Sequoyah Football Senior Receives Multiple College Offers


CANTON, Ga. — Sequoyah Chiefs’ football player Griffin Pizzano has captured the attention of a handful of colleges across the United States.

The 6 foot 3 inch, 270-pound senior at Sequoyah High School plays both center and guard for the football team.

Pizzano has received offers from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Saint Mary, Occidental College, Birmingham-Southern College and the University of Rochester.

Assistant coach Cole Cloer says the size, power, athleticism, leadership and academic achievements Pizzano has shown make him an athlete college coaches want in their programs.

“To be able to have the season like I have has meant a lot to me,” Pizzano said. “I have worked extremely hard throughout my high school career to have this kind of an opportunity.

“I make sure I put school and my education first, and then football comes second. Fortunately, I am able to combine the both of them next year.”

Pizzano has obtained a 4.0 while taking six honors classes and six AP courses/exams. Although he has not committed to a school yet, he says he looks forward to furthering his education and athletic playing career.

“I can’t thank my coaches enough for all they have done for me during my time here at Sequoyah,” Pizzano said. “They have helped me become a better football player, but more importantly, a better man.

“I want to give them everything I have for the remainder of the season. What better way to thank them than to help this team win the state championship.”



Motivated Communicators and Leaders in Marietta


MARIETTA, Ga. — People just can`t stop talking. They basically talk all the time and everywhere. But if you tell them to talk to an audience or deliver a speech, they might just stop. Doing that might be too scary.

Cheryl Boncimino and Judy Sheppard are each a member of one of the weekly clubs of Toastmasters International in Marietta. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization that brings people together and helps them develop their communication and leadership skills. Boncimino and Sheppard are just a couple of thousands of members around the world who are developing these skills that can be valuable to everyone.

Cheryl Boncimino and some other members of the Knowledge Club Toastmasters stand by the podium after their meeting. Photo by Gabriella Jaramillo

Toastmasters club meetings aren`t all exact, but they all have a few things in common such as speeches being delivered, meeting roles, a supportive and energetic learning experience and a schedule to follow. Some meeting roles include toastmaster, timer, evaluator, grammarian and ah-counter.

Sheppard, a fiscal officer, has been a member of the Toastmasters at the Square for about 18 years. She said she originally just joined the club to support her co-worker who was trying to get the club started but eventually realized she appreciated it and wanted to keep going.

“I was surprised to find [out] how much I enjoyed Toastmasters once I became a member,” Sheppard said. “Every member is motivated to become a better speaker, leader or both . . .  I enjoy being around motivated people who are willing to work at improving their skills.  They take responsibility for taking steps to work on their personal skills rather than accepting that they can’t do anything about being shy or nervous about speaking.”

Sheppard said being in the club offers many benefits such as getting many opportunities to practice your speaking, increasing confidence, becoming a better listener, getting to know others, learning how to give positive feedback, learning how to lead meetings, becoming a better team member and getting the opportunity to mentor or be mentored.

Since joining the club, Sheppard said she has given around 30 speeches, won seven awards, performed every type of meeting role, held a position almost every year, served on committees and mentored. She also said she has overcome her fear of speaking to an audience, learned to cope with nerves and become more self-assured and outgoing.

Boncimino, a real estate agent, has been involved with Toastmasters for about three years and currently goes to the Knowledge Club Toastmasters. She said she heard of Toastmasters a lot from her background in theater and production but thought it sounded boring and was just for shy people. But eventually she decided to go and had a good experience. She said she loved how the people there came from various professions and how supportive and energetic everyone and the meeting was.

“I was hooked after the first meeting.”

Since joining Toastmasters, Boncimino said she has delivered around 25 to 30 speeches, has performed every single meeting role, has significantly improved her communication by being more effective and has learned how to inspire and motivate people.

“Every time I speak to people I encourage them [to go] because Toastmasters is leadership skills development, communication skills development, professional networking and friendship and community all rolled into one . . . I talk about it all the time.”

Even though some people might be too scared to talk to an audience or deliver a speech, some aren’t. The ones who aren`t were either never scared to begin with or somehow overcame their fear. Maybe they decided to try out a Toastmasters club. Maybe they kept going and kept practicing. And just maybe, that helped them overcome their fear, and they eventually became pretty good.

Yes, Women Play Football Too


ATLANTA —­ The sound of whistles, cracking pads and cheers from the crowd can be heard as the women of the Legends Football League compete on the biggest stage for women’s tackle football.

