From The Acting Principal – Karen Mitchell

What is in a name? Alumni, Old Girls, Past Pupils?

The Cambridge dictionary defines Alumni as men and women who have completed their studies, at a school, college or university. I have to admit that being an alumni certainly sounds better than being an ‘old girl’ probably because it refers to a past relationship with a school rather than someone’s age!

Carmel College is 64 years old this year and that is something to celebrate. In that time we have had 6 Principals; Sr Mary Justine, Sr Monica, Sr Pauline, Collene Roche, Kath Deady and our current principal, Chris Allen. Each of these women has had a huge impact in developing the school to what it is today, not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of our Catholic and Mercy values and our academic standing.

We have also had over 5000 Carmel Alumni /graduates who have gone on to do many wonderful and varied things from COO’s of large corporations, opera singing, emergency relief work, teaching, medicine, nursing, research, pharmacy, optometry, architecture, engineering, law, police, journalism, human resources, marketing, project planning, Board chairs –  the list goes on.

In 2013 Jude Barback wrote that school alumni are an important part of any school. She commented that “honour boards, alumni sites, and associations are more than bragging tools for a school. They:

  • allow a school’s presence to permeate beyond Year 13.
  • allow students not only to look back and reflect on the past, but also to look forward to becoming a part of the association itself.
  • also serve to benefit existing pupils by allowing them to aspire to the success of former students either tangibly, through the presentation of awards, or through mentoring & providing inspirational and accessible role models”.[1]

Jeff Stein[2] (2019) suggests that Alumni are the brand-ambassadors of the institution they graduated from. We have seen many institutions declaring the list of their notable alumni as a way of connecting their successes with what the college has provided them. However, in this era of social networking, the connection with their past students doesn’t stop with this.[3]

In last week’s newsletter I talked about the importance of influencers & role models and Alumni from our schools are powerful influencers. Why? Because they share our students’ diversity, come from the same neighbourhood and went to their school. That shared background means alumni automatically win a level of trust and respect that can be hard or impossible for teachers to achieve.

Research suggests that exposing girls to female role models/influencers helps to counteract negative stereotypes about women and that it is critically important for girls to see women like them pursuing dreams that may not have even seemed possible.

On April 9 we had the opportunity to see this in action when our first Carmel alumni to go into National politics Barbara Edmonds (nee Poe) spoke at our inaugural Pasifika breakfast. Barbara left Carmel College in 1998, started studying physiotherapy, transferred to law, practised tax law and is now the mother of  8, and since the 2020 elections, is the Labour Member of Parliament for Mana. How do we know this? Well, wikipedia helps but more importantly during her address Barbara spoke about her journey to politics and attributed her success to her family, particularly her father and stepmother and their desire for their family to have a good education, and to her faith. She encouraged the students and parents in the audience to “know who they are” by knowing where they have come from (their heritage) and to know their values.

Like Barbara, my role model is my family, particularly my mother –  she was an awesome woman who valued education, family and service –  things that I still value. These things that we learn when young along with the schools we attend as a young person are woven into our adult identity. The question ‘Where did you go to school?’ is up there with ‘what do you do?’ and ‘where do you live?’ for the most socially defining questions we like to ask each other.

An increasing number of Carmel College Alumni are coming back into the school community with their own children –  to them I say welcome back. To others of you who read this newsletter, we would love to hear from you to find out  what you are doing. Indeed the Carmel College Z club are working on a project to interview some of our alumni to see how Carmel College has influenced their direction.

We stand on the shoulders of those who go before us, our role models, our ancestors and in the case of a school, our Alumni. They inspire us to be the best we can be and to be the one that makes a difference.    The challenge I gave to the students and staff at assembly this week is to find your role model, the person that inspires you, follow their positive example and shine mercy on all the people you encounter.

Ka kite anō


[2] Jeff Stein