Authors Articles byTom Di Camillo

Tom Di Camillo

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To increase student interest and participation in math, science, engineering and technology in Pinal County, Central Arizona College has secured the largest grant in the 42-year history of the institution.

In October, the U.S. Department of Education awarded CAC a five-year, nearly $3.4-million Hispanic-Serving Institution-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (HSI-STEM) Grant.

The funding will have an impact throughout most of CAC’s 10 campuses and centers.

“As an institution of higher education, we need to do our part to address the challenges faced by the STEM areas of study,” said Steven Gonzales, the acting associate vice president of academic service. “Too few students are pursuing STEM-related areas of study. Retention rates in STEM areas tend to be lower when compared to other areas of the college.”

Due to low enrollment and lower retention, graduation rates in STEM areas are significantly lower than other degree programs at the college, Gonzales said.

“Transfer rates to universities, therefore, are lower, while students are academically underprepared in mathematics and lack a comprehensive approach to STEM areas of study.”

This particular grant was written to address the identified issues on multiple fronts and complements the Title V Grant that addresses issues related to developmental education at CAC.

***ADVERTISEMENT***“This grant continues the focus of concentrating on Hispanic and low-income STEM students,” Gonzales said.

The aggressive districtwide plan includes hiring seven full-time positions for the life of the grant, including a coordinator, office assistant, four preceptors and a student services generalist, as well as a team of up to 16 peer academic mentors/leaders.

Some of the money will be used to enhance transfer pathways for microbiology and biotechnology, provide supplemental instruction for students and develop summer science camps. Math enrichment and refresher courses, as well as programs such as robotics also are being considered.

The program has components for family involvement including financial literacy and financial aid workshops.

Coupled with the $2.7 million Title V Grant issued to CAC by the U.S. Department of Education in October of 2011, CAC has a total of more than $6 million in grant monies this fiscal year.

The HSI-STEM grant is expected to help nearly 6,000 students in STEM classes and degree programs during its five-year lifespan.

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Classes for Central Arizona College’s General Educational Development (GED) diploma program are rapidly filling up, but there still are some locations with limited seating available.
GED classes are divided into two eight-week periods and are currently provided at no cost for Arizona residents.
The first session begins on Tue., Jan. 18, with preregistration now underway. The second session will begin on Mon., March 21, with preregistration starting Fri., March 4.
Students may preregister at any one of Central Arizona College’s 10 locations with proof of legal presence in the United States. In this area, the nearest registration sites are:
Central Arizona College (Casa Grande Center)
1015 East Florence Blvd., Casa Grande, AZ
•         1-4 p.m., Tuesday & Thursday (Begins Jan. 18 & March 22)
•         6-9 p.m., Monday & Wednesday (Begins Jan. 19 & March 21)
•         6-9 p.m., Tuesday & Thursday (Begins Jan. 18 & March 22)
Maricopa Wells Middle School
45725 West Honeycutt Ave., Maricopa, AZ (Rooms B132 and B134)
•         6-9 p.m., Tuesday & Thursday (Begins Jan. 18 & March 22)
For more information on classes in Western Pinal County, please call CAC’s Casa Grande Center at 520-494-5950.
For those interested in applying for CAC college credits or degree programs or for continuing students, click here for a step-by-step guide to enrolling.
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When the 36th Annual Pinal-Gila Senior Craft & Wellness Fair kicks off this Saturday, March 26, at 9 a.m., a modern twist to a classic Pinal County event will bring multiple generations to Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak Campus.

And with the exception of purchasing items from vendors, there is no charge for any of the multi-generational family activities.
More than 70 vendors and exhibitors will converge upon CAC in the annual event that features arts and crafts, health information and screening, music and theatrical productions, and a variety of food.
This year, Central Arizona College’s students will join the party in an effort to raise money for charity by unveiling The Inflatable Wonderland, a series of obstacle courses and activities designed for children and teens that will open on The Green from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
CAC students will be accepting donations for the March of Dimes.
As the kids are entertained, parents and grandparents can browse the many exciting offerings for sale by the vendors who create their own products. In addition, a variety of health screenings will be taking place during the fair.
Music will be part of the program as well. At 10 a.m., CAC guitar teacher John Sutton and his students will take center stage to perform a variety of selections.
At 11 a.m., the Desert Country Musicians will perform, while at noon Andy Bade, CAC’s vocal music professor, and the CAC Choirs will delight the crowd with their brand of music.
At 1:15 p.m., the entertainment moves inside to the Don P. Pence Center for Visual & Performing Arts with an opening-act preview of Ken Ludwig’s farcical comedy Lend Me a Tenor.
The dress rehearsal will give audiences a peak at the upcoming play scheduled March 30 and April 1-3. The show has adult themes.
Tickets for Lend Me a Tenor and all of CAC’s shows will be on sale throughout the senior fair.
For more information, please call 520-494-5204, or e-mail

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Central Arizona College is now accepting nominations for the 2010 Wall of Success induction ceremony that will be held on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Signal Peak Campus.
The deadline for nominating this year’s candidates is Friday, Sept. 24.
To be eligible, nominees must have completed a certificate, degree or the Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC) at CAC at least 10 years ago. Anyone completing these requirements in 2000 or earlier may be nominated. Individuals are encouraged to self-nominate.

