To the women who have shaped and molded us– we admire you, we cherish you, we love you. And today we are telling the stories of you that we hold so close to our hearts. 

"As a girl who dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina one day, I spent hours pouring through books and magazines for photos of them to tape on my wall. The first time I saw a picture of Misty Copeland, I remember holding my breath at the beauty of her strong body. As the first black principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, she broke so many barriers to diversity in the art and challenged stereotypes about what a ballerina should “look like”- and when I finally got to see her dance I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I’ve always carried that quiet inspiration- that I don’t have to fit a mold to be successful at doing what I love. The things that make me different don’t take away from what I do; they are the things that make me shine." - Stephanie Purcell

"I have long adored the words and spirit of Mary Oliver. Her honesty, her vulnerability, her curiosity for the world + for others, her perceptive heart and the way she is able to form her insights into words that make you feel, feel deep in your soul. She writes about the simple joys of nature, a place I so often turn to for peace and insight. I admire how she praises the woods and roses, how she spends time alone to learn from the wild. Her words encourage me to live a life full of wonder, of purpose, of connection. I love the way she helps me think about the joy and the heavy of life all in the same breath. I could not count the moments when her words have wafted through my mind, prompting me to stop and reflect on the life I am creating and living. When she asks "tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" I want to be able to answer, and be proud of my reply. When she gives "instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." I want to follow them. She has influenced my motherhood, my movement through nature, my dreaming and scheming and vision boarding for the future. She inspires me to live more intentionally." –Cara Peper

"About 19 years ago, my grandma Leslie was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. After treatment she was able to beat it, and had been in remission until about four years ago when we found out it was back, this time stage 4 and terminal. She has been undergoing treatment since and all I can say is that woman is a fighter in every aspect of her life. She is a walking, living, breathing example of someone who loves when it’s hard or isn’t always reciprocated. Who is optimistic and filled with love despite a tough situation. Who makes sure her loved ones are taken care of before she is. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from her is that you are going to be handed difficult circumstances, but you can beat it, and hand out more love and kindness than all the bad you receive." –Sophie Rasi

"A special woman in my life is definitely my sister Kenzie. We lost our mom young and growing up she filled that void for me and became my best friend and the #1 person I look up to. She's so funny and never takes life too seriously, she has always been a hard worker and been good at everything she has ever tried. A specific lesson that I have learned from her is to just enjoy life as it is and never complain for things you don't have. Her influence has had a huge impact on my life. Anytime I'm considering something big in my life she's the first person I go to for help and advice. If you know Kenzie you love her!" –Makayla Bailey

"I grew up watching Zendaya on Disney Channel and have continued to watch her career grow as I have grown myself. I see a lot of myself in the characters she’s played, specifically MJ from the Spider-man movies. Her character is a little sarcastic but unapologetically herself and not afraid to be an outsider—things I always felt were a fault in myself. But she is also fiercely loyal to the people in her life, which is something I take pride in being as well. She has created such a safe space for those that admire and support her. Her fans are a little family and I’ve been lucky enough to find good friends within this community. Everyone she interacts with feels her love. I’ve had the privilege of feeling a little of that love with a simple “❤️” comment. Zendaya continues to inspire me to just be me." –Rylee Spoonemore

"Ruth is a strong woman who I hold close to my heart. She’s my mom and she’s currently battling a rare and painful cancer. My mom has always been strong and I’ve known that. But through this past year of her battle I’ve really been able to see how STRONG she is. Through numerous courses of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgeries- having to put her body through things that no one’s body should ever have to go through- she’s always kept fighting to live. With a large tumor on her back near her spine, it’s really painful for her to move around. Yet she still gets up out of bed every single day, gets ready, and even goes on walks outside. It’s so motivating to see her do these things that are so hard and painful for her to do, but do them without complaint. Not only does she fight to live with so much strength, but she also fights with pure grace. I wear a bracelet with her name on it every day so I can remember how strong and graceful I can be through difficult situations just like my mom. I’m so excited to wear this locket to symbolize her strength and grace just like my bracelet." –Abigail Mecke

"My cute mom! (She would die if she got featured)

My mom is the most positive and kind person I know. She never has  a mean thing to say about anybody. She also has always had a passion for learning. No matter how trivial or small of a subject, she is always looking for things to google or read about. If she has something she's curious about, she'll look it up right away. I love that about her.

My mom is a strong woman. She had had a lot of trials and heartbreak in her life. Despite this, she has always taught me to look outward instead of inward. Serving others is the perfect alternative to feeling sorry for myself. Another funny lesson she has taught me is the quote, “boring people are bored” I always hated when she said this to me growing up but I realize as I get older that it is so true. My mom is never bored because she devotes her time to countless activities that enrich her life and I admire and want to emulate this pattern of thinking.

Her influence has ultimately made me a more well rounded adult who has a desire to experience the world and consistently become a better version of myself." -Talley Larsen

"My grandma has made a big impact on my life. She was so selfless and constantly thinking of things she could do to make others happy and feel special. She was really good at sharing her talents with others. She was amazing at sewing, cake decorating, and gardening, and would use these talents whenever she could to help people feel loved. Her life motto from the time she was a little girl was "Greet the day with a song, Make others happy, Serve gladly”. She cross stitched this phrase and kept it framed on a wall in her home from the age of 10. She really did live each day that way. She was diagnosed at 65 with Alzheimer’s and it was incredibly difficult to watch both her physical and mental health deteriorate so quickly. Even though she had so many difficulties towards the end of her life, she chose to live each day to the fullest, regardless of her diagnosis. She traveled the world with my grandpa until she was no longer physically able to, and spent time with her family at every chance she could. My grandpa made sure this continued as her health declined and she could no longer do things for herself. He helped her do all the activities he knew she would have wanted to do, and took her everywhere he could in her wheelchair. My grandma made sure she got every drop of life out of those last few years, and her resilience was inspiring. Her influence has encouraged me to live more in the moment, to take advantage of each day I have with the people I love, and to share my talents however I can to make others happy." -Anna Black

"My high school teacher, Miss Cox.

She has a natural ability to uplift and have confidence in others. She is curious and never stops learning and developing new skills.

I learned so much from her, but the lesson that has been the most impactful is when she taught me that my focus should be on my actions rather than outcomes. So many people get caught up in outcomes, whether that's “happiness” or “success,” but never focus on their own actions. Focus on working hard and let go of the need to control outcomes, because they will come as a natural consequence. You just have to have faith.

That lesson she taught me has come back and reminded me to let go of things I have no control over and take control of the things I can change. I feel less anxious when I don’t allow circumstances or things outside of my power, take control of my emotions, feelings, or actions. Now I know that I am capable of creating goodness regardless of the challenges or struggles I face." –Kaylee

"My lola {grandmother} has made such a huge impact on my life. She had sacrificed so much to give her family a better life, and had such strength and courage that still inspires me everyday. Only 3 months after my mother was born, my lola had to leave the Philippines to begin the process of bringing the family to America. She spent several of those years in Africa as a nurse helping all she could before she finally made it to the United States. It took years for my lola to get her husband and four daughters to the states. But she kept fighting, and when my mom was eight years old they finally were able to come. They had never met in those eight years, my mom only knew her mom through her voice in tapes she would send in the mail. My lola was truly such a strong woman, stubborn at times but she knew what she deserved, what her family deserved and fought for that. I miss her everyday, and work hard in remembrance of the life she was able to provide for not only my family, but all the generations that have come and will come after her." –Taylor Santo Tomas