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Joe Dennis: shaped by journalism


Journalist. Father. Teacher. Husband. Student. Friend. Mentor. Coach. Christian.

There are many hats underneath the fedora that frequently adorns my head, but at the core of every aspect of me is a passion for people. Whether they are family members, students, colleagues, church members, friends or even strangers, I am fascinated by the uniqueness of each individual and the stories underneath their hats. It’s why I’m a journalist. Every person has a story, and I want to discover it.

My journalistic journey began at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. My summer orientation leader was sports editor of the college newspaper, and he needed a volleyball reporter. I didn’t know much about volleyball, but had a huge crush on one of the volleyball players. Middle hitter Tara, and the promise of free pizza at the newspaper meetings, roped me into journalism.

Little did I know that a little crush and a lot of pepperoni would set up the rest of my life.

The stories I heard, wrote and even lived through shaped who I am today and the hats I wear. I became an organ donor after profiling a man’s unsuccessful wait for a new liver. My respect for police officers grew immensely after spending 20 hours with a unit during a meth-lab drug bust. My compassion for the poor — especially children — was reinforced after visiting the blighted home of a slum-lord victim. My faith was strengthened after witnessing victims of various tragedies be thankful for the silver linings of their situation.

In addition to shaping who I am, journalism has also been a lot of fun. My career has given me the opportunity to hang out with several “stars,” such as musician John Mayer, WWE superstar Chris Jericho and basketball legend Isaiah Thomas. I’ve met several historical figures including civil rights leaders, war heroes and prominent politicians. But the most inspiration came from the everyday people I encountered: the principal of an impoverished school who is doing all he can to stop the cycle of poverty among his students, the nurse who has dedicated her career to providing free healthcare for the poor, the retired couple who are housing and keeping the local Red Cross chapter alive.

I tried my best to tell their stories through an article, later published in a newspaper. But their stories didn’t die there. Although the physical papers may have been trashed, their stories continue to be recycled in every interaction I make, each an individual thread in the hats that make me who I am.

Matthew Loftin: A Little About Me

On March 13, 2002, I was born at St. Mary’s hospital in Athens, Georgia. My parents Laurie and Jamey, decided to give me the Hebrew name Matthew. My birth also resulted in my brother, Dylan, becoming a big brother. Since that foggy and cloudy day of March 13, I have grown a lot and experienced many life-changing events, including a pandemic.
“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” The quote from Babe Ruth can be applied to many aspects of my life. For example, my mother has always described me as fearless, and since a very young age, I would climb up any tree in sight. Calm, ambitious, and brave are three ways that help better describe me as a person. Many people, throughout my short life, have helped me develop these skills. For instance, my parents, my brother, and some coaches have helped me grow tremendously.
Childhood is filled with so many memories that shape our lives. My favorite childhood memories include the birthdays my parents would throw for me and the fun I would have during them. My most significant achievement so far is winning the State Championship for my high school soccer team. Accomplishing that goal was an incredible feeling that I’ll never forget. Furthermore, soccer has given me such joy that I am currently playing in college, and I am trying to become a coach one day.
Overall, events are what shape you as a person. Whether the events are positive or negative, they will ultimately help me grow as a person. I hope to experience a lot more challenging circumstances throughout my life.

Finding my way

All of my life I have been the type of person who liked things to be familiar and comfortable. I was afraid of change. Even though I should of been use to it with how much my family moved growing up, I still never was a fan of new and different challenges.

I was born and raised in Arizona and never once did it cross my mind that there was even a possibility that I wouldn’t live in this state for the rest of my life. I had an amazing childhood. I am the second oldest in my family and have four siblings, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Having such a big family definitely kept things in my life busy and interesting. I started playing soccer at a very young age and I couldn’t tell you a time I don’t remember being on a team. My family was very supportive and dedicated a lot of time and money into my soccer career. I played travel soccer for 10 years and learned a lot about myself. I found out I had a natural talent for this sport and I fell absolutely in love with it. I created relationships with teammates and coaches that really left an impact on my life. Playing soccer led me to finding some of my best friends and I created some of the best memories. We were able to travel not only the country together but the world. I was very blessed and grateful for the opportunity I had playing soccer and growing up in this beautiful state.

