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.

LaVar Height | Owner & President – New Heights Heating & Air

I was born and raised on the Westside of Atlanta but moved to Decatur in my teens. I was awed by my great-grandfather’s self-taught ability to repair machinery, cars, and household items. Watching him repair any and everything opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of what I could do in life by simply using my mind and my hands. My great-grandfather also taught me that success will not be given to me. I learned that if I wanted to make something of myself, I had to earn it through hard work and determination. Therefore, I began working in the 10th grade as a dishwasher at major hotel in downtown Atlanta so that I could earn money to purchase my first car. Through it all, I was a A/B student, played football and wrestled, and worked nearly 30 hours a week. Read more>>

Andy Adamson | Ceramic Sculptor, Visionary, Okay At Mini-Golf

I am from the small-ish town of Springfield, Missouri. It’s home to Bass Pro, Brad Pitt, a kind of sad zoo, and cashew chicken (I’m not kidding). It’s fine, but you don’t need to visit. By all accounts, my upbringing had all the trappings of a relatively “normal” childhood but definitely made a lasting impression. The bleak landlocked nightmare that is the Ozarks instilled in me a particular brand of “midwestern humor” that I’ve never been able to shake. It’s a very dry deadpan kind of dark humor where no one is ever quite sure if you’re kidding or not. Humor isn’t usually the cornerstone for creative practices but it’s such a core part of me that it’s unavoidable. Although that weird little town was a really cool progressive hub for art and culture (this time I Am kidding), I got out as soon as I could. Read more>>

Trekina Rajeanné | Fashion Designer & Instructor

I grew up on a small farm in Mississippi. Growing up on a farm taught me hard work and made me strong. I was surrounded by manual labor, woods, and animals. Even though fashion was always so limited to me, I loved looking in magazines. Unfortunately, I could never find those clothes in my local stores so I started altering and enhancing the clothes I already had. FYI…It did not always go over well with my parents. At first, my parents didn’t understand why I was “messing up” my overalls but as time passed, they appreciated my unique ability to express my individuality. I comprehended the concept of why I had to wear overalls while I fed the pigs but I didn’t understand why they had to be so plain. Although, no one was going to see my high fashion overalls besides my mud-slinging animals, my heart longed for them to be colorful and covered with crystals and glitter. Read more>>

Bruce Billingy | A&R Coordinator/Producer

Being born and raised in Bronx, NY, and then moving to Decatur Ga as a teenager.shaped me musically, I had a opportunity to listening to both sides of the spectrum, east coast rap and southern rap so it shaped my mind musically. I also was in choir both in NY and GA so I always had a passion for music growing up. Read more>>

Leigh LaMarca | Small Business Owner of Evanleigh Embroidery

Born in Chicago, IL. Moved every 3-4 years since my dad worked for IBM (I’ve been moved!) lol My family finally planted their feet in Georgia in 1984. Ever since I can remember, my mother was a endless volunteer! She was a girl scout leader, PTA volunteer, classroom volunteer, you name it! My older sister joined the color guard in high school in Maryland, then continued it in Georgia. The band director asked the kids if any of their parents sewed. My sister said, “my mom does” and that’s where my love for creating, designing and business ownership began. I remember when I started high school, I also joined the band program where my mother, along with a few other mothers formed the “Betsey Ross” crew. They made the flags and uniforms for the band organization. The word “no” was not in my mothers vocabulary. Read more>>