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.

Matt Pendleton | Photographer

I grew up in the Miami Shores area from when I was adopted at 6 weeks old until I left for college at the University of Florida. While Miami Shores is a very affluent part of the Miami area, I was raised by a single-mom who worked almost every day to support myself and my two younger brothers. This upbringing greatly impacted who I am today. We had very little and many times had to go without or share amongst us brothers. I was very fortunate to have very important benefactors in my life (my neighbor, my scholarship sponsors at St. Rose of Lima School and Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School, my computer teacher, and countless others who gave their time and talent to improve my life. Read more>>

Laura Moore | Women’s Clothing Brand Owner

When I was 3 weeks old I started having uncontrollable seizures due to birth and delivery complications. The hospital overdosed my mother with an epidural, which made her unconscious during delivery. Forceps were used for my delivery which caused major brain damage- a scar on the right side of my brain. Many exams were performed and many different medications were prescribed but none actually worked. If one medication did not work well, the doctor would increase to the highest possible dose, then switch to another type of medicine and repeat the process. The hospital told my parents that I would be a paraplegic. I continued having episodes for decades. As time went on I watched my friends in school do daily activities that were a burden for me. I wasn’t able to drive in high school, go to parties, hang out with friends or any of the fun things kids in school do, because of fear of having another seizure. Read more>>

Shannan Lewis | Author, Speaker, & I Choose To Bloom Founder

I was blessed to be born in the beautiful island of Jamaica and have always been grateful for my heritage and upbringing because those events and experiences helped to shape the woman I am today. My values, viewpoints and tendency to be vocal about matters that are important, developed during my childhood and teenage years while living in Jamaica. I was afforded many opportunities to hewn my communication skills and frequently spoke my truth on radio, television and public speaking platforms (even before I turned 18 years old). In fact, the week after my high school graduation, I was the graduation guest speaker at another school. At the age of 17 years old, I adapted ‘Bloom where you’re planted’ as my life’s philosophy. On several occasions, I was invited to speak at retreats, conferences, churches and school events where my communication gifts were constantly developed. Read more>>