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Kansas Wesleyan University

Kelsey Ripperger ’21 takes climate change very seriously. In December, she spent a week in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Green Summit held at the United Nations Conference Center where she learned about green initiatives and how to help people better understand the issue.

“We listened to different speakers talk about climate change and the way that we can reduce our own personal impact, as well as different global initiatives that are taking place,” Ripperger said. “The environment of the summit was electric and filled with hope. It was unbelievably empowering to be in a room with young people dedicated to addressing the climate crisis.”

The summit brought in students from 31 different countries, including 15 from the United States, and included a day of service, where the students planted mangroves at a Thailand naval base. At the conclusion of the summit, each student became an official ambassador, charged with educating others at home.

“The climate crisis holds one of the biggest spots in my heart and I want it to be part of my mission in life,” Ripperger said. “Our green initiatives can take any form. We are just trying to keep the sustainable solutions at the front of our minds over the next year and trying to make an impact in our communities.”

Ripperger, who received the medal for the graduating senior with the highest academic record, earned her BA in History at Kansas Wesleyan. This fall she received her masters in Heritage Tourism & Conservation at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. That’s where she found out about the summit, which was sponsored by Humanitarian Affairs Asia, and where one of her professors nominated her for it.

She recently began a job as the community relations coordinator with Magdalene Omaha, which works with victims of domestic abuse, sex trafficking and prostitution.

“I do a lot of the communications work and volunteer outreach and donor outreach,” Ripperger said. “One of the struggles with the climate crisis is perspective and reaching audiences from all different walks of life. With the work I’ll be doing with Magdalene Omaha, it’s not always easy to talk to people about those subjects and a lot of people have opinions about it. From a communications side you are really just working on trying to communicate these issues better; how we can spread awareness and come up with solutions that work for all types of people.”

The daughter of two teachers from Hastings, Neb., Ripperger was heavily involved with campus groups at Kansas Wesleyan.

“A lot of us at Kansas Wesleyan come from smaller communities where everyone does everything,” Ripperger said. “That was one of my favorite parts of college. It’s so easy to get involved. Your teachers push you to do more, and it’s embraced. I think that’s a perk of a liberal arts school. I really enjoyed exploring all of my options.”

In 2021, Ripperger was selected for a Washington Center internship with EarthShare, an environmental non-profit in the Washington, D.C. region. She was a captain and letter-winner on the women’s volleyball team, among her other activities.

Story by Dan Froehlich