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My parents were farmers who were born and lived in the remote mountainous areas of Laos. We are of Hmong descent. The Hmong people are an ethnic minority group that over centuries, migrated from China into Laos and neighboring countries in order to maintain its own culture, language, and religious practices.
From 1959 to 1973, thousands of Hmong men and boys were recruited by the United States government to protect American soldiers and rescue downed American pilots during the Vietnam War. My father was 17 years old when he was recruited. As of result of their involvement in the American effort, the Hmong were seen as traitors to the communist Lao government and ordered to be persecuted.
When the U.S pulled out of Laos in the late 1970s, my parents spent years hiding in the jungles. In 1979, they fled for their lives -swimming across the Mekong River in the middle of the night into neighboring Thailand. My family, like thousands of Hmong, were placed in refugee camps as they arrived. In December of 1984, my mother gave birth to me in the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Loei Providence.
In 1987, when I was three years old, my family was accepted into the United States under the refugee relocation program. We flew from Bangkok to Ohio with nothing but the clothes on our backs.
Life was very hard for my parents. They did not speak English and had no formal education. They risked their lives for the safety of their children and focused on raising us to become contributing members of our new country. My parents instilled in my siblings and me the importance of hard work and education so that we would not struggle like them.
In 2003, I was accepted to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit to pursue my passion for art and design. I graduated in 2007 with my Bachelor of Fine Arts.
In 2017, I built an e-commerce store and company designing clothes inspired by my Hmong heritage. My company quickly grew out of our home and in 2019, we opened our storefront in Warren.
In 2020, I ran for public office and was elected in November 2020 as the first Hmong American elected official in Macomb County. I'm now at a point in my life where I can give back and that is why it is an honor for me to be serving others and giving back to the community that has given my family so much.