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Hot topics, happenings, news and announcements affecting East Cobb teens.

Walton High accepts invitation to march in 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena

Walton High School marching band drum majors and directors are all smiles after they received a flag designating their official invitation to march in the Jan. 1, 2015, Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. At far right is Rich Chinen, president of the Tournament of Roses Parade, who applauds after presenting the flag to the Marching Raider drum majors. At the ceremony, from left, are Mike Back, band director; drum majors Catherine Roddy, Rachel Cornell, Gina Kim and Elizabeth Frickey; and assistant band director Jeff Pollock. Staff/Jeff Stanton


Walton High School’s Raider Valley had a pep rally atmosphere Saturday evening, but there wasn’t a single football player on the field. The night belonged to the marching band.

The 200-member Marching Raider Band will be participating in the 2015 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day. It is one of only 20 bands selected to perform in the parade, and will be the sole Georgia ensemble. To celebrate, the marching band performed part of its halftime show Saturday for parents, friends, the community and a couple of special guests — Rich Chinen, the president and chairman of the board for the Tournament of Roses, and his wife, Kim.

The Chinens were there to present the Walton band with its official invitation to march in the parade, an event Chinen said attracts more than 85 million viewers worldwide. That’s more than those who tune in for the football game, although, with 2015 marking the first college semifinal to be played at the Rose Bowl, Chinen told the crowd, “All you Georgia fans out there, you do have a shot!”

The Pasadena lawyer was a football player growing up, but said, “I’d trade in my helmet any day now for a couple of the dings and the concussions I had for a trumpet.”

Chinen said he’s been involved with the Tournament of Roses for 25 years and leads the organization from a business perspective. The Chinens voluntarily spend about a third of the year traveling the globe to visit the bands that will march in the parade to raise community support.

Getting Walton to the Rose Parade has been a lengthy process, and it is not cheap.

Booster Michele Reale said the weeklong trip will cost about $3,000 per student. The band has been working to raise money, including selling advertising space to local businesses and raffle tickets for a Holland America cruise, which was awarded Saturday night.

Band director Mike Back said Walton submitted its application to perform in May 2013, and it learned the next fall it was among the bands invited.

“As far as parades go, there’s no better than the Rose Parade,” Back said, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his students.

Fifteen-year-old sophomore William Frits, a trombone player, agreed.

“Finishing it is one of the coolest things you can do as kids,” because it’s so rare to be invited, he said.

He anticipates the morning before the parade, just before the band steps off, will be a memorable moment, and he believes the most intimidating part is the length of the parade route, which is 5½ miles.

William said the band is performing in several parades this year to prepare, and Back said he plans on building up members’ stamina through several circuits around the school’s track.

Trumpet player and sophomore Ben Reale, 15, thinks he’s up to the task, but he might take up running again to ensure he’s fit enough for the parade.

Ben said he’s looking forward to making the trip to California, especially for its weather. “It’s a lot nicer than it is here,” he said.

Before presenting the band with a parade banner and baton, Chinen explained the 2015 theme for the Rose Parade is “Inspiring Stories.” He turned to the band and said they were all inspiring, calling them the future leaders of Marietta.

Chinen said wherever he travels, he tells school board members, superintendents, administrators and politicians, “Don’t ever cut music education because, from what we’ve seen, the heart and soul of the community is right here in your marching band.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Emily Boorstein, August 18, 2014. Click HERE to read the original MDJ article.) 

To eat or not to eat? School lunches aim to cut calories, salt

When mom isn’t standing over their shoulder, school nutritionists are there, telling children at Cobb and Marietta schools to eat their vegetables.

Gone are the flavored milks, sugary cookies and greasy pizza from the lunch line. Federal initiatives supported by a campaign to stay fit from first lady Michelle Obama have replaced the foods readily available outside of school with healthier options, and students are rebelling.

When school started last week, so did a new lunch menu. The menu includes two large-scale changes in reaction to the 2010 federal regulation Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Marietta and Cobb schools are rolling out in stages, nutritionists said.

Whole-wheat flour is the main ingredient in all wheat products, instead of white flour. And food is being produced differently so sodium levels are lower.

“All items need to be whole-grain rich, which means they are 50 percent whole grain, or it’s the first thing on the ingredients list,” said Kelley Toon, a registered and licensed dietician with Cobb County schools.

The restrictions are meant to keep students healthy, Toon said, but some students are on the brink of protesting the menu changes.

“The new food is good for me, but I don’t really like it,” said Ryan Moore, a senior at Hillgrove High School.

