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Making a Difference

Fund Pays It Forward for Adults with Learning Disabilities

March 9, 2015 

The Pima Community College Foundation has established a fund to help adults with learning disabilities participate equitably in the High School Equivalency exam. 

Several years ago, PCC Foundation board member Mark Ziska was hired to do a strategic planning project for the college’s Adult Education program, which includes preparation for the High School Equivalency (formerly known as the GED) exam. 

“Working with Adult Education was a real eye-opener,” says Ziska. “There is nobody who works with adults in this way except Pima Community College. Adult education is a forgotten group.” 

Ziska discovered that a number of the adult learners might need accommodations to pass the exam because of learning difficulties or disabilities, explains Jim Lipson, Advanced Program Coordinator for Volunteers and Citizenship Education. 

Ziska was especially attuned to this because his youngest son has dyslexia and dysgraphia (inability to write coherently). 

“Mark learned to get those accommodations, we had to process an application with the Department of Education, which requires that they have a recent diagnosis of the disability or difficulty, whether it be (the need for) a quiet room, frequent breaks, or more time to complete the work,” according to Lipson. 

“The problem is that many of these people may have received the diagnosis from the public school system five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago” or may never have been diagnosed properly at all. 

Each person would have to spend up to $1,500 for testing and diagnosis, an insurmountable sum for most. So Lipson found a workaround in collaboration with the University of Arizona Clinical Psychology Department to do the testing at a reduced fee. 

“The UA was extremely receptive to the idea and suggested that graduate students could do the assessment testing under supervision by a faculty member” for $375 per adult. 

To help pay for that assessment, Ziska established a fund in the PCC Foundation in May 2012.  To date, nine students have benefitted from the Ziska Fund, with more to come in the future. 

“I would like to see the fund grow,” says Ziska.

Testing 1-2-3-4: Fund Aids Adult Learners  

November 21, 2014

A Pima Community College employee has turned an obstacle into an opportunity for adult learners who dream of getting a high school equivalency diploma and continuing their studies at Pima. 

PCC graduate Denise Turner, who now works as an Advanced Student Services Specialist at East Campus, learned that adult education High School Equivalency (HSE) test fees would rise to $140 from $80.  The four-part HSE exam covers science, social studies, math, and language arts.  Each test costs $35, which must be paid by the individual. 

After considering ways to raise funds for the test fees, she organized a rummage sale last May that netted $4,300 and involved 40-50 East Campus and community participants. 

Now there is a High School Equivalency Scholarship Fund in the PCC Foundation to help individuals pay for the HSE exams. 

Over the summer, she took the campaign a step further by establishing a “store” on Poshmark, an online women’s resale clothing site with proceeds earmarked for the scholarship fund.  She has recruited others to donate apparel and accessories and has 400 items on the site.  The goal: generate enough sales each month to pay for one adult learner’s test fees. 

And last month, she organized an East Campus craft sale with jewelry, stoneware, and knitted and crocheted items that netted $730 for the scholarship fund. 

Turner also is involved with Math Bridge, a math proficiency pilot program at Pima. 

“I have the chance to build relationships with people who have had some hard knocks in life and are coming back (to school) trying to catch up.  They’re enthusiastic, hardworking, and inspiring. It has been a really rewarding experience for me.” 

While the scholarship fund is on firm footing, it is not enough, because there are 40 individuals a month who need help paying for the test fees, she explained. 

“The need is great.  My hope is to generate some interest outside the college to help.

There are a lot of people who want to give, but don’t know where or how to do it.  These adult learners deserve our support. And it benefits the community to have them move ahead.”

PCCF Grants Program Fall 2014

October 27, 2014 

The Pima Community College Foundation’s inaugural grants program received sixteen proposals and awarded a total of $24,975 to nine projects in Fall 2014. 

"By providing these grants, the PCC Foundation can support and encourage innovative projects for which there may be no other sources of funding," said Cheryl House, Executive Director. "When evaluating proposals, the selection committee measured the ability of each project to advance the College's strategic priorities, positively impact students and the community, and produce specific outcomes." 

