Carolyn Sharp (1986): From Santa Maria Student to Head of Admissions

In this blog post, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Carolyn Sharp, the Head of Admissions at Santa Maria College, whose connection to the College is truly special. Having experienced Santa Maria as a student, teacher, and parent, Carolyn generously shares her most cherished memories, career highlights, and the multitude of reasons that have kept her deeply connected to the school over the years.

Tell us about your Santa Maria College days. Do you have any particular anecdotes that you cherish?

My Santa Maria days were incredibly special.  I started school here when I was in Year 5 and had Sister Breda O’Reilly as my teacher. I still have the pleasure of catching up with her most Thursdays at the college, and we thoroughly enjoy spending time together.

During my time at Santa Maria, I also had the privilege of forming deep and lasting bonds with an amazing group of friends, and we still remain really close to this day.  I will always cherish their friendship and constant support. 

Several other memories stand out as particularly special. I had a passion for sports and was fortunate to be in the winning interschool 4 x 100m relay team from Years 8 – 12 with my friends Anna, Nicole, Angela, and Rachael.  Year 11 brought the unforgettable experience of the Ski Trip to Mount Buller in Victoria. 

I also fondly remember guitar lessons, Physics with Mr Ryan, Maths with Mrs Avent, and Biology with Mrs Cook.  Lunchtimes were made of plain rolls filled with chicken Twisties, and of course, the tuckshop’s specialty – cheese toasties. Lastly, the Geography Pilbara Trip in Year 12, led by Mrs Baker, was an unforgettable experience.

What did your post high-school path look like?

After completing Year 12, I attended Murdoch University to pursue a degree in Primary School Teaching.  My passion for teaching had been ignited early on, thanks to the inspiration of my Year 1 teacher and fellow Santa Maria alumni, Sue Metcalfe (Webster). 

I successfully completed my Bachelor of Education and, quite coincidentally, began teaching a Year 1 class at St Dominic’s in Innaloo. In 1994, I was married to my husband, Ross and together we had four children. 

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

I’ve had the privilege of teaching at several primary schools and working with students from various age groups in the metropolitan area before teaching at Santa Maria. I love connecting with young people and helping them to find the confidence to learn.  I strive to make learning fun and as relevant to real-life situations as possible. I would say that helping a child succeed and love learning is definitely my number one priority.

One of my highlights at Santa Maria has been having an annual  Class 5.2 Reunion Lunch. During this time, we gather as a group and reminisce about the times we shared and our favourite memories of Year 5 class. It’s heartwarming to see how these girls, whom I once taught in Year 5, have now grown into Years 7, 8, and 9 students at the College.

Additionally, I am also particularly fond of the boarders at Santa Maria. I dedicate two evenings a week to assist with boarders’ study.  The very first group of boarders that I worked with are now in Year 11, and I eagerly look forward to celebrating their final year at school in 2024 with them!

What have you noticed is the biggest difference between being a Santa Maria College student, parent, and staff member?

Not much really.  The Mercy tradition remains a strong, integral thread running through all these aspects of my life – from my time as a student and a parent to my current role as a staff member. Walking through the school’s gates feels like returning home, as my connection to Santa Maria runs deep. I was not only a student here but also exchanged vows in the chapel. Both of my daughters received their education at Santa Maria, and now, I proudly serve as a staff member.

I am a passionate Mercy woman and strive to continue to pass on the Mercy charism to future students and all who come to this wonderful school. Those students who were educated in the 1980s will have special memories of our Principal,  Sister Shiela, and her famous saying “If it is to be, it is up to me.” She served as a wonderful role model to so many students, and to carry on her legacy is a goal we all aspire to achieve. 

Carolyn and her daughter's, Sarah-Rose (L) and Gemma (R)

Can you please provide us with a brief run down of your day-to-day responsibilities?

I spent three years as classroom teacher here, and currently I hold a different role at the College as the Head of Admissions. In this role, I am responsible for developing relationships with both current and future parents and students. Some of my tasks include conducting tours of the College, addressing inquiries about our enrolment process, interviewing prospective students and facilitating orientation for our future students.  I  also manage current student enrolment numbers and planning for future student numbers. 

One particular aspect that I enjoy is travelling out to our regional areas to visit our boarding families. I also get to attend events such as the Wagin Woolorama and the Dowerin Field Days. Additionally, I enjoy visiting classrooms in the school and spending time with current students. This role provides me with wonderful opportunities to share the rich tradition of Mercy with our present and future students and their parents.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Catherine McAuley, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela are all sources of inspiration for me. However, what truly fuels my inspiration every day are my family and friends. Witnessing the remarkable journeys and experiences of those close to me fills me with awe and wonder. My family and friends hold a special place in my heart, and they serve as my greatest sources of inspiration.

What are your favourite ways to unwind?

Definitely spending time with my family. I love going for long walks and going to the beach in summer. 

What is your number one piece of advice for a Santa Maria student? 

Always believe in yourself and follow your dreams with determination and confidence.  Be a strong Mercy woman!

We’d like to thank Carolyn for sharing her incredible story with us. She serves as a genuine source of inspiration, consistently embodying the Mercy tradition and values in her daily actions. We are incredibly fortunate to have her as part of our community.

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As I look back on the past nine weeks, I am so grateful for who we are as a community and what we have achieved. Through the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of our students, we have established new connections, immersed ourselves in opportunities and worked through challenges.

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