When I was 15 years old, my life changed in a way I never expected. My dad had accepted a new job opportunity and we were all so proud and thrilled for him. At least we were until we found out we were moving across the country. After my parents had told us the news, we had 3 weeks to pack up our house and say goodbye to all our family and friends and move to Newnan, Georgia. I felt like I was in a dream and that there was no way my family could possibly be moving so far away. I had an extremely hard time with the move. I was leaving one of the best soccer teams on the west coast, the high school I’ve always wanted to graduate from, and everything I’ve always had known. I can still remember my last day of school and soccer practice like it was yesterday. I remember the tears, hugs and heartbreak. It was definitely one of the hardest moments in my life.

After moving over a thousand miles away from all my family and friends, it took me quite some time to realize this wasn’t a trip, we weren’t going back to Arizona, it was now permanent. I cried for months and was honestly depressed for the first semester of my sophomore year at my new high school. However right around my birthday, and beginning of our second semester, I met someone who changed my life forever. Sieria Behringer introduced herself to me in the locker room before our weight training class that semester. Little did I know at the time that this girl would be my life long best friend.

Sieria introduced me to everyone at our school. I was known as “the new girl from Arizona” for the longest time. But I was okay with it, I got a lot of attention and I kind of enjoyed it. I met all of my best friends that semester. We went on some of the coolest most memorable adventures. We all had just got our drivers licenses, so we had the world at our fingertips. That summer I really had the chance to get to know myself and learn things about myself that I didn’t even know. I met someone really special and fell in love, learned a lot of important lessons, and grew so much as a person. I began to love Georgia and all the people I had met and became so close with. I had such a fun high school experience in Newnan and I honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world. I was able to play both travel and high school soccer, and that’s how I found Piedmont College.

My move to Georgia turned into one of the biggest blessings in my life. I grew as a person and truly found who I am. I have met some of the most amazing people in my life and I will forever be grateful for that. It made my fear of change turn into an excitement for new adventures. I am so lucky to have found my way to Georgia and I’m excited to see where my life will take me in the future and I can’t wait.

Injustice Vs. the U.S.

Ask anyone and they can confirm, 2020 has been one crazy year, but even though the year is over, will the madness carryover?

TMZ is a tabloid journalism platform that publicizes the most up to do new stories from sports and celebrities to politics and news. Often times, stories put out by the tabloids beat mainstream media to the public. One particular area TMZ has covered is the heat regarding the black community. TMZ’s content reports truth when creating content for their viewers. However, TMZ has been known to cause some controversy when it comes to “facts” especially relating to celebrities making it non trustworthy for some viewers. Identification is the process people assume the identity, roles, and perspective of an individual. Audience are often able to connect more with celebrities who share the same views creating a sense of connection and unison. The more famous a celebrity, the more influence they hold. Identification is expressed in audiences through the mainstream media stars representation similar to a mascot. For example, MLK, Malcom X, Colin Kapernick, and Jesse Williams act as famous representation for the black community.

Specifically speaking, the black community has faced the most difficult of times in terms of race than any other ethnicity this past year. Each post displays a difficulty the black community has faced. Breonna Taylor’s death in March of 2020 due to the hands of the Louisville police constructed an uproar of injustice in the black community. Not long after, the death of George Floyd in May of 2020 generated the memorable “I can’t breathe” quote Floyd pleaded as officer Derek Cauvin knelt on his neck for 9 minutes leading to Floyd’s death. Although it is not the first of killing of a black person by police, the incident of George Floyd provoked an outcry of protestors in the support of the black community.

The posts analyzed collectively focus on the injustices placed on the black community but strive for all viewers to access the differences. In an interview with Lil Yatchy (famous hip hop artist) he is asked “What do you think is the impact of MLB, Hollywood productions, and other big business pulling out of Georgia in protest of laws making it difficult for people of color to vote?” Often times it is more influential to take advice from someone who is in the same group as you, faces the same circumstances, and hold a position of power. This post was more laid back and catered to a younger generation. Jordan Blake (an unarmed black victim shot by police) expresses his gratitude for the verdict on Derek Cauvin even calling it “the first big step in changing the world” providing hope for the black community. Jordan Blake’s clip is specifically picked out because he himself is a victim of police injustice. The title “Lets get the rest of them” supports the overall message of the post, a step in the right direction. Not only was there a clip of Jordan Blake’s reaction to the verdict, but verdict itself and the clip of evidence from his own incident was displayed warning viewers in bright colors of the “shocking” and “brutal” graphics shown”. The attack on the capital is another issue not directly spotlighted on the black community, but raises eyebrows when compared to protests in support of BLM. When asked Lebron James (professional NBA player) says “If those were my kind storming the Capitol, what would have been the outcome? And, I think we all know.” Below the clips is a screenshot of James’ instagram post in a shirt saying “DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW?” referring to the injustices the black community still faces.

