“You got this.”
The world watched as Laurie Hernandez whispered those words to herself before starting the balance beam routine in 2016. She would go on to win gold at the Olympics and confirm that she did, indeed, have what it took to win.
Laurie Hernandez burst onto the Senior Elite gymnastics scene that same year, just in time for the Rio Olympic Games. Her goal had always been to make an Olympic Team and her dream has come true!
Laurie started gymnastics at the age of 6 when she asked her mother to enrollher in the sport because she had so much energy and always wanted to experience the feeling of flying.
A critical point in Laurie’s career happened in 2014 when her progress was stalled due to multiple injuries. She returned stronger than ever by becoming the 2015 U.S. Junior National Champion and has been on the rise since then.
Laurie is known for her dazzling floor exercise routine where she has been nicknamed the “human emoji” for her outgoing facial expressions and for her grace and artistry on the balance beam.
Laurie is a second generation American, (her grandparents are from Puerto Rico), making her the first U.S.-born Latina to make the U.S. team since 1984. Laurie credits her hard work, leadership skills, and her never-give-up attitude to her mom who was in the Army Reserves while Laurie was growing up.
Since bringing home the Gold and Silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Laurie has gone on to win the coveted Mirror ball trophy on “Dancing with the Stars” Season 23 and her first book “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond” chronicling her journey was published in January 2017, hitting the New York Times Best Sellers list.
When not in the gym, Laurie enjoys spending time with her mom and dad, her older brother, and older sister. She is also involved in her church, likes to write poetry, and learns dances in her spare time.
“I’ve always been a fearful person. And the thought of stepping out was scary for me, but I had promised the Lord that if He said go, I would go.”
For most of our lives, we associate who we are with where we are. But if the familiar goes away, we have a choice—lose ourselves or rediscover who we’ve been all along. Powerhouse vocalist Blanca has chosen the latter. The last few years of her life have been anything but familiar. She got married, gave birth to her son, and launched a solo singing career outside of Group 1 Crew, the group with whom she had spent her entire professional life. Virtually overnight, everything familiar was gone. Blanca had a choice—hand her identity over to the past or dare her heart to believe what her head already knew—she was loved, she had purpose, and she had a future.
“For so long I just wanted to sing and hide behind that, but I’m discovering that I don’t just have a voice; I actually have something to say. This is my journey and my ministry and I can choose to take this as far as I want, but it relies on me sharing my heart,” Blanca explains. With resolve and focus unlike she’d experienced before, she did just that. “It was so hard at first,” she says. “I had to break through a lot of creative blocks. Vulnerability can paralyze you. And there’s always that question of What if I fail? lingering in the background.
If there’s one thing that Blanca seems to have mastered, it’s honesty. Song after song in her new album, she’s not sugarcoating her very real battles with fear and insecurity. As Blanca shares her heart, she reveals that it’s a lot like every heart— unsteady at times, but finally, completely ready to love and be loved, to share and to be shared.
In just about every way, everything around Blanca has changed. Her work, home and family life look completely different than they did just a few years ago. But for the first time in her life, Blanca is boldly striding into the unfamiliar with a new confidence and the words of Joshua 1:9 in her heart… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Despite her fear, she’s grounded by a faith that tells her to love, so she loves. A faith that tells her to sing, so she sings. A faith that tells her to go…and she goes.
“I take a deep breath and step out on faith.”
Those words have been a mantra for South Side of Chicago native, Sharon Irving, songstress/songwriter/spoken-word-artist, worship leader, and actress, since she was a little girl, performing in front of the congregation at the south side church in Chicago where her grandfather was pastor.
With loving encouragement from her mother and grandmother, Sharon has cultivated and shaped her own creative persona. She is an inspiring ‘voice for the voiceless’, a passionate wordsmith, singing songs of life and love motivated by her personal experiences, and undergirded by her Christian beliefs.
