By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
SEP 29, 2022
Janie Swanko, left, and Tomey Sellars at the Orlando International Film & Music Festival. Sellars is an international recording artist and sings “Amazing Grace” in “I Will Soar,” a documentary about the Atlantic High School football team.

John Sturdy and Jane Swanko’s award-winning documentary “I Will Soar” about Atlantic High School’s football program wraps up the film festival circuit in November and will be released worldwide in January 2023.

“I Will Soar” garnered 17 nods and wins including Swanko’s two for “Best Director,” Sturdy for “Best Cinematography” and former Atlantic football coach T.J. Jackson’s “Inspire Award.”

“I Will Soar” took three years to complete due to COVID, but it’s all been worth it,” Swanko said. “This documentary was a true labor of love on so many levels, and John and I are so excited for its release.”

Bridgestone MultiMedia Group (BMG GLOBAL) has signed the documentary for worldwide release in early 2023. It will be streamed on all platforms including airlines, hotels and prisons.

“We were just nominated for Best Documentary and Best Director at the Great Lakes Film Festival,” Swanko said. “Currently, I am traveling around the country screening the film at public high schools and speaking to the communities about how they too can make the program work for them.”

By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
APR 1, 2022
“I Will Soar” director/writer Janie Swanko with collaborator and award-winning cinematographer John Sturdy at the Coral Gables Art Cinema.


The Coral Gables Magazine and Coral Gables Art Cinema recently sponsored the award-winning documentary, “I Will Soar,” about the Atlantic Eagles football program at the Art Cinema.
Welcoming native Janie Swanko and her collaborator John Sturdy, the packed theater was filled with Swanko’s childhood friends most from her alma mater Coral Gables Senior High School and members of their girls’ water polo state championship team.
The film is the true story of high school football coach TJ Jackson whose unique program transforms disadvantaged students into winners on the field and in life, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Swanko and Sturdy followed Jackson at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach for nearly three years.
Their project faced many challenges including repeated shutdowns due to COVID-19. This is the first documentary that Sturdy and Swanko have collaborated on, but they hope to do more.

“What an incredible night to be with so many friends I grew up within my hometown of Coral Gables,” Swanko said, “and have the opportunity to introduce them to these amazing young men who’ve changed my life.”
Former Eagles football players Cardy Derney (FSU), Henry Bryant (Louisville), and Bruce Adlar (Bryant University) were all in town for the screening and shared stories with the audience about what Atlantic’s program did for them and their desire to succeed in life.
The celebration continued with a reception at Bay 13 a few blocks away in which guests enjoyed appetizers and cocktails.

By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
NOV 11, 2021
The documentary, “I WILL SOAR,” about the success of Atlantic High School’s football team recently captured Best Director at the Palm Beach Film Festival in Wellington. Marquis Lymon, a 3-star recruit safety on Atlantic’s varsity football team, celebrates with Janie Swanko, the director, writer and producer of the documentary.

The documentary, “I WILL SOAR,” about the success of Atlantic High School’s football team recently captured the Best Director award at the Palm Beach Film Festival in Wellington.
“I WILL SOAR” is a documentary about the school’s football program and the success it has had both on and off the field.
“The Palm Beach Film Festival shined as one of the best we’ve attended and I was caught off-guard for best director,” Jane Swanko said. “Folks from Miami and all over Palm Beach County attended, which made it so special to receive the award in front of the many friends, family and the supporters of Atlantic’s football family.”
Fellow Eagles alumni Zack Ceci and Chris Touze attended the packed gala along with Atlantic’s three-star recruit, Marquis Lymon.

“I WILL SOAR” continues to enjoy great success in the film festival space, including 10 selections, two nominations, winning one gold and most recent, best director.
Director of photography and editor John Sturdy, together with the director, writer, and producer, Swanko, will head to Franklin, Tennessee for its International Film Festival.

film: doc highlights football coach who helped atlantic eagles soar — on and off the field

Jun 1, 2021

By enlisting city and community leaders and installing a set of rules that demand commitment from his players, Jackson has produced some very different numbers: 90% of his seniors are scheduled to attend college, including a record 14 on football scholarships. Several more will attend on academic scholarships, after meeting his demand of achieving at least a 3.0 average (out of 4.0). The graduation rate was 100%….

Atlantic High football players ‘Soar’ on the big screen

By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
MAY 14, 2021
TJ Jackson, right, is pictured with new Atlantic football coach Jamael Stewart at the private screening for the documentary “I Will Soar” at the Delray Beach IPIC theater. Jackson coached at Atlantic for the past eight years.

The Atlantic High School football team accomplished many big moments both on and off the field during the coaching tenure of TJ Jackson.
Those moments were on full display recently in a documentary, “I Will Soar” at a private screening for Jackson and many of his former and current players at the Delray Beach IPIC theater. The screening included a red carpet for the athletes and coaches.
Jackson, who was raised in Delray Beach, said it was great to see the players and the work that John (Sturdy) put into the film. About 100 guests who were a part of the film attended the event that was sponsored by IPIC. Chocolate chip cookies, popcorn and beverages were served during the film.
“I saw a sneak peek of it, but they revised it a lot from what I saw,” said Jackson, who in February announced that he was stepping down at Atlantic and taking a defensive line coaching position at Charleston Southern University. “I hadn’t seen some of my (former) players since graduation or right when they went off to college. That was before COVID.”