Race/ Ethnicity/ Identity in gossip cites

It is not easy to understand why gossip sites post what they do. They want to be a place that news can run wild. Even if the topic is controversial. In trying to analyze three articles. I noticed that somethings within post can be similar. In the three I analyzed it appears that the target audience is the country itself. Because of the severity of the topics or headlines, they couldn’t really angle the piece towards one group. The purpose of the posts were to inform. Because of certain areas of cases such as the George Floyd case. Two of the posts corresponded with the verdict of the case that saw former cop, Derek Chauvin, charged with man slaughter. So in that sense they wanted to inform what was happening. So they had to reach out to everyone instead of target one specific group. However one thing that tends to be misplaced is visual effects. Using images to an advantage. You can pull on emotions little by little with the right choice of visuals. Much of the visuals used for the posts did not correspond well. Nothing added to the stories. It became bland and boring. I would have included photos that applied to the story instead of having adds, the same ad throughout the posts. All these posts involve the same type of story. The BLM in some fashion or another. It involves for a call of change. How we all need to be treated in the same way. The problem with these gossip sites however, are that they do not always report the truth. Gossip sites are about telling the story fast, rather than telling it truthfully. But, the reason they are able to facilitate a lot of buzz is how they report the celebrities. They dig deep into celebrities lives. Bringing out the average everyday human life within the fame. People love seeing there idols doing simple things just like them.

But how do gossip sites use identification and help relate celebrities to people like us?

Gossip blogs are able to use the normality of a celebrities life to attract more buzz. Gossip sites know people love seeing the average middle class activities celebrities do. In our minds, we see celebrities as idols. And we love putting celebrities in a certain class with ourselves. Gossip sites try to identify celebrities with middle class individuals to create that sense of “they are just average people like us”.

I chose three articles from TMZ, one regarding ethnicity, one religion, and one about race. One article basically explained that Bryce Hall is being sued for beating up Hernan Fernando simply because he was Mexican. The next article regarded a high school football coach that used “anti Semitic play calls” during a game. Lastly, the third article explained Britney Spears’ support for Black Lives Matter and that some of her Instagram followers are angry with her for this. I thought all of these articles were fitting for what we have focused on throughout this class.

Charges filed against Bryce Hall over Hollywood parties - New York Daily  News
This is Bryce Hall…

For the article regarding Bryce Hall, he was at a restaurant and fought a man as the motive behind the fight was solely because the man, Fernando, was Mexican. Before the fight began, Hall was allegedly yelling at Fernando saying “I’m from Bel-Air, and you’re just a fat Mexican who works at a restaurant.” TMZ added that Fernando is “suing Bryce, Rory and their pals for assault, battery, emotional distress, and for attacking him based on his ethnicity.” The intended audience for this article has to be those that know who Bryce Hall is, meaning his fans or haters. Bryce Hall is a well known social media influencer on Tik Tok. Therefore, a younger crowd of people is more than likely the audience for this article. The purpose behind this article is probably just to gossip and find dirt on well known people. The fight was not a brawl, however the root of the fight is what is wrong. To hate someone because of their ethnicity is completely wrong and to be a social media influencer, influencing a young audience, makes it that much worse. Going back to the quote from TMZ, Fernando is suing because Hall acted this way solely because he was Mexican. There are only videos on this article and I cannot link them, however to summarize, these videos show Hall and his friends at the restaurant via Snapchat video as well as the injury Fernando had on his fingers.

Ex Coach Maimaron at the football game before he was fired.

For the second article, it regards the high school football coach that used anti- Semitic calls during a football game. Ex coach,”Dave Maimaron used terms such as Auschwitz, rabbi, and dreidel to describe plays for his players”. The intended audience is athletes, coaches, or any others who are involved in the sports world in some way. This is because, those who play, coach, or spectate, any sports games know that this kind of action is unacceptable. The true purpose of this post on TMZ is to inform the public that things like this still happen and younger generations are still being exposed to and taught wrong doings like this. This action by Mairaron made the public very angry as “days of parents, fans and civil rights leaders calling for action … the school finally made the move to can the coach Wednesday, blasting him for the naming of the calls.” For when the public found out about the offensive language that Mairaron was using, they would not rest until the community knew and Mairaron was fired. The main message communicated through this post is that offensive language, especially around teenagers is unacceptable and if the community comes together to receive justice, things will come together.

