San Tan Center students using bikes from George Johnson to access higher education
By Tom Di Camillo
Director of Media & Community Events
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - Central Arizona College's San Tan Center is fast-becoming a Mecca for the burgeoning community of the San Tan Valley.
Located at the headwaters of the Copper Basin neighborhood along Hunt Highway, the facility has given students from around the area a place to continue their education.
But Copper Basin is surrounded by cotton fields and open land, so getting to CAC's San Tan Center requires a vehicle or a determined walk.
George Johnson, Pinal County developer and owner of Johnson Utilities, witnessed first-hand that determination of CAC students while he was driving along Hunt Highway.
"I saw kids walking back and forth and wondered where they were going," he explained. "I found out that they were going to CAC. If they are willing to walk for their education, then the least I can do is help out with a ride."
Johnson purchased nine 26-inch NEXT Power Climber Mountain Bikes and presented them, along with Pinal County Supervisor Bryan Martin, to CAC students during a ceremony at the San Tan Center on April 1.
Students presented short essays on how they could benefit from being awarded a new bike. Six of the selected winners were on hand to accept the mountain bikes that were fully assembled and ready to be ridden home.
"This is great because I share a car with my husband and now I have my own transportation," Ana Villavicencio said. The CAC student lives in Copper Basin which extends almost two miles off Hunt Highway toward the Union Pacific rail line.
Charles Maxwell was thrilled with the mountain bike because it was a reliable form of transportation from his home in Morning Sun to CAC, and it also would help him in his job search.
For Colleen Weigel, who resides off Arizona Farms Road, the timing could not have been better.
"My car is almost dying and this will help me get back and forth to CAC."
Ethan Higgins of Rancho Bella Vista indicated that rising gas prices were a concern and that the bike would help him save on gas, while Leticia Valencia indicated that the new mountain bike is much-improved from her old one as she makes the trek from Arizona Farms Road.
Nicole Cervantes of Johnson Ranch is finding freedom in her new mountain bike since her family has one car and her husband's job takes him frequently to Flagstaff.