The Wall of Success is a permanent structure displaying the names of students who have received the Extraordinary Alumni Achievement Award, an honor created to recognize the success of Central Arizona College students

The first group of honorees was inducted in 2009 during the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the opening of the Signal Peak Campus that took place in the fall of 1969.

For more information about CAC’s Wall of Success, or to receive a nomination form, please contact Victor Gomez, director of alumni relations, by phone at 520-494-5221, or by e-mail at
Nomination forms also will be available on the CAC Alumni webpage.

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Registration for the 2010 fall semester is now underway at all 10 of Central Arizona College’s campuses and centers located throughout Pinal County.

The Maricopa CAC center is located at 20800 N. John Wayne Pkway, #104; phone 520-494-6400.
Central Arizona College has developed six easy steps for anyone to earn college credits, take personal interest classes, pick up non-degree or community classes, or explore the more than 75 degree and certificate programs offered by the institution.
Students entering college for the first time or returning after an extended break should request a MAP – or Master Academic Plan – to help maximize their educational experience. Transfer students or students taking non-degree courses also may follow the same MAP for easy entry into Central Arizona.
Continuing students – defined as those who were enrolled in the previous semester – are urged to meet with an academic advisor to review their progress in their selected program.
In the following six-step process, continuing students may start with Step 3.
Step 1 – Apply to Central Arizona College
Who can attend? Just about anyone.
“Central Arizona College is a public institution of higher education with an open admission policy,” Dr. Doris Helmich, vice president for student services, said. “An open admission policy means that admission to the college and access to educational opportunities may be granted to any person without regard to age, completion or non-completion of a high school diploma or GED, physical disability, economic status and social or ethnic background.”
For further information on admission procedures, potential students are encouraged to call their local campus or the college’s customer service help desk at 520-494-5111.
Students will receive orientation information by mail with the admission acceptance letter.
“We have simplified the application process so taking that first step toward a college education is not so overwhelming,” Helmich said.
Prospective students should complete and submit a Central Arizona College admission form prior to attending an orientation session or registering for classes. The signed and dated form is submitted to the records office for processing.
Incoming students may call any Central Arizona College campus or center and ask to speak with an admissions representative for help. Forms may be submitted in person, faxed (520-494-5083) or completed online at
Admission forms also may be mailed to the District Office at the following address:
Central Arizona College
Admissions and Records Office
8470 North Overfield Road
Coolidge, AZ 85128
Step 2 – Attend an Orientation Session

“Orientation sessions introduce new students to each other and to Central Arizona College staff and resources,” Helmich said. “Each campus conducts orientation to meet the needs of its students.”
Orientation topics include academic programs, payment options, financial aid, library services, residence life, tutoring services, athletics and student activities. Becoming familiar with these resources really can help new students acclimate to college life.
“All new students are invited to attend an orientation session,” she added. “Orientation is held prior to a student’s enrollment and is unique on each campus. We encourage students to contact their campus of choice for more information.”
Step 3 – See an Academic Advisor
New students are required to meet with an academic advisor to discuss academic goals and review academic history and test scores. The advisor will help the student select courses based on skill level and interests.
“Continuing students in a degree or certificate program should review their program of study with an academic advisor each semester,” Helmich explained. “This helps ensure that the schedule a student is planning is appropriate for that specific degree program. It really helps keep the students on track.”
Students returning to college after a break in enrollment should meet with an academic advisor to review their academic history and discuss the next steps toward completing their program.
Students transferring from another college must meet with an advisor to determine if course placement is required. Official transcripts must be sent to the records office, but students may bring an unofficial transcript when meeting with an advisor the first time to help facilitate admission and scheduling.
Central Arizona College not only makes its academic advisors available to students at its campuses and centers, but advising is also performed online via e-mail ( or by phone (520-494-5410).
Step 4 – Register for Classes
Registration for the fall semester is ongoing through Aug. 14. The semester will begin on Monday, Aug. 16.
Students who are following a degree or certificate program may register for classes by bringing a completed and signed registration form to the records office at a local campus or by registering online at
“We encourage students, especially new students, to ask for help if they need it,” Helmich said. “Those first steps into college can be daunting.”
Although there is no phone registration at Central Arizona College, students may call the CAC Customer Service Desk for help at 520-494-5111 or toll free at 800-237-9814, ext. 5111 from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday.
Step 5 – On-Campus Housing

