BJ Dumond’s first day as a pizza restaurant owner went down, literally, in flames. After that tumultuous opening, BJ survived and, today, is CEO of Simple Simon’s Pizza, a restaurant chain with 200 stores in a 10-state area. His story is one of belief, loyalty and getting up and going to work.

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Angela Parrish studied music education in university, suppressing her desire to perform as a soloist and devoting a great deal of time to accompanying others on the piano. Not any more. Today, she is a jazz singer and composer living - and working - in Los Angeles, which is no small feat.

Angela’s voice is recognized by millions – at a minimum you’ve heard her singing the opening number in the film “La La Land”. I had a chance to visit with her about her journey from Kansas to landing that gig.

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Alejandro Vasquez Salinas knew from a young age that he wanted to be an artist. Despite the objections of his parents he studied art in university and now makes his living as an artist and curator.

Growing up in Colombia, Alejandro was exposed throughout his life to ongoing wars – with the drug cartels as well as rebel groups. It was during his Master’s studies in the Netherlands that his eyes were opened to the concept of using art as an alternative solution to conflict for communicating opposing ideas.  

Today, he’s the Director of the Paul Bardwell Gallery at Centro Colombo Americano, a leading art institution in Medellin, Colombia.

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Carmen-Alzner-and-Rosalie

Carmen Alzner is a filmmaker who lives a life that’s open to possibilities; always seeking and finding new ways to learn, grow and explore. She’s found that just asking has opened doors and opportunities for her throughout her career, starting when she was just a young girl. 

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Michael Cooper is the Director at Colombo Americano, a language culture center in Medellin, Colombia. Michael originally came to Colombia on a two-year contract to teach 6th grade. That was more than 30 years ago. It happens. He arrived before the infamous drug wars led by Pablo Escobar and stayed during and after them – for reasons even he can’t explain. I had a chance to visit with him when I was in Colombia last fall.

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John Chakeres was fascinated with photography and the space program from the time he was a child. After graduating from college with a degree in art, photography and printmaking, he followed his second boyhood dream to the Kennedy Space Center when the first shuttle launched in 1981. John photographed the shuttle program – some 50 launches in all – until the Challenger disaster five years later.

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Barb-Meier-Mayfield

Barbara Meier Mayfield is a risk-taker, a poet and a kindergarten teacher. We both attended the same undergraduate college – Southwestern College in Kansas. After too many years of no contact, we recently reconnected and chatted about her multi-faceted life.

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Fear is what frequently holds us back from pursuing our dreams. Part of that fear is worrying about what one has to give up in order to pursue that dream. Steve Clack, a documentary filmmaker and teacher realized that, in order for him to pursue his dream the way he wanted to, it required faith and sacrifice. The result? It's worth it.

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Copying – styles, ideas, forms – is common in the arts, especially as one begins. What gets exciting is when one finds their own voice and feels confident enough to step out in their own direction. Clark and Co – a fairly young music group – found their own voice, which has fueled them to move forward and keep growing.

 
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When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, one era ended and another one began in Central and Eastern Europe. Where the older, established generation was generally taken aback by this change, the younger generation saw opportunity. From the shadows of state-controlled everything, young entrepreneurs chased ideas and created entire industries from nothing. Julita Radev was a college student in Bulgaria at the time and was one of those who created something from nothing.

 
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