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Ivanhoe Girls’ is blessed with a wonderful school community. We recently sat down to talk with several of our families who have experienced Ivanhoe Girls’ across the generations, to find out exactly what makes the School such a special place.

Kerry Ruiz (neé Lim) (Class of 1991)

Annie (Year 11) and Mily (Year 7)

For Kerry, Ivanhoe Girls’ is the place where she and her daughters have been inspired to “dream big and live brave lives, unafraid of failure,” she says. “The older I get, the more I appreciate the contribution of the many teachers and old girls to the School, my life personally and the broader community". Kerry’s association with the School began when her grandparents arranged her place at Ivanhoe Girls’ as her family prepared to return to Melbourne after years working overseas.

When looking for a school for her own daughters, Kerry was pleased that Ivanhoe Girls' had maintained its reputation. “An organisation’s culture is developed over time and it was obvious to our family that the teachers continue to be passionate, committed and authentic.”

One of the biggest changes Kerry has noticed since attending the School has been a focus on a more global approach to education. “I believe there is a stronger holistic, global focus encouraging each student to find opportunities to contribute meaningfully to this connected world we live in,” she says.

There are many memories that come to mind, particularly of the wonderful friendships she made with the Class of 1991. Kerry was an avid swimmer and winning the GSV Trophy in 1991 was a particularly special achievement, but she says she is always warmed by seeing teachers move into leadership roles both inside and outside the School. “They inspire and motivate generations of girls,” she says.

“Throughout my school years, my teachers encouraged me to embrace life courageously, to accept responsibility for my decisions, to understand change and growth. If there was one message I left Ivanhoe Girls’ understanding, it was that life will continue to teach you and surprise you if you remain open,” she says.

Sarah Campbell (Class of 1988)

Maeve (Year 8) and Eilish (Class of 2018)

When asked why Sarah decided to send her daughters to Ivanhoe Girls’, she simply says, “It was a no brainer.”

“I wanted them to participate in every single aspect of school life without the pressure of having boys around. I really thrived in that environment and I knew from the personalities of my children they would thrive as well.”

“Maeve gets the train at 7.00am to get to school on time,” Sarah explains. “There are pick ups and drop offs, the co-curricular activities, starting early and finishing late, being involved in the Musical.... It’s a big commitment for us, but I'd never swap it out for anything else.”

Being a part of Rowena has been particularly important to Sarah and her daughters. “You became really close with the people who were in your House, across all year levels.”

But a key difference today is the way the House System is run, says Sarah. “We had the same braids and colours, but the hours that you put into your sports and your co-curricular activities were not recorded in the same way. I think it’s a really fair system now.”

For Sarah, one of her fondest memories of Ivanhoe Girls’ is the first day of Year 7 where she met her best friend. “That was 32 years ago. And we are still really good friends today.”

Sarah’s memories of school will be familiar to many. “Mr Shilliday used to stand at the crossing at Noel Street with his shoe shine kit and you’d have to stop and shine your shoes on the way in and out of school,” she recalls.

“Our final day of Year 12. Muck Up Day, Biology Camp, playing hockey in the dirt and the mud, catching the train, to and from school.”

It’s the sense of continuity from generation to generation which stands out when talking to Sarah. “A friend and I always sit together for Celebration Night,” she explains. “We link arms and sing loud and proud the School song, we still remember all the words!” she says. “It’s just ingrained in me.”

The key message that Sarah took from her time at Ivanhoe Girls’? “They instilled in us that we could really achieve anything that we wanted to in life if we put our mind to it,” she says. “I don’t remember them drumming it into us that we had to go to uni and we all had to do something with our lives, but somehow we all just did it. This belief that you could actually do whatever you wanted. Honestly, I can’t explain it.”

Sandra vander Pal (neé Duckworth) (Class of 1987)

Emma (Year 11)
Norma (dec.) (Class of 1949)

Year 11 student Emma is a third generation "Ivanhoe Girl", following in the footsteps of her mother Sandra (Class of 1987) and grandmother Norma (Class of 1949) (dec.).

