Once a Marine (Sister), Always a Marine (Sister)

It’s 4 something in the morning and I shoot straight out of bed to the sound of machine guns and explosions going off in the background.

I slowly adjust through the sleepy haze amid the blistering noise to register that I’m back in NY for Memorial Day weekend crashing on the top bunk in my baby brother’s bedroom- finally it dawns on me that the noise is my brother’s alarm going off on his cell phone.


I sleepily scream before rolling over and burying my head in the pillow to drown out the awful noise.

Next thing I know he is in the garden right outside the window…WITH. THE. ROTOTILLER.

It’s a little past 4 in the freaking morning on Memorial Day weekend, for crying out loud!

After slamming the window shut, I promptly go back to sleep.

But he doesn’t. He stays outside working…working…working…all day long like he’s been doing the past several months. He doesn’t want to leave anything undone at the house before he joins the United States Marine Corps.

And that’s what he did Monday June 16, 2014 around 9:45 in the morning.

USMC swearing-in

I’ll be honest- it really wasn’t an emotional time at the swearing-in…my brother has wanted to be a Marine since he was in the womb. And I’m not really sure the Marines can make him a Marine because mentally he already is one and has been one- yes, they can shape and mold him and polish that new title for him but he’s been ready since Day One.

If anything, I feel bad for the DI’s on Parris Island– they don’t know how tough a Greek can be especially since our dad was in the Marines, loved every second of it and passed that fiery toughness to us kids.

It didn’t get emotional when my Greek mother saw that one of the young kids newly sworn-in Marines didn’t have any family there and sweetly pressured forced cajoled asked him to let her take pictures of him and text them to his mom who, turns out, was ecstatic to get the pictures since she couldn’t make the trip… (hmmm wonder where I get my loving persistence from?! thanks Mom!)

johnusmc3It wasn’t even emotional when my nieces were saying their goodbyes- the 2 year old saying repeatedly,

“Are you going in the reeeeens?”


“I go with you!”

while the 3 year old was clinging to his legs saying he couldn’t go.

That’s just what cute kids do, right?

So the time came. We all piled in the elevator- him last carrying the 3 year old still clinging to his one leg and just as the doors were closing, he unclasped her tight little grasp as my sister took her and he stepped out of the elevator and back into the hallway as she let out a piercing scream of


The only sound in the elevator as we went down to the ground floor of the federal building and walked past the security officers and metal detectors was the muffled sobbing and crying of a little three year old girl who would terribly miss her uncle.

And while we adults couldn’t publicly scream and cry along with her… that’s when I would say the day became emotional for all of us.

Semper fi, baby bro.

Got my radio face on!

Tables are turned as I’m being interviewed by Thom Fox, host of The Engine on WHYN NewsTalk 560!

“My core philosophy is ‘it takes a community to build an economy.’ To me, Western Massachusetts is a perfect testing ground for that logic. We have a tremendous amount of potential, yet we struggle to celebrate the individuals who are moving our region ahead each and every day. So, you can imagine my delight when I connected with Aliz Koletas of WGBY’s Connecting Point, which is a television show dedicated to connecting people, places, and ideas. Aliz is a breath of fresh air whose personality, and dedication to the people of our community, is unparalleled. Along with being a top-notch TV personality, Aliz is an entrepreneur who has experienced her fair share of ups and downs. In our interview, we discuss the importance of people moving together toward the same direction in order to bring about change, as well as her experiences as an entrepreneur. If you’re a fan of Western Massachusetts, or interested in learning from a business owner that has ‘been there and got the T-shirt’ you will not want to miss her Engine interview.” –Thom Fox.

Such kind words from Thom…to listen to my radio interview with him, head here!





You know you’re from a big Greek family when…

You know you’re Greek when…

you color code your outfit to the country’s flag on Independence Day…

you’ve ever dated a Greek guy named Adonis…

you follow politicians on Twitter simply because they’re Greek…

if someone’s last name ends with “S”, you ask where they’re from in Greece…

you’re shocked when a person’s last name ends in “S’ and they aren’t Greek…

you eat 5 pieces of baklava first thing in the morning and still eat 5 eggs and a banana for breakfast…

you love food more than people sometimes…

you argue/disagree/fight with your family but God help the person who messes with them…

there are almost 20 people in your immediate family alone…

when group text messaging your family turns into 100 text messages in one hour…

people asked your parents growing up, “are they ALL yours?!”…

you have to split up to be seated at restaurants…

it’s cheaper to get a group discount than pay individually…

you expect a new niece or nephew (sometimes two!) every year…

only 2 of 6 siblings are married and your parents already have 8 grandchildren with more on the way…

your family has to take three vehicles to drive an hour away to a portrait studio big enough to hold you all…

you forget birthdays and middle names…

your boyfriend, dad, brother, and ten different cousins and uncles all have the same first name…

you answer any argument you’re losing with ‘because I’m a Greek woman, that’s why I’m right’…

and lastly, you know you’re Greek when…

you don’t need to find a “YOU KNOW YOU’RE GREEK” list because all of these personally apply to you!



