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.

MJ Dudley | Multifaceted Visual Curator & Artist

While I’m a North Texas native, I moved around with my family since I was young so never felt a sense of belonging to any specific area, city, block, or community. This coupled with the fact that I also grew up in a multicultural household(s), often tumultuous, with a free spirited Trinidadian mother with an open heart and rose colored glasses and a tight shipped ex-military American father who grew up in the height of 1950’s civil unrest meant that I grew up with a big sense of estrangement. Additionally, I was an extremely “awkward” and chubby child/teen with her fair share of phases (from tomboy, to gothic skater to theater/choir kid, “hood rat” wannabe and quite literally everything in between) all in the name of having an insatiable desire to “find” where I belonged. Over time, even though these things proved to be a struggle at certain points in my upbringing. Read more>>

James Combs | Coffee Roaster

I was born in Denver, Colorado; but I grew up in the mountains. We owned five acres at the top of a mountain that backed up to county open space on three sides. It was very quiet and we spent most days outside building things. My parents built our house by hand and we’re very active real estate investors. I grew up around construction. That has always motivated me to work hard in any condition and was the foundation for my love for place making and property development. The love for food developed when I got my first job washing dishes at a resort restaurant at age twelve. I stayed there for six years and moved up to a prep cook and they then a pastry chef. I worked under some very talented chefs and owners. I have worked in and managed several other restaurants; but none taught my more about food and the customer experience. Read more>>

Jin-Ya Huang | Founder

I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, I came to the States when I was 13. My dad had lost his job, so when my aunt and uncle called and said they needed help with their restaurant business, my parents said yes. My family escaped Communism to take refuge in Taiwan, then Texas. My sisters and I were raised to volunteer at nursing homes, sew blankets for the homeless, and cook for the hungry at the temple. Since I didn’t speak English, art became my universal language. My mom, Margaret Huang, was a chef, she was fluent in using food as an art form and a great equalizer. Growing up, I saw firsthand how lives were transformed when she hired immigrants and refugees to come and work in our kitchen, train them with job skills, and sent them onto bigger and better opportunities. After losing my mom to cancer, I started Break Bread, Break Borders to honor her legacy. Read more>>

Olga Martinez Hickman, PhD | Executive Director

I was born and raised in South Texas, a predominantly Hispanic community-where over 50% of our residents earn less than $50, 000. My family has lived there for generations, and will probably remain for generations to come. Growing up, there was an unspoken rule about the value of education. Both of my parents quit school at an early age, yet managed to raise four remarkable children. I am the youngest, and also the first to leave home for college. I received my PhD in 2014. While my other siblings didn’t graduate college, they hold leadership positions in their professional and military careers. Spanish was the first language I learned how to speak. Because of my background, as an English learner and a student living in poverty, I started attending Head Start at 3. The introduction to formalized learning changed my world. Read more>>

Erica Williams | Owner

I’m am from Dallas Texas, Oakcliff area, my mother was a young single mother my great grandparents and grandmother helped raise me. I was taught I could do anything through Christ who strengths me. I always felt like I was special and I had a purpose and I was good at a lot of things which made it hard to really focus. My personality is very strong I was the only child growing up. My family always made a way for me and I grew up with a lot of love which I am truly thankful for. My family is very giving so of course I grew up to be the same I’d give my last to help people and especially the people I love. Read more>>

Brenda Baker | Owner

My husband, Bud, and I were both raised in the very rural of Iowa. Bud in a small town where the phone number was 4 digits, and me, on a farm, where I was surrounded by fields of corn and beans as far as the eye could see. Our phone was connected to a “party line” where 6 families had to share the phone line and conversations of others could be overheard. My parents purchased a tiny farm house on property and began the process of expansion and remodeling. They are – still – some of the original DIYers and I’m not sure how they did it all without Google. I was included in every project from holding and handing tools, to running to get something, to painting. I also grew up with chores, helping on the farm, projects for 4-H and learning to sew my own clothes. Read more>>