Pierce Pioneer

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom welcomes new Vice President

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom welcomes its new Vice President of Learning and Student Success, Dr. Ilder Andres Betancourt Lopez, following an email announcement from PCFS’s President Julie White on June 3. Lopez is expected to join our Pierce community come August 2, 2021.

“[Lopez] brings a wealth of expertise to our work to create an anti-racist institution, in order to fulfill our mission at Pierce College: to provide quality educational opportunities to a diverse community of learners to thrive in an evolving world,” White stated.

White further shares in an email announcement a biography provided by Lopez himself, which gives more insight into our new vice president. From his biography, it states that Lopez grew up in an impoverished area in Los Angeles, being born from undocumented, Latino immigrants.

“When Ilder entered Stanford University, he felt blessed but he also wondered how to best maximize the privilege,” White stated. “A career in the community colleges became the obvious answer. It was and still is the nexus of opportunity for many of his family members and peers.

“Throughout his career, Ilder applies an equity and social justice lens to all his leadership decisions. Ilder believes it is not our students that need to change but the institution that can change to better address the issues faced by our students. He has devoted his career working at the community college to fulfill this philosophy.”

Lopez is currently the Dean of Science at Bellevue College, where he has developed and overseen their division’s efforts to provide learning opportunities during the COVID pandemic. Some of Lopez’s work also includes providing culturally responsive teaching and services training to all employees through a partnership with Bellevue College and the national Puente Project.

Pierce College looks forward to welcoming its new vice president with open arms. In due time, students and staff alike will be able to get to know Lopez more personally as he becomes a part of the Pierce community.

2017 Solar Eclipse


Carly McErry with wife Jordan McErry:

Carly (took picture of eclipse through 3-D glasses: science has always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. About the picture: I love photography, and am always experimenting. I had an idea about using the glasses to see if it would work.”

Dorothy: I love the stars and am always interested in events like this.

Carly (took picture of eclipse through 3-D glasses: science has always fascinated me, ever since I was a child. About the picture: I love photography, and am always experimenting. I had an idea about using the glasses to see if it would work.”

Dorothy: I love the stars and am always interested in events like this.

Ralph Morasch, Chem Lab Technician: (picture)

Owns the big microscope pictured, it sits on a motorized base. Once is calibrated, it will track the eclipse. The smaller gold one on the right is specialized to view solar flares. Incidentally, the college has purchased two smaller ones for use.

Andrea Macy (behind Morasch) “I am here to teach my children. This a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Andrew Homan, Cubmaster of Pack 148:

because it is an historic event, remembers watching the 1979 when he was much younger. There are 35 boys in his cub scout pack, each one will earn a badge that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made just for this event.

*note: they are also part of a STEM project. It is designed to encourage boys in engineering and is intended to give them a real-world experience.

“Very thankful for Pierce College putting on this event today, especially thankful for providing the glasses. I am also thankful that this is done for the community.”


Marge Blount, Dorothy with husband Kevin Curry: (picture)

Marge: I’m always interested in science, I even have my own telescope. I didn’t bring it because it is too big.”

Dorothy: I remember the one in 1979. This time I figured I’d like to see it with my husband.”

Student Government hosts Q & A

State Representatives discuss textbooks, open education resources


On May 18 local state reps came to sit on a Q & A panel moderated by Terrell Engmann, Leg. Senator, and Zoe Sundberg, Student President.

Beginning Jan. 2018, students in Washington can view required textbooks and course materials during class registration. Local state legislation recently passed a law requiring community and technical colleges to indicate required materials in the online registration process.

            Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, said she met with the student liaison at Pierce College, Puyallup, who asked her if it was possible to include the cost of textbooks with registration. Seeking a solution in the rising cost of materials that students encounter, Stambaugh then brought the idea to fellow Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, who sponsored the bill and brought it forward for a vote.

“I’m proud to say that the idea from a student at Pierce just became the law this past session” said Stambaugh.

