Even if you are from the same neighborhood as someone else, you might still be coming from different places. Where you are from is a complicated question and it elicits complicated, but interesting and thought-provoking responses. We’ve shared some of those responses below.

Tasreen Khamisa | Executive Director

I was born in Kenya, Africa, grew up in Seattle Washington and now live in San Diego, California. My family fled Kenya due to Idi Amin, my father wanted a better life for his family. My father always pushed me to strive to be the best in everything that I do – to always go the extra mile. I was also raised to appreciate and celebrate my Indian culture. I was raised in the Shia Ismaili faith and both my faith and Indian culture has played a big roll in my life. Growing up the importance of working hard, family and service was ingrained in me and has shaped who I am today. Read more>>

Laura Harrelson | Wedding Planner & Marketing and Sales Director

Hockessin, DE Growing up in a strict Catholic household, private school and a year round, national level swimmer I was constantly surrounded by structure and organization. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, however, once I moved away to College and ultimately San Diego, I felt prepared and ready to take on more responsibilities that I knew I could manage on my own. Once I met Kayla, I knew we both had similar goals, especially with wanting to go our own way and start our own business. Putting our hard and soft skills together, creating Back Patio Event Design LLC was came together almost effortlessly. I absolutely have my upbringing, household structure and family business background to thank for that. Read more>>

Zach Plopper | Nonprofit Director & Avid Surfer

I was extraordinarily fortunate to grow up in Solana Beach, California and walking distance to the Pacific Ocean. This undoubtedly shaped who I am today. Because of that proximity, the beach and the reefs around where I lived became my backyard and I spent thousands of hours surfing, diving, swimming and playing there. Riding waves became my favorite past time. Something that I continue to do today as much as possible. Surfing has taken me around the world. In 2008 when I finished grad school at UCLA, I was offered my first position at WILDCOAST and my passion for the ocean and my career aspirations converged. Since taking that first opportunity, I have been able to continue to pursue my passion for travel and surfing, working on coastal conservation projects in California and Mexico, consulting on international fisheries and marine conservation issues in the Philippines and Ecuador, and visiting coastlines from Australia to Spain to speak at and facilitate international forums on coastal conservation. Read more>>

Deborah Salazar Shapiro | Psychotherapist, Meditation Teacher, Forest Therapy Guide & Author

I am proud to say that I am originally from San Salvador, El Salvador, a relatively small country in Central America—a country with tropical weather and beautiful beaches, but also a lot of poverty, violence, and injustice. As a result of being a witness to suffering, and through the guidance of my mother, I feel I have been granted the understanding to set a life aspiration to devote my career and personal life to serve others. Read more>>

Dr. Janina Scarlet | Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Author

I was born and raised in Ukraine. As a small child, I was exposed to massive amounts of radiation from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and spent much of mu childhood in and out of hospitals. In addition to my declining health, my family and I were targeted and persecuted against for being Jewish. I spent a lot of my childhood feeling weak, broken, and trying to find my voice. Then, everything changed when I saw the X-Men. The X-Men (and other fictional heroes, such as Captain America, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, and Princess Leia) have taught me that every person has an origin story, whether it is a story of trauma, violence, or injustice. Origin stories do not define us. Rather, they are our jumping off points from which we get to determine how to live out the rest of our lives. Read more>>