About First-Person Stories

Siti Dyannie Rahmaputri ("Putri") was born in 1993 in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is an only child. Putri and her parents left Indonesia for the United States on temporary visas when she was 11. Determined to get Putri a quality education in America, the family applied for permanent residency but were turned down. Putri was preparing to enter college when the family faced the threat of being deported back to Indonesia. Their dream of a new life in America was at risk.

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Joon-Suk Park was born in 1989 in Seoul, South Korea. During his senior year in high school in California, Joon-Suk, who renamed himself "Terrence" in an effort to assimilate, was accepted into a number of colleges. While applying for financial aid, he asked his mother for his Social Security number. She said he didn’t have one. After her original tourist visa had expired, Terrence’s mother stayed in the country, hoping to provide her children with the best possible education. As the former head of the Math Club at U.C. Berkeley and currently a bio statistics graduate student at Harvard, Terrence shares an uncertain future with the 11 million aspiring Americans currently living in this country.

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Huyen “Kiki” Vo was born in 1991 in a small village in Vietnam. After her mother died in a devastating fire in their home, Kiki and her father and two of her sisters came to the United States for medical care. Their visas expired but they stayed in the country so the girls could continue to get the care they needed while pursuing an education. In 2012, Kiki applied for temporary work authorization and deferral of deportation under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. With her temporary status lasting only until 2014, she is waiting along with millions of others for a long-term, permanent fix to the deeply flawed immigration system.

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Matthew Vines was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. Throughout his youth, Matthew’s family was deeply involved in a conservative evangelical Presbyterian church. After Matthew came out as gay while attending Harvard University, he took a leave of absence to do research on the Bible and sexual orientation and to work for LGBT inclusion in the Christian faith. Matthew’s story provides hope that there are ways to build more support for gay and lesbian rights within faith communities, which have been a major source of opposition to marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

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Rachel Timoner, 41, and Felicia Park-Rogers, 41, were married on June 17, 2008. Their wedding took place on the first day that it was possible for same-sex couples in California to marry. It was shortly after the state Supreme Court ruling in May 2008 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages violated state constitutional rights, and before California voters essentially reinstated the ban with their approval of Proposition 8 in November of the same year.

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Joseph Yglesias serves as a Chief Cryptologic Technician in the U.S. Navy. He was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. Joseph joined the Navy in 1998 when he was 28 years old and has received numerous medals, awards and decorations during his years of service. At the time that he enlisted, the military was operating under the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy that barred service by openly gay and bisexual men and women. Joseph, who says he was “gay right from the start,” had been active in gay rights issues while living in Austin during his 20s. For Joseph and other gay service members, the repeal of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' in 2010 meant they no longer faced the threat of being discharged for the simple act of acknowledging their true selves.

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Katherine “Katie” Miller grew up in Findlay, Ohio, a town with a population of about 40,000 that is located roughly 40 miles south of Toledo in the northwestern part of the state. She attended the local public high school and was always a good student. When she was a sophomore, she started to think about attending West Point and pursuing a career in the U.S. Army — even as she was beginning to come to terms with the fact that she was gay.

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Ernesto was raised in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. Today, he oversees youth leadership programs for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Bay Area’s National Parks and making sure they are accessible to all people. Ernesto was appointed to his current position after he launched and managed an award-winning program at the Crissy Field Center called Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders (I-YEL).

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Ju

Ju is an undergraduate student at U.C. Berkeley. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1989 and came to the United States at age 11 with his mother and sister. It was not until he was applying to colleges as a senior in high school that he learned a secret his mother had kept from him for years: Ju is undocumented. Since learning about his status, Ju has become an outspoken advocate on behalf of undocumented students and their families.

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Angel was 12 when his mother hired a coyote to bring the family across the Mexico-U.S. border in 1999. They settled in Florida and planned to stay only briefly—to work, save, and then go back to Mexico for a better life. Today, Angel juggles several part-time jobs while attending law school in San Francisco. He has been active in the gay and lesbian rights movement since coming out in high school.

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About

First-Person Stories

The Haas, Jr. Fund is developing this series because we believe in the power of listening and the importance of seeing the world through others' eyes.

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Q&A With

Dave Eggers of
Voice of Witness

As we set out on our path to gather these first-person stories, the Haas, Jr. Fund turned to Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Dave Eggers.

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