House Bill 1375, passed on Feb. 14, 2017, will help students better budget their education and decrease the likeliness of students dropping out of college due to unexpected costs.

            Currently, students can navigate their way through a syllabus and locate a textbook or ISBN number and purchase materials ahead of time through a third party.

Others are not so lucky. As class materials can vary in cost from zero to more than $200, students who are unfamiliar with the registration process might end up with sticker shock when it comes the campus bookstore. As a result, students may end up dropping classes.

            As the new bill is implemented, students should expect to see links to the school’s bookstore website or other websites to price out the materials prior to registration. If open education resources are available, those will be indicated as well.

Classes that do not have an assigned instructor will not have a textbook noted during registration. However, once an instructor is assigned to the course, the required course materials must be updated promptly. The bill is meant to incentivize professors to utilize less expensive materials.

Engmann reminded the legislators how textbook costs have increased drastically over time, affecting students negatively.

“Students now feel a need to advocate for themselves to find alternatives that can serve as less of a burden,” he said.

Online resources have shown to be cheaper and more accessible but the adoption of these resources into curriculum seems to be a common point of confusion,” he said. 

Engmann, Sundberg, and vice president Jacob Smith, participated in this year’s Legislative Voice Academy where they brought forth a remedy to the solution.

“We came up with idea of employing a position at each institution that specializes in connecting students and faculty with open resources,” Engmann said.

Engmann addressed the panel in its stance on open education resources and awareness of current efforts in Olympia surrounding this issue?”

Stambaugh, a prime sponsor of Open Education Resource Legislation for the past three years said she is a fierce advocate of expanding open education resources. She said she has been communicating with Pierce College and other two- and four-year institutions to learn of their current open education resource options, how they are being implemented and where they can expand.

“The first two years, the model that I used was based off the University of Massachusetts Amherst that funded faculty grants for them to develop open education resource,” she said about the bill she sponsored.

The success was by doing a 10k investment over one year (4 quarters), of students utilizing those open education resource materials; they saved $70k dollars for students. That is a huge return on investment and that is the value that OER investment could have for students.”

As Stambaugh praised open resources, she said there were challenges during the model. “Let’s say one faculty member develops a math curriculum that isn’t necessarily expanded upon. Other faculty members don’t maybe understand the benefit of learning how to create their open education resources for a different class or different subject area.”

However, she said there is a benefit of having a campus liaison with and an institutional knowledge that faculty members can go to when they are trying to develop open resources.

“More legislators are gaining an understanding of the value. We could potentially make it work this year, if not maybe next year, when we have a supplemental budget,” Stambaugh said.

Bobi Foster-Grahler and Psychology professor Jo Anne Geron remember when the Fort Steilacoom campus had different groups and spaces for the LGBTQ community over the years.

Staff would like to see club’s return, Puyallup campus offers assistance


Foster-Grahler said there used to be educational forums on LGBTQ issues for the staff, which later was available for students. Foster-Grahler and former faculty member Sharon Cramner started the Safe Zone Sticker Project, where some of the faculty and staff would wear symbols indicating that they were safe people for LGBTQ students to approach.

But much of the Gay Straight Alliance clubs didn’t last, Foster-Grahler said.

“I think it's because the students are here for maybe two years and they're just kind of getting their feet on the ground. I think also with the LGBTQ community there's a stigma that is attached to that,” she said. “One of the reasons I really wanted to do the Safe Zone Sticker Project was because students had expressed some pretty blatant hatred against (LQBTQ) at Pierce College. People getting their cars keyed, people being yelled at in classrooms about 'you should die' kind of stuff and faculty not being able to stand up against that. So I think there's that fear factor that can come in.”

Social stigma, a lack of continuous club leadership and the challenges of starting and maintaining a club also have an impact, said Rhiannon Webber, student leader of the Gay Straight Alliance at the Puyallup campus.

