All the way from Trinidad and Tobago, Ari Benjamin, Tevin Gilkes, Jimmelle Ramikissoon and Darius Rawlins have come to play for the Goshen College men’s soccer team and contribute to the school’s community.The four Caribbean natives were all recruited by Khavoir Graham, the assistant men’s soccer coach. Benjamin, a junior transfer student from Lassen College in Susanville, California, was contacted by Graham with the appealing opportunity to play for a new team.
Meanwhile, Gilkes, a first-year at the time, helped Graham in recruiting Rawlins, a sophomore transfer from the University of the West Indies, and Ramikissoon, a first-year. The three come from the same borough in Trinidad, a place called Arima. Gilkes and Rawlins attended the same high school and were friends, while Ramikissoon played for an opposing soccer team.
“[These four] were all recruited to help improve the team in different aspects,” said Graham. “The one thing that stood out was their willingness to work hard and to help Goshen College’s men’s soccer team achieve the goal of winning the conference.”
Graham described the players as “[bringing] that extra athleticism and speed to the team that compliments Coach Patrick’s philosophy.”
“Individually, Darius brings quickness and ability to get in behind defenses,” said Graham. “Tevin brings strength, leadership and intensity. Jimmy is a more technically polished player than most and can break a team down through dribbling and passing. Ari has the ability to hold up the ball while giving our team time to get into an attacking shape.”
Off the field, the four soccer players have found community within each other, bonding over the change in culture. Ramikissoon said the transition to college in America was hard at first, but with the help of Benjamin, Rawlins and Gilkes he’s getting more acclimated.
Graham also mentioned that he had seen brotherhood and togetherness from the four young men on and off the field and that those characteristics have really impacted the men’s soccer team.
The only negative thing the young men had to say about the transition to Goshen College was that the language barrier has been quite a challenge.
“[We’ve] got to switch up [our] accent,” said Ramikissoon.
Along with the community between the four, the Goshen College community has had an impact on the soccer players’ transitions into a new environment.
Benjamin said, “Being around [the community] has been really great…. Everyone is really friendly here. I feel really included.”
But Goshen’s Mennonite affiliation posed something new for them.
“I’ll be honest with you,” said Gilkes. “I didn’t really know much about Goshen [before I was a student]. I looked up Mennonites [online], and I was expecting a one-way culture until I came and met so many different people.”
Due to lack of Anabaptists in Trinidad and Tobago, none of the Caribbean natives knew who the Mennonites were before coming to Goshen College.
“I had no clue about the Mennonites,” said Rawlins. “One day I was coming out of class, I saw a group of students – barefooted – and I just asked why they didn’t have on slippers or shoes. And somebody said they are Mennonites and it’s something they do. I was like, alright, cool.”
Gilkes laughed and added, “I strongly believe that was someone being stereotypical.”