Through our work we have had the good fortune of seeing firsthand how success comes in every shape, size, color, faith, and orientation. More importantly we’ve learned that success is often the result of people embracing their unique backgrounds and so we’ve asked the community to tell us about their background and how it has impacted where they are today.

E. L. Jones, Jr. | Digital Media Specialist & Minister

I was born in Battle Creek, MI, but I am grateful that my parents had the good sense to move to my dad’s hometown of Pensacola, FL, before I turned 5. My family background and being raised on the Gulf Coast had a huge impact on who I am today. I was raised to believe that I could do or be anything I wanted. Education and learning was pushed in my family. My family is one that rejects the notion of fear, so all things are possible. My upbringing equipped me to overcome the challenges I’ve faced and allowed me to persevere, despite. Read more>>

Emina Pelja | Apparel Designer & Storyteller

My entire background stems from the Balkans, a region in Eastern Europe that has gone through its fair share of struggles within the past twenty years. The majority of my family is from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and my parents came to the United States as refugees of war in 1994. They didn’t know any English, had nothing but the clothes on their backs, but they were determined to create a better life for themselves in a brand new country. Not many people can say that their parents survived genocide, but it’s something that I’ll never forget. The importance of hard work and perseverance was instilled in me at a very young age — everything that I did, whether it be school or sports, I did to make my parents proud. In any immigrant kid, there will always be this underlying guilt to prove yourself, to show that your parents didn’t go through all of those struggles to get here for nothing. Read more>>

Kim Mays | Office Asst/Test Proctor

I am originally from New York but I have been living in Atlanta, GA since 1991, Does that make me an Apple/Peach 🍑 or a Peach /Apple 🍎? Smile, God’s child, I have always believed in God but I didn’t want to obey his word and teachings, My mom was my inspiration and she shaped me ino the woman I am today! God saved me and changed my mindset, gave me the courage to be the best person I can be, Love 💘 in my heart for everyone. Read more>>

Clarisse Frazier | Professional Educator and Fitness Instructor

I was born in a small town in Louisiana most have never heard of. Alexandria, Louisiana is truly home for me as my entire family lived on either ends of the town. Although I moved around a lot with my mother’s job, Alexandria was always the central location of my roots. Being from a small town never really seemed to fit my dreams. While most of my family planted their lives there, I always wanted bigger. I wanted to see more and to do more than was presented to me. Moving to Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans exposed me to different people from different places. It also taught me to be bold about starting over in new places and taught me how to meet people. Overall, I learned to appreciate my small, honest and humble beginnings and I embraced the notion of working hard for the things I wanted. Read more>>

Erica Rahola | Actress, Dancer, Model, & Entertainer

I like to say I’m from the world. Ha! I was born and raised in a military family so we moved every 3 years. Born in Tarrytown, NY. Lived and traveled all around the world. My Dad was strict and my Mom was more laid back. Together they were very supportive in my dreams and interest in the arts. I always knew I would be performing and sharing my talent with the world in one way or the other. They believed in me. Read more>>

Tiffany Woolard | Artist and Art Educator

I am originally from Queens New York. I was raised in a house filled with artists and entrepreneurs. Talent was always a source of income for my family. I learned early about marketing and design. Handmade felt like the motto in my family. It wasn’t original unless it was handcrafted. I don’t believe that I had a choice, it was create or nothing. The streets of New York were not only my home, but my drive and motive to always want the best and to push until I make it. Read more>>

Zeb Stevenson | Chef/Partner | Redbird

I was born is a small town in Indiana to a poor family. We moved around frequently from trailer parks to primitive houses far from town. We once lived in an apartment over a laundromat that my parents looked after and I can remember hearing frequent gunshots from the trailer park next door and my mother fighting off teenagers attempting to rob the change machine with hatchets. Not exactly a picturesque childhood but coming up that way has done everything to influence who and what I am today. Having come from nothing I was never burdened with the pressure of living up to anyone’s idea of what my life should be. There was no family business to take over, no generational imperative to keep up the family’s reputation. No one ever told me I had to be a doctor. I was raised by parents who honestly don’t care if I am rich or poor – they only care that I try to be a good person. Read more>>

Candy Hom | Food Blogger

“Where are you from?” As a Chinese American, I always know where this question is headed and the series of subsequent questions that follow. “No, where are you REALLY from?” “No, I mean where were your parents from?” “But where did they come from before that?” The person usually asking this question doesn’t mean any harm, but it does make me realize that in their eyes, I don’t really belong. I am but a perpetual foreigner who was born and raised in the US. If I answer China, the conversation usually stops there, because the person asking has usually gotten the answer they needed to strengthen whatever generalizations or stereotypes they had of Chinese people in their head. If I were to truly answer their question, it would go something like this: I was born in Upstate NY to parents who immigrated from China. Read more>>

Anne Oh | Creator of Plantbaed Cookbook and Gourmet Seasonings & Alkaline Food Epicure

I was born in Washington, DC however I identify as Nigerian-American. Both my parents were born in Nigeria. They met in Nigeria in their late teens and traveled to the US on student Visa’s to attend The University of the District of Columbia (UDC). My Nigerian culture has a direct impact on my upbringing because of how intentional my parents were about letting us know about our native traditions. My mother is very traditional, especially when it comes to preparing meals. I didn’t had the “luxury” (or so I thought) of Standard American meals like mac and cheese, pizza or hamburgers until I started attending elementary school. I used to love going over my American friends houses for dinner. My mom mainly prepared our native meals like fufu, (dough made from boiled and pounded yams or flour paired with a vegetable soup) tomato stew and other home-cooked meals. Read more>>

Eldrick Kennedy | CEO & Music Producer

I am originally born and raised in Kingstree, South Carolina. Growing up in what we called “The K” was rough in many aspects. Only thing kept us separated from the streets is sports and school but even our education system wasn’t the best provided by our district and county, so, we had to make a way for ourselves or fall victim to complacency. The love I have for my community is HUGE! Everything I do is for my family and community in hopes that what I achieve will end up with the results of opportunities for my community. Me and my boys still to this day talk about how Kingstree really forced us to become men and go out and get it by all means but now that we’re out getting it, it’s time to reach back a helping hand to uplift each other! It’s enough for all of us to eat. Read more>>

Coach Griff | Communities in Schools in Troup County Site Coordinator and Community Engagement Specialist

I am from Jacksonville, Florida and my upbringing is very special to me. I was raised by both of my parents to stand out, be a true gentleman and to always care for others (especially when you have nothing to gain). I have friends and family that are incarcerated and those same friends and family would not let me make bad decisions or hang around the wrong crowds. The synopsis was that I was different and I was special . I felt pre-destined to stand out and change the narrative around me. Read more>>

Kelly Izdihar Crosby | Artist and Freelance Writer

I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana and the culture has a huge impact on myself and my work. It’s a festive city, with bold and beautiful colors, and that aesthetic is in my work. It was normal to be surrounded by creative people—especially musicians, singers, and artists. In New Orleans, I was nurtured by teachers, friends, and family that saw my creative potential. The culture of the city is nurtured from the ground upward. Art is not just a something for the rich and the elite, but it’s also enjoyed by everyday people of all social economic backgrounds. Plus, the multicultural influences of the city inspired my love of exploring different cultures around the world. Read more>>