“One of the main challenges (of starting the Puyallup campus club) has been that there was no legacy information from any of the previous clubs and that we've had to figure things out as we go, without really knowing if certain things have a chance of success,” she said. “Another challenge has been that there have been major changes to the way that the Office of Student Life at Puyallup interacts with clubs, and how clubs are expected to interact with (Student Life), since this last fall (2016), so both the (Gay Straight Alliance) and (Student Life) are still working to figure out what works best.”

Changes could have a positive benefit.

Foster-Grahler said, “Our student government has changed the rules on clubs. It's not so you have to do these 17 things or we'll kick you out. Now it's like there's four things and ‘Let's just try to keep you going.’”

The need for an alliance is very apparent, Webber said.

"There are definitely LGBTQIAP+ people at the Fort Steilacoom campus who would like a Gay Straight Alliance to form, and there are people at Puyallup who take classes at Fort Steilacoom who would like a similar space there that we have here."

April Spaulding, program director at SafePlace in Olympia, said, "I think finding community is really important, so like surrounding yourself with other people who identify as LGBTQ. I think that's super important, especially because coming out can be a really hard time with families. Sometimes people's families reject them. If you're still living at home, sometimes families kick you out of the house. That's why around 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ...finding community is probably the number one thing to do to kind of create that secondary family."

Educating the Pierce College community on LGBTQ issues is equally important to creating safe spaces, Webber said.  The Puyallup campus has made strides in this department.

“We've been able to spread a lot of information about the LGBTQIAP+ community,” Webber said. “This year, we've had a series of panels wherein student volunteers share their experiences as related to various topics, such as "Gender 101,” common myths and misconceptions, and lesser known identities. After each one, there are people who approach us with more questions and we often hear that people are thankful we explained something they were afraid to ask about.”

Foster-Grahler is an advocate for LGBTQ education on the FS campus.

She said, “I would like to see the college more blatantly insisting on a culture of inclusivity and talking about issues because my belief is, no matter if we talk about it or demonstrate it or show it in the classroom or in the hallways, it's still there. We still have LGBTQ staff, we still have LGBTQ students, community members that come in. It's like people being afraid of talking about Black Lives Matter. So if we don't talk about it, it's still in the room with us. So why don't we have an informed discussion and learn from each other? I think that having a presence of the LGBTQ community helps our community be stronger.”

Webber said she is available to help the Fort Steilacoom community start a Gay Straight Alliance or  LGBTQ club. Contact her for assistance through her email,[email protected].

Hey, Can we talk?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman’s Softball


2017 was an interesting season to say the least for the Pierce College Raiders women’s softball team. It was a season that saw the Raiders go to .500 in conference play and fall just short of the postseason. The Raiders ended the season the season struggling managing only three wins in the last ten games. May 14 marked the end of the season with Pierce in triumph over Everett in the highest scoring game of the season that totaled 28 runs between the rivals.

Bailee Bradley was the winning pitcher on the afternoon with Olivia Berkan struggling for Everett. Both offenses abused each pitcher with Berkan giving up 18 runs and ten from Bradley. Pierce did not have a single strikeout in the matchup. Bradley had quite a productive day on offense leading the Raiders in hits (four) and RBIs (seven). Tavian Taketa for Pierce was the scoring machine in the game with five runs. The Raiders finished the season with a bang defeating Everett 18-10.

Emily Bishop led the Raiders in 2017 with 48 hits in conference play and was tied with Taketa with 35 runs. Holiday Riback was the leader in RBIs with 36. As a team, the Raiders amassed 219 runs and 310 hits.

This was a season full of hard fought battles and struggles for the Raiders. If this core group of players sticks together, the Raiders have a good chance to make a run at the postseason in 2018.

A Run to Commemorate the Fallen


Pierce College students and their families are invited to participate in this year’s Memorial Day run hosted by Wear Blue: Run to Remember (WBRTR). It is a national nonprofit running community that helps honor the service and sacrifice of the American military. The run takes place in DuPont's Powder-works Park on Monday, May 29 at 9:00 am, and is free of charge. The three courses are between three and twelve miles in length and everyone is welcome to a shared meal afterwards.

