Cyprian Ng’etich, a native of Kenya turned teacher from Mississippi, has always had his head in the clouds.
With his childhood home near a hospital and an airstrip built by foreign missionaries, small planes came and went often. From time to time, government officials would arrive by helicopter to tour the area.
As far back as he can remember, Ng’etich has always been fascinated by “any object that flies”. The desire to build, design or fly these objects once supported him.
“When I was in high school, I sometimes had a tendency to lose my concentration. So I had a photo in front of my desk of a jet fighter, ”Ng’etich said. “Whenever I felt like I was a little demotivated, I would just open the office, look at this, and instantly, I would get some motivation.”
Despite growing up with one eye raised to the sky, Ng’etich had never set foot on a plane before coming to the United States in 2014, a moment he had dreamed of.
To date, his trip to America is the only time he has flown.
“I had never seen such a big plane in my life until we boarded,” Ng’etich said. “I could just feel this happiness, this joy of flying in a Boeing plane for the first time.”
Ng’etich fell asleep a few hours after the flight started and woke up several hours later to a marvelous view – a blanket of massive clouds outside his window, glowing gold in the morning sunlight. on the United Kingdom.
From the UK, he flew to Dallas, Texas, and finally to Monroe, Louisiana, where he began his studies at Grambling State University.
FROM THE RIFT VALLEY TO THE BLUE MOUNTAIN
Ng’etich’s trip from Bomet, a town in Kenya‘s Rift Valley Province, to Blue Mountain College is an interesting story.
He attended the Mother of the Apostles minor seminary in Eldoret, Kenya, for high school, where he learned to speak English and Swahili in addition to his native language, Kalenjin.
In 2014, two years after graduating from high school, Ng’etich arrived in the United States.
He spent a single semester studying at Grambling State University in Louisiana before transferring to the Vicksburg campus of Hinds Community College. While at Hinds, he began training for cross country, running at Vicksburg National Military Park.
Towards the end of 2017, he attended a cross-country race at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, where he ran the race as a ‘unattached’ runner, meaning he was not affiliated with any school. .
There, he met Blue Mountain College cross country coach Phillip Laney, who offered him the chance to tour the Blue Mountain campus.
The small town atmosphere of the college charmed Ng’etich.
By the end of the following week, he had initiated his transfer to Blue Mountain College.
“I feel like it was a matter of God,” Ng’etich said.
Even before arriving in America, Ng’etich had consumed American, even southern, culture.
“I already knew about country music,” Ng’etich said. “It’s the kind of music I love to listen to.”
He grew up listening to “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton and “Coward of the County” by Kenny Rogers.
“When I listen to music, I will look for the message,” Ng’etich said.
His favorite track is “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw, a song whose title and message Ng’etich strives to embody.
He also enjoys gospel music, often listening to K-Love on the radio while driving.
A struggle for Ng’etich was to adapt to the Mississippi climate.
Coming from Bomet, where the temperature typically hovers between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, northeast of the Mississippi, where the temperature steadily drops below 30 degrees in winter and above 90 degrees in summer, has been a tough adjustment.
“Over time, I was able to adapt, especially with the cold,” said Ng’etich. “Because I don’t like the cold. I am a warm person. So with the cold, it was a challenge to try to adapt.
Being active in sports and running helped him cope with climate change, but it wasn’t the only thing he had to adapt to.
While there isn’t a huge difference between the types of food Africans and Americans eat, there are differences in the way the food is prepared, in the spices, and in the cooking methods.
He enjoys most of the dishes he’s tried in the South, but by default orders a burger if there’s nothing else on the menu that’s particularly appealing.
“I KNEW I HAVE THE TALENT”
Ng’etich’s first salary in the United States did not come from a job, but from a pencil.
During his second week in the United States, Ng’etich showed some of his artwork to a man who was fixing his laptop. The man was so impressed that he asked Ng’etich to draw a portrait of his granddaughter.
The man paid Ng’etich for the portrait; Ng’etich used the money to pay for the repair of his laptop.
“After that, I felt something inside me that pushed me to do more,” said Ng’etich.
From that day on, Ng’etich invested more time and money in his art. He bought some materials and now draws on a daily basis.
“I knew I had the talent when I was 8,” said Ng’etich. “But back in Kenya, most people don’t appreciate talent. They tell you ‘Go to school’. Find a good career. Find a job and get married and so on. I didn’t really find more support with my art until I came to the United States.
Ng’etich specializes in pencil portraits and hyperrealistic drawings.
Most of the pieces produced by Ng’etich are orders. He has made a hundred since 2014.
But prints and original versions of his art are also currently for sale at Relics Antique Marketplace in Tupelo and Rip Jax Mercantile in Ripley. They include portraits of Elvis Presley, Nelson Mandela, and William Faulkner, among others.
A website is in the works, but Ng’etich is promoting his work through Facebook and Instagram at the moment.
A MATHEMATICS TEACHER WHO DREAMS OF BEING AN AEROSPACE ENGINEER
Although he loves to draw, Ng’etich’s future is not on paper, but in the sky.
Growing up, Ng’etich always wanted to be an aerospace engineer. But he felt he had to consider the most logical steps to build his career.
So he started teaching eighth grade math at the East Union Attendance Center, a subject that fits his future career plans.
As a teacher, Ng’etich also follows in the footsteps of his father, Anthony Kipngetich Rutto. Rutto was an English teacher in Mathematics and Religious Studies in Grades 5-8 at several schools around Bomet.
Ng’etich graduated from Blue Mountain College in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in secondary education, which earned him a place as a teacher at East Union.
The 2021-22 school year is his first as a full-time teacher, and it’s been amazing, he said.
Having moved to Mississippi from outside the country, Ng’etich said his students, who called him “Mr. Cyp ”, are curious and want to know more about him.
“This is an opportunity and I am so blessed to be among them, being their math teacher,” said Ng’etich. “I love their wit and that the majority of them, if not all, are ready every time they come to class wanting to learn.
Ng’etich is not only a teacher, but he is also the head coach of the East Union Archery Team. While attending Blue Mountain, he joined the archery team in 2019. Although he only competed for a year, he had the knack for it and was part of a group that competed at regional, state and national levels.
Ng’etich said he was grateful to work for a school administration that has been patient with the visa transition.
“The school was so gracious. They waited for me, ”Ng’etich said. “When I received my papers, they said ‘Welcome’. It’s something that I really enjoyed being at East Union.
At the moment, Ng’etich is here on an optional practical training visa. In January, he will seek a two-year extension available to students who have graduated in science, technology, engineering and math.
At 29, Ng’etich doesn’t see age as a problem in reaching his goals. He always looks to the future. And up to.
“If you’ve got a longing inside you that’s still burning,” he said, “I feel like this thing isn’t going to stop until you satisfy it.”