.

Ciara Williams / Staff Photos

“We’re kind of the one stop shop,” said Schneider. “If you don’t know the answer to something or don’t know where something is or who to talk to, you can come to us. We can either answer your question or put you in contact with someone who can.”

Over the summer, the Campus Safety Office went through remodeling, with the hopes of providing students a better environment. Pierce has added a glass window in the office which now closes off the area from the public. This provides students and staff privacy to air out any and all problems.

Originally, the office was a tall counter where students went with their questions. Schneider states that the old set up did not comply with American Disability Act guidelines, meaning the state would have required the remodeling. However, Schneider felt that making a few extra changes to better the student’s experiences would be a benefit for the future.

“In the past victims who needed a space to talk felt not as comfortable to do so, due to the original set up,” said Schneider. By providing privacy, the staff hopes students will feel more comfortable to come to them for help.

Campus security has also done work over the summer, including teaming with local law enforcement to better prepare in the event of an incident. On Sept. 5, Campus Safety held an all-day training in the Rainier Building with the Lakewood Police Department. Schneider states that this allows officers to better familiarize themselves with the campus

The Campus Safety Office has made itself an available source for a plethora of situations. “We’ve done everything,” said Schneider. “From call ambulances, to providing first aid, and for the case of running start students, connecting students and family members.”

On a typical day, the usual questions students bring to the office involves finding where their classroom is located or how to receive a parking permit. Though at times, students will come to the office with more serious concerns.

There has been no particular safety issues on either campus and that is outstanding. There are very few crimes that go on here, and that’s the way we like it.”

— Jeff Schneider

Schneider mentions how there are times where students are experiencing dating violence or may even be the victim of other serious crimes. Schneider makes it clear that students can bring non-school related concerns to them if needed; the office can refer students or staff to counseling or law enforcement. Ultimately, it starts with Campus Safety.

The office does what it can to alleviate any concerns students might have while on campus. Students uncomfortable with walking to their car at night after class can go to Campus Safety and receive an escort. 

If a student’s car is broken into, or a stranger or classmate is making them uncomfortable - Campus Safety is here to help with these concerns. Students seeking help only need to stay aware and ask when needed; all it takes is that first initial step from students. .

Schneider finds it important that students are aware that they are responsible for their own security as well. Campus Safety is here to serve students and will always be available, but it is up to the students to take that extra step in keeping themselves safe. “If you hear something, you have to react. Make sure that you are visible,” said Schneider, whether it be about a problem, vehicle, or a student in general.

With new students preparing to attend Pierce College this fall, many may be curious as to how Pierce intends to assure them that they are safe here. America as of recent has been going through hard times regarding gun violence and public safety, and Schneider wishes to say this to any students in need of assurance. 

“There has been no particular safety issues on either campus and that is outstanding. There are very few crimes that go on here, and that’s the way we like it. We have built in systems, and more safety mechanisms; so should an unfortunate event here happen, more people will be safe.”

What Campus safety can do for you

Campus Safety is located in CAS311

You can receive a parking pass from the Campus Safety Office

You can receive a security escort to your car, or even to the bus stop

Campus Safety can provide First Aid, CPR, and other medical assistance

Campus Safety can refer you to counseling

Campus Safety can help you locate a class or room

Any thefts or crimes on campus can be reported to them

Campus Safety can assist students going through dating/relationship violence

Campus Safety can notify students of any serious incidents happening on campus

Campus Safety regularly holds training to better improve security during any incident

Incidents on the Fort Steilacoom campus can be reported 

via their office number: (253) 964 - 6751

Campus safety officer aspires to do bigger things after graduation

Alyssa Wilkins / Staff Photo

Edgar Velasco uses his college experiences to
prepare him for what he’ll be doing next

Some people watch crime shows for fun. Other people imagine how to solve crimes in their sleep. These people often begin to wonder if these shows depict real experiences for law enforcement.

Such was the case for twenty-year-old criminal justice major and aspiring corrections officer, Edgar Velasco. After graduating with his associate’s degree this spring and transferring to the University of Washington for his Bachelor’s degree, he will get to find out.

Velasco became intrigued by law entertainment platforms because of the debates and cases of diverse backgrounds. He was drawn in by two contrasting reality shows. One portrayed inmates who are aggressive and intimidating, whereas the other, where guards have a great rapport with inmates.

His fascination with discovering the truths behind these stories inspired him to pursue a career in criminal justice. Additionally, he has a great curiosity in how laws are formed and how they affect his community. This interest will serve him well as a police officer – something he can see himself doing in the future.  

He had originally wanted to go to South Puget Sound because he lived in Lacey. However, the college didn’t have a criminal justice program, and that is what brought him to Pierce.

Alyssa Wilkins / Staff Photo

As part of his curriculum studies, he was able to take a tour of a local corrections facility.  Because of that experience, he started looking at being a corrections officer as a stepping stone to becoming a police officer. 

Velasco works as a safety guard at Pierce, which gives him first-hand experience. The position has helped him overcome his concerns about getting his foot through the door in the criminal justice field. He questioned himself to see if he was mentally prepared for this career. However, with the security job, “It’s definitely given me more confidence about the future,” he said.

As a first-generation college student, he also felt a lot of pressure. One quarter before he was scheduled to graduate, Velasco felt the impulse to drop out because he was mentally drowning. However, he overcame the desire and will be graduating this June. He finds pride in doing this for his family. By the time the quarter ended, he found his personal pride has turned into a driven force for himself.

He put leisurely activities on the backburner in order to solely focus on his college and future career. He has put all his time and energy on school and working his security job which will help him pursue his future career path. “I am here for a purpose,” he said. That purpose placed him on the Dean’s list last quarter.

He hopes to make both his parents and grandparents proud while also doing it for himself. Velasco asked himself, “Do you want to have a successful life? That’s what I want, so I keep pushing through.”

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