Pierce Pioneer

Pierce College Appoints New Student Government President

Jessica Edmonds presents first President’s report at the Student Government assembly.

Jessica Edmonds to be the Student Government president after the former president steps down.

Jessica Edmonds has been appointed Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s new Student Government president as of Feb. 11. This decision follows January 2020, after the former president, Charles “Chaz” Serna, unexpectedly stepped down.

While details of Serna’s unexpected resignation are not yet available outside of Student Government, the changes which this decision created has sparked a new path for Student Life. “With the team right now, they feel a little bit discouraged, and they definitely need that recharge,” Edmonds said.

Serna’s decision to step down came immediately, although Edmonds said there were office frustrations present leading up to it. “I don’t think it was just him,” Edmonds said. “But he’s in a role that carries a lot of the weight of the team’s feelings.”

Edmonds said Serna has since reached out to her and given his blessings for her new leadership role. “He felt strong that I would be president, which really helps me gain that confidence,” Edmonds said.

Jaein Cho, the former administrative senator, was ratified as the new Student Government vice president soon after Edmonds’ appointment. Edmonds said she is confident that Cho can lead the team alongside her.

Edmonds said her next steps are to redirect and recharge the team. “Making sure our team and our office has the best interests of students, and that’s expressed with our events and relationships with other departments on campus.”

Edmonds studies Psychology and Latin American Studies at Pierce, and plans to transfer to the University of Washington Tacoma and get involved in their student government or activities board. 

Edmonds was working on her biggest project, the MultiCultural Fair, when she got word of Serna’s resignation. Edmonds said the whole team has assisted her in the event. “Everyone has stepped up because we know we have a vacancy,” she said. “If we wanna keep going with our ideas, we have to kind of do things a little bit out of the job title.”

Coming into a role halfway through the year can be challenging, but Edmonds feels prepared to take this on, with previous leadership training and strong connections already made with faculty, staff and students.

Student Government President Steps Down

Charles “Chaz” Serna (right) passes out  food to Spencer Howell (left) at the Welcome Daze event.     David Dino-Slofer / Courtesy Photo .  

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s Student Government president Charles “Chaz” Serna has stepped down from his position as of Jan. 29. An announcement was led hours after the resignation by Jessica Edmonds, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s Student Government vice president. 

Edmonds said there were a number of things which may have led to this decision. However, whether or not Serna’s resignation was an abrupt choice or a long time in  the making is yet to be known.

There’s a lot of frustration in general with processes and planning on the campus as a whole,” Edmonds said.

With Serna’s absence, Edmonds may replace his position. “It definitely gives me some feedback and roadmap of where I want to lead the team,” she said. Edmonds said the next steps for Student Government is to come together and redirect. 

This story will continue to develop, as the Pioneer gathers more information about the resignation.

Remembering Denise Yochum

Pierce College Historical Archives / Courtesy Photo

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom mourns the death of Denise Yochum, after a long battle with cancer. On Jan. 13, chancellor Michele Johnson announced the news of the former college president’s passing, which sparked commemorative responses from the community she impacted.

Yochum served as Pierce College’s president for 13 years before retiring last January; she remained an active member of the community even after, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum oversaw the expansion of many projects on Fort Steilacoom’s campus, including making the Science Dome interactive and renovating classrooms and student services spaces.

“Denise’s commitment to student success and her dedicated service to the college was exemplary,” Johnson stated in an email. “She has also been an active and beloved member in the local community, a state leader, and was a shining example of leadership that was grounded in integrity, skill, and courage.”

Not only was Yochum a leader, she was also a friend to many. “Denise’s quick wit has made us laugh, and we appreciated her fun and free flowing ways,” Johnson stated. “Denise’s thoughtful, caring, outgoing personality and sharp mind has endeared her to us now and long into the future.”

For Daniel Dino-Slofer, Pierce College’s media assistant, he admired Yochum’s ability to inspire others. One of his favorite memories of her was when he trained with Student Life in 2015.

“She shared her inspiring experiences with us on how she started her career path that ultimately led her to be the President of the Fort Steilacoom campus,” said Dino-Slofer. “Her story gave us student leaders a lot of encouragement on how far your efforts and goals can take you when you put your mind to it.”

Yochum will be remembered for her leadership and service for the Pierce College community. Yochum is survived by her husband Eric, sons Eric and Kyle, five grandchildren, and a large extended family, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum’s memorial will be held at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in the Performance Lounge.

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.”

