BLUE SPRINGS • Cyprian Ng’etich, a native of Kenya who became a middle school teacher in Mississippi, has always had his head in the clouds.
With his childhood home near a hospital and runway built by foreign missionaries, small planes often came and went. From time to time government officials would arrive by helicopter to visit the area.
As far as he can remember, Ng’etich was always fascinated by “every object that flew”. The longing to build, design or fly these objects one day kept him going.
“When I was in high school, I sometimes lost focus. So I had a picture of a jet fighter in front of my desk,” said Ng’etich. “Every time I felt a little demotivated, I just opened the desk, looked at it and got motivated right away.”
Although he grew up with one eye in the sky, Ng’etich had never set foot on a plane before coming to the United States in 2017, a moment he dreamed of.
To date, his trip to America is the only time that he has flown.
“I had never seen an airplane this big in my life until we got on board,” said Ng’etich. “I could just feel the happiness, the joy of flying on a Boeing aircraft for the first time.”
Ng’etich fell asleep a few hours after the flight and woke up a few hours later to a wondrous sight – a blanket of massive clouds in front of his window, gleaming gold in the morning sunlight over Britain.
From the UK he flew to Dallas, Texas, and finally to Monroe, Louisiana, where he went to school 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 Minor Seminary Mother of Apostles Minor in Eldoret, Kenya, for high school, where he learned English and Swahili in addition to his native Kalenjin.
In 2014, two years after graduating from high school, Ng’etich came to the United States.
He spent a semester at Grambling State University in Louisiana before moving to the campus of Hinds Community College in Vicksburg. While at Hinds, he began cross-country training and ran in Vicksburg National Military Park.
Towards the end of 2017 he took part in a cross-country race on the Choctaw Trails in Clinton, where he ran the race as an “unattached” runner, that is, he was not affiliated with any school.
There he met Phillip Laney, the Blue Mountain College cross-country trainer, who gave him the opportunity to visit the Blue Mountain campus.
The small town atmosphere of the college enchanted Ng’etich.
By the end of the following week he had begun his transfer to Blue Mountain College.
“I feel like it was a thing of God,” said Ng’etich.
Even before he arrived in America, Ng’etich had consumed American, even southern, culture.
“I already knew country music,” said Ng’etich. “That’s the kind of music I like to listen to.”
He grew up with Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and Kenny Rogers’ “Coward of the County”.
“When I listen to music, I respond to the message,” said Ng’etich.
His favorite song is “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw, a song whose title and message Ng’etich wants to embody.
He also likes gospel music and often listens to K-Love on the radio while driving.
One struggle for Ng’etich was to adapt to the Mississippi climate.
Going from Bomet, where the temperature is typically between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round, to northeast Mississippi, where the temperature regularly drops below 30 degrees in winter and over 90 degrees in summer, has been a difficult move.
“Over time, I was able to adjust, especially in the cold,” said Ng’etich. “Because I don’t like the cold. I am a warm person. So in the cold it was a challenge to adapt. “
Exercise and running have helped him cope with climate change, but not only did he have to adjust to that.
While there isn’t much of a difference between the foods that Africans and Americans eat, there are differences in the way the food is prepared, in the spices and cooking methods.
He enjoys most of the food he has tried in the south, but orders a hamburger by default unless there is anything else on the menu that is particularly appealing.
“I knew that I had the talent”
Ng’etich’s first paycheck in the United States came from a pencil, not a job.
During his second week in the US, Ng’etich showed some of his artwork to a man who was fixing his laptop. The man was so impressed that he commissioned Ng’etich to draw a portrait of his granddaughter.
The man paid Ng’etich for the portrait; Ng’etich used this money to pay for the repair of his laptop.
“After that, I felt something inside me that made me do more,” said Ng’etich.
From that day on, Ng’etich invested more time and money in his art. He bought materials and now draws every day.
“I knew I had the talent when I was 8 years old,” said Ng’etich. “But in Kenya, most people don’t value talent. They tell you, ‘Go to school. Get a good career. Get a job and get married and so on.’ I didn’t really find any more support with my art until I came to the US. “
Ng’etich specializes in pencil portraits and hyperrealism drawings.
Most of the pieces that Ng’etich has produced are commissioned. He has completed around 100 of them since 2014.
But prints and original versions of his art are also currently being sold at the Relics Antique Marketplace in Tupelo and at Rip Jax Mercantile in Ripley. These include portraits of Elvis Presley, Nelson Mandela and William Faulkner.
A website is in the works, but Ng’etich is promoting his work through Facebook and Instagram for the time being.
A math teacher with a dream of becoming an aerospace engineer
Although he enjoys drawing, Ng’etich’s future is not on paper, but in heaven.
As a child, Ng’etich always wanted to become an aerospace engineer. But he felt he needed to consider the most logical steps to build his career.
So he began teaching math in eighth grade at the East Union Attendance Center, a subject that fits in with his future career plans.
As a teacher, Ng’etich also follows in the footsteps of his father Anthony Kipngetich Rutto. Rutto was a fifth to eighth grade English teacher for mathematics and religious studies at several schools in the Bomet area.
Ng’etich graduated from Blue Mountain College with a bachelor’s degree in math and a minor in secondary education in December 2020, which earned him a place as a teacher at the East Union.
The 2021-22 school year is his first as a full-time teacher, and it’s been amazing, he said.
Moved to Mississippi from overseas, Ng’etich said that the students who address him as “Mr. Cyp” are curious and want to know more about him.
“It’s an opportunity and I am so blessed to be in their midst and to be their math teacher,” said Ng’etich. “I just love their spirit and the fact that most, if not all, are ready to learn every time they come to class.”
In addition to being a teacher, Ng’etich is also the head coach of the East Union archery team. While visiting Blue Mountain, he joined the archery team in 2019. Although he only competed for a year, he had a knack for it and was part of a group that competed at the regional, state, and national levels.
Ng’etich said he was grateful to be working for a school administration that was patient when he changed visas.
“The school was so friendly. They were waiting for me,” said Ng’etich. “When I got my paperwork, they said ‘welcome back’. That’s one thing I really appreciated about the East Union. “
Right now, Ng’etich is here with an optional internship visa. In January, he asked for a two-year extension for students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
At 29, Ng’etich doesn’t see age as a problem in achieving his goals. He always looks ahead. And up.
“When you have an urge that is always burning,” he said, “I have a feeling that this thing won’t stop until you have fulfilled it.”