Putting a spin on Valentine’s Day and mentoring!

“Valentines…the only day a baby gets violent and shoot arrows at innocent bystanders and we think it’s cute.”

I’m attempting to write a witty intro for an interview I’m about to tape on Connecting Point, the WGBY show I host & produce…and this is the only one I can think of at the moment.

I don’t get the point of the holiday and refuse to celebrate it. Never have, never will– although admittedly, that’s been harder to live by recently as I’ve gotten older, less of a rebel and found someone that I actually care about. I kinda broke the rules last year though- and no, it didn’t involve a tall handsome Greek man. Just a handful of tween girls and some junk food.

Sadly, most girls think that Valentine’s Day must include a boy in some shape or form…and I’m talking girls that aren’t even old enough for high school or can even drive yet. The last thing they should be worried about is being with a boy. Last year I set about to change that mindset with some pre-teen girls I had been mentoring in my hometown back in NY.

We set up a spa night at a local church’s basement. We ate pizza. We wore mud masks and did our nails. My 2 year old niece was the makeup artist of the night.


I may have thought I was teaching them how to stand apart from the “norm” or how to look past skin color and ethnicity and be friends with “that girl across the room” but instead they were teaching me. Everything silly from rap lyrics (they threw in the word ‘Greek’ as a nod to my ethnicity) to serious stuff like how prevalent peer pressure is nowadays especially on social media.

photo 1

Although I now live further west in the Pioneer Valley, I still look back at last year and relish that night not just as a way I could teach younger girls but also what they taught me. Sometimes when mentoring, you may think the child is receiving the benefit of the relationship and while you hope they grow and learn from it…you may be surprised to learn that we adults can benefit just as much.

photo 4

Mentoring is so important because if a child doesn’t believe that someone cares about them, they will in turn not care for themselves or the people around them and a general dislike for life puts them in a very bad place that can negatively impact them and those around. If, however, that child or tween or young adult has someone who believes in them, they are more likely to turn around one day and not just be a better member of society but also a mentor themselves.

photo 2

Like most other mentors, I could rattle off a list of people that touched and helped form my life: my dad, my mom, my grandparents, my teachers, my church, even my neighbors…but without all of their help, I would’ve never been able to reach out to a younger generation and “pay it forward.”

photo 3

So this year, whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or the ridiculousness behind it, find a way to be a mentor and impact someone’s life.

Just stay away from babies with arrows.

They might turn into pre-adolescent girls that’ll change your perspective on Valentine’s Day!


*as originally seen here: http://massmentoring.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/putting-a-spin-on-valentines-day-and-mentoring/

BFF = Best Furry Friend

They say dog is man’s best friend but if it were possible to have someone closer than a best friend, something tells me that’s how a correctional officer and his K9 partner would view each other.

A couple months ago, I visited the Connecticut Department of Correction’s K9 Unit in Enfield and met an extraordinary team of “officers”…and their human owners. (Any pet person would say their furry friends are really the ones in charge!)

These dogs are fearless and yet inspiring at the same time. They have no qualms about standing up, in between or for their human counterpart -the corrections officer.

Yes, everyone is familiar with the CO- whether through movies, a TV series or you may even know one in real life…but what you see on TV or from far isn’t always realistic. It might be surprising to learn that 31% of CO’s have PTSD- even higher than Iraq war veterans!

Maybe it’s that “out of sight, out of mind” theory– because we don’t see the CO as often as we would see a soldier or even police officer or firefighter, we forget the risks and stress they go through on a continual basis. While they are inside the prison walls dealing with what most of us on the outside would never want or could comprehend in our lives, they also must fight to keep their physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being …and at the same time, maintain the peace as much possible in a world where calm can turn to chaos at a moment’s notice.

The health risks are astoundingThe high rates of divorce, alcoholism and stress often go unnoticedBut not much is out there to understand and fix the problem.

So you can imagine the bond between a K9 dog and a correctional officer who are in this “fight” together. Peering from the outside in on my field shoot, I felt the bond but I’m sure no words or TV segment could explain the connection between these two.

