A Mission to Give Back

Cyprian Ondieki in a military uniform

Cyprian Ondieki is on a mission to give back. After suffering an assault that left him medically discharged from the Army, with many doctors thinking he would never be able to walk, talk or see again, Ondieki has defied the odds and is on his way to becoming a full-time student at Minneapolis College, with hopes of entering the Nursing Program. “I’ve taken my journey seriously because I knew what I wanted,” says Ondieki, “I wanted to be better.”

Ondieki’s journey has not been an easy one, he claims it was the compassion and the patience of those he encountered along the way that inspired him to continue to push himself to do better.

“When I was in the VA hospital, I was told I wouldn’t do a lot, but I was determined to go to school, graduate and give back. People [at the VA and Minneapolis College] heard my story. It felt like they wanted to help. The relationships I developed made me want to come here.”

Ondieki is adamant that his journey is far from over. “If people just look at me physically, they might assume I’m doing great, but people need to be educated more about depression. Mental illness is not something you can see. If people don’t see you limping, they’re assured everything is okay.”

The mental and emotional impacts of Ondieki’s journey still persist. He wishes people were willing to have more honest conversations about mental health. While he was still recovering from his injuries, he lost his mom. “I gave up after my mom died. I stopped taking my medication and I stopped trying.” Shortly after his mom died though, he learned he was going to be a father. “I saw my baby girl and I wanted to live for her. I named her Ellen, after my mom. She was born and it gave me hope. Like I have a chance to give back.”

Pursuing a career as an essential health care worker in the midst of a global pandemic takes a brave and passionate individual. Ondieki, who has worked hard to defy the odds on his own journey, is ready to pay it forward with the same kindness, compassion and patience that was offered to him as he helps others on their respective journeys of healing.

“My army career was cut short, but my life wasn’t. I’m using my story to shed light on a lot of things. Maybe one day it will show someone that when one door closes, another opens.”