Lastly, the third article was about Britney Spears’ support with Black Lives Matter. The headline says “Britney Spears posts support for Black Lives Matter…Some Followers Pissed!!!” Below is the post that got people talking.

The audience to this is those who follow Britney Spears and those who understand the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. The purpose of this article is to provide that even celebrities speak out on issues such as racism, but no matter what there will always be backlash. TMZ added that many celebrities thought that Britney Spears “went too far” on her post that provided that white people have generational wealth and black people have generational trauma. The main message behind this article is to explain that people will always have a problem with others. Despite the reason for the post, some people will have an issue with others, especially when it comes to celebrities. The TMZ article explained that people thought it was not Spears’ place to speak on the topic because she is white.

To continue on with this, these posts work together well as they all are regarding concerns with a particular topic. Each article consists of people speaking out in one way, whether it be through social media, through the law, or through the community. In the first article, I think that this story could have been slightly misconstrued or exaggerated slightly. I think people like to make social media influencers constantly look bad and give them bad reputations. Yes, I am sure Bryce Hall is in the wrong in some ways, however this does not mean Fernando did not instigate a fight with him first. However, with the second story regarding the high school football coach, this story consisted of facts. It had a lawsuit involved and was strictly facts whereas the Bryce Hall story seemed to be a story more for attention. Regarding fandom, these kinds of posts definitely facilitate fandom. With the Britney Spears and Bryce Hall story, both of these celebrities definitely gained some kind of attention and their name was being spoken of more often than usual. Identification is when the audience assumes the identity or stance that another person believes or holds. For example, the audience would assume that Bryce Hall is racist, the audience would assume that the football coach hates Jewish people, and that Britney Spears stands with the black community and does not support police officers. Celebrity gossip sites such as TMZ feed into identification and are definitely very biased in their articles. For, this feeds into identification as the audience is often swayed the way that the article is written towards.

The Keeper of Piedmont

Most kids are introduced to sports at a young age. Whether they stick with it or not typically depends on their love of the sport, as well as their skill level and dedication growing with them. According to some statistics, many kids stop playing sports between 11 and 13, as they lose their love of the game. However, for senior mass communications major Cameron Verona, this is the age when he fell in love with the sport he grew up playing, soccer. 

Verona started playing soccer when he was 3. His dad was the person that kicks started his love for the sport, taking him to play in the neighborhood.

“My dad and I, when I was 3 years old, used to always go out into the cul-de-sac of the unfinished houses in our neighborhood and we would play soccer 3v3,” said Verona. “I would get beaten every time. I would come home crying and slamming things around my house.” 

These 3v3 games helped shape Verona’s competitive drive and made him want to take his skill to the next level. When he started playing soccer on a real team at age 5, he was a forward, where he continued to play until he was put in as goalie about four years later. This is where Verona found his true passion as a soccer player. 

“I was never playing at a level that was top-flight until I was a junior in high school,” said Verona. “I got my shot and worked for it and it helped me get into college.” 

Verona played at Reinhardt University for his freshman year in college before transferring to Piedmont University to get more time in goal, and this is where his career as a keeper gained traction. 

“He’s always been one of the best keepers I’ve played with,” said Ian Addison, a senior defender for the Lions. “He’s easily one of the most dedicated soccer players I’ve ever met.” 

Addison and Verona have known each other long before their collegiate careers. Having played together for about six years, Addison has seen how Verona has grown as a player and person over the years. 

“He takes it very personally when he gets scored on or when it comes to working hard,” said Addison. “He’s super passionate about it, which I love, and he’s only progressed further with every year that he plays.” 

Verona has the determination and competitiveness to hold his own in the goal, but it’s his focus on improvement that makes him one of the best goalkeepers in the conference. In 2021, Verona led all USA South goalkeepers with 69 saves and finished second with an .802 save percentage. His 69 saves also ranked him fourth overall in NCAA Division III

“Verona has only gotten better since he’s gotten here,” said senior sports communication major Davis Barlow. 

Barlow has been a Piedmont University go-to sports reporter, so he has yet to miss a single home game in the three years Verona has been playing for the university. 

“He put in some great work this year and really held down that young backline,” said Barlow. “There were a lot of freshmen on the field and he did a great job leading them not only on the field but off the field as well. He wants to continue to play at the next level, and with his drive and heart he can.” 

With roughly four weeks left until graduation, there were a lot of questions being thrown at Verona about what he wanted to do with his life. 

“It’s never wavered for me,” said Verona. “I’ve always been sure that this is what I wanted to do with my life. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little.” 

