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Rising Stars of Balboa Park & Hillcrest

The heart of our mission at the SD Voyager is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the San Diego’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out inspiring stories from Balboa Park & Hillcrest below.

Matt Gordon

Long story! But to keep it as brief as I can, my first restaurant job was at 14 as a dishwasher in Scottsdale Arizona. I worked my way up to prep and grill over the next two years there, and when I was a Junior in high school, moved to the front of the house at the very upscale Marriot Cambelback Inn. After a few months as a busser, I had the opportunity to become an expediter in the kitchen and fell in love with the atmosphere of the massive multi-restaurant kitchen. Read more>>

Sunny Chou

I was born and raised in Taiwan and immigrated to the US when I was 14 years old. I lived with a host family in Utah for the first year, and then my parents also came over and joined me and my older brother. After junior high and high school, I studied economics for my undergrad at BYU and then got my MBA at San Diego State University. Professionally, I spent a few years working for an outdoor recreation startup where we built original design bicycles. Read more>>

Big Mike Phillips

Born in Frankfurt, Germany on January 18, 1957, and then given up for adoption to American parents who showered him with not only love but with an education, compassion and a positive outlook, Big Mike grew up to become the respected and compassionate individual his community has come to know. Big Mike was raised in a small community outside San Antonio, Texas, enjoying the wonderful childhood he shared with his younger adopted brother Carl. His adoptive parents had been transferred to Randolph Air Force Base, where his Dad later retired from the military in 1962. Read more>>

Roy Elam

I started cooking as a way to pay my bills while I was on tour with my band. The more I cooked, the more I fell in love and started taking it more seriously, especially when I adopted a vegan diet. When my mom was battling breast cancer for the second time she was advised by the doctor to switch to an entirely plant-based diet in lieu of chemo, when I heard this, I thought “why are we telling people this after they are sick?” After my mom passed away, I made it my goal to make vegan food assessable to everyone. Read more>>

Apryl Martinez

I started making soap nearly ten years ago. I was looking for an alternative to all the chemical-laden products that were available. I had a very natural relationship with the food my family was consuming. I garden, keep chickens, forage, and ferment. As our largest porous organ, our skin absorbs whatever we put on it. I decided to start creating products that were as healthy for our bodies as the nutrient-rich foods we make a point to eat. Along with that journey of creating skincare my love of herbs and plants intersected with my love of soap. Read more>>

Sarah Tullgren

Ever since I can remember, I have always had a creative and entrepreneurial mind. Growing up, I spent all my free time doing arts and crafts, re-designing my room every other month and putting on pretend fashion shows. Pretty much anything that was crafty, you could find me doing it. Summer was always my favorite because I could put all my 12-year-old business plans into action like the homemade lemonade stand I begged my dad to make so I could sell treats to everyone on the block. Read more>>

Melanie Green

I grew up in Chula Vista in the Otay Ranch area with my both my parents and an older sister. Both my parents were in the military, and my dad was often away on a naval ship while my mom had a regular 9-5 job. I would see my mom take on most of the responsibilities of a mom and dad in the household and my sister and I pulled our own weight as well to help her out. I feel like a lot of my gusto, and the need to want to handle things on my own stemmed from that. In 2008, in my sophomore year of high school, was when my filmmaking journey began. Read more>>

Vanessa Dubois

Grew up in France with a wonderful family. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Western Brittany at age 22, I moved to San Diego to be part of an internship at SDSU to study dolphins (photo identification, population studies, behavior studies..) During my internship, I started working with Autistic children and fell in love with the field of special needs. I was interested in a dolphin-assisted therapy where you put together children on the autism spectrum and dolphins during therapy sessions. Read more>>

Rhiannon Schultz

My story starts in a tiny town in South Dakota. When I say tiny I mean there were 42 people that lived there, and every single one of them must have thought I was crazy when I moved away to California to pursue a degree studying primates. Of course, they were rather used to my relative eccentricities by then, having experienced me as a child. I was a scientist nearly from birth, and if you ask my mother, to this day, she will tell you that my favorite phrase as a child was, “but why?” This I am sure drove her and everyone else completely berserk, but the drive to learn was a hunger that I couldn’t feed fast enough. Read more>>

Jeff Gelder

The first CD was produced in 2003, when professional voice actor and Albuquerque native Jeff Gelder was tasked in a Landmark Education class to come up with a project that would enhance the community and ultimately take on a life of its own. That’s just what has happened, as Gelder now fields many inquiries about the CD all year long. The project consists of several elements that include solicitation for song submissions, the writing, and casting of the Jeffery and Santa tale, selecting the winners for the CD radio show. Putting the elements altogether and sending them to Edge Studio in NYC who voluntarily professionally produces the compilation with music backgrounds and sound effects. Read more>>

Emily Nichols

During my clinical residency in grad school for Eastern Medicine, I was placed under a renowned women’s health specialist. The patients who came in for treatment on my shift tended to be women struggling with infertility. Treating these women came naturally to me, and, one after another, patients returned with positive pregnancy tests. Never had the rewards of treatment been so tangible. Jump forward seven years, and I’ve built a fertility-specific clinic out of my home in Hillcrest, As The Fertility Guru, I treat both women and men for reproductive issues as well as pregnancy, labor, postpartum, and menstrual and menopausal pathologies. Read more>>

Terri Bratcher

As far back as I can recall, I have always loved music and wanted to perform.  My large Italian family was very musical and profoundly proud of sharing their talents at family dinners, weddings, holidays, and well, any “day that ends in y.”  We had trombone and trumpet players, “pots and pans” drummers, a pianist, a mandolinist, and of course, as in every Italian family, an accordion player. Read more>>


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