Students work on film about school's history

Danette Dooley
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Education Holy Heart of Mary marks 50 years

For the past 50 years, Holy Heart of Mary High School has been a vibrant part of the St. John's community.

The school will mark its milestone 50th anniversary in November by premiering a documentary film highlighting a rich history that's steeped in the arts.

For the past 50 years, Holy Heart of Mary High School has been a vibrant part of the St. John's community.

The school will mark its milestone 50th anniversary in November by premiering a documentary film highlighting a rich history that's steeped in the arts.

The film is produced by 15 students who were supported through the project by the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative (NIFCO), says English and film studies teacher Jeanne O'Brien.

The Mercy and Presentation sisters, who founded the school, contributed financially to the documentary.

Like many of the school's teachers, O'Brien is also a Holy Heart alumnus.

While the school produced fine athletes, physicians and scientists in its 50-year history, O'Brien says, Holy Heart's cultural imprint for the wider regional and provincial communities is as a centre for academic excellence in the arts.

"Music, both choral and instrumental, theatre, writing and performance - indeed any cultural pursuit, these have emerged as Heart's ultimate legacy," O'Brien says.

Today, however, students are embracing newer media, with film study and filmmaking topping the list.

It's the power of the arts, O'Brien says, that bookends the decades of the school's 50-year history.

Directed by Gemini award winner and Holy Heart graduate Mary Lewis, the project has given students an opportunity to gain filmmaking skills in camera use, sound, editing techniques and animation processes.

Holy Heart student Desiree Baker helped edit the documentary during her summer internship at NIFCO.

"We got all our footage and we had to digitize it in," she says.

"Then we had to sort it into bins so the clips we were looking for would be easier to find. Then we pulled out different clips and I laid out a rough assembly. Then Mary further edited it," Baker says.

Emily Cumming, who also attends Holy Heart, says she worked behind the scenes on the shoots, helped track people down to sign forms and did whatever else was needed to move the film along.

"I learned about how things don't happen chronologically in a documentary and about how you have to cut things down," Cumming adds.

Spending a few days at the NIFCO office opened Cumming's eyes to just how many layers go into a finished film product.

"Even if it's just a simple shot of someone speaking, there's just so much to consider. There's parts of it that you're going to cut and there are little coherency issues that you have to deal with," Cumming says.

In addition to all that, Cumming says, she also learned a lot about the school's history.

"I honestly didn't know that Holy Heart was funded and run by the sisters," Cumming says.

Renee Callahan St. John also helped gather archival information and photos to get the project going.

The students' involvement with the project certainly didn't stop there.

"We'd meet and talk about the things that we wanted to ask people, then the students directed the interviews. We worked very closely with Mary on the interviews and we're working with her on the editing and the making of the final product," Callahan St. John says.

Working on the documentary has helped her realize just how important the school is to the entire community, she says.

"We did an interview with a student here last year, and his mother and grandmother had attended the school. So, you see how far back it goes into the generations."

Callahan St. John says in addition to those who have lived in the area all their lives, the school also becomes a haven to about 80-100 new Canadians every year.

"Our ESL (English as a second language) students have come so far and Holy Heart has offered them a community and some way that they can be integrated into St. John's and into Canada," she says.

Taught by teens

Lewis graduated from Holy Heart in 1981.

The project taught her much about the school's history and today's students, she says.

"You see the high school students walking down the street and you don't necessarily feel connected to them. ... So, it was really nice to work on a project to be reminded about what it was like to be that age and about how open and smart these kids are."

The film will also be a legacy to the nuns who put so much into the school, Lewis says.

It was the sisters' dream to have a school that emphasized the arts and that "drew out the humanizing effect of the arts on the students," Lewis says.

"That was a very special kind of approach that's not available everywhere. ... But it's continued in Holy Heart because of its history and because of its legacy," Lewis says.

The film will debut on the closing night of the Women's Film festival, Oct. 18, and will run throughout the school's 50th anniversary ceremonies, Nov. 13-15.

For information on the anniversary events, visit the school's website at www.hhm.k12.nf.ca or contact Margo Connors at margoconnors stack@esdnl.ca or Sharon Brennan at sharonbrennan@esdnl.ca.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: NIFCO, Mary High School

Geographic location: St. John's, Canada

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Recent comments

  • pat
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    I was one of the first students to attend Holy Heart. I was a student at Mercy Convent. I met my friend Maureen the first year I attended Holy Heart. We still connect from time to time ,as our distance only allows e-mails or a phone call. Our memory of Holy Heart was the many hours we spent on the basketball court. I look forward to this history film.

  • Maureen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    I was one of the first students in the school. When it opened I was taking Grade 10 at Presentation Convent so we transfered to Holy Heart. It was a very beautiful place to go to school . I was in the second graduating class.

  • pat
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    I was one of the first students to attend Holy Heart. I was a student at Mercy Convent. I met my friend Maureen the first year I attended Holy Heart. We still connect from time to time ,as our distance only allows e-mails or a phone call. Our memory of Holy Heart was the many hours we spent on the basketball court. I look forward to this history film.

  • Maureen
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    I was one of the first students in the school. When it opened I was taking Grade 10 at Presentation Convent so we transfered to Holy Heart. It was a very beautiful place to go to school . I was in the second graduating class.