Watch Connecting Point on 2/13 Thursday night at 7:30 to hear correctional officers express their love and concern… not for themselves or their own safety, but for their canine partners- and maybe it’ll bring a different perspective to the phrase, “A man’s best friend is his dog.”

p.s. I left the best part out- hear how Vested Interest was able to step forward and go one “paw” further in protecting these dogs who, in turn, protect their best friend- the corrections officer.




This new job is for you, Yiayia …

“If you could interview anyone, who would it be?”

They say be prepared for any question in a job interview but I had never been asked that before…let alone during a job interview.
I was asked that question though while interviewing at WGBY to join Connecting Point.
Thinking for a second, immediately the answer came to mind.
I would interview my Greek grandmother on my dad’s side.
Unfortunately I never met her because she tragically passed away before I was born but my dad talked of her constantly about what a great mother and Greek woman she was.
So even though I never had the privilege of meeting her, I felt as if I knew her from the stories and memories of my dad who unashamedly called himself, “a mama’s boy.”
What would I ask Yiayia?
Was she scared coming over on a boat from Greece not knowing the language or way of life in America?
Did she get emotionally happy or stay quietly strong when she saw the Statute of Liberty as she sailed into Ellis Island?
How did she manage to raise a family and be there for her kids yet still work herself to the bone at the same time?
I would ask her if my dad was always this awesome or was he a trouble maker?
How did she know my mom was the perfect girl for dad and then made sure to tell him so?
And so many more questions I would ask her about her life… dreams… goals.
I’m convinced I have her work ethic passed down through my dad.
I wonder what else we’d have in common if we spent time together at family weddings, funerals and holidays.
Or would we get to see each other more often than that?
I guess I’ll never know and that is so sad yet she inspires me.
If she didn’t give up til her last breath, neither will I.
If anything, out of tribute to her and her willingness to forge a new path in life.
I can’t imagine not being her Greek granddaughter.

And it’s amazing how such a simple question can make someone think long and hard about loving a person they’ve never met.

So I thank God for that question from the people I now get to call my bosses and co-workers.

They may not be big fat and Greek but I’m proud to call WGBY family.

“Mass” Move Update

concussions umass

Aliz Koletas is the host and producer of Connecting Point, a TV show on WGBY in Springfield, Mass. Originally from Troy, she started her broadcast career in the Albany area but moved farther east this summer after the merger between WXXA and WTEN. She comes from a big fat Greek family which is at 18 …for now.

Q We last talked to you in 2011. You were reporting for an independent TV show and opening a consignment shop in Troy. Catch us up to speed.

A I opened my High Maintenance, Low Budget Consignment Shop in Lansingburgh and had such a blast getting involved in my neighborhood. Reporting and clothes are two of my passions so it was great doing both at the same time. Unfortunately, I had a pretty bad car accident in October 2011 and spent the next several months in the hospital, rehab and then physical therapy. I sadly had to sell my consignment shop and focus on getting better but it was such a great experience overall.

Q When did you join Fox23/WXXA?

A A couple months later, I decided to leave the show I was reporting for and join the local Fox station. They didn’t have any on-air positions so I worked off camera and bugged my boss until he let me go out in the field. I am very thankful for the many stories I got to cover but unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Fox23 and Channel 10 merged and I like to say, “They let all the awesome people go.” I wanted to balance my career with my personal life so I decided to look for an opportunity specifically in the Springfield, Mass. area. My car accident ironically helped me slow down and smell the roses.

Q What do you do now?

A Over the summer, I reported for ABC40 in Springfield. I was able to meet different people in the area and learn more about western Massachusetts. I am happy to announce though that I just accepted the position to become host for Connecting Point, a TV show that connects you with people, places and issues that matter most to Western New England. It airs on WGBY.

Q What will your new job entail?

A WGBY is a PBS station and they don’t have the same time constraints or limits like commercial TV does, so I get to dig deeper and discuss stories more in depth. I’m excited to explore issues and topics that are relevant and important to people in the western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut, southern Vermont and areas beyond.

Q How does your culture play a role in your career?

A Greeks love to talk and socialize! Even though I didn’t say a word until I was four, my dad loves to joke that I haven’t shut up since! I love to meet everyone and nobody is a stranger in my book! Also, in the WGBY interview process, I was asked if I could interview anyone, who would it be? I’ve never been asked that question before but in a second’s notice, the answer came to mind. I would interview my Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) who tragically passed away before I was born. She came over to the United States on a boat and faced innumerable odds with learning a new language, culture and way of life. That determination and fearlessness is something that inspires me and makes me part of who I am. I think she would also be proud of my baklava, too.