Melissa Diep was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Her family fled their homeland shortly after the United States pulled out of the Vietnam War, and Saigon fell to the communist North. Often referred to as "Boat People," her family spent 10 days at sea on a tiny, cramped fishing boat until they reached a refugee camp in Thailand. They spent a year and a half in the over crowded camp, which lacked many basic necessities such as running water, while awaiting sponsorship to the United States. In 1980, a Jewish family from Skokie, Illinois, answered their prayers. Melissa has been a resident of Chicago ever since. Her family's journey has shaped who she is today.