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.”