Wear Blue’s mission is to make sure every fallen service member is being honored in this year’s run. Visit www.wearblueruntoremember.org to be paired with the name of a service-member who has made the ultimate sacrifice and run in their memory.

This year, approximately 2000 members of the community will unite to pay tribute to fallen service members who have been killed in action. The streets of DuPont,WA, will be flooded by runners. Most will be wearing the trademark blue shirt with the white foot print, and several will be personalized with the names and ranks of the fallen proudly displayed on the back. The streets will be lined with American flags and posters displaying photos of fallen service-members as reminder of the great sacrifices they have made in the name of freedom.

Celebrating Memorial Day for many people isn’t about three day weekends or barbeques but about grieving and paying respects to their friends, families or fellow soldiers who have sacrificed everything for their country.

“Wear Blue brings healing to me and my family. It’s a grieving process,” said Rachel Elizalde, Co-Vice President of WBRTR says as she talked about her experience with the running group.  Her brother, Sgt. First Class Adrian Elizalde, U.S. Army, was killed in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom on Aug. 23, 2007. 

Rachel remembered a promise she made to her brother when they lived together before he deployed, “He asked if we could run in a half-marathon when he got home,” she said. “He was killed in Afghanistan before we were able to run.”

It took Rachel two years before she competed in the Rock and Roll Marathon. During the run she saw a group of runners carrying American flags off in the distance. The sight piqued her curiosity, so she sought out the group and discovered the running group that meets weekly to honor the lives of fallen soldiers. Rachel joined Wear Blue in 2011 and has been devoted to remembering her brother through her weekly runs. “Wear Blue is such a welcoming community and has really inspired me and so many others, anyone can join and I encourage them to do so.”

The running group isn’t just for the runners. It is for the community of people that are touched by their stories every Saturday morning. “I am truly inspired every week when I see a mom and her young daughter stop mid-run at her father’s flag,” says U.S. Navy Veteran Alvin Overacker. He is one of several veterans who joins together every Saturday morning along the Wear Blue route in DuPont. They out water bottles, high-fives and words of encouragement; the veterans have been curbside supporting the runners since 2011 and have never missed a weekend. 

Overacker, 84, served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and another 18 years in civil service and continues to show his dedication to soldiers by showing up every Saturday since 2011 to support the runners. “I’ll continue do be here, as long as my health allows me to do so and I’ll do what I can,” Overacker shared.  He said he finds a sense of belonging at his age and still being able to contribute.  Overacker keeps an informal log of the how many runners, dogs and children pass by, the weather and the date. “Wear Blue is a wonderful tribute to those who have fallen and those who participate.”

Fellow Veteran, Paul Knoop served with the U.S. Army for 29 years and continues to show his support to his fellow soldiers by showing up on Saturday mornings.  “I’ve been coming here since 2011” he said, “It’s a pleasure that we can do it. It helps us by helping them, the runners and helps them remember the fallen and their friends. It’s an honor being here.”

Stories like Elizalde’s are shared every Saturday morning, rain or shine during the Circle of Remembrance, where runners are given the opportunity to talk about who they are running for and to encourage others to push through difficult times. Runners can grieve openly as they share a moment of silence in memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The streets become a living memorial as family and friends take to the journey proudly carrying American flags honoring the lives of the fallen and the fighting and their families.


Wear Blue: Run to Remember meets every Saturday at Powderworks Park, 1775 Bobs Hollow Lane, DuPont, WA 98327 at 9:00 am.  There is no cost to join and refreshments are served at no charge. Blue merchandise is available to purchase and the proceeds go to Gold Star families. WBRTR now has chapters across the United States and everyone is welcome. Visit their website for a list of chapters and upcoming sponsored races. www.wearblueruntoremember.org

A song that needs no introduction


It is dark outside. The droning of traffic on far away streets fills the night air. Over the white noise, he can hear the faint sound of a bugle call. This short, 24-note instrumental needs no introduction to the veteran sitting in his chair. He’s all too familiar with the somber tone of the notes being played.

