Author Archives: Savannah Richards

Allie Torres Sports Feature

With a conference championship in her sight, Allie Torres is left wondering what could have been.

“Covid ruined our season,” said criminal justice major Allie Torres. “There was a lot of potential for the team to win the conference title again, and it’s just disappointing that all the work that we’ve put in this season has gone to waste.”

A sophomore thrower on the Lady Lions track team, Torres and her teammates were just beginning the outdoor season when news of the NCAA shutdown came. As a Division III athlete, every year of eligibility counts.

“I threw all four years of high school,” said Torres. “I made the all-region and all-county team, came in first at the region championship meet and placed 4th at the state championships.”

These successes set her up for her future achievements at the USA South Track and Field Championships with the Lions in 2019.

“It’s actually kind of a funny story,” said Torres. “The only reason why I got into track in the first place is because my older sister was a thrower in high school, so I decided to tag along and fell in love with the sport.”

Four years and a diploma later, Torres found herself traveling from the metro Atlanta area up to quaint downtown Demorest in Northeast Georgia.

I went on a visit and fell in love with the school,” said Torres. “Track was just a plus.”

However, once Torres reached Piedmont she quickly got involved with Piedmont athletics and two hour-long daily practices with her new teammates.

“I know a lot of people say their high school team was closer, but with mine it’s always been the sprinters, distance peeps and throwers,” said Torres. “It’s the same at Piedmont.”

Due to the different types of events offered in track and field, it’s typical for practices to be held in different groups. The way that athletes competing in field events train is often very different from how running events train.

“I will say that the throws program at Piedmont is a lot closer than the throws program at my high school,” said Torres.

The throwers at Piedmont are one of the smaller groups within the team, and have a family-like dynamic that was built by long bus rides and track meets spent together.

“Allie’s a great teammate,” said former Piedmont thrower Tyler Fisher. “She has many great leadership qualities that have earned her the title of being ‘the mom’ of the team. She’s very respectful and encouraging, but isn’t afraid to call someone out when they’re out of line.”

However, the team’s time together has been limited and their progress paused by the global pandemic.

“Coach knows that we can’t go to the gym and lift,” said Torres, “but he does expect us to stay in shape as best we can. Many of us including myself spent countless hours at practice and the trainers to make sure that we’re at our best,” said Torres. “It’s just sad that we won’t be able to show it on the track.”

Though things did take a turn for the worse early on in Piedmont’s 2020 track and field season, Torres is maintaining a positive outlook and doing her best to prepare for next season.

“It’s said all good things take time,” said track and field assistant coach Brian Gawne. “Allie is an example of that statement. Over the course of the last two years, she has had to retool her throwing techniques. Going into her junior year, she is ready to take off as an elite thrower for our Lions.”

