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College Creates Path to Career and Community Leadership

Although he graduated from Pima over a decade ago, Juan Ciscomani is still amazed at the life-changing links with the college.

“Where I’m at with my family life and professional life is because of Pima.  It has been a bridge for me—to a career, to higher education, to employment.  Just when I think I’m done crossing, something else comes along,” he said.

Ciscomani and his family moved to Tucson from Mexico when he was in the seventh grade.  Academically, he was ahead of his classmates, thanks to a progressive school system he attended in Mexico.

At Rincon High School, he “majored” in athletics—football, basketball, and track—until a shoulder injury ended his dream of becoming a professional athlete.

That’s when PCC counselor Victor Salazar suggested he consider community college instead.  He offered Ciscomani a one-year scholarship to attend Pima, adding, “the rest is up to you.”

“Without that nudge, I don’t know what I would have done.”  With the help of a Pell Grant, he went “both feet in.”

He immediately got involved with student body governance and eventually was named a student representative to the Pima Board of Governors.

Unlike his earlier educational experience, “Pima challenged me academically and gave me the opportunity to study political science and be involved in business clubs.”

Prior to graduating in 2003, Ciscomani took the STU 210 course, specifically designed to provide a seamless transfer for Pima graduates to the University of Arizona.

He was chosen as one of two transfer students to join an elite UA program previously open only to outstanding high school graduates, called Blue Chip.

“If I hadn’t been a leader at Pima, I would have been overlooked.”

After graduating from the UA, he began working on a startup program that trains UA students to be “ambassadors” for personal finance both on campus and in the community.  The program, now known as Take Charge Cats, has provided educational outreach to more than 21,000 youth and adults in Tucson.

He remains involved with the program today, serving as a consultant on fundraising and events.

As he pursued a career, he retained his relationship with Pima, spurring the creation of the Pima Community College Alumni Association, and serving as the alumni representative on the board of the PCC Foundation.

Ciscomani currently is Vice President of Outreach for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and is responsible for recruiting and retaining members, and corporate partnerships.

He also is committed to one of the Chamber’s key goals: “Promoting and developing an increasingly educated and skilled workforce in support of high-wage job creation and retention of local talent.”  That mirrors Pima’s pledge.

“Education and the business community go hand in hand,” he emphasized, noting that the college has joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as an Emerald member (the highest level) and is more engaged with the organization.

What advice would he give to others who may be unsure of their career and life direction?

“When I was about to transfer to the UA, a dean named Shirley Jennings told me, ‘Do you know why you were successful at Pima?’  I knew she was going to tell me, so I just listened. ‘It’s because you always showed up.’  It wasn’t because I was the smartest or the best at what I did.  It’s because I showed up.

“I showed up to Pima. Pima showed up in my life. So, just go, show up, and check it out.”

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Bequest Benefits Pima Students

Pima Community College students who find they are having difficulty paying for their education now have another scholarship opportunity, thanks to a bequest from a generous benefactor.

Frances Frye passed away December 29, 2009, at the age of 101. She bequeathed half of her estate to the PCC Foundation and half to The University of Arizona Foundation to fund scholarships for “economically-disadvantaged students in any discipline.”

Her friend Roger Landis of JP Morgan Chase said that Frye was born in Pennsylvania, but was not from any one town in particular. Her father worked on the river barges and the family often moved from town to town. She pursued a career as a secretary until the death of her first husband, an executive at General Electric. Following her husband’s death Frye volunteered for numerous charities until age 99.

Education and the poor were always Frye’s passion. She often said, “Children cannot determine who they were born to, but with an education they can make something of themselves.”

“Mrs. Frye always told people that she wanted to help the poor gain an education,” said Landis. “With her gifts to Pima Community College and The University of Arizona she has accomplished her goal.”

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Meteorologists Science Scholarship

Chuck George was known to many Southern Arizonans as KOLD – TV’s Chief Meteorologist. But in fall 2010, students at Pima Community College’s Northwest Campus knew him as their teacher. George was an adjunct faculty member in geography who donated his teaching salary to fund a PCC Foundation scholarship.

