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.

Sasha Maya Ada | Theatre Artist / Educator / Collaborator / Activist

Actually, I was born in New York, called Illinois and Virginia extended home for a while and now have grown some roots here in Dallas. From the windy city to the low country, I grew up finding that home was not as stagnant as one may think. That flexibility made it a bit easier to move 3.5 hours away from home at 16 years old for a residential arts program in upstate SC. My mother, an overall badass, got her masters in education while I was just a wee lil beebee. Throughout my childhood, I got to witness her extraordinary dedication to her students, her fight to make sure each of her young people graduated high school, her support of young teen moms, and her power in uplifting her students. My mother’s impact popped up everyday in the “Ms. Davis! Ms. Davis!” shouted out in the middle of a Publix or downtown. It was clear that she meant and means quite a bit to her students. And still, because I was an angsty teen, I didn’t want to follow in her footsteps. Read more>>

Taylor Stewart | Head Cheerleading Coach Southern University and A&M College

I am originally from Columbia, Maryland. The state of Maryland is very well known for the sport of cheer so being able to be a apart of some amazing programs within the DMV area has definitely molded me into the coach that I am today. I was able to cheer at some very unique gyms which really shaped and molded who I am today. Read more>>

David Hopkins | Fantasy Author

I was a child of the suburbs. The year was permanently 1985. I was raised on cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. I rode my bike around town, and I explored the woods behind my house all summer long—building forts, climbing trees, and having adventures. I read comics, and I played D&D. I listened to heavy metal. My best friend had cable TV, which was a big deal. I’d go over to his house to watch Beastmaster and Conan. My first fantasy books were Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks and the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I spent a significant portion of my childhood strung out on sugar and caffeine and crazy fantasy worlds. It was a high that I’ve never been able to fully come down from. Read more>>

Dr, Sam Raza | Cardiologist

I was born and raised in London. I have had the privilege of going to medical school at one of the most prestigious medical schools in London. I had my medical school graduation at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which was an amazing venue to become a doctor. I have also had the great privilege to train at a number of wonderful institutions across the world which have shaped me into the Cardiologist that I am today. On a personal note, I come from a family of physicians and have seen working physicians in both of my parents who are dedicated to the medical profession and taking care of others. I have two younger sisters who are both physicians and so medicine runs in my blood. I have seen through my experiences with my own family members, the level of dedication and service that is takes to be a compassionate physician which is gratifying when it comes to taking care of people. I have enjoyed Cardiology and found interesting from an early stage in my career and this passion has helped guide me to wear I am today. Read more>>

RQuees | Rapper

Growing up I kinda moved all over the place I never really got to stay in one spot for a long period of time and even still to this day I still be moving around a lot. Having to pack up and move really prepared me for all types of struggles and road blocks because I’m so used to that change. Read more>>

Nichole Thames | Personal Trainer (Online & In-Person Sessions)

I am a proud native of good ol’ Waco, Texas, where my fitness journey began as a Track & Field athlete and winning the UIL State Track & Field title with my team in high school team in 2009. During this accomplishment, I was recovering from a massive knee injury where I partially tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus and completely tore my PCL that I no longer have. Also, I played volleyball as a middle blocker and participated in competitive cheerleading as I was an all-around athlete. Once I graduated from high school, I went up the road and attended the University of Texas at Arlington. During my time at UT Arlington, I had the amazing opportunity to not only be a collegiate Track & Field athlete, but also a collegiate cheerleader. After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, I obtained my Master’s in Higher Education with an emphasis in Leadership for Student Success from Walden University. Read more>>

Tanaka Dodds | Entrepreneur + Influencer

I am originally from Santa Rosa, CA which is a small city with a population of less than 200,000. So it’s very tight knit and pretty much everyone knows each other. My uncle was the sheriff of the county if that makes you understand it more. My family left the Bay Area in 1999 to move to Las Vegas due to it was financially better for us. So I am also from Las Vegas and I moved to DFW in November of 2018. I want to be extremely transparent because that’s who I am when it comes to my brand so here it goes. My family background is a huge reason on my impact. I was raised by a village when it comes to my upbringing. I watched my filipino grandmother take care of the whole family. I watched her wake up and go to work because she was determined to be an independent woman. Her work ethic was unmatched because she didn’t make excuses or depend on anyone. My mother wasn’t stable at that time of my life due to drugs. She was always loving and giving though. Read more>>