Unsung Heroes of West: Mrs. Rippeto

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Art/Photo by Sullivan Kolakowski

Mrs. Rippeto has been a secretary at West High for 23 years, working behind the scenes to ensure school matters run smoothly and to support West families. Mrs. Rippeto said the best part of the job is when parents “call me back or send me an email just to tell me how helpful I’ve been, and to thank me and show me their appreciation. Those are the kinds of things that make the day worthwhile.”

Lauren Ng, Staff Writer

   Brrring! The phone rings in one of West High’s offices. A parent needs help enrolling their child in a new class. An absence needs clearing. A call needs transference. Ready to help is Mrs. Rippeto, secretary of West High principal Mrs. Murata

   During the pandemic, Mrs. Rippeto’s responsibilities have remained relatively similar. She has been working on campus every weekday in her office, even throughout the virtual school year. “I open up my computer, start checking all my emails, answer the phone,” Mrs. Rippeto described a typical morning. However, the absence of campus chatter and smiling students has left an empty space. 

   Mrs. Rippeto’s phone would ring 100 times on an average pre-pandemic day, she described. But this school year has been “very quiet” around the office. While there are nearly 2,000 fewer students currently on campus, Mrs. Rippeto still provides West families with her help and guidance. Her work ranges over several different aspects of school life: “I compile the Honor Roll lists, I send out mailings… I’m usually involved in registration, I help out any other offices that might need help.” She also prints certificates for Presidential Awards as well as for various clubs around campus. 

   One of the more interactive aspects of Mrs. Rippeto’s role is aiding West High parents: “Sometimes parents are very upset about certain things, and I try to be as calm and understanding as possible and try to help solve their problem or at least direct them in the right direction.” Even if an issue must be resolved, Mrs. Rippeto is dedicated to the cause of helping others. Reading emails of gratitude and answering phone calls of thankfulness from parents brighten up her mood; she prints them out to look back on during difficult days. “I can pull out one of those little [notes], even notes from students that I’ve gotten, just to remind me that I’m doing what I’m doing for you guys,” she expressed. Being able to help students makes her efforts worth the time: “I wouldn’t be in the school if I didn’t like being around the kids and helping people out.”

   Unfortunately, Mrs. Rippeto has not had the chance to see many students this year. She occasionally provides students with school materials at the administration window, but these brief interactions do not hold the same level of connection. Nevertheless, “it’s been nice to see some students popping by.”

   Making a difference in the lives of others has served as Mrs. Rippeto’s inspiration. Several West High alumni, some of who have graduated as much as 10 years ago, still reach out to Mrs. Rippeto to keep her updated with their lives. They share with her that “if I hadn’t been there to talk to them through some certain things, that they might not be where they were. That’s what makes my job worthwhile,” Mrs. Rippeto remarked.

   However, there are still a few current West High students Mrs. Rippeto periodically remains in contact with. One such individual is Ethan Verderber (12), one of last year’s readers for Daily Bulletin. While this activity has not continued during the pandemic, Verderber still remembers the mornings between second and third period of last school year: walking into the office with Jillian Siazon (12), West’s second Bulletin reader, to meet with Mrs. Rippeto. Reflecting on the past, Verderber recounted that “Mrs. Rippeto would be there for us, and she’d always greet me and Jill with a smile.”

   He described those short passing periods as “a short time to chat with friends.” With Mrs. Rippeto, what could have been a mere school task turned into an enjoyable daily conversation. In addition, Mrs. Rippeto would sometimes have cookies ready for the readers, which were “exactly what we needed at 10 a.m.,” Verderber affirmed. The kind, open atmosphere she created remains incredibly memorable: “She always saw our level of things and understood, and it was so nice to always have something to look forward to in the mornings.”

   Perhaps the next students to become Bulletin readers will have the chance to enjoy those few minutes in the mornings with Mrs. Rippeto. But for every member of the West community, it is important to remain mindful and grateful for the variety of tasks she completes to keep West running. When parents, students, and fellow staff need assistance, Mrs. Rippeto will be there.