Caden Nelms

From his wheelchair, freshman Caden Nelms is jump-starting changes in Piedmont’s campus culture through his accessibility activism.
“I had back surgery when I was 9,” said Nelms. “My scar runs all the way from my waist up to my neck.”
Nelms surgery was due to a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy which, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine is a genetic condition that causes the weakening of muscles that are used for movement. What it cannot weaken, however, is a solid sense of humor.
“I want to get a zipper tattooed at the top of my scar,” said Nelms. “It would be hidden, but it’s funny. It’s small and no one would ever see it, but I really want to get it.”
Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a life-long condition that can affect the strength of muscles around the center of the body, which has led to Nelms getting his first wheelchair around the time he started school and then upgrading to a power chair before starting second grade.
“People like to stare, obviously,” said Nelms. “It used to bother me. Now I have a lot of shirts making fun of it, so I could care less.”
One of his custom-made shirts depicts a wheelchair doing a flip and reads “Keep staring, I might do a trick,” and attracted a lot of attention while Nelms was vacationing with his family at Tybee Island recently. A couple who’d had a few too many mimosas at brunch saw Nelms wearing the shirt, thought it was hilarious and asked if they could take a picture with him.
“I thought it was funny as hell,” said Nelms. “I took like five pictures with them. It was the weirdest experience I’ve ever had. I was like, ‘is this what it’s like to be famous?’”
Most people would probably assume that this behavior is entirely inappropriate, and according to the National Disability Institute’s Sensitivity Guide it is. The guide states that “it is important to remember to not show pity or put an individual up on a pedestal – everyone should be treated as equals regardless of one’s abilities.” The keyword: individual.
“It didn’t bother me. I thought it was funny, and now I have a story to tell. I wish everyone was like that honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to walk up to someone in a wheelchair or with a disability and just be open about it, and laugh about it with them.”
Nelms has become an advocate for accessibility around Piedmont by starting conversations about what changes need to be made to make campus life easier for students with disabilities.
“I asked Dr. Smith if students could join the ADA Taskforce,” said Nelms. “Who better to hear from than someone with a disability? It’s worth a shot.”
Dr. Sue Smith, Disability Support Coordinator at Piedmont, recently became a member of the Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force.
“Caden is certainly emerging as a leader,” said Smith. “He is passionate about improving our campus without any selfish motives, but with an attitude of benefitting our entire Piedmont Community. It has been my pleasure to accept his suggestions for improvement and share those suggestions with the faculty and staff.”
Piedmont as a whole has taken huge steps forward this year by building wheelchair ramps, installing handicap automatic door opening buttons, and purchasing a wheelchair-accessible shuttle van.
However, there’s still some room for improvement, and Nelms has organized meetings with administration to talk about how to create the best learning experience for all of the students at Piedmont, including those with disabilities.
“My disability limits very much what I can and can’t do,” said Nelms. “So I’ll Research some jobs and then see that, oh, my disability is going to hinder this part. Sometimes I’ll get discouraged and wonder if Mass Communications is the right path for me. But it’s a very wide variety and I’m very good at what I do.”

Doctor Who

Season 12 of the cult-classic series “Doctor Who” brought longtime fans all of the aliens and adventures that were missing from the prior season. After the departure of former writer Steven Moffat an almost entirely new cast, the show had some issues finding its stride again in season 11. However, Jodie Whittacker’s performance as the iconic Doctor paired with several cameos by classic whovian villains–such as the Master, Cybermen, and the Daleks–helped get the series back on track. The final episode of season 12 will premiere on March first on BBC and Amazon Video.

‘Doctor Who,’ a Time-traveling Classic Re-charms Its Audience

The twelfth season of the cult-classic series “Doctor Who” is finally giving fans the silly space adventures they were missing in season 11, as the new writers and cast begin to settle into their place in the iconic “whovian” universe.

After long-time “Doctor Who” writer Steven Moffat left the show during season 11, the series took a turn down a path it’d never gone before. The new writers tried to take the historical-fiction route, which made the show seem too dramatic for a comedy about quirky space-time adventures. The fans were all too eager to offer their feedback: more aliens!

The show creators answered by bringing back the Master, the Judoon, Cybermen and several other extra-terrestrial villains that the Doctor has been battling since the 60’s. Fans were also treated to a special cameo from John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in episode five. The flamboyant, immortal time-traveler finds the Doctor’s crew of companions to warn them not to give the lone cyberman what it wants.

Though it’s a bit vague at this point, the new plotline gave Whitaker more opportunity to show the gritty, angsty side of the millenia-old time lord as the knowledge gap between herself and her human companions begins to show itself. It’s refreshing to see some of the straightforward and predictable stories from last season transform into token complexity that “Doctor Who” is known for. 

Part of the complexity comes from the family-like relationship between the Doctor and her companions, which we are only now starting to develop after a full season. Last season’s new set of companions continued their journey with the Doctor across space and time in season 12, though the team dynamic has changed. 

One of the greatest issues of season 11 was the poor characterization of companions Graham O’Brien, Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan. The writers gave Graham the type of witty lines that would normally be given to the Doctor, whilst leaving Whitaker with an overall lack of personality. It felt like the creators gave us a woman Doctor, but then took all of the Doctor’s powerful cleverness and gave it right back to an older man.