Available only at the Signal Peak Campus, on-campus housing makes commuting to class cost-effective, efficient and easy.
Students interested in living on the Signal Peak Campus should complete a housing application, submit a $100 deposit and provide proof of immunization to the Residence Life Office (520-494-5470).
While housing is available for students for the spring semester, students interested in on-campus living are encouraged to apply early for a guaranteed assignment.
Step 6 – Finalize Payment

Payment for classes is due at the time of registration and is accepted in the form of cash, check, Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Students also may pay by enrolling in the Nelnet (formerly FACTS) payment plan, submitting a third-party authorization, or qualifying for financial aid.
Students can easily enroll in the Nelnet payment plan by going to the CAC website – There is a $30 non-refundable enrollment fee and students must have a checking or savings account, debit or accepted credit card to participate
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The Central Arizona College Community Wind Ensemble is looking for musicians from Pinal County who are interested in joining its band.
The ensemble is comprised of approximately 50 members ranging in age from 16-90, representing communities located throughout Pinal County. Rehearsals occur on Tuesday evenings from 7-8:50 p.m.
The CAC Community Wind Ensemble performs a wide range of standard concert band literature, as well as lighter works, and performs one concert each semester in the Don P. Pence Center for Visual & Performing Arts on the Signal Peak Campus. The fall concert is scheduled for Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.
The ensemble is conducted by Professor Rick Moore, CAC’s director of bands, and is open to anyone who wishes to continue playing their instrument and can make the commitment to attend rehearsals.

For more information on the CAC Community Wind Ensemble, please contact Moore by phone at 520-494-5399 or by e-mail at
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Central Arizona College is inviting organizations to participate in the 2nd Annual Job & Career Expo hosted by the Superstition Mountain Campus on Thursday, Sept. 23, in Apache Junction.
The expo will run from noon until 5 p.m. and will provide organizations an opportunity to market their services and to provide employment information to a large consumer and employee base.
“This is a great chance to hire the employees that you need for the holiday season,” Ann Mitchell, who organizes the event, said in touting just one of the benefits of the job and career expo. “Central Arizona College is pleased to offer this event as a service to the public.”
A nominal fee of $35 will be assessed to each for-profit exhibitor. The fee for government and non-profit organizations is $25. The deadline to register is Sept. 15.
Each exhibitor will be provided with a table, two chairs and a sumptuous variety of evening hors d’oeuvres and drinks for up to two representatives. A fee of $10 is required for each additional representative.
Space will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, so send in your registration today.
For more information on how to register for CAC’s 2nd Annual Job & Career Expo, or to obtain a registration form, please contact Mitchell by phone at 520-494-5428, or by e-mail at

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Central Arizona College and the Pinal County Federal Credit Union are teaming up to provide scholarships to students who graduate from high schools in Pinal County.
This marks the second year of the program that features a total of $10,000 in scholarship money awarded.
“This tremendous partnership between the Pinal County Federal Credit Union and Central Arizona College is specifically designed to support the outstanding students in Pinal County,” Gary Broussard, the executive director of the CAC foundation explained. “These scholarships create opportunities for young people to attend college in or near their hometowns.”
The scholarships are awarded in $1,000 increments to 10 students – one from each of the following high schools:
• Apache Junction High School
• Casa Grande Union High School
• Coolidge High School
• Florence High School
• Maricopa Unified School
• Ray High School
• Mammoth-San Manuel High School
• San Tan Foothills High School
• Santa Cruz Valley Union High School
• Superior Senior High School
To be eligible for the honor, students must graduate from one of the 10 Pinal County High Schools, post a 3.0 grade point average and enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours with a declared major at Central Arizona College.
Local high school committees will choose the recipients.
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Central Arizona College has secured a three-year, $2,182,003 federal grant to provide training in certificate and degree programs in biofuels production and solar installation.
With today’s emphasis on green collar jobs, these two rapidly growing industries are providing many new employment opportunities in Pinal County and the greater Central Arizona region.
Since late 2006 the college has successfully applied for and received roughly $6 million in community-based Job Training Grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Central Arizona College was one of only 41 organizations nationwide to receive the grant. More than 300 applications were submitted for the nearly $125 million in available funding.
CAC applied for the grant to help Pinal County and the region address the burgeoning need for photovoltaic solar installation technicians and biofuels production technicians.
The renewable energy technician associate degree to be funded by the grant will feature one program focusing on biofuels and another providing instruction on photovoltaic solar energy.
All students will complete a skills assessment course and a work readiness course during the program. The funding for the program also may be used for GED preparedness and workforce readiness.
With 10 campuses and centers, Central Arizona College will ensure that training for these programs is available at multiple locations throughout Pinal County.