Named for Archimedes – the Greek mathematician, engineer, physicist and astronomer known as the father of science – the scholarship was available to students majoring in any scientific discipline.

Cheryl House, executive director of the PCC Foundation, said, “The world is becoming more complex and the US must invest in our future scientists to remain competitive with other nations. The Foundation is grateful to Chuck for giving our students the opportunity to excel in science and make a positive difference in our community and the world.”

George is thrilled to make this contribution to continuing education, “I would not have been able to complete my own college education without scholarship support and I will be eternally grateful to those whose generosity helped me so much. It’s my way of paying it forward and encouraging students to be inspired by science.”

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Amigos Honor Community Leaders by Supporting Students

Amigos de Pima Community College was formed in 1992 by Henry “Hank” Oyama, Richard Fimbres and then PCC Chancellor Robert Jensen to “promote academic excellence among Hispanic students at Pima Community College by providing financial support through scholarships to qualified and deserving students [and] to develop linkages with business and industry professionals in the community who are interested in providing mentorship and higher education opportunities for Hispanic students.”

The Amigos’ primary objective is raising funds for the Hispanic Student Endowment, currently valued at nearly $250,000, and awarding scholarships to deserving PCC students.  Learn more about the individuals who have been honored by Amigos de Pima for making a positive difference in Southern Arizona.

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Bequest Boosts Audience Outreach

When Tucsonans think of “The Voice,” they may mean the soprano Nancy Davis Booth, a longtime performer with the Tucson Symphony and Tucson Pops—not to mention other top symphony orchestras around the country.

As a PCC adjunct faculty member, she now plays the role of instructor, guiding students in theater arts and voice and mounting stage productions that engage and involve the community.

“The most effective way to engage the audience and involve the community is to present plays that are socially relevant and explore social injustices and intolerance.  In doing so, I believe theatre has the power to change hearts, minds, and behavior,” says Booth.

“Whether it is the creationism versus evolution controversy of Inherit the Wind, hate crimes in The Laramie Project, or the horror of genocide in The Diary of Anne Frank,” students were immersed in the issues and partnered with members of the public who provided intimate memories and information on each topic.

The PCC Theatre Arts program and Booth recently received the Outstanding Educational Program award from the PCC West Campus Student Life Department for The Laramie Project. 

This story of a murderous attack on a young gay man in Wyoming made it possible to share the event with close to 600 people, including local high school students, students from PCC Human Sexuality and Psychology of Gender classes, as well as the community through eight public performances, a school matinee, and open dress rehearsals.

“From the preparation that went into this production to the actual performance and audience discussions, many people were informed, reminded and transformed with regard to bigotry and violence and how the impact of these issues can inspire change and triumph,” said Leigh Ann Sotomayor, Manager, PCC Center for the Arts, in her nomination letter.  

According to Sotomayor, the performing arts are important to students’ development.

“The performing arts are not just about career, but also education in terms of putting yourself out there, taking risks.  It’s teamwork, dedication and commitment, which translates into so many other endeavors.”

The program recently got a boost with the $100,000 Rothman Endowment for the Performing Arts—the first ever arts endowment in the college’s history.

The endowment, held in the PCC Foundation, comes from a trust established by Michael Rothman, a veteran Broadway performer who died in 2010.  He frequently attended PCC productions and encouraged the college to reach out to underserved audiences.

“Michael thought that performing arts were sacred.  He was dedicated to supporting young artists and spoke frequently about his desire to create an endowment in the PCC Foundation to support the performing arts,” according to Sotomayor.

The endowment will support scholarships, outreach, capital improvements, and program enhancements in the performing arts.

It already has been put to good use.  Students from the Oyama Elementary School attended a special children’s presentation at PCC, and met informally with the cast after the show.

“Michael would have approved,” says Sotomayor.

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