He arrived shortly before the movie started so the reunion started a little later.
“It always great to see all of the kids and staff members that you spent hours working alongside to help support the kids,” Jackson said. “It was a blessing to see all of the work that people in the community had done for the kids. There were just so many people involved from when I first started to this year. It was great with the documentary to see the body of work from everybody who was involved from day one.”
During Jackson’s eight-year tenure, the Eagles went 68-23 and made the playoffs each year from 2014-2019. Jackson’s teams went 14-6 in postseason play. Atlantic finished as the Class 7A state runner-up in 2017, falling to Orlando Dr. Phillips in the state title game. Atlantic did not play in the Florida High School Athletic Association state series this past season, but the Eagles won the Class 7A Tri-County championship.
“I am going to miss the athletes and the people in the community that cared about me and the kids,” Jackson said. “I won’t miss all of the travel that went into the high school. I appreciate everyone’s support of the kids.
“Every year I had (college) opportunities,” Jackson said. “This was the right time, the right situation and the right person. It’s was God’s decision for me to move on in my life.”
Jane Swanko, an author, producer and motivational speaker, was invited to talk to the team four years ago and never left. She volunteers and works with the graduating seniors on etiquette as well as transitioning them to college. Swanko teamed with cinematographer John Sturdy and filmed the documentary in true cinéma verité, allowing those involved with the program to tell the story of the team’s success both on and off the field.
Swanko said 80% of the students at the school live at or below the poverty level.
Jackson, who played at Virginia Tech where he earned a business degree, said winning off the field, in the classroom and in the community was just as important as results on the field.
The documentary explores his success in guiding the many players who live fatherless, delivering the nurturing and strength they need to graduate and be successful in life.
“It was really cool getting to see all of the film they had on us and all of the years that we can’t get back because high school went by really fast,” said Delray Beach’s Henry Bryant, 20, a 5-foot-11-inch, 275-pound defensive tackle, who is entering his second year at the University of Louisville. He graduated from Atlantic in 2019. “It was nice to relive those moments after watching the movie.
“We always keep in touch with each other by text or Snapchat and we have each other on social media and stuff,” Bryant said. “We never really planned to hang out because everyone is really busy, so it was nice to get together and watch the film. It was nice to get face to face again because the last year has been crazy.”
COVID-19 delayed the premiere of the film that was initially set to debut last year.
“I think everything you have to wait for makes it more exciting,” Bryant said. “It took so long, like three years, to make the film. I think every couple of seconds we remembered things that were in the film and we looked at each other and laughed. It was also great to see coach TJ because he means a lot to me and the program. He is a great leader and always wanted nothing but the best for everyone. I know he would do anything for his players. He was a positive ball of energy.”
As the credits rolled on his high school chapter, Bryant said he is looking forward to the next.
“I graduated early (from Atlantic), so I was at Louisville in January,” he said. “I got to experience a little bit of college before COVID really hit in March just before spring break. COVID affected everything for everybody. I wanted the full experience of college. We missed out on the full working out and being with teammates. It was hard but I am ready to get going again.”

Documentary on Atlantic High football team, “I WILL SOAR,” debuts in Delray Beach

MAY 7, 2021

Tuesday’s red-carpet showing brought together a number of football players, both past and present, including defensive tackle Zyin Thomas and receiver Tyler Burke, and former star Henry Bryant, who now attends Louisville….

Atlantic High Eagles hope to soar deep into post-season football

By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
NOV 25, 2020
Atlantic quarterback Guenson Alexis runs with the ball against Boca Raton during the second quarter in Boca Raton on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. (John McCall / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

A documentary, “I Will Soar,” chronicling the success of Atlantic Community High School’s football program is slated to hit a local theater in January.

The premiere, which took two years to film and has been in edit since March, was originally scheduled to be featured on Dec. 7 at the Delray Movies on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hagen Ranch Road. The theater has over 1,200 seats available, however, due to the pandemic, the audience was going to be paired down to about 400.

The documentary was written and produced by Jane Swanko and the cinematography is by John Sturdy of The Sturdy Group.

“I am more excited for the kids and to see everything that Janie and John have done,” Jackson said of the documentary.

“When it is finished, it should be around two hours,” Swanko said. “It is more than just about the Atlantic High School’s team and what they accomplish on the field. They are one of the top teams in the country… achieving 85% on the honor roll and 100% graduation. It is one city, one community high school and one coach who brought them together by creating a family.”


Jul 17, 2020

The documentary movie about Delray Beach’s Atlantic Community High School’s football team is moving forward with the producer’s goal to have a rough assembly finished by the fall, and the film completed in December…

Meet Your Neighbor: Janie Swanko Souaid

JAN 29, 2020

The Gulf Stream woman was at a party in Ocean Ridge in early 2016 when she was approached by Kevin Logan, then the athletic director at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, who asked whether she could use her skills as a motivational speaker on the Atlantic football team….

The high school version of “Last Chance U” and “Hard Knocks” has made its way to Palm Beach County

Jul 14, 2019

The Sturdy Group, a Delray Beach-based multimedia group, has chronicled the Atlantic High School football team for more than a year. A teaser trailer featuring more than 10 minutes of footage and exclusive interviews premiered Friday night at the Elks Lodge…