Emma Peak came to Sunderland to study at the city's university - and loved it so much she's still here 14 years later.
Now she's one of the 21 community champions who are throwing their weight behind the bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.
Emma , 31, who lives in Millfield, said: "I'm really proud to tell people I'm from Sunderland. I moved here 14 years ago to study and stayed - I love it here.
"We have amazing people, culture, innovation and businesses - and there's just so much happening," added Emma, who works for Sunderland Connect Network.
"The bid is great for people who don't usually engage with culture all the time, as it gives them a voice.
"Sunderland Connect Network is passionate about seeing our city being transformed, and the City of Culture is an amazing opportunity for the city.
"I want to be part of the community who says this is really important, and hope City of Culture is just one step on a journey to find a new identity."
Sunderland is up against Coventry, Paisley, Swansea and Stoke as it bids to be named UK City of Culture.
A successful bid would put the city firmly into the cultural spotlight, attracting millions of pounds into the local economy through investment in the arts and an increase in visitors and jobs.
It would kick-start a four-year period of growth, innovation and creativity and culminate in a year of exciting cultural and artistic events.
Final second-round bids must be submitted by this Friday, September 29, and the successful city will be announced in Hull, the current UK City of Culture, in December.