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Mesa’s Rising Stars

The heart of our mission at VoyagePhoenix 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 Greater Phoenix area’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 Mesa and surrounding areas below.

Valerie Joy McDonnell

Photography has been my passion since I received my first Kodak 110 camera when I was 11 years old! My other passion for helping and healing others pulled me into a career in nursing and I became a registered nurse at the age of 20, quickly transitioning into Intensive Care Units with critical patients. I became a traveling nurse helping out hospitals all around the country! My love for exploration took me to all the 50 US states, 31 countries, and five continents! Photography remained a continuous hobby, as the years went on, and of course, I slowly upgraded my cameras as I went. 🙂 After years of adventures, I accepted a permanent position as an Intensive Care Registered Nurse in a hospital on the outskirts of Phoenix, in 2018. When SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) hit, It was nothing my 11 years of nursing could have prepared me for. The heartbreaking amount of death I was suddenly surrounded with, the feeling of helplessness, and the mental strain it took, demanded that I take action to protect my mental health. Read more>>

Lindsey Dickson

My name is Lindsey and I am an artist, doctoral psychology student, and founder of Angsty By Nature. Angsty By Nature started out as an art blog where my husband and I shared our personal experiences with mental health and generalized anxiety disorder. We are both artists and we paint to ease our anxiety and encourage other angsty people to do the same. We blog about situations we feel can help others who struggle with their mental health and teach beginners how to paint if they want to learn, as it helps us during hard times. Art is a method of healing for me, and my past experiences drive me to push forward and accomplish what I set out to do. I am passionate and driven to help people, and I love sharing my art with people around the world. Read more>>

Tia Jones

I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from NAU and was an elementary school teacher for 13 years. I had done cookies on the side for family and friends for years, but it began really taking off. I was in a good place in my teaching career to take a break so I decided to give cookie decorating full time a try. As the business grew, I began training my friend, Jodi, to help with cookies. She is a pediatric nurse and now, in addition to nursing, also helps with cookies nearly full time as well. The two of us have slowly built T. and Cookies up to a thriving small business over the last three and a half years. Read more>>


I am a visual artist– musician, director, writer and dancer working under the moniker SYSTER. I have always been a creative individual and have always been passionate about creating art. I had to learn a lot of lessons before I committed fully to being an artist. I had to learn the value of passion and what life looks like without it. I had to learn the value of being true to yourself and the spectacular feelings and experiences it can bring you. I had to learn to let go of control and find peace in free-falling uncertainty. Creating art teaches me what love is. I want to create art for the rest of my life. So I will continue to learn these lessons for every breathing minute. The artistic communities and collectives we have in Phx is something really special. There is unwavering humanity and authenticity in its blood. I was able to grow exponentially as an artist when I built a team around me. The core of my team is Jacob Kellen, an incredible Phx producer who sonically holds space in the most magnificent way and reminds me to trust myself when I get swept away in the tsunamis and thunderstorms. Read more>>

Kimberly Vieyra

I grew up super insecure. I called myself the black sheep of the family. No one else in my family did, I just labeled myself that. I was a little awkward looking. Or at least I saw myself that way. It’s taken me almost my whole 30 years of existence to realize how much damage I was doing to myself. Body dysmorphia is real. Food disorders are real. Insecurities take you to places that only surrender and healing and pull you out of. I started doing photoshoots for fun about 5 years ago. My friends always encouraged me and called me a model. I just thought they were my friends. Just about 2 years ago, I finally decided to risk it! One of my passions is speaking into women’s lives and pulling out their passions and desires that they have hidden. Through some modeling and women’s events, I have seen my passions come to life. So much so that I am finally believing in myself and my capabilities. I have started dreaming for some big things. Read more>>

Alex Simon

In October of 2018 I decided to pursue my career in Real Estate after years of putting it off. In December of 2018 I received my real estate license. In July of 2019 I decided to go full-time real estate. At the time it was a bit of a risky move since I was not well established in the industry yet. I also started working at a local bar near my home and that is where I really began to understand that I made the right move. I really saw that my previous occupation was something that I did but it wasn’t my passion. In the same time was able to get back into mentoring and helping others. During the pandemic is when I fully began to realize why the move to full time real estate was worth it. I was able to be there for my family and at the same time work in an essential field that allowed me still provide for my family. I am now going into my third year of real estate and couldn’t be happier. Read more>>

Jeff Senour

Jeff Senour, a true Renaissance man, Pilot by day, Rocker by night was born in Portland, Oregon and raised mostly in Southern California. His Dad was an Electrical Engineer and flew private airplanes for fun. His Mom was a stay at home parent but also a Violinist who as a young girl was in various movies as a young Actress. They both taught Jeff from an early age to believe in yourself and that with hard work you can achieve anything you want in life. Over 15 years ago Jeff formed the rock band CTS- Called To Serve. Fueled with a passion for music since childhood, singer/songwriter Jeff Senour formed CTS to inspire people of all ages to live their dreams and honor our real American Heroes. Ever since it’s inception, Jeff’s mission for the band was to pass along a message of the American dream through music. The band’s dedication to our Military, Police, Firefighters and First Responders has placed their music in numerous festivals, Military events, fundraisers and charities across the nation. Jeff’s vigor for life carries over as well to his aviation career. Read more>>

Delonté Riggins

When I share my childhood story, I’m told my life was not the norm. Not because of any horrible occurrences, but because it was the most wonderful time ever! Great people and beautiful memories up until the age of 13. At that point, life became less fun and more isolated. Since then, I’ve walked through most of my life as a lone traveler; being the only child of a single-mother, having difficulty gaining friendships, and having no positive male guide to follow into manhood. The effects of that isolation presented in high school as social problems, lack of interest and depression. I always told myself, “next year will be better”, but it never was. That cycle continued through college where my personal issues multiplied. I accepted that I wasn’t going to complete my degree program and decided to drop out rather than waste more resources. By that time I had become a single-father to my daughter. So I made the only decision that could provide the support she needed, and also provide needed separation from everything that reminded me of what my life had become. Read more>>

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