Nara Riplinger is a mother, teacher and avid soccer volunteer for the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association. She believes “education and sport are the paths forward for any community.”
Born in Ghana, she was raised in Williams Lake before completing her BSc in biology at UBC and her teaching certificate from UVic.
She taught in Vancouver and Australia before moving back to Williams Lake in search of a simpler and more affordable lifestyle. She also missed her family and what she called Sunday dinners.
“Sunday dinners allowed all of us to set aside time in the week to get together.
“Summer dinners were long and leisurely with yard games and barbecues. Winter dinners were sometimes more rushed, depending on who had hockey. We talked about our week, our upcoming events and just spent time reconnecting with each other,” Riplinger said.
Riplinger’s parents, Bruce and Lil Mack have always advocated for her, exposing her to education, sports and travel. They also raised her to be conscious of her privilege. Growing up, her dad worked with the Cariboo Tribal Council (now the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council), teaching his family and others about the residential school system. Sadly, he passed away in 2019, but his advocacy for his community lives on through his daughter.
“You realize that not everyone had the same upbringing as you and not everyone has the support you did. This has helped me develop more empathy, especially when working with kids,” Riplinger said.
Now, she works as a teacher at Columneetza, a career she loves. “Teaching was a natural fit for me as I love working with kids and I love learning … I enjoy the challenge.”
She does her best to highlight the inequalities within education (gender and racial issues, to name a few), the importance of being an ally and advocating for voices that do not receive as much recognition.
“I realize that my role as an educator and an active community member is to notice who is not being included, think about why they are not being included, and figure out ways to overcome or assist or remove barriers. This may be in sports, leadership, coaching roles or in the classroom. I also draw on the generosity of community members to share their knowledge so I can become a better educator when we discuss other ways of knowing in the classroom,” Riplinger said.
Her work is balanced with her own family. She and her husband Randy — married for almost 20 years — have known one another for over 35 years.
Randy grew up with Riplinger’s brother-in-law, coached Riplinger in soccer when they were younger, and both were a part of her sister’s wedding party. They have two children together, their daughter, Madigan, who is studying her first year of sciences at UBC and their son, Daelin, who is in Grade 11.
Riplinger also spends her time volunteering with the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association.
She grew up playing soccer, eventually reffing and coaching, including her kids and the rep girls with Grant Gustafson, which she said has kept her busy.
She also helps with Future Stars, a program that promotes equality on the field by grouping players at similar skill levels, as well as pairing new coaches with more experienced coaches; SoccerFest, where she helped develop a free camp; and ViaSport.
“When I was recruiting volunteer coaches for WLYSA, mothers would often say, ‘I can’t make it. I don’t have a babysitter,’ or ‘my partner is working shift work.’ They still had to parent as well as try to coach. With the help of ViaSport, we were able to host female-only coaching courses where we provided free babysitting and lunch,” Riplinger said.
She believes sports and education should be inclusive and free of barriers, including free youth sports for the community to enjoy, by staying healthy and active.