By Morgan Fletcher –
Though those words are foreign to most of us, they are right up Penn Manor sophomore Shadrack Kiprop’s alley.
He exclaimed, “I love America!” in Swahili, with that enormous smile that is very frequently worn on his face.
Kiprop’s life has not always been something to smile about, however, as he has endured some rough times in his young life.
Sixteen-year-old Kiprop moved from Kericho, Kenya to America his freshman year of high school with his mother and two sisters. His sister Olive is 19 and attends Georgia Tech, and his sister Purity is 21 and is attending school to become an LPN.
Kiprop stated that like most people who move to prosperous countries, he and his family moved to America for a better life. Life in Africa was very modest.
“I lived in a village. I liked it but there’s really nothing. No electricity,” said Kiprop.
“I’d say life was good, but you don’t really have any careers. No opportunities.”
Kiprop explained that his area was surrounded by farmland and his house contained about three rooms. They used fuel and put it on a lamp, which he said became troublesome at times because fuel was expensive and it is hard to share one lamp.
Kiprop laughs at the notion that many westerners have about African countries and their beliefs that wild animals roam around everywhere.
“In my country, there are parks to keep the animals,” he said.
He cites his homeland as a work-in-progress.
“My country was colonized by the British, so it’s a developing country. There are some schools, and people who can get to those schools,” he said.
Kiprop cited English as being among the most difficult things he picked up in his transition to America.
“Speaking English is like the most important thing,” he said. “English was hard because when I went home, no one else spoke it.”
He got a head start in the English language while still in school in Kenya.
“I learned [English] in school, a little bit. We had to talk English all day in school. It was a must to speak it. If you got caught [not speaking it], you might get sent home.”
That was not the only punishment implemented by the one-room school.
“If you made a mistake in class, you got spanked,” Kiprop explained. “You get spanked, you learn not to make the mistake again.”
A dark memory in Kiprop’s life is the time when he was kidnapped as an infant. A housemaid took two-year-old Kiprop away from his family for about six months to another part of Kenya. He was found by a family who reported the incident to the police. Kiprop explained that it was hard to find him because there are no detectives in his homeland.
“The good thing, that I’m thankful for, is that I’m alive.”
The Kiprop’s first stop to America was Texas because it was an affordable place to live. His mother had been in America previously, so she began applying for them to be able to move. About a month later, they moved to Lancaster because there were more employment opportunities and better education.
Kiprop does not watch a lot of T.V. and claims American food to be just “alright.”
He has, however, fallen in love with one thing since his move.
“I love running. I want to be the best, but it takes time.”
Kiprop’s first experience with running was last year, for in Kenya it was too expensive for him to join the program. He has been on the track team for two years and throughout his time has greatly improved in the two-mile race. He hopes to be able to run in college.
Kiprop has also been working hard to fulfill another goal.
His best friend back home in Kenya, Evans Cheruiyot, cannot afford to attend the local high school. He is the same age as Kiprop, but is in seventh grade.
Cheruiyot’s father died when he was young and he lived with Kiprop for many years and they went to school together.
“When I came to America, his mom died, so he’s an orphan,” said Kiprop. “I promised myself me and my mom would raise the money to send him to high school.”
Kiprop started collecting money last summer and hopes to raise the $200-$300 he needs in the next two summers. Some teachers at Penn Manor have chipped in.
Kiprop is unsure whether or not he will ever return to Kenya and stay permanently.
“That’s a tough question,” he said. “I’ll visit and come back to America [to live permanently].”
He does not know what profession he will take on when he’s older. He believes he might want to do something with the government.
“I might try to do something to help the corrupt countries,” Kiprop said.
When told that he is a very nice, caring person, the boy with the big smile and an even bigger heart put on a humble grin and simply said, “I try.”