High school students complained the new regulations are too restrictive on what students are allowed to eat.

“All these kids are preparing to go to college where they’re not going to be restricted,” said Catherine Jones, a senior at Hillgrove High School. “I think for elementary school kids, it’s OK. But for high schoolers, we should be able to eat what we like.”

Jones said she plans to start a petition against the new whole-grain menu and wants students to join her.

“I guess it’s healthier, but I know a lot of kids who aren’t eating it,” Jones said.

Cynthia Downs, the executive director of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools, said she hasn’t seen any students turn down the food.

But, a few students told the MDJ during one lunch period that homemade lunches were starting to look better and better, even if it meant waking up early to prepare them.

“A lot of the things taste different,” said Hillgrove junior Mallory Griffith. “It tastes OK, but not as good as last year. I’ll probably bring my lunch more this year.”

Jones said she had already seen more students bringing their lunches on the first few days of school.

For students who still buy lunch, Jones said the deli line backs up faster than any other.

“Not much has changed in the deli line,” Toon said.

Students are free to construct their own sub sandwich in the deli line, but it has to be made on a wheat bun.

“I wish they hadn’t done this my senior year. They could have done it next year,” Moore said.

Students at the high school seemed to be facing an internal battle between their conscience and their desires. Every student the MDJ spoke to acknowledged the new menu is healthier and better for them. But none of them like it, saying it’s not what they eat outside of school.

Moore said the fries at school taste nothing like those from McDonald’s, which are his favorite.

“The fries don’t taste good at all, and the chicken tenders are different. The cookies taste like mud,” Moore said.

Jones said it doesn’t matter if the food is good for you if no one will eat it.

“No kids anywhere actually want this food,” Jones said. “The wheat cookies — those are really gross.”

Menu changes

In the past four years, schools have changed other parts of their lunches to make them healthier, such as limiting the milk selection to low-fat and skim milk and offering more choices of fruits and vegetables with every meal.

This year, the schools are focusing on keeping the total calorie count for each lunch between 550 and 650 calories for grades kindergarten through fifth, between 600 and 700 calories for sixth through eighth grade and between 750 and 850 calories for ninth through 12th grade.

Using whole wheat as a main ingredient helps maintain a low calorie count, said Cindy Culver, nutrition director for the Marietta School District.

“Our lunches have improved by providing whole-grain products, which increases the amount of dietary fiber in one’s diet,” Culver said.

Toon said students are offered choices for each side at lunch, but they must take at least one fruit and one vegetable. This helps keep the meal balanced, she said.

“Meals are planned so that students can select certain items,” Toon said. “They can choose from a protein, two fruits, two vegetables and a milk. They need to have at least three of those components.”

In an effort to reduce the amount of sodium each student receives in a meal, they aren’t allowed to have an unlimited amount of condiments, said Kelly Crossley, area supervisor of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools. Students only get one packet of ketchup, salad dressing or salt with each meal.

All the deep-fat fryers in school cafeterias were replaced with new ovens over the summer, Downs said, to replace fried chicken and french fries with baked chicken and baked fries.

“Everyone knows fried food is not good for you, so this is a healthier way to prepare food,” Downs said. “They create a similar product without the oil. (The ovens) actually blow heat across the product, giving it a crispy outside without frying it.”

State P.E. requirements

In connection with a federal push for healthy foods, physical education requirements are still in place.

Kindergarteners through fifth-graders have to spend at least 50 minutes in a health class each week and at least 100 minutes in a PE class each week.

Although sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders don’t have to take a PE class, it is offered to them at Marietta and Cobb schools.

Those in seventh- through 12th-grades have to take a PE and a health class at least once, and they are offered a chance to play on 13 different sports teams in the districts.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, August 17, 2014. Click HERE to read the original MDJ article.)

MBCA student awarded top honors at Space Camp

Ryan Lohbrunner

Ryan Lohbrunner of East Cobb recently attended Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. The weeklong educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with missions based on teamwork, leadership and decision-making. Ryan was part of the Space Camp Program, which is specifically designed for trainees who have an interest in science and aerospace. He spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Once aboard, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or space walk. Ryan, who served as Commander, returned to Earth with his crew in time to graduate with honors.

Ryan, a 6th grader at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy, received the camp’s highest and most coveted award – The Right Stuff Award. This award, named for Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff, is given to one outstanding trainee who goes above and beyond in leadership, teamwork and technology throughout the week. To be chosen, a crewmember must demonstrate a steadfast commitment to the mission, a willingness and competence in creating a cooperative environment, and they must be willing to step aside to let others step up. Ryan was recognized for his leadership and dedication to bringing the team together to creatively solve the problems ahead of them.