“Ivanhoe Girls’ has an incredible sense of community and belonging,” explains Sandra. “No matter how long it’s been since leaving school, you always have that sense of belonging and pride.”

For Sandra, the wealth of co-curricular opportunities helps each student find their passion. “For me that was music, for my daughter it is sport,” says Sandra.

When Sandra was in Year 9, her father died tragically in a road accident. “The School could not have done more to support my mum and family,” she says. Norma took over managing the family printing business, and even took on the School’s printing needs. “They printed the enrolment forms, so Emma was enrolled at the School very early on!” says Sandra. “I took Emma to the School's Centenary Celebrations in May 2003 when she was about five weeks old, and (former Principal) Heather Schnagl AM was quick to check that she was enrolled and to have a cuddle. I knew Emma would find herself in the nurturing environment of Ivanhoe Girls’.”

Head Gardener, Martin Troy was a larger than life character during Sandra’s time at Ivanhoe. “He always had a smile and words of encouragement for the girls. He gave us all flowers in Year 12 and always brightened our day. I'm not sure that anyone will ever be able to replace Martin, but the [Martin Troy Rose Garden] in his memory is a lovely place for the girls to gather.”

But for Sandra, her happiest memories revolve around Music. “I learnt clarinet and later saxophone from Ron Trigg. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had the privilege to meet. My days were consumed by Music. I played in the Orchestra, Band, Clarinet Ensemble and School Musicals. Music has always been such a huge part of who I am and I will be forever grateful to the School for the opportunities I had to develop my passion for Music.”

For Sandra and her family, the key message from Ivanhoe Girls’ that has shaped her life is the importance of giving back to the community. “It is such an important thing for us all to do,” she says. “My passion became Life Saving and I have been a patrolling life saver on the Mornington Peninsula for the past 38 years.”

Today, Sandra keeps in close contact with the School through the Ivanhoe Girls' Old Grammarians Association (IGOGA). “I joined because my mum was also on the Committee and it was a nice thing to do together,” she says. “It was hard to continue when mum died in 2009, but I have made so many lasting friendships that I have now been on the Committee for 33 years.”

Katerina Kapobassis (Class of 1988)

Iliana (Year 8) and Paige (Year 11)

For Katerina, Ivanhoe Girls’ was the natural choice for her daughters. “I wanted my girls to experience the learning that I did,” she explains. “Not just the book learning but learning culture and opening my mind and my eyes to the world and in thinking about things and being open to ideas.”

For Katerina, the single sex environment gives her daughters opportunities to try different things. “They don’t look at things from a gender perspective, they just look at what the opportunity is.”

Her daughters Paige and Iliana, are “thriving,” she says. “They are given opportunities and allowed to explore different things without fear.”

In particular she has noticed a big change in Iliana. “She’s happy to be in the front of a crowd of people and speak and command an audience,” she says. “An element of that is maturity,” she adds. But Katerina believes Ivanhoe Girls’ has also provided her with an environment that allows her “to express herself and not feel afraid to do so.”

In comparing her time at Ivanhoe Girls’ during the 1980s, Katerina believes there is a far more inclusive environment at the School today. “I feel there’s a greater collaboration between the student and teacher,” she says. “The girls are encouraged to speak with their teacher more so than I was, when I was there,” she explains, adding “that might have been me being very shy at the time!”

“I encourage my daughters to engage with their teacher, ask and go and see them at lunchtime, send them an email, ask them questions.”

For Katerina, the key message she took away from her time at Ivanhoe Girls’ was from a book from her Year 12 English Literature class. “The theme was growth,” she recalls. “It was about being open to growth and the growth mindset and never allowing your fears to inhibit you or control you,” she says. “Allowing yourself to grow. That has stayed with me forever.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Lux Mea Magazine.