Sharon has been a part of the worship team at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois for several years, has contributed songs and words of hope before thousands all over the country, and even entertained millions while a participant on Season Ten of “America’s Got Talent” where she received the coveted “Golden Buzzer” at her first televised audition and was chosen by America to compete in the Semi-Finals.
Sharon explains, ”We are all walking art. Life is messy and broken. So many people are hiding, living for others, dying on the inside, holding onto unhealthy narratives out of fear, but God’s strength is made perfect in those messy places. I want my art to be transparent, raw, uplifting, and healing.”
"Suffering isn't the end of your story. It's the beginning of a new story."
Katherine Wolf is survivor and storyteller, advocate, and evangelist. In 2008, at the age of 26, she nearly died from a catastrophic brainstem stroke. Her survival and recovery, not to mention that of her marriage and family, have been nothing short of miraculous. Katherine and her husband, Jay, are in full-time ministry together through HOPE HEALS, leveraging their story to encourage those with broken bodies, broken brains, and broken hearts. Engaging both faith-based and secular communities, they seek to bridge the gap between those disabled on the outside and those disabled on the inside with the hope that Jesus brings healing to the deepest pains we all carry. They co-authored their first book, HOPE HEALS, published by Zondervan in April 2016. They currently reside in Los Angeles with their two sons, James and John.
"Nobody influences a child more than their parents & nobody influences parents more than the church."
Ashley Bohinc serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange, is the co-host of The Think Orange Podcast and the Rethinking Youth Ministry Podcast, and co-authored The Art of Group Talk. She’s worked with students in public education, athletic, and ministry settings since 2005. Ashley is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating onstage, developing leaders, working with students, and engaging in world missions. Additionally, she’s the USA Director of Carry 117, a ministry in Ethiopia which focuses on orphan prevention and family preservation by empowering women. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.
Brooke was born in Houston, Texas. She comes from a classical music background with 17 years of formal training. Brooke has released four albums independently, with all music fully written, orchestrated, and arranged by Brooke herself. She has toured nationally with such artists as Copeland, Bell X1, Owen, Paper Route, Unwed Sailor, Owl City, Rocky Votolato, Denison Witmer, and Ron Sexsmith. She has played many festivals including SXSW festival, Lollapalooza festival, and Austin City Limits Fest. Her music has appeared on numerous TV shows such as ABC Family's Greek, Kyle XY, & Pretty Little Liars as well as CBS's Ghost Whisperer, ABC's Grey's Anatomy, and Lifetime's Army Wives. In January 2016, her self-produced album "Sweven" released on her label Swoon Moon Music. Brooke lives in Nashville with her husband and two young children.
Jessie Roth is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who lives in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Her passion has always been working with adolescent girls. She has worked as a foster and group home social worker, school crisis counselor, and adolescent therapist for many years. She currently works in full-time ministry alongside her husband Mike who is a pastor at Cornerstone Community Church. They have two daughters, Reagan (11) and Madison (8). She helps lead women's ministry, teaches the teen girls Sunday school class, and disciples and mentors many teen girls and young adult women.
Mallory Evans, MS, LPC: Mallory has a passion for helping people become who they want to be and feel the way they want to feel. Mallory graduated with her Masters in Counseling and Clinical Health Psychology in 2011. A Licensed Professional Counselor, she currently works in a group private practice. She has also been an adjunct professor over the years. The passion to help others become who they truly are has led her to an advocacy for girls and women especially in the area of body image. Mallory helped conduct research while at Messiah College for her undergraduate work on body image and spirituality and has since presented on the topic in numerous workshops and conferences. When she is not working, teaching, or speaking, Mallory loves spending time with her husband, daughter & dog and preparing for baby number 2 coming in May.