Each coach stands on the bench, full of intensity, making sure his athletes understand each check and call made. As one team scores a touchdown, immediate cheers from the crowd echo across the arena, and the scoring team celebrates with passion.

“To be a woman in the Legends Football League, you have to be tenacious, passionate, dedicated and transparent,” said Dane Robinson, head coach of the Atlanta Steam, who has been named Coach of the Year twice in the four years he’s coached in the league.

One of the Steam’s most accomplished athletes, Lauran Ziegler, just finished her third year with the Atlanta Steam.

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Lauren Ziegler, right, of the Atlanta Steam. Photo by Dakota Hughes 

“To be a member of the Steam takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Ziegler. “My workout regimen is five to six times a week doing CrossFit and working with a personal trainer. After I finish working each day, I head to the gym for a couple of hours. I meal prep because I am on the go a lot and have to stay in the best shape possible.

“After my workweek is over, I fly from Tampa, Florida, to Atlanta for a weekend of practices. I repeat this process week after week.”

Legends originated in 2009, but this league originally started as the “Lingerie Football League.” The league rebranded into the Legends Football League in 2013. Women from across the country come together to play a sport many never knew existed.

Legends has eight teams including Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Austin, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska.

The rules and style of Legends play can be found here.

The league only plays one game per weekend. This makes a Legends’ season go from May to September, even though only four to six games are in a team’s season. Teams begin practicing in January and have practices until September, or earlier depending on how long their season lasts. Each team’s practice schedule depends on the head coach for each team.

The hometown team in Georgia, the Atlanta Steam, originated in 2012 and has remained a top contender in the league from the start. The Steam is a dominant team because of titles such as: two-time Eastern Conference Champions; two-time Team of the Year winners and two Legends Cup appearances.

The Steam’s 2017 season recently concluded after their Legends Cup appearance September 3, in Los Angeles, California. Despite walking away with a loss in the championship, the team was the Eastern Conference Champion. To get the Eastern Conference Champion title, the Steam had to take down three-time Legends Cup Champions, the Chicago Bliss. This was called the “franchise’s biggest win” by the league’s commissioner, Mitchell Mortaza.

To get a team to a Legends Cup, it must go through many months of practicing beforehand. The Legends Cup is held in September, and the start of practices begins in January.

For the Atlanta Steam, the typical practice schedule consists of practices Friday night, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. The average practice lasts around three hours. Film and meetings usually occur for an hour and a half before or after these practices. Certain weekends throughout the season consist of four or five practices in a weekend.

“Our team has a tough practice schedule,” said coach Robinson. “On top of that though, to play football in this kind of a uniform, you are going to be judged and receive criticism. The best way to combat this is by playing hard-nosed-tackle football. I hear all the time ‘You guys play real football and don’t mess around.’ These women are true athletes and play great football.”

The practice schedule is set on the weekends for the Steam because “there are a lot of girls on this team who travel from other states,” Robinson said. “It is impossible to get girls from Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, North Carolina and New England to a weekday practice because they have work through the week.”

The women in Legends are not only football players, but they have professional careers such as active military, lawyers, doctors, physical trainers, dentists and students. The athletes in this league do not get paid unless they make an All-Fantasy (All-Star) roster for one game per year.

Throughout the season the women have to travel to practice on their own dime; however, the league pays for game weekends for each team with travel, food, hotels, etc. Teams travel by airplane due to the locations of each team.

The Atlanta Steam will begin offseason preparations in November with rookie camps and hold tryouts in December.

“Even though we did not finish with the championship trophy this season, I am still extremely proud of the work these ladies put in,” said Robinson. “We will add in some new rookies next year and we will make some adjustments that will allow us to call ourselves Legends Cup Champions by this time in 2018.”

Food Truck Alley


ALPHARETTA, Ga – You can smell them long before you can see them. Sizzling meats, fried starches and a slight scent of diesel fill the air. Follow the smell and a row of behemoths soon emerges from the maze of buildings surrounding them. Bright, bold, striking to look at; food trucks line the streets as a mass of people converge on them like ants on a drop of sugar water.

Every Thursday afternoon, the City of Alpharetta brings people together through the ultimate human equalizer… food. Burgers, gyros and tacos, the options are seemingly endless. With the slow but seemingly imminent death of the shopping mall, food courts and traditional eating establishments, food trucks bring a fresh new take on what family dining can be.