It was frustrating to watch, and coming into this season I was worried it would be much of the same. The “Doctor Who” setup is interesting, because the time lord’s ability to “regenerate” and change bodies has allowed the show to continue for nearly six decades. However, if the writing and acting for the character doesn’t remain consistent, it can begin to feel like you’re not watching the Doctor at all.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Whitaker’s classic character be given much more attention. The overall plots of the episodes have taken on more of the wacky charm of past seasons, and the Doctor has been in the center of it all. Season 12 has taken several giant leaps towards being the energetic sci-fi adventure that fans have been following for years.

Despite a few bumps in the time-vortex as the new writers started developing new characters and plotlines, the drastic improvement from last season has renewed the Whovian’s hopes for the future of the show. The final episode of season 12 will air on BBC on March 1, and can be found on Amazon Video the following day. 

Who Let the Dogs Out?

I could count on one hand the total number of times I’ve been to my best friend’s house over the course of our decade-long friendship. Her dad asked me a few weeks ago why she owns a key to my house, but I still need to siri directions to theirs, and I had to think up a quick excuse so that I didn’t offend him with the truth: I’m afraid of their three great danes.

It’s undeniable that dogs are among the most popular pets in the U.S. The American Pet Products Association estimated that over 90 million canines were kept as pets in the year 2019. Many dog parents choose to use the word “family” instead of “pet,” and are nearly as protective of their fur-babies as they are of their children. However, the fact remains that while pet owners have had months or even years to build a trusting relationship with their animal, the general public has had no such chance.

According to, about a thousand U.S. citizens require medical attention for serious dog-bite injuries each day. Even dogs that would normally show no aggression can react poorly when startled, or when they feel threatened. The U.S. National Library of Medicine claims that about 20 percent of the world’s population suffer from dog allergies, and that dog-related allergens can worsen pre-existing conditions such as asthma. 

Piedmont College has taken these things into account in its campus pet policy, which states, “No pets will be allowed inside the residence halls with feathers or fur due to allergens and maintenance concerns; this includes visiting pets.” Students are of course permitted to have service dogs or emotional support animals if they have gone through the proper channels with the residential life faculty. For the most part, students seem to follow these guidelines.

Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said of the faculty and staff. On multiple occasions, Piedmont students have seen professors and administration bring their dogs into campus buildings, both on and off leash. While this may not matter to many of Piedmont’s students, for those who do have dog-related phobias or allergies being exposed to these canines on their way to class can be impactful to their learning and health.

The seemingly pet-friendly environment inside the campus buildings contradicts the rules set for students within the residence halls, where the presence of furry-friends would arguably be more appropriate. In a controlled environment, such as a dorm room, it is hard to deny the positive effects dogs can have on some students’ mental health. found that pets can reduce blood-pressure and help with depression.

It’s hypocritical that the Piedmont pet policy does not extend to faculty. Student’s allergies or phobias don’t disappear once they enter an academic building. The current pet policy should be enforced across all campus buildings for both students and faculty.

Two Origami Frogs

If someone were to ask me where my graduation gown or cap are, I wouldn’t be able to give an answer, but I know for a fact that there are two origami frogs sitting on my desk. I will keep them until the day I die.

My high school graduation was held in a stadium designed for professional sporting events and concerts. After four years of struggles, mistakes and triumphs, I had finally earned my place in a line of 703 other worn-down teenagers ready to cross the stage and receive a single piece of paper signifying that we are ready to join society. That paper was blank, of course. Our real diplomas were mailed to our homes a few days later so our parents could keep them safe for us.

The graduation ceremony lasted well over three hours because of the sheer number of names to call. We’d been lined up since 6:30 that morning, and one of my classmates three rows over started snoring about an hour into the calling. The stadium was nearly silent, aside from the constant stream of names, some of which I’d never even heard before. Families were instructed beforehand not to clap until an entire row had been called.

Then one name broke the system. “Akugbe Imudia,” said the umpteenth teacher, reading from the umpteenth list. Suddenly, my snoozing peer across the aisle was jerked awake as the previously zombie-esque crowd of soon-to-be graduates burst into cheers. It was an individual decision made by hundreds simultaneously, and 20 years from now it’ll probably be the only part of graduation I remember.