Long Shot is a hidden gem

Philippe Bossé / Lionsgate
From left: Ravi Patel, June Diane Raphael, Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in “Long Shot.”

As the “Avengers: Endgame” hype is still going strong, people seem like they know what movie they will likely choose when they set foot in a theater. While “Avengers: Endgame” is one of the most popular films this year, the effect of it can bury other movies in its shadow. While people are still buying tickets to arguably the biggest superhero movie of the year, no one is talking about a smaller but charming romantic comedy by the name of “Long Shot.”

The movie centers around the story of Fred Flarsky, played by Seth Rogen and Charlotte Field, portrayed by Charlize Theron. They both come from different backgrounds and walks of life, but both know each other from the past. Through circumstances, they reunite when Charlotte is running for President, while Fred Flarsky is unemployed. As they get to know each other, a possible romance begins.

The movie follows a “Lady and The Tramp” motif that has been done countless of times, but somehow wonderfully captures the playfulness of a newrelationship. “Long Shot” is not a deep story, and it does not try to be one. The movie has one job and it does it well: to entertain the audience. It is quite refreshing to transition from the epic “Avengers: Endgame” to an idyllic love story.Romantic comedies can be “a dime a dozen,” but something about “Long Shot” makes it appear above the rest.

Seth Rogen plays the same typical character that he plays in most of his previous roles, but his lovable aura works in this film. With past movies like “Pineapple Express, “This is The End” and “Neighbors,” audience can expect the “Seth Rogen” humor appearing in the movie. If a person likes his other projects, then they can certainly find enjoyment in this movie. However, his humor can be considered offensive to some people, and it is important that audience go into this movie knowing that it will be riding the line.

Murray Close / Lionsgate
The journalist and Madam Secretary.

Charlize Theron reveals a funnier side that is not often seen in her films. Her comedic timing is effective. One scene that involves her with a cigarette and a telephone perfectly illustrates how she works her physical appearance and delivery to make the quite humorous.

The two stars, as odd of a couple as they are on film, are believable as lovers. They look like they enjoy spending time with each other on set resulting in great chemistry, which is a vital asset. The humor, although still important, sometimes take a backseat for the more romantic moments. They do not come off as sappy- but genuine.

With a romantic comedy like this, it is surprising how deep this movie is when it comes to the debate of politics. Towards the end, there is a moment where Fred Farsky and his friend, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. talk about their identities and beliefs. The scene weirdly points out the problems that America is facing at this time.

The movie is not without its problems, as no movie is perfect. Some of the jokes do not land in the way that the filmmakers probably hoped that they would. Also, the escalation of the romance is a touch too fast. The ending of movie can be considered far-fetched considering what the characters have been through. As fun of a ride as it is, “Long Shot” can be predictable with plot points that have been in countless of rom-coms. However, despite the flaws, one can easily over look them in exchange for a light but well-made comedy.

It can be strange to take a left turn from all the Marvel fever that is wreaking havoc at the moment. But if an audience wants a break from the intensity of comic book movies, “Long Shot” is a viable option.


Pierce weathers shutdown storm

Pierce administration and staff are largely unaffected by the government shutdown, but some students are struggling in other areas

As what has become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history trudges on, Pierce College continues to operate as normal.

The shutdown began on Dec. 21 after spending bills were not signed into law before the midnight deadline. President Donald Trump had indicated that he would not sign any spending bills that did not contain over $5 billion to help fund his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, one of his campaign promises. 

“If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shut down the government,” Trump said on Dec. 11 in a televised Oval Office meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Many of the things we do here at Pierce are also funded locally and through the state.””

— Choi Halladay, Vice President of Administrative Services

“And I am proud, I’ll tell you what. I am proud to shutdown the government for border security, Chuck. Because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

Democrats refused to approve packaging the border wall funding with spending bills, although they did offer $1.6 billion for border security funding that could not be used for a wall. President Trump refused any such deal and refused to sign a stopgap funding bill passed by the Republican majority Senate on Dec. 19.

Due to 75 percent of government funding being approved for the budget year that started in October, the shutdown is considered a partial one. Multiple cabinet departments are among the 25 percent that will go unfunded; including Homeland Security, Interior, Justice and Transportation. Programs like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are also affected by the lack of funding, leaving thousands of government workers furloughed and currently without paychecks. 

Choi Halladay, vice president of Administrative Services at Pierce, said that it is “fortunate” that the department of Education is among the 75 percent of already funded Departments.