The nine projects that were awarded are listed below:

Downtown Campus- 3rd Annual Bilingual Career Fair-Tucson Speaks the Languages of Business is an event that will strengthen enrollment in the Translation and Interpretation Program (TRS) by exposing students to professionals in this field resulting in internship, volunteer and job opportunities for attendees. Amount awarded $450. 

Downtown Campus-Campus Leadership Development Initiative-This event is a two day leadership retreat that will increase faculty, staff, and administrators’ leadership skills and abilities in areas of organizational transitions and as high performing team members. Amount awarded $4,000. 

Downtown Campus-Student Services Advising Rewards Retention Program-This program aims to increase advisor student interaction and facilitate student development by promoting on-time registration, retention and successful course completion. Amount awarded $3,500. 

Downtown Campus-Veterans Day 2014 Celebration-This is a community outreach event that will support student veterans that attend Pima Community College and promote veteran success rates. Amount awarded $500. 

East Campus-Art Department-The Art Department will purchase software and 3D printers in which Instructional and Adjunct Faculty will be trained and then implement into the classroom curriculum. Amount awarded $3,825. 

East Campus-Upward Bound Program-The Upward Bound Program will send a select group of students from low-income households to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ to provide them with an opportunity to view the college campus and identify programs of study that fit within their career plans. Amount awarded $3,500. 

Northwest Campus-Outreach to Butterfield Elementary 5th grade STEM Club-Pima Faculty and staff will visit Butterfield Elementary on Thursday afternoons to facilitate their STEM club culminating with an open-house STEM fair at the Northwest Campus in which students will get a chance to view Northwest Campus’ STEM facilities. Amount awarded $400. 

Northwest Campus-Outreach to High School STEM Majors-Junior and Senior students from local high schools (Marana, Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge and Canyon del Oro) will be invited to Saturday STEM workshops. Each workshop will be held on Northwest Campus and will feature a speaker from STEM and research professional. The speakers will address insight into their career choices. Lunch will be provided. Amount awarded $3,800. 

District Office- Financial Aid-The Pima Payout is a program where students at every campus will have an opportunity throughout the month of April to complete 12 SALT courses and answer three questions in essay form. The top 25 submissions will receive $200 cash, for a total award of $5000.

The deadline for the next grant cycle is February 13, 2015.


October 10, 2014 

A benefactor has established a $100,000 scholarship endowment in the Pima Community College Foundation for students whose parent, guardian, or spouse perished in the military or as a first responder (emergency medicine technician, police officer, or firefighter). 

The donor, who asked not to be identified, lived in Tucson for 23 years after a successful career as a statistics faculty member at Howard University and a clinical trials statistician for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

 “The purpose I am trying to serve is the story—not me,” he emphasized. “The thing I want attention paid to is our debt to these families and our efforts to bring their children forward in life. 

“I also want other people like me to say, ‘Gee, maybe I should do something like this.’” 

After setting up a college education fund for his grandchildren, the donor began thinking about those who might not have that opportunity because a parent or spouse had died while serving our country. 

“I decided that I must honor our fallen heroes by trying to help their kids go to college, just as I am trying to do with my own grandchildren.” 

That pledge has taken root at Pima.   “Pima is responsive to the people I want to reach,” he said. "If PCC is the one that will help them through, that's the one for me." 

The endowment will fund a full- or part-time student’s tuition, fees and books for up to four semesters at Pima, if the student maintains at least a 2.5 GPA.  If funds are available, multiple awards may be made in a year. 

The reason for his generosity is simple: "I am responsible to them, because their fathers and mothers have been responsible to me." 

For more information about the Scholarship Fund for Dependents of Fallen Heroes, visit


August 22, 2014

 Patty Popp is not afraid of a challenge.  And she has the career to prove it, thanks to Pima Community College. 

Popp graduated from the college’s Radiologic Technology program in 2001 at age 40, 15 years after she left the work world to start a family. 

Now she is Director of Clinical Operations at Radiology Ltd., overseeing eight Tucson facilities with over 180 employees. 

Popp began taking Gen Ed classes at Pima in 1997-98, but had some restrictions.  She had to take evening classes because of her responsibilities as a mother and as a softball coach.  That meant traveling to various Pima campuses and taking classes online. 

“Pima Community College is really good because of where/when classes are available.  I wouldn’t have been as successful without that (flexibility).” 

