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Lynn Rippy spent many years working in youth development as a consultant, and she’s also worked for the city of Louisville in the Office of Youth Development under Mayor Jerry Abramson. When she saw that there was a need to do more, she helped start YouthBuild Louisville 11 years ago. Today she’s the executive director of the organization, which trains young adults in careers, such as construction and medical work, while helping them get their GED and other education and training. Welcome Lynn Rippy, our newest FACE of Louisville, who works hard to help struggling young adults forge a life of stability. 

Before starting YouthBuild Louisville, Lynn Rippy was just working as a consultant with other foundations, such as The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Education Research Foundation out of Boston, as well as a few other national organizations. She also serves as vice president of the board of Wilderness Louisville, which is a supporting group to Jefferson Memorial Forest; the board of Kentucky Youth Advocates, and the board of United Crescent Hill Ministries.

Lynn Rippy has worked as a consultant with foundations like The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Education Research Foundation out of Boston, and she also serves as vice president of the board of Wilderness Louisville, which is a supporting group to Jefferson Memorial Forest, as well as the board of Kentucky Youth Advocates and the board of United Crescent Hill Ministries.

Tell me how you came to run YouthBuild.

I was doing consulting work for Youth Development when someone said, “Do you want to help me create YouthBuild Louisville?” There was a HUD grant that was available for five years, and it was getting ready to expire because nobody had used it. I put a group of teenagers together, kids whom I had worked with at other agencies for years, and asked them what kind of challenges followed them into adulthood, and if we had a YouthBuild, what they would need. So, from that we found some partners to support the program and did some feasibility work and submitted an application. When it was accepted, they called me and asked me if I would be interested in running the program. Everything that I had done in my career came to that point. The work I had done in education, the work I had done in youth development, the work I had done in leadership development — all that kind of melded together in this model. For me, it makes complete sense.

Now, we are adding 8,000 square feet and finishing up our campus. It’s a lifetime dream realized. Even when I was young in my career, I’ve always wanted to create a place or space where young people were safe, supported, loved and taught, especially those young people who have the most stressful lives, getting to adulthood. That’s important to me.

Why was it important to you?

I just don’t feel like our community can thrive as long as we have so many young people and families living in poverty. I do think that it’s critical to level the playing field for young people, whether that’s to level the playing field academically or through resources or whether you’re just developing networks. A lot of times young people just don’t have those networks or doors they can walk through. It’s critical to teach them how to walk through those doors and how to get those doors open for them.

“I worked for Mayor Jerry Abramson and developed the Office of Youth Services. During that time, we developed 19 neighborhood youth boards across town, to begin to build leadership at the neighborhood level,” says Lynn.

“I worked for Mayor Jerry Abramson and developed the Office of Youth Services. During that time, we developed 19 neighborhood youth boards across town, to begin to build leadership at the neighborhood level,” says Lynn.

The courtyard walls at YouthBuild feature inspiring mosaic art.

The courtyard walls at YouthBuild feature inspiring mosaic art.

What do you like best about your job?

I think for me it’s a mixture of things that I love. I’m able to impact policy that changes the lives of young people in this community, while I’m assisting and providing direct services to young people. I really get to see the on-the-ground benefit of the work that we do and to use that information to work on local committees and with local groups to be able to enact policy.

What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

Fundraising — raising enough funds to make everything work right is probably the biggest challenge, but everybody says that. And balancing my own personal life with all the work that really needs to happen with the support to my own staff and the students here — it’s a just a balance.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Knowing that what I do on a daily basis matters. I know that through the support I can give to others, young people’s lives are changing for the better. We’re bringing people out of poverty, and what that really means is that their children don’t have to endure the same level of poverty that they did, and probably their families before them. It’s really just that, knowing that young people’s lives are changed for the better because of the work that we do with them.

“I started career in the parks department. I worked at community centers, and I really began to see that the kinds of things that were offered as a result of public dollars weren’t really meeting the real needs of young people, especially those kids that were living in poverty. They needed so much more,” says Lynn.

“I worked at community centers, and I really began to see that the kinds of things that were offered as a result of public dollars weren’t really meeting the real needs of young people, especially those kids who were living in poverty. They needed so much more,” says Lynn.

How do you relax?

I spend time with my family. My mom is 85, so I spend a lot of time with her. I also have friends, and we go out. I love the ballet and live music. I love to garden. I love to be out in nature.

RELATED: Wendy Whelan: FACES of the South

Do you have a mentor, and if so, how have they inspired you?

Dorothy Stoneman, founder of YouthBuild USA, provided a lot of mentorship when we founded YouthBuild Louisville. Marsha Weinstein is the person who actually found the money that was going back to HUD as a result of it not being spent yet. She just offers me a lot of inspiration. Also, my own daughter and the other young women that we serve. To watch them put one foot in front of the other is just an awesome thing.

What’s something others may not know about you?

I love to travel. We have initiated two travel programs for YouthBuild. We take them on a two-week trip to France in the summer, and then this year we’ve opened a second travel program where young people are going to Belize and building homes for others with Hand In Hand Ministries.

What do you like to read, watch or listen to?

I try not to be a junkie, I swear I do. I binge-watch “The Crown” and other series like that, but I do think my biggest pleasure is watching “Big Bang Theory” and just totally vegging. I really like to stay up to date with current events if possible. What I really like to read about a lot is community development. It’s really interesting to me about how urban cores have really turned themselves around and how everyday citizens can be part of that rejuvenation or regeneration of a neighborhood.

“My mom is 85, so I spend a lot of time with her. I also have friends and we go out,” says Lynn. “I love the ballet and live music. I love to garden. I love to be out in nature.”

Lynn enjoys spending time with her 85-year-old mom and her friends, going to the ballet and sometimes just vegging.

What are your favorite restaurants in Louisville?

I love North End Cafe. I really love Artesano in Westport Village. I’m crazy about Seviche. I love the Bristol. And then I love all the new smaller places, like El Taco Luchador. Those are some of my favorites — also 610 Magnolia.

RELATED: 13 New Louisville Restaurants — Your Hit List for Fall 2018

What is your best advice?

Do something every single day that will help make someone better. Do something every single day that will improve your outlook on life. Be as honest as possible and as helpful as possible.

With the exception of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

Chocolate, dogs and nature

Thank you, Lynn! To learn more about Lynn’s work with YouthBuild, visit yblky.org.

And thank you to Gretchen Bell for the lovely photos!

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