KGOU

Isabel Dobrin

New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La., opened in the early 1970s as a religious reform school for, as its founder said, "the incorrigible, unwanted rejects" who "haven't been loved and haven't had a chance in life."

Over the next three decades, law enforcement officials repeatedly investigated claims of physical and psychological child abuse at the school.

For Abdel Akim Adjibade, the fifth time was the charm. He remembers clearly the day in 2003 he found out the news. He'd won the lottery — literally.

After receiving four rejections, Adjibade, a science instructor from Burkina Faso in West Africa, opened a large envelope to see the word "Congratulations" along with his photo and case number. The U.S. had selected him for one of the up to 50,000 visas issued annually via lottery selection through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

Lan Cao was just 7 years old when military forces launched an attack in her city outside of Saigon, Vietnam, in 1968. But she still remembers the chaos: the sound of automatic gunfire, the fighting near her house, how the sky lit up at night from explosions.

Sharon Brangman knew at a young age — around 10 years old — that she wanted to be a doctor one day.

So when a school guidance counselor put her in typing and home economics classes, her mother, Ruby Brangman, wouldn't have it. Ruby made a trip to her daughter's school to address the matter.

"Grandmother was like, 'Oh, no way,' " Sharon tells her daughter, Jenna Lester, in a StoryCorps interview in New York City. "I remember she went up to the school and said, 'I want my daughter transferred so she could go to college.' "

Dion Diamond was sitting at a "whites only" lunch counter in Arlington, Va., in 1960 when a crowd started gathering around him. At the time, he was a young black man participating in a sit-in at a local five-and-dime store with a group of black and white university students, and they were drawing some attention from people who didn't want them protesting.

At one point, a white boy — maybe 12 or 13 — pointed his finger at Dion. He seemed to say, " 'Get out, you know you are not wanted here,' " Dion tells StoryCorps in Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: This story comes from a special holiday installment of StoryCorps. It's derived from a recording that comes from The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Every year, StoryCorps asks people to interview each other over the long weekend using their phones. For more information on how to participate, visit Storycorps.

Mike Kochar's grandfather only lasted one day as a mailman.