“Taps,” the melody, not the history, is generally known to most citizens of the United States as the military funeral song. The part that isn’t well-known are the heart-wrenching moments before “Taps” is played and a gun volley disseminates the acrid smell of burnt gunpowder in the air. In a military memorial, there is a roll call before these unforgettable sights, sounds and smells.

Before the flag is folded amid the farewell with music and musket fire, there is another ceremony that occurs. Roll call begins when the rank and name of a fallen warrior is called. This is done three times, each more difficult to hear and a little longer than the last. Brothers and sisters with no divide, no social dichotomies – only warriors – listen as they hear a final wishful call to the recently departed warrior. Between each call, time dangles for a few moments as if a response is expected. That answer never comes. If “Taps” can open a door to the soul, roll call is the doorbell and death’s visit is something a veteran never forgets.

Plenty can be said about a song so beautiful and so deeply touching that both sides of the bloodiest war in American history adopted it as an official “lights out” song. In 1862, Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield was heading a brigade at Harrison Landing, Virginia. He had growing distaste for the current “lights out” song, the French final call, “L’Extinction des feux.”

So, he asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes. Butterfield, after listening, lengthened and shortened the notes while keeping the original melody. The first reported use of it for a burial was not long after its formation.

Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, Second Artillery, lost a cannoneer that was killed in action. This soldier then needed to be buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position. Since the enemy was close, it occurred to Tidball that the sounding of “Taps” would be the most appropriate ceremony to use as a substitute. It was not given the title “Taps” until 1874. 

For 155 years, “Taps” has been played for millions of Americans who gave up lives. The weight of these fallen heroes is felt each time the notes fill the night air. The next time someone hears it played, one should take the time to listen and feel it too.

Spike in use of dangerous synthetic drug Spice


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierce College presents Standing Rock

a play taking a closure look into this current event


As protests go, the one that took place at Standing Rock, North Dakota, was perhaps the longest in U.S. history. It lasted from July 27, 2016 until February 23, 2017, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), North Dakota law enforcement, and the National Guard came to enforce an eviction order issued by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

From the first meeting with Dakota Access the Lakota and other local tribes raised questions and stated their objections, fully expecting to be given due process, allowing their questions to be answered before construction began.

Dakota Access and Energy Partners had a mission, and driving that mission was a promise to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The answer to that promise lay in the Brakken oil fields that lay partially in North Dakota.

Late spring of 2016 the talks hit a dead end. The Lakota tribal leaders filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking a temporary injunction against the pipeline. Battle lines were drawn at Standing Rock between the Lakota and DAPL.

The protest struck a cord with Patrick Daugherty, the speech and drama professor here at the college. He said, “I felt strongly that it is a story that needs to be told.”

Sometime around the middle of February he met with two other professors who also shared the same vision.

The reasons Marion Morford, an adjunct professor for arts and humanities, partnered with Daugherty are lengthy. But then so are his ties to North Dakota. Morford had worked with the Native American people and become familiar and their values and customs.

Morford watched the events unfold and saw that there was more to the story than just a bunch of tribal people unhappy about an oil pipeline. He said, “One thing that is important to note is that Native people are accepting of change. It is part of life. So the fact that there are so many representatives from all of these tribes, the Navajo, the Hopi, the Crow, from all over, standing up, says a lot. They aren’t saying much about defending their rights. They look at it that they are defending the earth. These native people were thinking ahead about the future, their legacy and how their children and grandchildren will look back at their stewardship of the land, and the protectors of the water.”

As the protest was drawing to a close, Morford still had questions. With a confused look on his face he asked, “The (North Dakota) governor was pointing out that the water protectors was leaving this mess of pollution…as they were being arrested and hounded out. I felt that it was an unfair portrayal of the people and their options. I find it interesting that this whole issue is…this is tribal land and the pipeline goes under or through several water tables, affects the lake and the river. There is a long history of leaks and pipeline explosions that happen in North Dakota that never get reported in the news, about 200 in the last year alone. When you think about a pipeline leaking or breaking under a river how do you fix it?”