“Many of the things we do here at Pierce are also funded locally and through the state,” Halladay said, and added that he was not aware of any non-payment issues regarding financial aid. However, he did say that there could be “crossover effects between departments” if programs continue to go unfunded. 

As for professors and other staff members, Halladay said that payroll is also unaffected. “What is more likely to affect staff at Pierce are personal problems caused through the shutdown of other departments, especially the IRS, as tax season approaches and people are unable to get their tax returns.”

Aiden Helt is Pierce’s current Student Life Activities Board Issues and Awareness Coordinator. She also receives aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP is a federal aid program administered through the Department of Agriculture, one of the cabinet departments going without funding. It provides food-purchasing assistance for U.S. citizens who meet certain low income and resource requirements. 

The White House / Courtesy Photo

Due to the government shutdown, food benefits that would normally be received by recipients this month were distributed weeks earlier, with no announced plan for March. Helt said she normally gets benefits in the beginning of each month, but received February’s benefits on Jan. 20. “I was told if the shutdown continued, there wouldn’t be any more after that,” she said.

Helt, who lives in a household of six, said that she generally uses up her SNAP benefits roughly halfway through every month and afterwards relies on personal funds. She stated that if she does not receive aid after this month, she could potentially be unable to afford enough food to support her family. 

Because of her closeness to the issue, Helt expressed empathy with other students on forms of federal aid affected by the government shutdown. She encouraged students with problems affording food, whether it be due to the government shutdown or other reasons, to take advantage of community food banks and the food pantry outside the Student Life office.

“We just felt the need to get out there and do something.””

— Nani Hazard, TRiO Presentation Manager

“Though donations to our food pantry are usually down at this time of year due to people recovering from holiday season spending, I know food banks in the community are receiving more donations because people know others are having trouble due to the shutdown,” Helt said.

Helt said that this month, Pierce will also be implementing a “food truck” that will visit both the Fort Steilacoom and Puyallup campuses two days a week, one day for each campus. The truck will be like a “mobile food bank” that operates similarly, and is funded partially through the Student Life budget and donations.

Nani Hazard, the TRiO Presentation Manager, talked about how she and roughly 20 Pierce students are volunteering at the Emergency Food Network (EFN), a Pierce County organization with the stated mission “to provide Pierce County with a consistent, diverse and nutritious food supply so that no person goes hungry.”

Hazard stated that she sent the email out to students asking for volunteers to join her after hearing about how the government shutdown would affect those on benefits like SNAP.  “We just felt the need to get out there and do something,” she said.

Currently, the government has been restored to normal operations for at least three weeks after President Trump backed down and signed a stopgap spending bill on Jan. 25.  The bill included none of the border wall budget money the president originally demanded, and was essentially the same proposal the democrats had advocated for in December and since.

 In a speech in the Rose Garden, President Trump indicated that he was willing to shut the government down again if democrats and Republicans could not  reach an agreement by the February deadline, or declare a national emergency over border security and bypass Congress altogether.

Remembering Franklin Pierce

Former president’s name graces college, county landmarks


Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Franklin Pierce as a General mounted on a horse.

It is no challenge to the imagination where Pierce College got its name. However, it may be only the student who just finished a civics or local history class who knows how Pierce County was named.

Franklin Pierce had just been elected President of the United States in November 1852. The Territorial Legislature of Oregon determined that the Thurston territory was too large. On Dec. 22, 1852, a piece of land was cut, creating Pierce County to honor the new president.

Franklin Pierce was born into politics on Nov. 23, 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Pierce’s father, Benjamin, had served in the Revolutionary War and served two terms as New Hampshire’s governor.

The younger Pierce studied to become a lawyer and was admitted to the bar in 1827 and eventually became known as one of the most successful lawyers in New England, according to Whitehouse.gov.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Franklin entered politics with a successful run for a seat in the New Hampshire legislature. He was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1832.

A Democrat who supported President Andrew Jackson, his career as a politician continued to rise when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1836. But he resigned in 1842 before his term as Senator was complete. His wife Jane Pierce, who was in chronic poor health, had prevailed upon him to leave Washington and return to New Hampshire and resumed his law practice, according to a biography presented by History.com.

In 1852, the Democratic Party was searching for a candidate that would appease the North and South. It was Pierce’s promise to keep the Union together and to protect slavery that won him the nomination for president.

Franklin Pierce would win the election defeating his Whig opponent Gen. Winfield Scott in a landslide. Pierce won 254 electoral votes to Scott’s 42.

