New Year's inspiration: 5 Georgians who wowed us in 2016

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Think New Year’s resolutions are pointless? All too often they are, abandoned and forgotten before spring bulbs break through the ground.

Bu everyone is capable of changing their life for the better. If you're looking for real-life inspiration to help you set – and achieve – some life-changing goals, look to these five Georgians:

ExploreAngie Spann Arnold - losing weight
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Losing weight – and keeping it off – can be one of the most challenging resolutions to achieve. If you need some motivation, lean on Angie Spann Arnold of Marietta, who lost 104 pounds after years of yo-yo dieting.

She knew she had to make a lasting lifestyle change instead of trying to go on a diet and realized that unhappiness was causing her to eat. Arnold started on a low-carb diet and eventually joined a local gym to work out with weights. She also started to run, which she never thought she'd do.

Along with losing the weight, Arnold found that she enjoys life more and is braver than before.

ExploreSam Smith - going back to college
MARTA CEO Keith Parker (left), Sam Smith (center) and COO Rich Krisak pose for a photo in front of a bus dedicated to Smith when he retired. He's planning to earn a degree in organizational leadership at Morris Brown College.
MARTA CEO Keith Parker (left), Sam Smith (center) and COO Rich Krisak pose for a photo in front of a bus dedicated to Smith when he retired. He's planning to earn a degree in organizational leadership at Morris Brown College.

Credit: Alisa Jackson

Credit: Alisa Jackson

The thought of going back to college after decades in the workforce and being surrounded by fellow students young enough to be your kids sounds intimidating, but that isn't stopping 71-year-old Atlanta native Sam Smith. He retired after a 50-year career with MARTA, where he started working as a bus operator while he was a student at Morris Brown College.

After enlisting in the Marine Corps for three years, Smith returned to MARTA with a promotion and remained there until his retirement in December 2016. Although he stays very active, he's returning to Morris Brown to earn a degree in organizational leadership with plans to contract his skills to other transit agencies.

"I feel like I'm 21 all over again," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ExploreAimee Copeland - overcoming illness
Gwinnett County native Aimee Copeland has achieved significant accomplishments - including earning her Master's degrees - after losing both of her hands, her left leg and her right foot after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria.
Gwinnett County native Aimee Copeland has achieved significant accomplishments - including earning her Master's degrees - after losing both of her hands, her left leg and her right foot after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Gwinnett County native Aimee Copeland contracted a flesh-eating bacteria in 2012 after she fell from a zipline over the Little Tallapoosa River. The bacteria traveled through her bloodstream, resulting in sepsis, a life-threatening condition that threatened to shut down her major organs. At one point, her parents were told by doctors that she may not make it through the night.

Both of her hands, her left leg and her right foot had to be amputated, but Copeland survived and has since amassed a long list of accomplishments. She's become an advocate for people with disabilities and is writing a memoir with plans to donate the proceeds to a non-profit community growth center. She's also completed master's degrees in humanistic psychology and social work and delivered the commencement address at Georgia Gwinnett College.

ExploreDaren Wang - writing a book
Daren Wang, 50, will have his first novel, "The Hidden Light of Northern Fires," published by St. Martin's Press in 2017. It tells the story of a small New York hamlet that seceded from the Union and a feminist in the community who helped smuggle slaves to the Canadian border.
Daren Wang, 50, will have his first novel, "The Hidden Light of Northern Fires," published by St. Martin's Press in 2017. It tells the story of a small New York hamlet that seceded from the Union and a feminist in the community who helped smuggle slaves to the Canadian border.

Credit: File

Credit: File

Daren Wang, 50, sold his first novel after years of helping other writers as the executive director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. He'd been telling the story behind his novel to authors for years, and when none of them took the bait, Wang decided to write the story himself.

His novel, "The Hidden Light of Northern Fires," will be published by St. Martin's Press in time for the 2017 festival. It tells the story of Town Line, N.Y., a small community outside Buffalo that was the only town north of the Mason-Dixon line to secede from the Union. It didn't rejoin the Union until 1946.

The novel is also about a feminist named Mary Willis, who lived in Town Line and smuggled slaves through her house up to the Canadian border. Wang discovered that when he lived in Town Line, it was in Willis' former home.

ExploreLauren Janis - starting a business
(Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Eveni Photography)
(Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Eveni Photography)

Many people dream of being an entrepreneur, but most don't take the leap. That's not the case with Lauren Janis, who left her job at Delta Air Lines Global Services and started a dog biscuit company.

She put her own money into her business, Big Daddy Biscuits, which sprang from her desire to give dogs who need grain-free diets some tasty treats. Her own dog had grain allergies, so she made her products vegan, grain-free biscuits. She uses human-grade ingredients from Georgia farmers to make the biscuits in an East Atlanta commercial kitchen. Her business has grown from a stand at local farmers markets to retailing at some Whole Foods locations and local independent shops, as well as online at bigdaddybiscuits.com.