Cameron Verona has signed to play with East Atlanta, a semipro soccer team, starting this summer. His goal is to ultimately play soccer on a professional level, and with his skill, determination, and drive, that goal is pretty much in the bag. 

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid

When in high school, many people say they want to go into film because they have no idea what they want, and at the time it seemed like a good idea. By the time they go to college, most of these people can figure out this isn’t their dream and tend to do something different. That was not the case for Junior Mass Communications major Caleb Rogers. 

“I’d like to think of myself as a creative person, and film is an outlet for that,” said Rogers. “I started taking summer art courses when I was 5-years old so I grew up around the arts. I love movies and found an interest in how they were made.” 

Rogers was adopted from Shakhty, Russia when he was 6 months old and lived in Richmond, Virginia for 11 years before moving to Clarksville, Georgia where he currently lives with his parents and brother. 

As a child, Rogers had a huge love for movies and would always watch behind-the-scenes and production clips to see how they were made. He spent his years in high school building up his portfolio for college and helped build the art department at his school. 

“In 2017 I went to SCAD with a $25,000 scholarship and made the best of my time there,” said Rogers. “I had the wonderful opportunity to work on several student films, SCADS Emmy award-winning live shows, and my favorite was working as media at the Savannah film festival interviewing celebrities like Hugh Jackman, John Krasinski, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Armie Hammer.” 

Rogers has also spent plenty of time working on music videos and this May he will be working on his biggest project yet, “Shazam 2” as the assistant Visual Effects Coordinator. 

Rogers has been seriously working in the film industry for about two and a half years now and he shows no sign of slowing down.

“I want to continue my knowledge in film to later have my own business to make a fortune,” he said. 

Senior Mass Communications major, Cameron Verona, also has a big interest in film and finds Rogers’ work inspiring. 

“I respect and value the quality of his work,” said Verona. “I think his high profile experience in the industry can help grow the already phenomenal program we have at Piedmont.”

Rogers has been a huge part in building the film program here at Piedmont. Having a mass communications degree could only take him so far when it came to the film industry, so he has been trying to push the idea of a film major for a while now. 

“With the love I have for film I believed I could help push Piedmont to create a film studies program,” Rogers said. “I first had a meeting with Dean [Steve] Nimmo then with [Vice President] Dan Silber as well as [Department Chair] Joe Dennis and from that point on we four had several meetings figuring out how we can make this work and what the curriculum would look like.” 

Caleb Rogers still has a lot to learn in regards to working full time in the film industry, however, with the start he has now and the skills he is willing to pass along to others around him, he is going to go far. 

Piedmont Dating App: Good or Bad?

Could a dating app for Piedmont students be beneficial? Carter Ballstadt and Cameron Earls think it might be a good idea.

The two business students presented their research, “Solving the Dating Problem” at this year’s Piedmont symposium.

“I think the preferences are a big thing when it comes to matchmaking, and if you don’t prefer something you won’t enjoy it when dating,” said Carter Ballstadt.

Ballstadt, like any person, has a preference on who he dates. Many dating apps don’t let users choose a preference of the traits they like about a person. That’s why these two students proposed a Piedmont dating app to match students who have things in common.

“We used a decomposition and abstraction to create an algorithm over them to increase the matches between the students here,” said Cameron Earls.

They used preferences for the decomposition, for example what genders you’re interested in, age and the age range you’re interested in. For the abstraction they used the amount of effort you put into a relationship. The preferences are what you prefer and what you enjoy doing, like your hobbies and interests. 

Other dating apps like Tinder use algorithms by collecting data from each user and mainly focus on their quantity of matches. With the Piedmont dating app, they would focus more on quality of the match, so you could have a longer and lasting relationship. 

“We would have a free setup for the app, as well as a premium account which would cost a little extra,” said Earls.

Like any other app they offer a free account which you can use to get matches, but you don’t get everything offered on the app. They would have other features on the app that would cost some money to get it extra. 

“What you look for in someone with free time and what they’re doing in life is very important,” said Ballstadt, adding that their target audience is for people looking for quality relationships, rather than simply several matches.

“They did a good job, and I thought their idea was very interesting,” said Kim Lovell, professor of business.

Schramm’s Epiphany to not Watch Life Pass by him

“I’ll start off by saying I 100 percent believe I got cancer for a reason,” said sophomore Zack Schramm.