High school, for teenagers today, is all about fighting to be as impressive as they can be. It’s all about how many AP classes they can take, how quickly they can enroll in college courses, how many sports they can compete in and how many clubs and organizations they can be the president of. These are the things we are taught make us successful and valuable.

That being said, I don’t remember my valedictorian’s name. I know we had AP Language together during my junior year. We had a few other classes together, and we probably even talked on a few occasions. Right now, she’s probably in a lab surrounded by many of the other brilliant minds of our generation searching for ways to cure diseases and improve the lives of thousands. But there’s more than one way to change the world. 

Akugbe proved that to me by smiling at me and saying good morning every day, even though we never had a class together. I never realized it until that moment, when 700 students stood up to clap for a student who didn’t have a 4.0 GPA, wasn’t the president of any club, and didn’t play any sports. But Akugbe had shown the same kindness to every student he saw. 

I graduated with 702 other students, but only one used to make origami frogs out of colorful paper and leave them on desks for the next person who sat there–just to brighten their day. I still have my paper frogs, and when I heard the cheers of my graduating class that followed the name “Akugbe Imudia,” I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my classmates also had a little frog sitting on their desks.

The Bigger Picture

Piedmont student Sage Shirley begins looking at the bigger picture and puts into action a plan to expand his local photography company into a major multimedia .

“I’ve been starting with my photography company, and building that up gradually,” said Sage Shirley, owner of Sage Shirley Photography. “We’ve been working with different models, locations, and types of photography.”

Shirley spent his childhood in front of the camera, serving as a model for his mother’s photography. As he grew up, he took inspiration from his mother and decided to hone his skills as a photographer. This passion for taking pictures would eventually lead him down the path to becoming a young entrepreneur.

“What really got the company started was Dream Hack,” said Shirley. “I was working with a team of professional photographers from Sweden with better equipment, but many of my photos were on par with theirs. I decided that this was something I could do successfully, and decided to start Sage Shirley photography.”

Dream Hack, on the surface, is an international gaming and fan convention. However, big events like this one, without a set coverage staff, offer opportunities for local media specialists to showcase their work to a large audience. Shirley was one of 13 photographers chosen to work for the Dream Hack coverage department at the Georgia convention.

This offered the opportunity for Shirley to take photos that would prove useful in later advertising for Sage Shirley Photography. Along with event photography, the company also specializes in session photography and often works with models such as Griffin Hanks to create artistic shots.

“He was open to any of the ideas we had to make my vision come to life,” said Hanks. “I was able to be more creative because he was really willing to work with me.”

While things have been going well for the small photography company, Shirley has plans to expand his business, both in reach and production.

“Within the next month, I’ll be launching my LLC,” said Shirley. “This will solidify Sage Shirley Photography as a corporate entity.”

The idea behind this expansion is to grow from a small local company to a multimedia corporation, and the first step to achieving this goal is to determine where the funding will come from.

“Currently, the main thing we’re trying to start is the social media marketing agency,” said Shirley. “The work we want to produce takes money to make, so we need an initial way of funding those projects, and the social media marketing is a consistent and reliable source of income.”

Shirley has expressed the desire to branch out into different areas of media production, including areas such as documentary production. The new corporation that will soon be licensed will become the parent company of smaller agencies such as Sage Shirley Photography and the future social media marketing agency.

“Somewhere down the line, we want several different assets and entities working together to create continuity within one corporation,” said Shirley.

However, such large aspirations are often difficult for one-man operations to undertake. Because of this, the company has begun to network within the community– and even within Piedmont College– to find the skillsets necessary to take Sage Shirley Photography to the next level.

“People have different talents,” said Shirley. “Even if it’s a small talent– just being able to write a decent column, or being able to organize and produce a website– can benefit the company as a whole, and we would love more opportunities to work with them in some way, if not bring them on full time.”

Piedmont student Alyssa Gibbson was approached by Sage Shirley Photography because of her skills in graphic design. Gibbson agreed to design the logo for this new corporation, in exchange for a professional photography session.