Michaelanne Helms believes that every part of your story counts. Each thread weaves together to create the tapestry of your life. When she was a little girl, she stole the red plastic hammer from her brother’s play tool set. She knew then that she wanted to create things with her hands. In 2006, she volunteered to create a mosaic with some neighbors on a storefront community center in North Philadelphia. This project altered the course of her story. Her passion is now gathering people around important ideas, drawing all participants to offer their own voice to the creative conversation, and ensuring each person leaves feeling that they have contributed creatively to something greater than themselves. “My best offering as an artist is to bring my unique and authentic story to the artistic process and to embrace the story of others. The work I commit to is asking the Spirit to increase my capacity to recognize and embrace the uniqueness of others I encounter.” Michaelanne lives in Lebanon, PA with her husband and two rowdy boys.
Sharon Comly has worked with many teens in her role as Client Services Director with the Pregnancy Resource Clinic and as a Small Group Leader with Calvary Church's Student Ministries. Her heart's desire is for teens to understand their purpose and beauty in Christ and to truly enjoy the young woman God made them to be. She and her husband Dave live in Souderton and are parents of three young adults.
Sarah Bragg is married with two beautiful girls. She worked in full-time ministry for more than 8 years and then alongside those in the ministry trenches for more than 10 years with Orange. She graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and authored the book, Body. Beauty. Boys. The Truth About Girls and How We See Ourselves. She is currently the content director for the Live a Better Story small group curriculum affiliated with Orange. You can also find her on iTunes hosting the popular show Surviving Sarah where she has conversations with different people in order to help women enjoy and thrive where they are in life.
Tanya has been given a life of many opportunities and blessings all which have made her the woman she is today. She is the wife of a wonderful man and the mother of two energetic kids. For the past 10 years, she and her husband have co-owned a CrossFit gym where she is a coach and general manager. She gets to teach people a new way of looking at health and fitness and help them physically get into the best shape of their lives. In 2009, Tanya won the CrossFit Games and earned the title "World's Fittest Woman." Since retiring from individual competition, she has become the women's color commentator for CrossFit and the CrossFit Games on ESPN and now CBS Sports. She now analyzes and talks about the sport she loves. She has a passion for helping others find their purpose and potential and she loves encouraging people to keep trying, keep fighting, and never give up.
Kristen is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange (The reThink Group, Inc.) and the Co-Founder and Director of The Phase Project. She and her husband Matt are currently parenting their three amazing children through the phases.
Before beginning her career at Orange in 2006, Kristen earned her bachelors in education from Baylor University in 2004 and a Master of Divinity from Mercer University in 2009. She worked in the public school system as a high school Biology and English teacher where she learned firsthand the joy and importance of influencing the next generation.
At Orange, Kristen has played an integral role in the development of the elementary, middle school, and high school curriculums and has shared her experiences at speaking events across the country.
Kristen is the co-host of the Parent Cue Live, a weekly podcast for parents. She is also the co-author of twenty-four books, including her latest release: 18-part Phase Guides series (Parenting Your New Baby, Parenting Your One-Year Old…).
Passionate about influencing students, you can either find Leah in the local public schools or the local church. A teacher by day, and a ministry leader by night, Leah truly believes that investing in the next generation can change the trajectory of their life and those around them. With a heart for teaching, she loves unpacking the Bible in tangible and applicable ways so that others can live out their best story through God’s life-changing truths. Leah grew up in Perkasie, Pennsylvania and attended Unveiled as a student.
1. Not just a borough of New York City, this Brooklyn is a Christian creative person, she is a wife & mom, writer & speaker whose expertise in youth ministry comes from 16 years working in the trenches of youth ministry 2. Idea sessions, beach retreats, acai bowls, and piles of books are her favorite 3. Dedicated to connecting the vision of the past with the Hope of the future by unleashing the passions of young leaders in the present – a bridge if you must – but not just to Manhattan 4. Her heartbeat is justice advocacy–her hope is to mobilize the church through the passion and influence of teenagers in order to interrupt the cycle of poverty and injustice in the world 5. Known for her down-to-earth style and transparency 6. Thanks God for an opportunity to participate in global youth ministry through the development of emerging leaders and ideas.