There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Sylvie Froncek | Bicycle Mechanic & Educator

I moved a lot when I was a kid. Born in Chicago, raised on the east coast, attended college in California and spent significant time in lots of other parts of the county and abroad. I think that the semi-nomadic life style that I had through my 20s is what influenced me to start a business that’s entirely mobile. It was challenging, but empowering to be able to travel around for a lot of my early adulthood. Moving as a kid I learned to put down roots quickly and find the communities that I fit in with. I have good friends all over the world now and as I’m planning classes as part of my job I’m pretty fearless about trying something new in a place I’ve never been. Read more>>

Amy Cho | Preschool Teacher

I am from the U.K and I went to an all girls boarding school at the age of 10 years old, because my dad was in the military we moved around a lot, mainly in Germany. Most military kids go to boarding school for stability. The were some elements that I liked and have fond memories however the actual school part was absolutely awful! I am dyslexic and way back then it wasn’t really understood the way it is now. I was always in trouble and misunderstood. I was shamed and humiliated for not understanding the teachers. Because I struggled so bad at school they made me drop all the subjects I enjoyed to focus on all the ones I not only disliked but the ones I really struggled with. I grew up hating school and at odds with most of my teachers. I left when I was 16 years old with extremely low self esteem and no confidence thinking I was just dumb. There was no way in a million years I would have ever thought about becoming a teacher! After trying to pursue a career in acting I decided to travel the world. Which was one of the most incredible experiences. I was gone for almost 2 years. I discovered acting wasn’t for me. But what was for me was the question. Read more>>

Lisa Howard | Just A Regular Gal & The Founder of Bloomin’ Uterus

When I was a young kid, my two brothers and I lived in Simi Valley, California, but when I was 10 we were uprooted to southeastern Arizona to live near my mother’s family. I suffered from endless wanderlust, lots of empty desert to explore, and had an insatiable appetite for books. Thirty years later, I still have a healthy appetite for reading, love exploring (especially the deserts), and am a curious creature. I love to research answers to questions and am always seeking knowledge. These traits and characteristics have blossomed into an online blog about Endometriosis and an outreach and support system for fellow EndoWarrriors. Read more>>

Nazanin Nikoukary | Travel and Food Blogger

Iran, where I was born and raised, is a Middle Eastern country rich in art, culture, and history. Buffeted by both internal and external political forces, many Iranians cannot travel outside the country. However, my family and I were US citizens and this gave us the privilege of traveling whenever we wanted. I was able to visit other continents and regions of the world from a young age and learn about new cultures and lifestyles in a personal way. I believe this extensive early travel, as well as interactions with people with very different lived experiences, shaped who I am today. From a young age, I was gently reminded that the world did not revolve around me and that not everyone shared my values or perspectives. Travel opened my eyes not only to boundless natural beauty, but also to the beauty of these different perspectives. For me, traveling has always been like opening a new door and leaping into a magical new world. Each country and each new town boasts a unique experience; and these experiences positively transform you, broadening your perspective on the world around you. Read more>>

Thelma de Castro | Playwright

I identify as Filipinx. I am the child of Filipinx immigrants and was born in Oceanside, CA. My father was stationed at Camp Pendleton and my mother was a nurse. I grew up in Paradise Hills, in Southeast San Diego, with many other Filipinx and people of color. I was educated in the public school system and majored in English Literature in college. I am tied to the history and culture of both the Philippines and the United States. I’ve learned about Philippine culture and history through my family, Asian American Studies classes, and organizations such as Filipino American Educators Association of San Diego County, Filipino American National Historical Society, and Silayan Filipina. I’ve written plays about domestic violence, caregiving, and suicide prevention in the Filipinx community, but I feel free to write other stories for diverse audiences. In my writing I explore the effects of colonization and racism in our culture. Read more>>

Lesdy Sainz | Caricature Artist

I grew up in Norwalk, California, which now feels like a little city that supported my dreams to be an artist. Specifically, I was raised in a Mexican/American household, where my parents always demonstrated how love, hard work, passion, and faithful commitment will always help me succeed. I have been blessed with amazing parents who gave me the freedom to explore multiple passions. As fun as it was involving myself in multiple sports and clubs, I struggled for many years searching for the affirmation that I needed to validate my strongest passion. Fortunately, with the influence from my teachers and the support from my family, I came to realize that I felt my best while pursuing and strengthening my passion for the visual arts. Read more>>

Mandy Ungersma | Wedding Florist

I am a born and raised, native San Diegan! I have lived in North County San Diego all my life and I absolutely love working in the wedding industry here. Both of my parents are very crafty and always working with their hands. I think they had a huge influence on me, creating a pathway of entrepreneurship. My mom owns her own Etsy shop selling hand made decor items and my dad makes custom wood decor and furniture. Seeing them both work for themselves and become successful at it, made it an easy decision to go out on my own and do the same. Read more>>

Kenneth Walker | Ballet Teacher/Choreographer, Arts Manager

I was born in Long Beach and raised in the South Bay (Los Angeles County not the Bay area). I think my upbringing for sure influenced the way I approach selecting music for new work. The type of music I choose for my works hopefully reflects the diversity of music I was exposed to, growing up. Growing up in two cultures (my mother is Mexican and my father Caucasian) allowed me to access even more styles of music and art than I might have been otherwise. I think this has been a benefit to my art. I can produce an evening of work and the audience is going to get a more rounded program. I’m sure the style of work I create is a reflection of growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles in addition to the works I watched and participated in growing up. Even in the suburbs of Los Angeles, this city allows cultures and arts to cross-pollinate at a scale that is hard to match. The ballet studio I “grew up” in were early adopters in using modern dance to round out our education and since I was a late starter in ballet my participation as a performer started as in more modern works much quicker than my performances as a ballet dancer. Read more>>

Dawn Gallagher | Beauty is Ageless Expert

I am from Buffalo, New York and from a family of 10. I grew up loving nature, swimming in lakes, climbing trees and surrounded with animals. We did not have much but what we did have was plenty and I really loved my family. I think what impacted me the most was my family history or entrepreneurs. My Grandfather and my father were entrepreneurs and my mother was an artist so I guess you can say I inherited both a business mind and a creative mind. I got lucky because most people typically have one or the other. My father and mother worked very hard and I was always taught that if you wanted something you have to go after it. You also have to take risks and even if you fail you learn from your mistakes. I have taken that advice into the career I have today. I have had many setbacks along the way but I always get back up, dust myself off and try again. This has lead me to do great things and have an amazing career. Read more>>

Helén Thompson | Certified Life Coach

The scent of pine brings me straight back to my childhood in the countryside of Sweden. Little did I know how fortunate I was to grow up in such a beautiful place. Laying ski tracks on snow-covered fields during winter, picking flowers alongside forest trails during spring, spending lazy summer days by the water and during fall, enjoying vegetables from our own garden and fresh honey from the farmer nearby. My dad is an electrician and started his own company when we were kids. My mom took care of the paper work, and my brother and I. Early on, I learned how to best serve clients and how to always go the extra mile. Values I’ve brought into my own business and life. I oftentimes find myself viewing the world through my childhood memories and experiences. Longing to be in nature, striving to buy local, having fresh flowers on the counter in the kitchen and not shying away from hard work. Read more>>