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More than 50 presentations will be unveiled on Friday when Central Arizona College’s Honors Program sponsors the Eighth Annual Academic Symposium: Building Bridges.

The event will be held from 1-4 p.m. in the classrooms throughout the Gloria R. Sheldon University Center (Building T) on the Signal Peak Campus located at 8470 N. Overfield Road just east of I-10 between the cities of Coolidge and Casa Grande.

There is no charge to attend and members of the community are invited to partake in the many presentations being held during the symposium.

“The symposium is an academic conference where students share original projects, research or talents with other students and faculty,” Ginny Atkinson, CAC’s professor of English who is one of the directors of the Honors Program, explained.

Participation in the symposium is open to any high school or college student in all disciplines from Pinal County and the surrounding areas.

With Building Bridges as the theme, the types of presentations include poster presentations, panel discussions and talks on topics representing areas such as humanities, sciences, social sciences, fine arts and service learning.

“The academic symposium offers students the opportunity to present and discuss original work in a conference setting with others in an atmosphere of fellowship and scholarly inquiry,” Atkinson explained. “It is a chance for a student to gain confidence and to better understand and appreciate the importance of contributing to a community of like-minded learners.”

Click here for a list of sessions with descriptions of the presentations.

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Students needing financial aid can receive help from a national initiative called College Goal Sunday taking place on Sunday, Feb. 13, from 2-4 p.m. in Casa Grande.
The event is part of a national workshop designed to help students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and will be held at the CAC Corporate Center, located at 540 N. Camino Mercado in Casa Grande, just off Florence Boulevard at I-10.
Computers and financial aid professionals will be available to help students, and their families, actually complete an online application that day. Spanish-language speakers also will be available to assist.
For more information on the College Goal Sunday program, check out the event’s website at
Completing financial aid and student loan forms can be an obstacle more challenging than driving in 18 inches of snow in Prescott, but Central Arizona College’s financial aid staff has assembled the tools making the task far less daunting.
And the best way to apply is over the Internet.
“Online is what we strongly encourage,” Elisa Juarez, Central Arizona College’s director of financial aid, explained. “College Goal Sunday is a terrific program where financial aid professionals help students and parents complete the federal student aid application process.”
While there is plenty of funding for higher education available, even the most meticulous individuals can be intimidated by the mounds of paperwork.
“Federal aid funds are still available for the spring and summer semesters,” Juarez explained. “It can be a tedious process, but once the data is received, the outcome is usually positive. We are here to help the students with that process.”
Students are encouraged to contact Central Arizona College by e-mail ( or by phone (520-494-5425 / 800-237-9814 ext. 5429) for help in completing the forms. “We provide a lot of online counseling through e-mail,” Juarez said.
Financial aid and student loan options are federally assisted programs such as the Federal Pell Grant program, the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, Federal Workstudy, the Federal Stafford Loan, and the Federal Plus Loan for parents.
Assistance is based upon financial need with all of the forms and guidelines available online ( or in paper form at any of CAC’s 10 campuses and centers.
If the financial aid forms are filled out correctly, funds are generally available within six weeks for an online submission. The funds are then dispersed directly into a student’s billing account to cover fees.
If the financial aid allocation exceeds the cost due to the institution, then the student will receive the extra money to use for other educational expenses.
To avoid the common frustrations experienced when completing financial aid forms, make sure the following is available before getting started:
•         Any income information
•         Federal tax returns
•         W-2 forms
•         Social Security card
•         CAC’s Title IV School Code (007283)
Students applying for financial aid for 2011-12 must use their 2010 income information.
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Central Arizona College and the First Things First Pinal Regional Council have unveiled a program designed to help students enter the early childhood education field.
The First Things First Pinal Regional Council is providing scholarship opportunities. The grant provides full tuition each semester (up to 24 credit hours yearly) and a book stipend toward an associate of applied science degree in early childhood education at CAC. This program is funded by the ADES/Child Care Administration and First Things First Regional Partnership Councils. For more information, contact Shirley Harter at

First Things First (FTF), approved by Arizona voters, works to ensure that the youngest children have access to quality early childhood experiences so they begin school healthy and ready to succeed.