Ryan participated in the program with students from all over the U.S. and a team of students from Shanghai. He received his mission patch and The Right Stuff medal from retired Space Shuttle astronaut Capt. Robert “Hoot” Gibson.

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Sprayberry senior bulks up with unique eating habit

About a foot shorter, and 140 pounds lighter, Bailey Sharp had a couple growth spurts, and a unique diet plan, to bulk up to the force he now is on the Sprayberry offensive line. Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff


Sprayberry left tackle Bailey Sharp measures in at 6 feet, 5 inches and 285 pounds.

He wasn’t always like that, however.

“I’ve been playing football since I was in the fifth grade,” Sharp said. “I was about 5-6 and 140 pounds then. The coaches put me on the offensive line, and I played some defensive end, too. But I’ve stuck with offensive line for the most part and played it all through my sophomore and junior seasons.

“I’ve loved it,” the member of the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal Dynamite Dozen said. “Every play is a guaranteed opportunity to hit another guy on the other side. I like playing the offensive line. It’s a team and a brotherhood with the guys. There’s a lot of contact, which is another thing I like. Just that whole physical part of football is what I really like.”

Sharp has had two growth spurts since he started playing football. The first came around the seventh or eighth grade, when he shot up about 3 inches in one year. The second happened around his freshman and sophomore years, when he grew another 3 to 4 inches.

Sharp’s weight gain, however, was another matter altogether.

“I had a coach between my sixth- and ninth-grade years of football tell me a really good, cheap way to put just weight and build muscle on you is to eat a lot of peanut butter,” Sharp said. “That’s the reason I give for the weight gain. None of that super-expensive powder for weight gain or anything. Eat peanut butter.

The trick, however, is when to eat it.

“My coach told me the trick is you have to eat it before you go to bed,” Sharp said.

So began the weight-gaining odyssey, which began during his freshman season.

“Every night, especially when I was a freshman and sophomore, I would make a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich, and I would eat it with a big glass of whole milk, and I would go straight to bed,” he said. “I’d wake up some nights and be like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ because my stomach didn’t feel right, but that was the secret weapon.”

Sharp said he was roughly 6 feet tall and weighed around 205 pounds “soaking wet” as a freshman, but he was 245 by the end of the school year. He continued the regimen during his sophomore season, ending year at roughly 265 pounds, stayed about 270 his junior season and reached his current weight when he got back on the peanut butter routine.

“It’s been working,” Sharp said.

Sharp goes to be bed around 10 p.m. eight night, figuring that if he doesn’t get his seven to eight hours of sleep a night, “I can’t even function the next day. I’d wake up and can’t even walk out the door wearing the right clothes.”

Before he goes to bed, Sharp says he typically starts the sandwich and milk routine around 9:30 p.m.

“Whenever you normally go to bed, just hit that last 30 minutes of when you’re awake and eat the sandwich and drink the milk,” he said. “As soon as you’re done, clean up and go straight to bed.”

Sharp said he added the milk to the routine because it made the sandwich taste better. Plus, he thought he’d get more protein with the milk.

The weight gained paid off well for Sharp, who has committed to play at Auburn next season. He also had scholarship offers from Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Cincinnati, among many others.

Sharp’s looking forward to the start of Sprayberry’s season — specifically Friday’s scrimmage with North Paulding, so he can finally hit someone other than a teammate.

The Sprayberry coaching staff is working Sharp in at nose tackle as well, because of the team’s depth.

“We have some great seniors, but we don’t have a lot of depth right now at Sprayberry,” Sharp said, “so we’re filling in some spots by flipping some seniors around.

“I’m excited about the season. We’ve just been grinding since January with workouts and conditioning and getting our plays right, so we’re excited over here to have this first game.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Carlton D. White, August 10, 2014. Read the original MDJ article HERE.) 

Real Men Sing: A choral clinic for young men


The Big Chicken Chorus will present a vocal clinic for young men in grades 7 through 12 titled “Real Men Sing” on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at the Marietta Performing Arts Center (MPAC), 1171 Whitlock Avenue.

Two clinicians: Dr. William Adams, a specialist in choral and a cappella music from Durham, NC and Adam Scott a Music Specialist with the International Barbershop Harmony Society, headquartered in Nashville, TN will conduct a one day clinic that will focus on the joy of singing.

In the words of Dr. Adams, “the clinic is designed to:

  1. provide an opportunity for young men to have fun singing with other young men;
  2. allow young men to experience a measure of success as singers in a choral ensemble; and
  3. provide positive male singing role models for the young men.”