 An English professor, Heather Frankland also wanted a part in the creation of the play. During the winter quarter she gave her creative class an assignment to write a small one-act play. These plays would be tied together to tell the story of Standing Rock from the protectors’ point of view.

For Frankland, her motive was simply to teach the students the influence they CAN have. She said, “This play will empower the students as they work to bring a story to life. It is important the people understand that writing gives people a voice, to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Aiyana Parham, a running start student, was one of those students who was in Frankland’s class. She said, “It was a peaceful protest. The native people who actually lived there weren’t the ones who were starting the fights; it was the people who were coming in to support. I think they just didn’t understand. I think that was a big issue, how everything got labeled. Even the native people kept trying to say they aren’t with us. That was the most frustrating thing to me. I didn’t know that much about it until I was given the assignment for the script in my creative writing class. I barely heard anything about it.”

When the rehearsals were starting Parham came with the intent to just watch. She said, “But then I wanted to be a part of it, to portray what others created, to share the message through my performance, the message that what we were doing was wrong. We signed a treaty, then took the land back. That’s not right. When I say “them,” I mean the Lakota and when I say “we,” I mean the people who are abusing their power. I am not one of them, so I feel it is my responsibility to speak for them, too.”

The play is deeply personal for Nate Dicarlo, a digital design student here. He is an army veteran and watched with great interest as military veterans began showing up at Standing Rock. Their motivation resonated with him. He said, “I’m doing Standing Rock for one, experience, and for two, I support the cause of the Standing Rock protest. I don’t believe, as a student and as a military vet, that oil is going to make this country better. “

His voice became a little more forceful as he continued, “On top of that, the police presence up there is too militarized. I disagree with that. It should have been handled better. The way they did it was idiotic. In the military, we do not respond like that at all. We do not respond with attack dogs. We do not attack people unprovoked. What they did, they did unprovoked. There were some instances where protestors who should not have been there were throwing things, but even THEN? you do not attack them.”

The play incorporates stories told through video clips taken from people who were there with people on stage acting out the events that took place. A legend was told of a black snake that will bring great harm to the people. It became a key part of the Lakota protest and will be making a cameo appearance on stage.

The cast all have echoed the same line, " My heart goes out to the Lakota people. We violated the treaty. We violated their land and their sacred vows. “

The protest at Standing Rock was an event that will have lasting ripples. For three nights, the Lakota people will be given a voice. That is all they ever wanted, was to be heard.

Student Spotlight on Steele Osborne


You’re not the same anymore. You’re a different person when you go and come back, you’re not the same,” said former platoon sergeant Steele Osborn, on his experience in the military.

A career of military service to our glorious country sounded appealing to a twenty-year-old roofer living in Florida. Unsatisfied with where his life was headed, Steele Osborn responded to a call from an army recruiter in 2004, and was told that his ASVAB entry exam scores were such that he was qualified for any position in the army. However, he also learned that he was color-blind, and that because of this he would not be qualified to do anything other than “wash somebody’s clothes”. Then he learned of a waiver he could get to become a truck driver in Iraq – something the military desperately needed at the time, proved by a $7000 bonus supplied to Osborn. Looking back, he suspects it was all a ploy to convince him to fill the trucking position.

Osborn was deployed to Iraq almost immediately, and spent three consecutive thanksgivings there. “Holidays don’t mean s--- to me. When you’re working on every single holiday and you’re away from your family on Christmas, when you’re away from your family on thanksgiving, so what.”

While in Iraq the first year, he didn’t have a lot of time to reminisce of holidays past with his family. He said, “the mission comes first – the only important thing is your mission, that’s it. Your feelings and stuff like that aren’t important. It’s just another day.” Before he left, Thanksgiving had been his favorite holiday.

