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.

Akusua Akoto | Spoken Word Performer, Graphic Artist and Poet

I’m originally from Dallas, specifically South Oak Cliff, an impoverished part of town. I lost my dad to cancer and watched my mother battle her demons and mental illness. Due to the neglect growing up, I took care of myself and my mother for most of my life. I was alone growing up, so creative writing and journaling was my outlet. I have gained tremendous insight and courage in my later years. I’m working on my inner wounds through therapy and mindfulness. Being a writer has given me the clarity to see my life for what it is and what it can be. Read more>>

Daniel Langfield | Your Health Advocate & Ambassador of H.O.P.E.

To answer the question about my background and upbringing impacting who I am today, I’d say, it is the “upbringing” so to speak that I have had through my Christian faith, the books I’ve been recommended to read, and my ongoing and development of the network of people I associate with that has and continues to impact who I am today and I could not be more grateful. My name is Daniel Langfield. I grew up in Arvada, CO. I”m the oldest of 6 children ( 5 Boys, 1 Girl), My parents, Rick & Tess, have now been married for over 34 years. I went to Holy Family High School in Broomfield where I lettered in Academics, was named to the National Honor Society, was all-state in, Baseball, and All Colorado Football as the 2A Player of the year 2004. I was award the Comcast Community Leadership Scholarship and I was named “Mr. Holy Family” of my Senior Class for living out the School’s Mission Statement, the most among my peers, per my four years. Read more>>

Emily Kulpa | Co-Owner and Women’s Curator, Resilient Threads Vintage + Resale

I am from Mentor, Ohio, a suburb of Northeastern Ohio, where I experienced a modest, yet very fulfilling upbringing. No stranger to hand-me-downs, I learned to master the art of thrift shopping at a very young age. It taught me to find the truly durable pieces, or how to truly standout from the Abercrombie&Fitch uniform of my peers. I fell in love with finding the different, the obscure, the loved, and the truly broken-in. Living a life committed to sustainability, I chose to use my fashion as a catalyst for a deeper conversation with my customers about why buying secondhand is important. Read more>>

Brian Raitman | Art Consultant, Raitman Art Galleries

Today, I live in the beautiful mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado. I moved here as soon as I realized how incredible my life could be if I were to surround myself with mountains, forests, streams and a river; or right after graduating from college in 2007. I was born in 1982 in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 12, in 1995, my family and I moved to Portland, Oregon and I eventually moved back to Philadelphia to finish college at Temple University. I was raised in a home that celebrated art and music. One of my earliest memories is of myself throwing a hysterical tantrum in an art gallery. I desperately wanted a painting but it was already sold. I was seven years old. The tantrum, and the art, resonated with my parents and I deeply so a couple of weeks later we went back to the gallery. It was a little impressionist oil painting of a boy walking down a boat dock with his dog. Something about it took my breath away, even at such a young age. Read more>>

Ty Sells | Actor, Comedian and Visual Artist

I was born in Steamboat Colorado in 1993 and grew up flying between a small rural town called Rulo, Nebraska and a big ol’ city called Houston, Texas. In Nebraska I was a ranch kid and I grew up with the country lifestyle, throwing hay, making forts in the barn and shooting everything with my BB gun. In Houston, I was a city kid, causing trouble with friends, going to Splash Town and playing video games all summer. I think because of the back and forth, as an adult, I feel pretty torn as to who I’m supposed to be. I never felt like a normal kid. All I’ve know is duality really, and I think that influences who I am. My parents have always been loving and supportive and in a way it kind of irritated me ’cause I didn’t have anything to really rebel against, but I just hated the situation. Whenever I’d fly, I would make up backstories for the adults who asked me where I was going and why I was all alone, and I think that’s what influenced me to be an artist and performer. It was all up to me. Read more>>