Yonah Martin - then a middle school teacher in Coquitlam - was at a pizza joint when she got the call from the Prime Minister, inviting her to be the first Canadian of Korean descent in parliament. Four years later, she's still making strides on the Hill.
When Nancy Innes joined the Surrey Fire Department in 1992, there were no female firefighters in Surrey - or anywhere else in the Lower Mainland. Today, she's an acting fire captain, with many a story to tell.
Gayle Roberts was a teacher in Vancouver for 33 years: 27 as a man and six years as a woman. As a young boy, she believed it was shameful to want to be a girl, so she grew up thinking it was something she had to cure.
Ross Brown joined the Canadian navy in 1979. His military career includes rescuing 100 Vietnamese boat people in the South China Sea, serving at medical facilities in Bosnia and Afghanistan and establishing the Canadian Forces Trauma Centre at Vancouver General Hospital.
Gursimran Kaur has never plucked an eyebrow or shaved a leg. This wasn't unusual for a devoted Sikh in India, but it was more of a challenge for a high school student in Surrey. Now in her 20s, preserving all of her hair - and wearing a turban - has been a choice all her own.
Eric Dorchester was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer nearly two years ago. He was told the best way to deal with it was to remove his leg. Today, he wears a prosthetic with a hydraulic knee - and still feels the toes he no longer has.
Sean Cuthbert grew up feeling like he didn't belong - and thought that alcohol would help. After 15 years of alcoholism, and as a result, losing relationships, jobs and almost killing himself in a motorcycle accident, he got sober.
Teenager Danielle Kisser has found her place in the world of sport, even though she's just four feet tall. She has played soccer, softball... and even made the high school basketball team - despite shocking her would-be coach when she stepped on the court. Now she's concentrating full-time on para-swimming and the next Paralympic Games.
Even in high school, Aasim Rashid's peers saw him as the go-to person to talk with about their problems. Years of Islamic studies later, he has earned the prestigious title, "Mufti", giving him the authority to rule in religious matters - and help bridge the complex issues that develop when Islamic law meets life in Canada.
Vince Stancato couldn't even walk into a hospital before he took up this career, but now death is just another day on the job. It's a job that's never predictable and one that he describes as "incredibly interesting". His tales from the workplace leave no doubt as to why he's the most popular guest at dinner parties.
Trina Ricketts was studying English literature and women's studies at university when she danced her first shift. She made the same money that one night that she made in two weeks at her part-time sales job. The empowerment she felt from exotic dancing convinced her to quit her part-time job the very next morning.
Jaymie Matthews knew he wanted to study the stars from as far back as his memory extends. Now a regular NASA collaborator, he remembers hanging out in the local cemetery at night with his department-store telescope, when he was just eight years old - much to the irritation of the local police.
Once a skinhead recruiter for the White Aryan Resistance, Tony McAleer says he felt his first spark of connection and compassion when he first held his newborn daughter. Now he speaks in high schools and youth custody centres about leaving the movement and inspiring compassion.
Cathy Minty was married for 12 years, with five kids, when her husband left abruptly. With no means, at the time, to support her family, she has gone from not even knowing how to operate a drill to being a second year apprentice plumber - and a force to reckon with on the job.
By 17 years old, Joanne Charles was running the family business. After graduating college in business management, she helped aboriginal small business owners get start-up grants. But her most fulfilling work has been helping first nations people connect with their roots.
Tad Milmine spends a lot of time speaking to school kids about his experience as an outcast: someone who didn't fit in and who became a victim of bullying. He has now found his place in life and is realizing his dream as a police officer.
Tommy Leung wasn't concerned that it was getting harder and harder to see clearly; he figured that doctors could fix whatever was broken. But irreversible glaucoma stole his sight and sent him into a deep depression. Twelve years later, he is completing his master's degree in counselling, between trips to China to work at a school for the blind and navigating the world with his guide dog, Macbeth.
Jim Mandelin speaks to school groups and organizations about being abused as a child, bullied in school and finding acceptance and belonging by a biker gang. His violent lifestyle led to a brush with death that has turned his life around and encouraged him to share his story and inspire others.
When Annabella Villalom left the Philippines to find work, her daughters were ages four and six. Thirteen years later, she is still sending money back to the Philippines for her daughters, while working as a live-in caregiver, looking after two young children.
Not long ago, Trevor Carruthers was living on the streets, spending his nights at a BMX track in Surrey. Before that, he was married, had two kids and worked in sales, making up to $10-thousand a month. He's now off the streets, living in a recovery house and looking to the future.
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