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.

Alexis Alba | Business Owner & Hairstylist

I am from Southwest Littleton Colorado, so native and proud! I am a passionate and determined person and I think I get a lot of that from my upbringing. I was taught anything worth having takes hard work. At a young age not only did I witness my parents going through dental school at the same time, but with 3 kids under the age of 8. They were the first married couple who graduated from there school so seeing that just set such a good example from the start that you can have a beautiful family, and still be successful in life! Read more>>

K Chevae(BookofKieran) | Salemen & Photographer

I was born in Chicago Illinois, and I moved too, two different states during my childhood and teenage years. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Denver, Colorado during my freshman year of high school. As a Black Male in society my mother wanted to provide a better life for me growing up; as we know how society looks at black males differently. My mother is from Kingston, Jamaica and she provided the tough Island motherly love. She raised me into the man I am today, at the age of 13, my mother made me work and pay for everything on my own. She wanted to teach me in my adolescent years how to be an adult, from balancing my own checkbook, to paying to be on her car insurance even when I had no car of my own. My mother is my inspiration, because she believes in me when I don’t even believe in myself sometimes. Read more>>

Betzy Valdez | Speaker and Creator of Empowered Leader

I am a proud Mexicana from the beautiful Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. I’m a mama to three gorgeous girls, a wife, connector, and also, a proud “Dreamer”. My parents, sister, and I embarked on a new journey to the United States 23 years ago. Like many immigrants, we left everything and everyone behind as we were in pursuit of the well-known American Dream. Unfortunately, due to our financial situation, we came to this country undocumented. This was no easy decision for my parents but one they knew they had to make to give my sister and me a better life. I know such actions are difficult to understand and accept, but one thing I have learned through all this is we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn without understanding the whole story. Be willing to listen with an open mind and heart, always. Read more>>

Emily Luebcke | Jeweler, Costume Designer & Maker

I was born and raised in Boulder, Co. I was very lucky to have been born into family who loved to travel and experience new cultures. When I was seven years old my father sold his business, and we traveled the world for a year and a half. We lived in New Zealand and Australia, and visited Thailand, China, and Hong Kong. I loved being in different places, and learning about the world. I came home with a kiwi accent, and a different view of life. When I was twelve my mother started cooking schools all over the world which again brought me to live in a new place. For half of 9th grade and half of 11th grade I lived in Florence, Italy. There I learned Italian, and found beauty in art, and all the history that Italy has to offer. When I was home I went to an alternative private school called Waldorf. Read more>>

Kathleen Bracken | Newborn and Family Photographer

I’m from Chicago! My husband and I moved to Denver for a change of pace back in 2009. Eleven years and 3 kids later, we have put down roots here and love living near the mountains! I actually have my degree in elementary education and my masters in curriculum and instruction with a focus on ESL. I absolutely loved teaching and working with children, but once I my second child, I needed to find balance that worked for our family…. I couldn’t be a teacher, a mom, and a photographer. So I decided to leave teaching, and focus on what I had always done on the side, photography! In 2015, I started advertising my newborn and family sessions on Facebook and I was lucky enough to start getting clients! I absolutely love being a mom, it’s my number one job… but I’ve always needed to do something creative and I loved working with babies, kids and families. Photography has provided me with perfect balance! Read more>>

April Watson | Artist

I’m a Colorado native who grew up hiking the mountains, fishing, skiing and learning to love all the beautiful seasons. Fall is my favorite for many reasons, and the leaves here do not disappoint. My Grandmother had a huge influence on my love for all forms of art. She was a wildlife artist but experimented with many mediums. One of my favorite memories is sitting in her basement (by the glass back doors) paintbrush in hand as she walked me through my first landscape painting. Purple, blue and green acrylic hues on paper. That’s where it all started and I’ve been playing with paint ever since. Painting is part of me and I often refer to it as a form of meditation. With fluid art as part of my process I’m able to move paint around freely while letting go of my to-do lists and worries. Read more>>

Bobby Jackson | Chef & Distiller

Until I was 12, I lived in Chipita Park, an area between Manitou Springs & Green Mountain Falls, at the bottom of the Pikes Peak Highway. I loved living there, anything we felt like doing was a quick bike ride away. My best friend, James, and I would ride down to the pond and fish or go to the town swimming pool. Hiking wasn’t a planned activity, it was a necessary means of travel. We didn’t have to camp, because we mostly lived in the woods anyway. When I was 12, we moved 15 minutes down the road to Manitou Springs. It was a bigger town, but the same school district, so I didn’t have to make new friends or anything. We moved into a house across the street from my grandparents. They were a major factor in my life. Between my parents & my grandparents, I learned that hard work paid off. I got my first job at 13, doing pretty simple stuff at Santa’s Workshop until they moved me into the food service areas after a few months. Read more>>