However, his attitude about holidays wasn’t the only thing that changed. After he returned from military service, Osborn found it difficult to connect with people, and still has trouble being able to trust others. “Now you see the evil in people. You don’t see the good, you see the bad, even if it’s not there, and that’s the problem.” He also admitted that if he weren’t attending school, he would just lock himself away. “It bothers me that I can’t shut it off, that I’m never gonna be that person again”

Since his return from Iraq, Osborn has become more cynical about the motivation behind engaging in wars. “I don’t believe in America as much as I use to. I believe that what we’re fighting for isn’t right. I don’t think we’ve helped anybody, and a lot of American lives have been wasted for nothing.” He believes that wars are just a front for government powers to make money, and that we aren’t actually solving anything. “Poor people die, rich people make more money.”

He said that if he had known about this while serving, that he wouldn’t have cared about fighting for his country. He developed a belief that a soldier is blinded to reality as soon as you put on the uniform, and there is this vision that a solider is, “something great, something you wanted to be, you’re doing great things for your country [when] realistically, all you are is just a little pawn in a game.” 

He now regrets the things he did while in he was stationed in Iraq. “I feel like I went there for nothing. I feel ashamed that I even went and did the stuff that I did, and was proud of what I did. I feel like I was robbed of my innocence.”

It was his experience that soldiers often don’t want to see the reality of how they are affecting the Iraqi citizens. He remembered one particular day when he was traveling in a convoy of military vehicles down the road. Civilian cars are not allowed on the roads with the military convoys, so they have to pull over and wait for them to pass. Some of the civilians started giving them trouble about this, and one of the soldiers broke protocol and shot a warning shot with a 50-calibur gun. It then ricocheted into an Iraqi driver’s head, killing him and forcing his car into a ditch.

At the time, Osborn was irritated because the convoy then had to wait for the Iraqi police to show up before they could continue. “It makes me sick to my stomach that I cared more that it took time out of my day than the fact we just killed somebody for no reason. I feel like we never should have been there in the first place.”

Henrik Haude Spotlight

Henrik Haude is an 18-year-old first generation college student with the goal of completing a major in chemistry or political science. Most importantly he aspires to become a military officer.

He was born in Cologne, Germany to a German father and American mother. His family moved to the U.S. when he was the age of 7; he holds dual citizenship, and can speak German moderately well.

Haude’s current educational plans are to successfully complete his two remaining quarters at Pierce College for his associate’s degree. He also is in the process of getting his high school diploma.

Balancing two completely different disciplines and maintaining strict educational goals hasn’t always been the easiest of roads to travel. He acknowledges this academic gauntlet as a sort of trainer that is prepping him for university and in general – life.

“It’s been hard, but I try to keep my goals in mind; down to the smallest of details,” he said.

These fleeting difficulties have also been slowly preparing him for the strenuous career as a United States military officer, and the challenge of getting into the prestigious United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.

What is driving him to a career as a military officer he said, “It’s a narrow choice, but one that offers the most opportunity.” Haude also sees the benefits of going into military school, “It’s basically guaranteed employment,” and “In fact, students are paid, fed, clothed, and trained while they attend.”

While those basic necessities are important to him; he also sees the important life skills he would be gaining, “Service and also leadership are important values to being an officer,” he said.

Haude is already well into the process of starting to learn some of those values.

With service to his country being the first of those two major values; Haude would be the first in his family to voluntarily serve in a military environment. He also knows that becoming a military officer would give him first-hand experience. It would also show him show him the ins-and-outs – good and bad of the military.

The other important value to Haude is leadership. He is an officer on the board of Pierce’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for Community Colleges, and rowing.

Of those three, rowing happens to be Haude’s favorite, and he even describes rowing as,

“Probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in [my] life.”

The reason rowing has made such an impact; Haude said, “It’s a unique sport that has

challenged and rewarded me.” It has also taught him how to better himself, have compassion, and how to be the leader to a like-minded group of individuals in the toughest of times.


After his career as a military officer is finally over; he plans to come back to Washington state to start opportunities for community outreach in Tacoma, and the surrounding areas. He hopes of inspiring another generation to reach for their own goals – no matter how difficult.

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