“I usually charge $30 for designing, but we worked out a deal where he would take my formal pictures for free in exchange,” said Gibbson.

With so many new plans beginning to unfold and take shape, Shirley needed to choose a name for his new company that would serve as the parent company for Sage Shirley Photography.

“I knew I wanted a mountain as the name,” said Shirley. “I’m from the mountains. The mountains have always been a strong part of who I am, so I wanted my business to be a part of that– to be some sort of mountain, to be strong, to be firm, and to be lasting. So I did some research on different mountains, and I saw the name Elbrus. The name just had power with me, and I just knew it was the one.”

Things Are Heating Up At Piedmont

The annual disaster drill is heating up Piedmont’s spring semester and lighting a fire under senior nursing majors by giving them the real-world experience of rescuing injured civilians from a burning building.

“I think it’s awesome how well they’ve been able to simulate a real disaster. The smoke and fire alarms will be on,” said junior nursing major Alex Domenicali prior to the drill. “They have to come in here and not only get us out of this building that is supposed to be on fire, but also figure out who needs to go first, and kind of prioritize and assess.”

Associate Professor of Theatre Henry Johnson helped to create a stressful atmosphere in the Swanson Center that would serve as a challenge for Piedmont’s nursing students to overcome. Johnson’s makeup class helped by turning junior nursing and sports medicine majors into gruesome victims of the faux fire, while the professor himself put his license in pyrotechnics to use creating the flames.

“The corner of the scene shop is where we store paint in an ATF approved storage container,” said Johnson. “If it got hot enough it would blow, and that’s what this explosion will be. It’s not really an explosion. It’s simulated. There’s no concussion to amount to anything, but there’s a bang and a fireball. The fireball is basically coffee creamer. Coffee creamer burns if you proportion it right with other things.

Several theatre majors were also recruited to help bring the illusion of emergency to life. They set up colored lighting and fog machines that were used to create the most immersive experience possible. After adding blaring alarms and a company of firefighters to the equation, the Swanson Center truly became a disaster zone.

“It’s awesome to see not only our nursing students, but also the first responders– the firefighters, the EMT’s, and the police– kind of work together,”  said Domenicali. “We get to see them in action.”

Representatives from many different agencies were present for the drill, including Habersham Emergency Management Agency, District 2 Public Health, Demorest Police Department, and Habersham County Emergency Services. Officers of the Piedmont College Police Department were working to assist these many agencies by directing people where to park and showing first responders where to find the burn victims.

“It’s a great way for the community resources to come and get a practice in, because hopefully we don’t have any mass casualty events, but everyone needs to be prepared for one,” said Dr. Abbey Dondanville, Associate Dean of Health Sciences. “It’s a great place for the fire department, the police, Homeland Security, and everyone that can be involved to come practice and make sure their lines of communication are clear and concise.”

Though other parties might benefit from the drill as well, it is still mainly an exercise for senior nursing students, who served as rescuers. The drill was designed to give students the chance to put the skills they’ve learned to the test in a realistic environment. “It’s sometimes the first time they’ve really had to think on their feet and not know what to expect,” said  Dondanville. “It gives them that safe space to try their skills and their communication, and if they make a mistake it’s OK because no one has actually died.”

Each of the victims was given a notecard that informed them of their ailment, as well as any other instructions they needed. Some participants were instructed to haggle or harass the nurses. By placing pressure on the first responders, the patients helped them get a better understanding of what real-life application of their knowledge will be like.

The patient’s job was to create obstacles. The nurse’s job was to overcome them. “We’re having to triage these people and figure out who’s better off and who can survive,” said senior nursing major Kayley Steiner.

Rescuers faced the task of diagnosing the patients and determining whether they had minor injuries, needed delayed attention, needed immediate attention or were deceased. They then led– or carried– the patients out of the building and placed them on color-coded tarps that signaled to other nurses how severe their injuries were.

“It’s an awesome experience,” said Domenicali. “There are a lot of schools in Georgia that don’t get to do this”

Throw the Distance

Piedmont College track and field program hopes new “mad scientist” track coach can use his original inventions to help lead the team to victory.

