When Jacinta Fale'ofa Pulu was in Year 9, she never would have believed that four years later she would be Deputy Head Girl of Sacred Heart College in Napier.
She says that while she was not a leader at primary or intermediate level, her leadership skills began to develop in the last few years.
“Since I am a Pasifika girl, if you had told my Year 9 self, I would become deputy head girl of Sacred Heart today I would not have believed it.”
Jacinta says that Covid-19 had made 2020 a challenging year, but the student leadership had made this year about being of service to the students.
“We are trying to give back to the students and to our community and as leaders, we’ve just been learning to adapt differently due to Covid-19.”
“My role of deputy head girl has always been about being of service to everyone especially our head girl and always pushing everyone to keep going, whether it is helping everyone with online work or just being there for the senior girls and anyone who needs help mentally.”
She says that she has found that being true to herself has helped her and will continue to help her in her leadership role.
“I am different to past deputy head girls and that’s one thing that I hold onto because I bring something different to the school especially with my cultural and ethnic background of being a Pacific Islander.”
Jacinta says she is the first in her family to attend Sacred Heart College and moved down to Hawke’s Bay from Katikati when she was in Year 7. Her parents are both originally from Tonga but have since divorced. She now lives with her mother and her stepfather, who is Scottish.
She is an only child and her family is “very catholic”.
“I chose Sacred Heart College as my school because it was small, and it had a uniqueness. The sisterhood that I first felt is what made me want to go to Sacred Heart.”
“But developing my Catholic background was definitely the biggest part of going to a Catholic school. It brings out all the religious values that I would never have gotten from a secular school.”
But for Jacinta, it is also about inspiring students, especially Pasifika girls, to realise that they can achieve success.
“I want to inspire young girls to be future leaders and to encourage them to set goals and to be motivated and dedicated to achieve those goals.”
As for her own future, Jacinta has it all mapped out and has been accepted to study law and arts at the University of Auckland next year.
“I am very interested and passionate about helping the people back home in Tonga and in New Zealand as well. I am passionate about government reform.”
And her advice to next year’s deputy head girl.
“There are going to be challenges but stay true to yourself, stay humble and know where you started. Look at how far you have come from year 9 to now because that’s why you’re in this position and this is why they chose you. Believe in yourself.”
Principal Maria Neville-Foster said Jacinta and head girl Lucy Dinneen demonstrate exactly what it means to be a leader.
"We nurture and encourage girls from all backgrounds to passionately follow their God-given talents."