On June 1, Schramm was given news that nobody wants to hear, a diagnosis of testicular cancer. Uncertain of causes, it took a large amount of mental toughness to get through this kind of milestone. With the major motivation being his mom, Schramm soon realized he had to do whatever it took to be there for his mom. For any mother, your child going through such an obstacle as cancer is living in a nightmare.

“My mom was so distraught knowing her 19-year-old son had cancer. Most of the doctors’ appointments was me picking my mom up,” said Schramm.

It is difficult to understand the process that cancer puts an individual through — the physical and mental pain is indescribable, though Schramm found a light in this process. With hours sitting in the chemotherapy chair, anyone’s mind will wander. The thought was always in the back of Schramm’s head that it is possible he may not make it through this, for with this, the epiphany arose to Schramm that he has not lived his life the way he wants to.

Many can testify to this. People often say they want to do many extravagant things in their lives, but never actually act upon the things that they want to do. In this case, Schramm realized he had been a victim of this and found himself taking advantage of even the simplest opportunities to experience life.

“I saw a quote that made me really think about how I have lived my life up until the diagnosis. I realized I had not been living life they way I should be living,” said Schramm.

“I had not done or experienced all the things I talked about. The quote basically gave me the idea that I have wasted nineteen years of my life and that I need to capitalize on every opportunity that I am given, big or small.”

The quote was the words of Confucius, “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

It takes an immense amount of thinking to understand this quote, but once it is understood, you wonder what life you are in. To sum up what this quote represents in Schramm’s life, Schramm’s first life was his first 19 years. His second life began when he realized life can be taken from him at any second.

For any person, having cancer would break them to pieces. It could become another “feel sorry for me story,” but Schramm looked at this with a different set of eyes. A set of eyes that bettered him and his family. A different mindset that changed Schramm forever. The epiphany Schramm had because of this milestone is one of the best things that could have ever happened to him.

“Without having to go through what I did, I would still be waiting for life to come to me. Now I am taking on life with no fear or care in the world,” said Schramm.

Kirks Mentality of Hard Work

948 minutes played for the 2021 season of Piedmont University’s Women’s Soccer program. Earning the starting spot as an attacking midfielder for four years, senior and captain Cassie Kirk holds a very strong physical and mental glue for the program. More importantly, soccer has been a major glue for Kirk within her life.

Being one of the largest influences and impacts for the women’s soccer program, Kirk has earned USA South first-team-All-Conference in 2019 and 2020. In 2018, Kirk earned the USA South All-Tournament Team. Clearly, Kirk holds a major role on the field as a player for the Lions.

Kirk started her soccer career at age 4, not knowing the love and lessons she would encounter along the way. To Kirk, soccer was not just a portion of her life, it has always been the largest part of her life, soccer has consumed her life in every way. Graduating in the spring, soccer will soon be just another time to share and reflect on stories for Kirk.

“Growing up soccer was sort of my identity,” said Kirk. “I have just recently been accepted into medical school and have applied for a few jobs. It is becoming very surreal that soccer will not be the biggest part of me anymore.”

With soccer being one of the major personality traits Kirk holds, she has found that soccer has helped her through many battles on and off the field. Most importantly, Kirk learned being the best will not always be what will win in the end.

“Cassie is one of the hardest working players I think I have ever coached,” said Piedmont head women’s soccer coach, Timmy McCormack. “She loses the ball, she will not give 100% to win the ball back, she will give 200% to get the ball back. Her work ethic on the field definitely

translates to the rest of the team. I could argue that her work ethic was the reason all of her teammates voted her captain.”

For example, in 2019 the women’s soccer team was ranked first and expected to win the conference championship. Knowing that the team was better than its opponent, Salem College, Salem had higher work ethic. Even since the opponent of Piedmont was ranked much lower, the want to win was greater.

“As cliché as it is, the saying that hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard is something I have learned because of soccer,” said Kirk. “I have been the more talented team who has lost, and I’ve been the underdog who worked way harder than the other time to win. But, I think this is really important to take into life outside of soccer because I have worked very hard to earn the opportunities I have, my work ethic is definitely giving me the opportunities such as multiple job offers.”

Without playing soccer for 18 years, Kirk would never have learned valuable lessons that will aid her in life after college. Being the hardest worker on the field directly links to the close to a 1,000 minutes earned in each season, starting in nearly every game for four years straight, and many honors awarded to her.

“Soccer has taught me that I do not have to be the biggest, strongest, or most skilled,” said Kirk. “In life I do not have to be the smartest, most experienced, or most skilled. I just have to out work everyone around me to be the best.”