The event is intended for all-comers, no audition or selection process is involved, and current involvement in a school choir is not a requirement. No one will be refused for financial reasons.

There will be two choruses formed: one for young men in grades 7, 8, and 9 and a second chorus for young men in grades 10, 11, and 12. 

The young men in grades 7,8, and 9 will perform:

  • Aura Lee - A Civil War era love ballad;
  • Bonse Aba - a Zambian Christian song of celebration.

The grade 10,11, and 12 chorus will perform:

  • Cups(When I’m Gone) - from the movie Perfect Pitch;
  • Vive L’Amour - traditional college song arranged by Robert Shaw/Alice Parker;

Both choruses will join with the Big Chicken Chorus to perform:

  • Please Mr. Columbus - a novelty song arranged in the style of Barbershop Harmony.

 A $5 registration fee will include all music for the event, lunch, and a custom T-shirt.  The day will conclude with a 5pm concert at MPAC, open to the public that will include the two Real Men Sing choruses, the Big Chicken Chorus, and some Barbershop Quartets.

“Real Men Sing” events have been staged in other areas of the country including California, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon; these events have attracted between 200 and 600 participants. Testimonials from music educators have been extremely positive.

This event will be sponsored in part by funds from The United Arts of Cobb; Cobb EMC; and the Allison Artistic Fund.

For more information regarding the “Real Men Sing” event or to enroll as a participant, visit or call Frank Hrach at 678 488-9511.


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Surviving the first day: Advice from Cobb principals

From left are Peter Giles, principal of Palmer Middle School; Judy McNeill, principal of Walton High School; and Tricia Patterson, principal of Tritt Elementary School.


In anticipation for the first day of school, local principals all say the same thing — come prepared with a smile.

“Regardless of how good or bad the previous year went, the new school year is always a fresh start,” said Peter Giles, the principal of Palmer Middle School.

A total of about 109,000 students are expected to enter classrooms at Cobb County School System’s 114 schools early Monday morning, said Jay Dillon, Cobb schools spokesman.

The Marietta City School System will start classes Wednesday.

Giles said he likes to keep a positive attitude, and he said that’s something students can benefit from as well.

“My advice to any student coming back is to have a positive attitude and to get to know their teachers and build that relationship with them,” Giles said.

He said his children gave more practical recommendations to prepare for Monday morning.

“They said eat a good breakfast and get a good night’s sleep,” Giles said.

Tricia Patterson, the principal at Tritt Elementary School, said she also recommends staying healthy leading up to the first day. She said elementary schoolers should bring a water bottle to use at recess in the summer heat.

“It’s important to stay hydrated,” Patterson said.

To be ready for classes, Walton High School Principal Judy McNeill said students should bring the essential school supplies the first day.

“Bring a notebook and make sure they have a couple of writing instruments,” she said.

Walton said students can bring electronics to school, but they should keep them turned off until they know the rules of each classroom.

“It’s a good way to get in trouble the first day to be texting or emailing on your phone when the teacher is trying to talk,” McNeill said.

McNeill said some teachers may allow cellphones and other electronics, while some may not.

Students won’t have lockers the first day, both Giles and McNeill said.

Another way students can be prepared, McNeill said, is to complete any summer assignments before the first day back.

Once they are at school, McNeill said she has advice for how to make friends.

“If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. Come with a friendly attitude,” McNeill said. “Try to smile and try to greet people and take the initiative to get to know new people.”

McNeill said high school students can seem as if they are part of an exclusive group because they don’t invite anyone in, but usually they simply forget.

“I think all students are happy to do that but they maybe just don’t think to invite them,” McNeill said.

Giles said sometimes it takes courage to make friends.

“It just takes introducing yourself to somebody and having a smile,” Giles said.

Patterson said meeting new people is harder sometimes for younger students.

“Sometimes, especially elementary kids, (they) are nervous about meeting new people, but that’s the way they learn more about their classmates and more about themselves,” Patterson said.

If students need to find a friend to sit with at the lunch table, Giles suggested chatting with the person you sit next in class or stand behind in the lunch line.

The principals acknowledged higher grade levels can present social challenges for students, including peer pressure and bullying.

McNeill said one way to stay out of a situation of peer pressure is to choose friends wisely.

“Before they would accept an invitation to experience activities away from school, try to get to know a little more about the student to see if they have values in common with the student, before they just say, ‘Yes, I’d love to go to the party’ or whatever,” McNeill said.

