New Mexico Activities Association Student-Athlete Spotlight Sports Helped Ippel Overcome Barriers

New Mexico Activities Association
Student-Athlete Spotlight
Sports Helped Ippel Overcome Barriers
By Tyler Dunkel, Sports Information Director at the NMAA
Imagine moving to a place where you don’t know a single person and the style of living is completely different. Now
throw in the fact that you cannot speak or understand the local language. Rehoboth Christian High School senior
Mikias Ippel experienced this exact situation when he was only six years old.
Ippel, along with his sister Amele, were adopted from Ethiopia. “When I first came from Ethiopia I was six years old.
It took me quite a while to learn the language,” he said. “I’m still learning it now. Reading is the toughest part for me,
but my parents have been our biggest supporters, helping us every step of the way.”
Ippel and his sister lived in an orphanage for a little over two years in New Flower, Ethiopia, before being adopted
by Bob and Mary Ippel. Mr. Ippel is a choir teacher at the high school, while Mrs. Ippel serves as a nurse at Rehoboth
Christian Hospital.
“I always imagined America how I saw it in the movies,” Ippel said. “I was living in an orphanage for two years before I was adopted. I’m glad they adopted my sister (Amele) and she was able to come with me.”
Ippel said that when he first came to America he felt accepted immediately by his teachers and fellow students.
“I’ve always felt accepted by the community on campus. They’ve always been very supportive of me and my sister.”
Head boys’ soccer coach at Rehoboth High School, Nick
Donkersloot, says that he has watched Ippel grow since
the time he arrived in America. “I’ve known Mikias
since he was adopted and he has one of the greatest
hearts I’ve ever seen in a student and an athlete. He is
constantly aware of his surroundings; he doesn’t just
focus on what he wants. He genuinely cares about others around him – coaches, teammates, other students.”
Donkersloot continued, saying, “It hasn’t been easy for
him, especially with English as a second language, but
he and his family have put in hard work to make sure
he was keeping up with his work; this is demonstrated
on the soccer field, basketball court and track.”
Ippel discovered that his passion is sports and he
quickly became a star on the Rehoboth boys’ soccer
team. Growing up in Ethiopia, Ippel played soccer but
without one of the key components needed to play the
game – a ball.
“The school I went to in Ethiopia didn’t have soccer
balls so we would play with rocks,” Ippel said. “It was
normal to us. We just enjoyed playing the game.”
“The transition was huge but there were a lot of people in the community who helped,” Donkersloot said. “Sports
were helpful with the transition. It allowed him to be the kid and not worry about the language barrier.”
Fast forward to 2012, his freshman year at Rehoboth. Ippel says he was fortunate to play with a great group of upperclassmen on the team that pushed him to be a better player. “Freshman year I got to play with really good players and that’s when I really developed as an athlete because they pushed me. When my junior year rolled around, I
was ready to step up and take over the mid-field role and become a leader for this team.”
Coach Donkersloot agrees that Ippel’s hard work and passion for soccer, his school and teammates have made him
into a better soccer player. “He’s every coach’s dream. He’s a hard worker, on and off the field. He doesn’t stop. He’s
always working and giving everything he has. If we’re winning or losing, he’s giving 100%. He’s a joy to coach. He
wants to get better and you can push him as hard as you want and he’ll respond.”
As a senior, Ippel became one of the leaders of the boys’ soccer team. “I lead more by example rather than words –
by my hard work. When I play soccer, I’m calm. My dad has taught me everything I know. He humbles me and has
taught me what hard work will do for you.”
Donkersloot says that Ippel isn’t a vocal leader, letting his play do the talking. “He’s the guy who makes things happen when the ball is on his feet. He’s definitely the ‘lead-by-example’ player.”
Ippel also enjoys playing on the school’s basketball team as a guard and Rehoboth’s track & field team, running the
400, 800 and mile. Last year, he qualified for state in the 110-hurdles. He also volunteers with the local fire department, saying that becoming a firefighter has been a dream.
“I take night classes for firefighting and I have the opportunity to observe the firefighters on calls,” Ippel said. “I like
firefighting because it’s a physical job. I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk when I’m older but more importantly
I really like helping people.”