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Alumni Spotlight: Kathi Ridley-Merriweather

Five Questions with IPS Alums: Kathi Ridley-Merriweather Discusses How IPS Made a Difference in Her Life

Indianapolis Public Schools is proud of our graduates and their diverse, inspiring journeys. We have created the IPS Alumni Spotlight to celebrate our former students and showcase their experiences, accomplishments, and personal interests. We believe that every graduate has a unique path, and we can all learn from their journeys.

IPS recently asked Kathi Ridley-Merriweather, a 1977 graduate of Arlington High School, about her journey that began in the state’s largest district.

Q—How did your experiences at IPS shape your educational foundation and career aspirations?
A—I received a wonderful, valuable, well-rounded education at Arlington High School. I was able to fill my schedule with almost everything in which I was interested, including advanced French, music, and lots of science and math. School spirit was high, sports events were well-attended, and our security officers (Bob and Sandy) cared about us and were always on the students’ side.

Q—Can you share memorable moments or teachers who had a significant impact on your time at IPS?
A—There were nine periods in the day back then. I don’t know whether that has changed now. Periods 4-7 were lunch periods; however, I was in several classes (concert choir, Arlingtones, advanced French, trig/calculus) that were only available during those periods. So, for my junior and senior years, I and several others in those same classes got special permission to not have a lunch period. Instead, we packed our lunches every day and Mr. Fishback let us eat in French class. All our teachers were willing to support us in whatever ways they could.

Q—How has your education at IPS influenced your personal and professional development since graduating?
A—I was taught to value all knowledge because you never know what you might need to know! Our principal, Mr. Robert Turner, knew all of us by name and was kind and approachable, as were many of our teachers. At Arlington, I learned to love learning, to be there for others, and that sneaking over to Devington Shopping Center during the school day would have repercussions!

Q—What specific skills or knowledge gained at IPS have proven most valuable in your current life or career?
A—Arlington was almost evenly racially divided in the late 1970s – about 50% White and 50% Black (not many Asian or Latino population members in Indy back then). As will always happen, there were sometimes racial stressors and confrontations. However, we learned to honor and respect differences. Unlike now, the neighborhoods surrounding the school were racially diverse, and so were the choir, the band, all the sports teams, and most of the classes. We celebrated each other. I miss those times.

Q—What are you doing today because of your high school education?
A—I hold a Ph.D. in health communication and am an academic researcher focused on the recruitment and inclusion of Black and Brown people into breast cancer clinical trials. This is my third career, which is the result of having the opportunity to learn to love so many different subjects in high school!