“If they feel like they are being bullied, they need to inconspicuously say something to their teacher or they need to go directly to the guidance department and ask to their counselor for help,” McNeill said.

Students should try hard not to be nervous about finding their way around a new school or finding new classrooms in an old school, both principals said.

“Don’t worry about getting lost. We’ll be happy to help them find their class,” McNeill said.

Anyone having trouble with directions can visit the front desk, she said.

Parents can check school websites to stay up to date with what’s going on in the classroom, Patterson said.

“They really need to get acquainted with the school’s website and the blogs that the teachers keep, and then just check those frequently,” Patterson said.

Overall, Giles said he hopes students are happy to start school.

“They should expect a lot of excitement. I know our staff here at Palmer is excited about seeing our kids. We get a chance to meet new teachers and new friends,” Giles said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, August 03, 2014. Read the original article HERE.) 

CCSD Bus Routes for the 2014-2015 School Year Are Now Available


Runs and maps will be posted at your local school for review prior to the first day of school. Kindergarten and First Grade students along with their parents are invited to ride the bus on Friday morning, August 1, 2014, as a practice run prior to the first day of school on Monday, August 4. Buses will run at regular scheduled morning pick up times and parents/students should be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes early. Due to limited space, we ask that you limit the number of additional family members riding. Only school-age children are allowed to ride as our regular buses are not equipped with car seats. The bus will follow the planned route to school, then return back to the bus stop.

During the months of August and September if temperatures reach 90 degrees or higher students may bring water in containers with a screw on lid to drink on the bus. If you have any questions, please contact the Transportation Department at 678/594-8000, or email your transportation area supervisor whose email can be found on the Transportation website.



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Kell alum Williams races to junior world championship

EUGENE, Ore. — Kendell Williams won the 100-meters hurdles Sunday on the final day of the IAAF junior world championships at Hayward Field.

Williams, the former Kell High School star, ran the race in a meet-record 12.89 seconds. Fellow American Dior Hall was second at 12.92, breaking the U.S. high school record set in 1989.

Williams, who just wrapped up her freshman season at Georgia, was the U.S. junior champion in the 100 hurdles, as well as the NCAA heptathlon champion and the NCAA indoor pentathlon champion.

“I got out well and went through the hurdles well but I could see Dior peripherally and that helped push me,” Williams said. “This is my last junior meet and I wanted to go out with a bang. I think I did that.”

Kendall Baisden kicked the final 100 meters and the U.S. women in the 1,600 relay. Baidsen, who will be a sophomore at Texas, pushed the women across the finish in 3:30.42. Earlier in the week, she won the 400.

The U.S. men also won the 1,600 relay in 3:03.31 to cap the six-day international track and field event. On Saturday, the U.S. men and women also claimed golds in the 400 relays.

Alfred Kipketer of Kenya won the men’s 800 meters in 1:43.95. Countryman Barnabas Kipyego won the 3,000 steeplechase in a personal-best 8:25.59.

Morgan Lake of Britain won the women’s high jump at 6 feet, 4 inches. Lake also won the world title in the heptathlon earlier in the week, making her the first person to win both events at the worlds.

Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia won the 1,500 in 4:09.86 on her 18th birthday.

Lazaro Martinez of Cuba won the men’s triple jump with a leap of 52-2½, while Gatis Cakss of Latvia won the javelin with a throw of 242-11.

It is the first time the junior world championships have been held in the United States. Nearly 1,600 athletes from 170 countries are took part in the six-day event, which included athletes born between 1995 and 1998.

There were reports Saturday that four Ethiopian athletes had left the meet and were unaccounted for. The Oregonian newspaper reported that University of Oregon police, along with the Eugene police and other law enforcement statewide were seeking to contact the athletes. It is not believed that the athletes are in danger.

It is not uncommon for athletes seeking asylum from unstable countries to use sporting events as a way to leave, although it is not known if the Ethiopians were seeking to flee their country.

(Associated Press article, reprinted from The Marietta Daily Journal, July 27, 2014, 

Dance Stop Studios to hold Open House August 2


Dance Stop Studios, 4400 Roswell Road in the Merchants Exchange Shopping Center, will host an Open House on August 2, 10am-4pm. Dance Stop offers classes for all ability levels, beginner through professional, ages three to adult. Classes include tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, Zumba, yoga and barre sculpt.

Call 770-578-0048 for more information.


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Let Huntington help with summer slide



For more than 35 years, Huntington’s highly trained tutors have helped students maintain the skills, confidence and motivation they need to stay on track all year round.