Valpo Parks’ Katie Ridinger nurtures the development of children and finds purpose in her work as youth enrichment director

Valpo Parks’ Katie Ridinger nurtures the development of children and finds purpose in her work as youth enrichment director

Valpo Parks is driven by people who are passionate about making a positive difference in the community and making the world a better place. Katie Ridinger, youth enrichment director for Valpo Parks, is one of these driven people. After a life-changing experience, she knew that serving the community was her purpose in life, and Valpo Parks has given her the opportunity to do just that. 

Ridinger grew up in Kent, Ohio. She went to Bringham Young University (BYU) - Idaho to earn her bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. After graduating, Ridinger worked at PBS for a while and spent her free time in the summers working at a Girl Scouts Camp. Working at the Girl Scouts Camp made her realize that her passions were no longer in broadcasting; she wanted to do something more with her life. 

After this change of heart, Ridinger went back to school to get her master's degree at the University of Montana in intercultural youth and family development. Peace corps service was a required part of the program, so she spent two years in Ukraine as a peace corps volunteer. There she worked in an orphanage and helped create after school programs and clubs for the kids. 

“Hands down, that changed my life and was the best achievement I've ever done,” said Ridinger. 

Things were very different for Ridinger when she came back to America, though. After doing such amazing and fulfilling work, she had a hard time adjusting back to her old life. 

“I spent some time in Washington D.C., and I did not feel like I was reverse integrating very well. I didn't feel like I was connecting with people. I wasn't sure what to do with my life because I had just done this incredible work in Ukraine,” said Ridinger. 

Ridinger’s sister, who had just recently moved to Valparaiso, invited Ridinger to come and stay with her for a while until she got back on her feet. Ridinger gladly accepted and took some time to readjust. Eight months ago in January, she worked her way to the Valparaiso Parks Department where she found her purpose once more. 

“Working with youth has always been a passion of mine. It's something that I really enjoy. The fact that I get to now create programs that support youth development is a dream come true,” said Ridinger. 

Ridinger couldn’t be happier with where she’s ended up. She loves all the people she works with and feels so at home. 

“The atmosphere here is just very supportive, creative, and fun. We have so much fun every single day. It’s a wonderful environment to work in,” said Ridinger. 

The work that Ridinger does with Valpo Parks is very important to her. With her job, she can create many different types of programs and classes that are designed to help kids of all ages grow and learn. She wants people to understand how vital these programs are in fostering the development of children, and she hopes these programs will have a lasting impact on children as they grow up and come one step closer to who they’re meant to be. 

“Valparaiso is a growing community, and the community needs all the youth programs we have in the community, not just one. We need all of them. Every kid is different and they're all going to have different needs, and so all these differences are needed,” said Ridinger. 

Ridinger already has plans and ideas for the future to help even more kids grow and discover their passions. 

“One of my hopes for next year is to increase the art programs that we offer. I feel like we could use more art programs. I'm so excited; we're going to partner with the Art Barn for sure, and with some other folks as well, to offer a variety of topics because there are so many different interests out there,” said Ridinger. 

Ridinger is grateful for so many people in her life. She’s thankful for her family, her friends, and her partner for supporting her, and feels that she couldn’t possibly be where she is today without them. Ridinger is also incredibly grateful for all the wonderful people she’s gotten to work with over the past eight months at Valpo Parks. 

“I'm so thankful for my co-workers here at Valpo Parks. They make me feel like we're a team. I enjoy coming to work and interacting with them on a daily basis. When everybody comes together to do these special events, it's all positive encouragement. I wish everybody could have a team as great as I do,” said Ridinger. 

To learn more about Valpo Parks, visit