In a biography published on Americanpresidents.org, he is described as a “doughface,” a Yankee who possessed Southern sympathies. Pierce believed the Constitution protected the South’s right to own slaves and the U.S. Congress had no right to pass legislation limiting the expansion of slavery in the new territories acquired from Mexico after winning the Mexican War (1846-1848), according to xxxx.

The tragic death of his 11-year-old son while on the campaign trail only added to his trials when he took his oath of office.

The dark cloud continued to spread as he was unable to find a solution to the increasing division between the North and the South over the institution of slavery, whitehouse.gov. His push to expand the borders past the Kansas and Nebraska territories helped to set the stage for the Civil War.

Because of legislation he backed to support expansion of the railroad, in 1854, an outbreak of violence became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

As a result, his popularity declined and he was not nominated for a second term. His administration is considered by historians to be one of the worst in the history of U.S Presidents, returned to New Hampshire and became an alcoholic, whitehouse.gov. He died Oct. 8, 1869.

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.”

president ortega resigns

Katelyn Hummel
Staff Writer

Nicole Ortega loses her position as PresidentFormer Student Government President Nicole Ortega resigned on May 1, shortly after being informed that she was going to be impeached by the Student Government.

Nicole was inducted into office at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year and served as President until her resignation.

Student Government compiled articles of impeachment with a list of student and  student government complaints against Ortega, which are publicly available in Human Resources. Alleged offenses included “misuse of office,” “misconduct in school,” and “failure to fulfill duties in the office.”

The articles of impeachment mentioned Ortega’s violation of the ASPC-FS Constitution, the Rules and Regulations school handbook, and the Performance Agreement signed by Student Life members. The articles also claimed that she would often be on Facebook or performing non-work related activities during office hours, would be late or absent  to meetings and events, and was often unwilling or uncooperative.

“It [the issue] is something that has been going on since probably the beginning of the year,” said current Student Government President, Theresa Carr.” It’s been in progress. It’s been addressed several times by the administration here. They’ve mediated, they’ve worked with us to try to solve the problem.”

However, the issues seemed to be unresolvable as Ortega received an email stating that she would be impeached.

“We’re not saying she’s not a good person because she is, she’s a nice person, but we have a civic duty to our students,” Carr said. “We are elected by our peers to serve in a position, and if you falsify that you’re places you are not, how is that in better light for our students?”

Ortega, however, feels that the impeachment process was unfair and unjust and wishes that the issues at hand were approached differently.

She was informed that a student had requested a petition to have her impeached and that the student already had the 60 signatures needed to start the process.

“I wouldn’t be able to be told who the student was or what the student’s gripe with me was until they turned in the petition officially,” Ortega said. “I can probably name about five students who don’t like me, but I don’t think I can name 60.”

“As far as I know, there is no student and no petition, and whether there is or not I don’t know. Whether they were just sparing the student, I don’t know,” Ortega said.

In the email, Ortega wasn’t given any specifics about the claims against her, and according to the Constitution, Student Government did not have to inform her until the hearing. Ortega stated that at the hearing, she would be told the claims against her and would then have to defend herself on the spot.

Ortega was given an account of the claims against her 24 hours prior to the hearing, according to Carr.

After reading it over, Ortega stated that she could understand some of the complaints, but expressed that she thought her team had things under control and didn’t need her as frequently. She also relayed that she didn’t attend all of the activity planning meetings because some were meetings that ran from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

The former president wishes that complaints were expressed sooner so they could have been addressed before things escalated to impeachment.

“The same people that want me gone are now the jury,” Ortega said about the impeachment process. “So did it really matter what I said in that hearing?”
Ortega spoke with multiple people who all advised that she resign because as she said, it was “not a fight I could win.”

She expresses that she doesn’t hold anything against Student Life as she understands that they felt they did what was needed to be done. Carr and Student Relations Senator Cami Okins expressed similarly positive sentiments that conveyed no ill feelings toward Nicole Ortega.

“I’ve developed, Michaela [Beaulieu, senator] has blossomed, Victoria [Vo, senator] is so social, and that wouldn’t have happened if [Ortega] hadn’t been there,” Carr said.

“I know Nicole has big dreams for her future and I hope she succeeds just fine,” added Okins.

president resigns

Student Government President Nicole Ortega submitted her resignation last week in order to avoid impeachment.  Details are still emerging in the story, which will be fully covered in an upcoming issue. Theresa Carr was ratified as President for the remainder of the year during a regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday.

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