“I was just a neighborhood kid. There was no running water in our house. Or electricity. So in the evenings, when I came home from school, I’d sit out near the road. Across the street there was a hotel where foreigners stayed.  I’d watch them play Frisbee. I’d watch them buy African souvenirs from the street vendors. Occasionally one of them would come speak to me. I was an inquisitive child. I liked to ask questions. So I think they found me entertaining. One evening an American girl came up to me and started asking me questions. Just small talk: ‘What’s your name?’, and things like that.  But then she asked my birthday, and I told her: ‘November 19th.’  ‘No way.’ she replied. ‘That’s my birthday too!’ And after that we became friends. Her name was Talia. She’d come visit me every evening, and bring me chocolate chip cookies.  She’d let me play her Game Boy.  She’d ask about my family.  She’d ask about school.  I was the best student in my third grade class, so I’d show her my report cards, and she’d get so excited.  She was the first person to take me to the beach.  I’d never even seen the ocean before.  We had so much fun together. But one evening she told me that she was going back to America. And I began to cry. She bought us matching necklaces from a street vendor, took one final picture, and promised that she’d write me letters. It was a promise that she kept. The first letter arrived a few weeks after she left. And there were many letters after that. She told her parents all about me. They invited me to America to stay with them for a month. They took me to baseball games, and amusement parks, and shopping trips. It was the best time of my life.  When I returned to Ghana, they paid for all my school fees. They bought my books and clothes. They paid for me to get a degree in engineering. Now I have my own company. The Cassis family turned my life around. I was just some random kid they didn’t know, and they gave me a chance for my dreams to come true. I went back to visit them last year. But this time I didn’t need them to pay my way. I was giving a speech at MIT, because I’d been selected as one of their top innovators under the age of 35.”