Year 10 Sacred Heart College student Reese McKinley-Rhodes (right) with grandmother Monica Hayden (left) and mother Sarah McKinley who both attended the college.

Generations of same families drawn to Sacred Heart

Published on Thursday, 10 September 2020, 10:17 a.m. Print Article

Sacred Heart College is more than just a school for Reese McKinley-Rhodes, it is a place that has been a part of her family for the best part of 100 years.

Reese is the fourth generation of her family to attend the school, starting with both her great grandmothers Monica Hayden (née Fitzgibbon) in 1924 and Molly McKinley (née McCormack) who attended the school during the 1930s-1940s.

Despite having the weight of family history on her, Reese was never told she had to go to Sacred Heart in Napier. It was a choice she made long before she reached year 9, while still at Reignier Primary School. Now in year 10, she does not regret her decision and aspires to continue her family’s legacy.

“I like that when you walk around, everyone knows each other and everyone is friendly with each other,” says Reese.

The family’s ties with the school stretch back to Reese’s maternal great grandmother Monica Hayden being a student there until 1928.     

The tradition continued with Reese’s maternal grandmother Monica McKinley (née Hayden) from 1966 to 1969 and Monica’s sister Patricia Coleman (née Hayden) was also there from 1954 to 1959.

Reese’s mother, Sarah McKinley attended between 1992-1996.

“As cliché as it sounds there is definitely a 'Sisterhood' which has been evident through a number of years. My fondest memories are from the lifelong friendships made and this is from girls from various year groups,” says Sarah.

“I feel the reason for this strong sisterhood is the school always living out the Catholic character messaging and it becomes a part of everyday life. The school has the same positive feeling it did all those years ago.”

For Sarah, her dealings with the school on a personal level have gone well past her formative years. After being the school nurse for several years, she joined the Board of Trustees last year.

She says she has always been impressed by the fundamental care and understanding that the school showed to any students and whānau in need.

Sarah’s mother Monica says the school has always been like one big family.

“Looking through the eyes of my daughter and granddaughter, it has a great community spirit and the kindness that people have for each other, and support for each other.”

Their family is not the only multi-generational one at the school, with current Head Girl Lucy Dinneen being a third-generation student.

Her mother Jennie says the small size of the school and its Catholic character is what makes Sacred Heart College special.

“It’s just a very supportive and caring environment and they really know your child, they really do.”

The ties with her family run very deep.

“Basically, Lucy has had great aunts there and then my sister was there when it was an intermediate. I went there as a high school student, as did Lucy’s sister Greta and now Lucy.”

“Both my mother Lowson and my sister Christine were also teachers there so there is quite the connection there with us all.”

“There is an eight-year gap between my sister and I. When she was straight out of college, she was my physics and chemistry teacher, poor thing!”

Jennie says a lot has changed at the school over the years, but it has kept its character.

“Everyone is very much more open to the discussion about what’s happening in the world and a bit more progressive, but the fundamental beliefs are still really prevalent and practised by the staff and the leaders.”

She believes Maria Neville-Foster, since her arrival as Principal, “has instilled great values and inspiration, making the school a very attractive option for families looking at secondary schools".

Mrs Neville-Foster said it is “wonderful” to have that connection with the Dinneens and McKinleys and to have Sarah on the board influencing the direction for the school at governance level is “very powerful”.

Their connection to the school is not an isolated case. Mrs Neville-Foster said they have a number of old girls’ as staff and on the board, and she is often told of students’ connection to the school.

“Statistically they state that as a young girl the most influential person in your life is your mother, so if we take that into account, their mum’s experience and expression of her experience has had a positive influence on her life that it has influenced her daughters choice of school which is actually a very positive thing for our community.

“And it has changed a lot in that time, yet the girls want to be part of a traditional school that’s moving with modern education.”