Born and raised in Togo, West Africa, Odino Kesse faced numerous challenges. With limited access to basic necessities and education, he began working at the age of 11 to help his family make ends meet.
"It was a little rough for me growing up,” Kesse said. “ I ended up in some tough situations, as we couldn't afford many things that other kids took for granted, like furniture or proper tuition."
Despite facing difficulties and repeating classes due to financial constraints, Keese never gave up on his dreams. Luckily, his life took a significant turn in 12th grade when he saw a line of people standing outside waiting to play the diversity visa lottery program that offered a chance to immigrate to the U.S.
“I said, ‘If I play that, I’m going to be the only winner.’,” Kesse reflected.
With this combination of confidence and luck, Kesse was right. Out of seven schools of children playing the visa lottery, he won, against all odds. This unexpected opportunity provided a path to a brighter future, and he didn't hesitate to seize it and leave Togo to embark on a new chapter in his life.
However, without a high school diploma, Kesse couldn’t leave right away. With a timeline of only 10 months to complete his education before his visa would expire, he enrolled in a local high school, where he faced the challenge of catching up academically and improving his English proficiency.
“I was one of those students that could barely get a D, so I fought my way to go to those classes,” Kesse said. “The visa was only one way out of my struggle at that time, and I had to make it through.”
Despite the odds stacked against him, Kesse tirelessly worked to obtain his diploma and secure his ticket out of the cycle of poverty and limited opportunities. Arriving in the U.S. at the age of 21, Kesse stepped off his plane with nothing more than a bag and perseverance.
“I made a choice that I had to go back to school and learn English,” Kesse said.
After enrolling in community college, he began working a variety of jobs to earn money for his education. He learned about ASU Online through his job as an Uber driver. The company's partnership with ASU Online offered him the chance to obtain tuition coverage, a lifeline he had been searching for his entire life.
Upon receiving the news, Kesse's response was immediate: "Nothing is given for free, so when an opportunity arises, you have to take it."
Today, Kesse’s commitment to education hasn't wavered. ASU Online provided him with the means to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry, a field of study that aligns with his dream of making a difference in health care. Additionally, he attributes the hands-on experience he gained during his lab course at ASU for his newfound passion and drive for medical studies.
“I didn’t really know what Arizona State University was until I arrived in Tempe for my lab course,” Kesse explained. In awe of the opportunities and power of a large institution like ASU, his response was, “Alright, let’s go!”
With a bright future in sight, Kesse is focused on his long-term goals. He plans to complete his bachelor's degree and eventually pursue a master's degree to open up even more career opportunities and provide a better life for his family.
“Growing up, I was told that I was never going to become anybody,” Kesse said. “But that was something I never believed. When I see an opportunity, I take it.”
Kesse’s story serves as a reminder that with resilience and access to educational opportunities, individuals can overcome adversity and achieve their dreams.