Cheruiyot brings inspiration to Piedmont

by | November 22, 2016 | in Web | No Comments

From a slum in Kenya to Stanford University. From walking miles to collect water to learning to drive a car. From borrowing his teacher’s textbook in order to do homework to studying at the one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

On Nov. 15, Victor Cheruiyot came to PHS as a Voice Cooperative guest to share his journey and the lessons he has learned throughout his life. Voice Cooperative is a club whose mission it is not only to bring diversity to PHS through speakers, but also to bring the diversity out of Piedmont and allow students to embrace what makes them unique, co-presidents, juniors, Maya Guzdar and Genevieve Raushenbush said.

Guzdar and Raushenbush said that every voice must be heard and encourage students to give suggestions for future Voice Cooperative speakers.

Cheruiyot lived a simple childhood in Kenya up until he graduated from high school. He then was one of a few students at his high school to have the opportunity to come to the U.S. for a gap year.

When growing up in Kenya, Cheruiyot said he would collect plastic bags and fashion them into a ball to play soccer. Through playing, Cheruiyot realized how important hard work and practice are. Cheruiyot also said he learned that it is very important to find meaning in whatever you do.fullsizerender

“I spent high school doing only the things I loved doing, I never did anything because I was going to write it in a resume,” Cheruiyot said. “That made a significant difference in how I view things and how I view myself.”

Because Cheruiyot did not have any toys or video games, he spent a lot of time with his parents and listened to them talk about politics and how the world was changing.

“I never heard them say that we were poor, but at age 6, I knew my family was struggling,” Cheruiyot said. “I worked so hard in school because I knew that was the way out of my situation.”

Cheruiyot said that when he was growing up, his father had anger problems which negatively impacted Cheruiyot but gave him an interesting perspective on life.

“I would cry myself to sleep but when I woke up I would have this bright smile on my face,” Cheruiyot said. “I would think that yesterday’s problems are gone.”

Cheruiyot said that if he did not have an optimistic outlook on life, he never would have imagined getting into Stanford University.

“Optimism and looking forward to the next adventure is the reason I’m standing here,” Cheruiyot said. “If you have fear or you feel like you are not good enough, that can sometimes pull you back.”

Guzdar and Raushenbush, said they were very excited to have Cheruiyot come to PHS.

“When we talked on the phone, immediately it was clear that he was a special guy,” Guzdar said. “His optimism, how open he was and that he immediately embraced the idea of coming to the school was why we chose him.”

Raushenbush said it was interesting to hear about taking advantages of available resources from the perspective of someone who had not led a privileged life as a child.

“You realize how important it is and that we should really be grateful for and make use of everything we have,” Raushenbush said.

Sophomore Julie Huffaker attended the event and said that she was not only encouraged by Cheruiyot’s story, but was also reminded of what is important to her.

“[Cheruiyot] talked a lot about how you can learn from your failures and as a high school student that is an important lesson to recognize,” Huffaker said.

Guzdar said that it is great for students to hear people like Cheruiyot speak because he believes so fully in his optimistic morals and can inspire hope within students.

In the future, Cheruiyot hopes to return to Kenya and bring with him all the skills and perspectives he has gained during his time abroad. Now, in the U.S., Cheruiyot encourages students to take advantage of their resources and seek win-win situations, but also acknowledged the power of optimism.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you are privileged or not,” Cheruiyot said. “Sometimes what matters is the spirit inside of you, and if you have the drive and the passion.”

Guzdar and Raushenbush said that every voice must be heard and encourage students to give suggestions for future Voice Cooperative speakers.