To qualify for a scholarship, students must be interested in obtaining a degree in the early childhood field but may not be presently working in the early childhood environment. In addition, students must be willing to work in Pinal County upon completion of the degree program.

Tuition funding through the Professional Career Pathway Project is available to those currently working in childcare centers or family childcare homes.
“Teaching and caring for children is an exciting, rewarding profession,” Michelle Williams, CAC’s preceptor of the program, explained.
Students who complete the A.A.S in early childhood education may earn positions such as:
• Family childcare provider
• In-home childcare specialist
• Preschool teacher
• Head Start teacher or teacher’s aide
• Elementary school teacher’s aide
• Childcare center provider
In CAC’s early childhood education department, instructors work individually with students to meet their needs. Instruction is available in a variety of delivery methods, including:
• On-site classes
• Online classes
• Distance learning using Interactive Television (ITV)
• Self-paced study
• Traditional classroom
• Short-term classes and seminars
• Evening and weekend classes
For more information about the First Things First Scholarships at Central Arizona College, please contact Michelle Williams by phone at 520-494-5022, or by e-mail
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Aug. 16 saw the opening day of classes at Central Arizona College’s 10 campuses and centers around Pinal County.

Students will continue to register for classes during drop/add or will register for late start classes that begin later in the semester.

The district headcount is 6,374, up 14.5 percent over the fall of 2009 and up 28 percent over the fall of 2008. This marks the third year in a row that CAC is witnessing a double-digit enrollment increase.  
Photo by Tom DiCamillo

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Central Arizona College’s Astronomy Night at the Peak, a popular event with Maricopans, returns to the Signal Peak Campus this Friday evening, April 1, when Dr. Wayne Pryor takes travelers on a search for other earths.

In addition to Pryor’s outdoor presentation, CAC’s astronomy night will feature a look inside STARLAB with Katy Wilkins, along with a variety of new family-friendly events entitled Frozen Moo & You, Make Your Alien & Eat It Too, and Poisonous Insects and Creative Plants.
CAC and Sodexo, the food service provider for the college, again are teaming up to offer an evening of affordable family dining under the constellations of the Arizona nighttime sky.
Dinner will be served from 5-6 p.m., while the STARLAB presentations and family science events will run continuously from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Pryor’s presentation on the Search for Other Earths will take place from approximately sundown until 9:30 p.m.
The new family-friendly science events will be held in the C. Leroy Hoyt Hall Science/Engineering Building (Building S). It is located adjacent to the astronomy viewing area.
Once darkness encompasses the Signal Peak Campus, guests will move to the observatory where the NASA telescopes will be open for terrific views of the sky for the rest of the evening. The telescopes include large reflectors with 24-inch and 14-inch diameter mirrors, plus an array of smaller telescopes used to view various celestial bodies.
The astronomy portion of the program will focus on NASA’s Kepler Mission that was launched in 2009 and is searching for planets around other stars.
“We will discuss the recent detection of 1,235 possible planets, including some similar to Earth in size and temperature,” Pryor explained.
According to NASA’s webpage, the scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:
Determine the abundance of terrestrial and larger planets in or near the habitable zone of a         wide variety of stars; 
Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets; 
Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems; 
Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of         short-period giant planets; 
Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques;  
Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems. 
This marks the third of four Astronomy Night at the Peak events scheduled for the 2010-11 academic year with the final one slated for Friday, May 13.
“These events are always a lot of fun for us and for the community,” Pryor stated. “It is a terrific family event that we offer at no charge. Children – and their parents – seem to really enjoy it.”
While Pryor will be outside, Wilkins again will be inside with STARLAB, an inflatable planetarium that provides an indoor look at the Arizona nighttime sky.
Currently the dean of students at Toltec Middle School, Wilkins will set up STARLAB and offer her presentations inside M101 of the Student Services Center, the large building with the clock tower located on the Signal Peak Campus.
“My public presentations usually consist of some short stories and how to locate constellations and some other interesting facts,” she said.
STARLAB was purchased when Central Arizona College’s SEMAA (Science Engineering Mathematics Aerospace Academy) program was being offered on campus.
Before night falls, moms and dads are invited to bring the entire family for dinner at the Central Arizona College Dining Hall from 5-6 p.m. The dining hall is located on the second floor of the Mel A. Everingham Student Center adjacent to The Green near the entrance to the campus.
Dinner is $6 plus tax per person for everyone and is served buffet style. The menu includes hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets, French fries, macaroni and cheese, a salad bar, self-serve ice cream and dessert stations, and a choice of beverages.
For more information on the Astronomy Night at the Peak event, call 520-494-5202, or e-mail Tom Di Camillo at