“It doesn’t matter where you come from, success doesn’t need a visa!” These words ring a bell when 38 year old Vista Kalipa carefully details his life.

“My US years are possibly some of the best year of my schooling life…from high school all the way to Master’s level. In high school I won accolades in areas I never knew were my strength. At tertiary level, I collected more accolades including the President’s Award, one of the most prestigious awards given to a graduate,” says Vista.

He holds a BA degree in Music (Opera) and a BA degree in Mass Communication/Journalism from Simpson College and further went on obtain his Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University in the US. He returned to South Africa in 2006 after seven years.

Vista throws it back to the dusty streets of Gugulethu where his life started.

“Our home was always filled with people. It was always just buzzing. In addition to the people who lived in it, we would also have people from the community who’d come visit. And sometimes we would be sitting watching TV, we would hear an engine running just outside our gate and soon a knock on the door would then follow.

“And in would walk a distant relative from the Eastern Cape who’s decided to come to Cape Town in pursuit of greener pasture […] This person would then indefinitely stay with us until they have settled in and adjusted to life in the city.”

Vista is the kind to look for a rainbow when it rains and for the stars when it’s dark.

“Life in the township was both fascinating [and] scary; fascinating in the sense that people there have a very strong sense of community. The mood is always jovial and fun. As one of the only few houses in our street to own a TV, people would gather in our house to watch sports and other major events. Back then, people were really neighbourly. What I do not miss though is the petty crimes we had to deal with… It always ruined the mood.”

Vista is one person who didn’t let his origin determine his destination, and Gugulethu was just one chapter of a bigger book of his life.

“[The US] is certainly where I discovered a lot about myself and really grew into who I am. I embraced other cultures, met people from other parts of the world. I dismantled walls of prejudice I never realised I had. I learnt to be proud of my African heritage. I met many great and unforgettable people who played an important role in my college years. And to this day, I’m still in touch with those people.”

He’s now the cofounder and director of a prominent public relations agency OnPoint PR and they’ve worked with big brands such as David Tlale, the Nedbank Group and National Book Week just to name a few.

“I stumbled upon PR while I was doing my Mass Communication and Journalism studies. I was instantly drawn to it. Passion for what I do is what gets me going. Telling brand stories and being part of something that sometimes changes lives or at least makes a difference in someone else’s life is really incredible. I feed off their passion, and disappointing them would be the last thing on my mind. We are writing our own narrative and it is gratifying.”

Employee relations, community relations, content production and marketing, and social media relations are among the services that OnPoint PR offer. Vista gives most of the credit to his team who, no pun intended, are always on point!

“I have an incredible team without whom I’d not have managed to do the work that we do. I have an amazing business partner, from whom I learn a great deal. We’re each other’s source of strength, as this road can get really rough. It’s also just a great plus that she’s also a believer. We pray together and put our faith in God. I have a team of people who really take pride in their work and truly love what they do.”

As much as he’s kilometers away from home, Vista’s family remains close to his heart.

“My family is most probably the most important people in my life. They are my immediate support network. I’m truly blessed to have the kind of people that they are to me. They definitely keep me going, keep me humbled and keep me firmly rooted in who I was raised to be. It begins and ends with them.

“I draw my inspiration from the world around us, from my peers, from my friends, and my family. Also, there’s a wealth of knowledge that’s nestled so beautifully within the pages of a book. Those who’ve walked the path before us have certainly left behind some amazing tips and moments of inspiration. The onus is on us to find and devour that information,” he concludes.


Tell us: What do you think makes one a successful student?