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Droves of people line the streets in Alpharetta’s “Food Truck Alley” waiting to get their hands on a wide assortment of food while enjoying a friendly atmosphere. Photo by Allen Kondratev

The rolling convoy of colorful trucks brings diversity and choice to a location where it was once sparse and consumers love it. Bringing business and food to a place where it is lacking is the magic of the food truck.

Atlanta Burger Truck is a staple at Alpharetta’s Food Truck Alley. It is in its third year of serving people in the Alpharetta area. Constantly boasting a line of people that seems to never end, this truck is one of the most successful at the event. The crew of three buzzes constantly in the kitchen preparing food for their hungry customers, they all look to Lee Dovre, their manager, for leadership.

“Everyone I know is getting rid of their brick and mortar buildings and are moving to the food truck industry,” Dovre said. “Having a fleet of trucks that can go TO the customer has changed the way we run our business.”

“Food trucks fulfill the demands of the modern consumer. People these days want connivance, lots of options and quality.”

Tex’s Tacos, a competitor of Atlanta Burger Truck, is also taking advantage of the mobility food trucks provide. They bring their customers quality food, good service and wide variety of options. Tex’s Tacos is in its 2nd year of coming to Alpharetta, they serve Tex-Mex style tacos and sides. The truck manager, Josh, explains what makes their truck so successful.

“We travel south past Macon and north up near Chattanooga with this truck,” Josh said. “We’ll go to festivals, weddings and events like this to bring our food to the customers. Word of mouth is what keeps this truck going, and the best kind of advertising you can have, because it’s free. It proves to you and to customers that the product you have is good,” he said.

Food trucks are and new and fresh take on the dining experience, and the city of Alpharetta is trying to capture that fun and exciting spirit in the town. Bringing business to an alley that would otherwise be left dormant, bringing customers to the city and establishing relationships that would not have otherwise been created is the ultimate plan for city growth. Food Truck Alley is not only a great advertisement for food trucks, but also for the City of Alpharetta.

Reformation Brewery Provides Forum for Community in Woodstock


WOODSTOCK, Ga. – From taco trucks to bingeing books there are many ways to build a community at Reformation Brewery.

“There is always room for community,” said Merry Quarles, the keeping room manager at the Woodstock Brewery.

With recent changes in law, breweries are quickly beginning to change how they operate. New Georgia law allows for breweries to sell beer directly to customers from the brewery rather than having to give out free samples after a tour.

Reformation Brewery has taken advantage of the law and is now opening its doors to events that are safe for the whole family. Reformation is also focused on getting people in a community with one another and away from their cell phones.

Customers gather at around tables with board games and beer during Reformation Brewery’s monthly board game night. Photo by Austin McMillan

Most community events are free to the public, and with the new laws, you can now pay for what you would like rather than a base rate for a tour.

“It’s a very laid-back place that you can bring your kids,” said Kim Kendrick, a Reformation customer. “My son can come and play.”

Once a month, Reformation Brewery hosts a book club known as Books and Brews. Community members are encouraged to come in and talk about the monthly book over a beer if they choose.

“The only thing they have in common is they like to read, and they have all connected because of that,” said Quarles.

For those not interested in reading, Reformation also hosts board game nights. On the first Tuesday of the month Reformation bring in game creators and companies to host board games nights. Panda Cult Games was the latest host and came with a few sets of their latest game The Cult of Barnacle Bay. Along with getting to meet with game developers, customers have the chance to win a free game with the monthly board game giveaway.

Reformation also hosts a taco and trivia night on Wednesdays. Quarles said the event was originally meant for teachers to come and have a free beer but eventually turned into any public service worker. Quarles said that they have created a community amongst themselves that meet on a weekly basis.

Along with opening their doors, Reformation also opens their wallets to the Woodstock community. Reformation gives to many different nonprofits in the Woodstock area through its Reformation Stands program.

“A lot of what we do for our nonprofits is raise awareness,” Quarles said. Reformation sponsors organizations like the Upper Cherokee Riverkeepers Alliance, who help to maintain clean water, and the Greenprints Trail System, who help maintain all the trails in the area.

Not only is giving to these nonprofits benefiting the community, but it also helps Reformation to create a better product. Quarles said sponsoring the Upper Cherokee Riverkeepers Alliance, in turn, provides fresher water for Reformation to brew with.

For anyone looking to find a community in the Woodstock area, Reformation has many different options for people to get involved.

Quarles said,  “You make them not only feel like, but you make them part of a community,”