“Champions will always do two things.” said assistant track and field coach Brian Gawne. “Find a way to perform, and always come back against the odds.

Loading up his beloved mini-van– affectionately called The Blue Bomber– Gawne started his journey down the east coast towards little ol’ Demorest, Georgia with a single mission in mind: to turn a small group of division three throwers into champions. Though Piedmont College is a big change-of-pace for Gawne, it is far from his first time coaching.

“I’ve coached football, soccer, wrestling, and volleyball, as well as every track and field event,” he said.

Extensive coaching experience, passion for the sport, and creativity became the building blocks on which many of Gawne’s inventions were born. The throws coach is known for creating his own equipment and tools to help him instruct more effectively.

For example, the “turtle” is a wheeled machine attached to an adjustable cord which Gawne invented as a way to help train his athletes in track events such as the weighted and hammer throws. This invention also has the added bonus of eliminating potential head injuries, which come as an occupational hazard of training beginners to throw heavy metal objects.

“Coach Gawne is a damn good coach,” said junior thrower Mitchell Mershon. “He is very knowledgeable about every event, and can change how he coaches based on the athlete he is working with.”

Gawne aims to coach to the strengths of each of his athletes as individuals. His students have received his coaching efforts well thus far.

“Coach Gawne is a phenomenal coach,” said Giahnni Fernandez, a sophomore track and field athlete. “He takes his time to understand us.”

Gawne’s coaching efforts have paid off thus far going into Piedmont’s track and field indoor season. Fernandez herself broke the school’s record for the weighted throw and placed top 10 in the region. Several other athletes training under Gawne have either broken personal or school records.

“I came down here because I wanted a change of pace,” said Gawne. “But mostly, I wanted to try and give back and do something good for young athletes.”

Savannah Richards: tale of a time traveler

The existence of aliens, bigfoot, and ghosts have always been highly debatable topics for me. However, the existence of time travel is one thing I adamantly believe in. The reason is simple: I myself am a time traveler.

I’ve found that the past has always been a very interesting terrain that I enjoy exploring. While I may not have a mythical machine to zap me backward across space-time, I’ve somehow found myself wandering through ancient cities often in my lifetime. I have an affinity for falling through gaps in the pages of ancient Greek historical texts and being sucked into Egypt through the screen of a documentary, somehow managing to forget my passport every time. This peculiar skill manifested after I began learning classical– read: dead–languages such as Latin. I did, however, remember to bring a passport when I went to Italy with a Latin group my sophomore year of high school. Walking through the streets of Rome is enough to give a girl whiplash, as she can be walking down a perfectly modern street, then turn a corner and run smack into an Egyptian pyramid. Yes, you heard correctly folks. There is a pyramid in Rome.

My present is a pleasant place to be and holds just as much mystery as the future, despite my compartmentalization complex which drives me to schedule everything down to the last half-second. I’m a Mass Communications major at Piedmont College, a student worker, and a Track and Field athlete. Despite my best efforts to keep organized, not even a time-traveler can control the waves of life, and I have to relax and go with the flow when the tides turn. This is a lesson I learned whilst making my way to Piedmont. I quite like money, and lament to say that I’ve never had much of it. This became quite an obstacle to getting in college, but I knew that Piedmont was the right fit for me, so I worked hard and left the rest up to faith. That’s what I am doing currently.

On my trips to the future, I’ve been a passenger rather than the captain steering the ship. Tiny hands gripped the wheel, but I’d been granted the privilege to stand by as a navigator. Through volunteer work as a Life Group teacher at First Baptist Church of Snellville, as well as working in Children’s Ministry and at Davis Martial Arts Studio, I have been able to connect with hundreds of children. The opportunity to hear the stories of so many kids has both broken my heart and strengthened it, but mostly it has given me hope for what the world will become. They have inspired me to snatch up my own dreams, because if a child can push through all of the boundaries placed in front of them and remain unshaken then I should follow their example. I want to encourage everyone to reach through their own struggles toward the stars. Per aspera ad astra!