When she got accepted into the Radiologic Technology program she was working in the Tucson Medical Center film library.  She changed her work shift to evenings to accommodate her new schedule. 

Throughout the program, she was juggling job and studies.  “Sometimes I’d be driving to West Campus and my daughter would be quizzing me on material for a test.” 

As she neared the end of her studies, Popp needed one more Humanities class to complete the degree requirements.  She chose Spanish for Medical Professionals, which was offered at the Downtown Campus.  

When she arrived for the first class, the dean announced that there was no one available to teach the class and that it would be cancelled.  A woman in the class, who knew the dean, spoke up and offered to teach the class.  So the eight enrollees met weekly and used real-life scenarios they encountered. 

“I don’t know where else that would have happened,” says Popp. 

When she graduated, Popp had offers from three hospitals, but chose Radiology Ltd. because of the cross training in CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, and ultrasound.  

Starting as an X-Ray technologist, Popp worked her way up to her current management position, which she has held since 2009. 

Popp is an enthusiastic advocate—and example—for the Radiologic Technology program at Pima.  She speaks to classes and oversees a Radiology Ltd. scholarship for entry-level employees who want to pursue the training and certification.  

“I want to be sure the program goes on.  Pima is turning out excellent radiologic technologists—not just button pushers—” who also have a finely honed sense of personal patient care.


June 27, 2014

 A lifelong commitment to inclusion and equality is Faculty Emeritus Leland (Lee) Scott’s enduring legacy at the institution he helped create—Pima Community College.

 A Methodist minister, Scott came to Tucson in 1958 to lead the Wesley Foundation at First United Methodist Church on the University of Arizona campus.  He earned a Ph.D. from Yale in Religion, but chose ministerial life over academic life initially.

  “He really was all about community and caring,” noted his daughter, Nancy Scott, who is a special education tutor in Seattle.

 “He struggled as a Campus Minister, because he wanted so much to be out in the community working with the disenfranchised and meld that with his love for academics.”

 A decade later, he got his wish. Scott was asked to move to the campus ministry at Arizona State University, but declined for personal reasons.  A son, David, was born with spina bifida, and his wife, Kaysie, had rheumatoid arthritis, which caused chronic pain and impaired her mobility.

 In 1969, Scott was hired as a founding faculty member at Pima.  He was an academic counselor/advisor and taught humanities classes until his retirement in 1990.  He was named Faculty Emeritus, one of the first to receive that honorary title from Pima.

 Scott helped establish the college’s Faculty Council and the Phi Theta Kappa student scholar organization, which he felt was an important measure of achievement and academic excellence.

 "Finding Pima Community College, especially at the beginning, absolutely was a godsend,” said Nancy Scott.  “He just absolutely loved working there.”

 “He loved the casual, egalitarian atmosphere at Pima,” added daughter Sue Scott, who is a regular on the long-running public radio program A Prairie Home Companion.

 More important, “he believed that everyone should have a chance for an education, regardless of disability, financial status, race, creed, or sexual orientation.  No issue—even GPA (grade point average) —should keep people from being included” in higher education,” she said.

 One of Scott’s proudest achievements at Pima was seeing his son graduate in 1979 and continue his studies at the University of Arizona.

 “David and my Dad were very close.  He was his aide, his caregiver, and his number one buddy,” said Sue Scott. “And David was pleased that he could attend ‘Dad’s school.’”

 David died in 1981, at which time the family created a scholarship in his memory in the PCC Foundation, primarily for students with physical disabilities. In the intervening years, Scott recommended others who faced financial challenges as scholarship recipients.

 After their father’s death in October 2013, Sue Scott and Nancy Scott decided to rename the scholarship in his memory. 

 Now the David and Lee Scott Memorial Scholarship benefits full- or part-time students in any field of study who demonstrate financial need and maintain a 2.5 GPA. Applicants who have a disability have priority consideration.

 “He would have liked to know that the scholarship is still vibrant and useable for students,” said Nancy Scott.

College Creates Path to Career and Community Leadership 

June 13, 2014

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.”

Bequest Boosts Audience Outreach 

May 30, 2014

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.

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.

Meteorologist Establishes 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." 

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.”